Aishath Velezinee, The Failed Silent Coup: In Defeat, They Reached for the Gun, an insider’s account of how the Maldivian judiciary was hijacked by authoritarian forces to dismantle democratic governance. Download PDF.
The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes.
– Michel Foucault
For two years, Aishath Velezinee served as a Member of the Judicial Service Commission. She first represented the people, then the President. She spent a majority of her time at the Commission trying to defend the values and principles of democratic governance amidst a majority of authoritarian loyalists determined to do away with them.
In November 2010 she went public with the very serious allegation that some members of the Judicial Service Commission were conspiring with key political figures–including Members of Parliament–to hijack the judiciary and bring down the country’s first democratically elected government. A silent coup was happening. She named names. She asked the Parliament’s Committee on Independent Commissions to look into the matter. She asked the police, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Human Rights Commission. The media remained unaware, unwilling, or disinterested.
Velezinee contacted many reporters personally, providing them with details of the various unconstitutional acts some members of the Judicial Service Commission committed on a regular basis. Few listened, and even less cared. She then started a blog to put in the public domain what she knew; it is now her website: www.aishath.velezinee.com, a treasure trove of evidence that backs up her every claim. Faced with deliberate disinterest from the Majlis, she door-stepped members outside Majlis sessions to hand them copies of the documents personally. Not many wanted to know.
Her plea to the judges to stand up for democracy and not take the oath under such an unconstitutional procedure was repeatedly broadcast on television. Not as an example of a committed reformist at work, but as an example of an unstable woman. She was clearly emotional in her plea–after all, what she was trying to prevent was the rendering of a part of the Constitution wholly powerless. But, as it too often happens, a woman that dares show emotion in a political scenario is either suffering from PMS, or has lost her marbles. Velezinee was thus held up as the epitome of a woman with no shame, approaching such ‘learned’ men with such disregard for their elevated status. Despite the slander, and a vicious stabbing, that made normal life difficult, Velezinee kept trying to get the nation to pay attention. It did not happen. Convicted criminals remained on the bench, and to this day, continue to do so.
Even after she left the Judicial Service Commission, acting as a private citizen, she has continued to demand that her allegations be investigated. She has openly challenged Speaker Abdulla Shahid to appear in a public court to answer to her accusations. If she cannot prove her allegations, she has said:
…if I am unable to prove my claims, I will accept whatever punishment that you see fit, be it a death sentence, lynching, or being put in one of those bird cages in Sultan Park and displayed to the public as a specimen of insanity.
The accused have not responded to her call for a public trial. The accusations of madness allows the accused to dismiss her very serious allegations–accompanied by evidence–as inconsequential. The slander and accusations of madness also helped leave her, and what she had to say, largely out of the national discourse on the beleaguered judiciary. This has been to the detriment of democratic governance in the country. If we had listened then, would things be different now?
The attached document is a translation of her latest efforts to bring what she knows to public attention, and to make people realise that it was the hijacking of the judiciary—the third power of democratic governance—that created the conditions of possibility for the downfall of the first democratically elected government of the Maldives. I have translated it with her permission so that it gets as wide an audience as possible.
Although pro-democracy forces now recognise the value of what Velezinee was saying then, it is clear that the new government would continue to exclude her from the national discourse on the judiciary. In the seven long months that this government has now been in power, it has shown zero interest in judicial reform. Apart from paying lip service to ‘international norms’ and ‘independence’ when pressed, no substantial action has been taken to clean up the judiciary. At a time like this, the information that Velezinee shares in her book is invaluable for anyone seriously interested in returning democratic governance to the Maldives. And, it is essential reading for those who want to understand what really happened in the Maldives on 7 February.
It was a successful authoritarian reversal, the culmination of a carefully engineered coup against the State, designed to dismantle the very structure of democratic governance in the Maldives. In Velezinee’s words, it was a ‘coup of the lowest grade’ against democracy.