Tagged: Maldives authoritarian reversal

Party like it’s real

by Azra Naseem

If you want an example of how people in power try to create your reality, Yameen’s bash tonight to launch The Real PPM is a classic

Fact is, The Real PPM is a thing that does not exist. At least not as a political party.

PPM is a registered party of some thirty thousand members, the elected leader of which is Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. After all the laundry has been done and all shades of family dignity have been hung out to dry on public lampposts, PPM remains the party of its members, led by the man they picked as their leader. These are material facts. That’s PPM for real.

A court saying the party is Yameen’s doesn’t make it so. The ‘courts’ have no business meddling, uninvited, in party affairs. Maumoon’s leadership of PPM is not limited to hosting great office parties. Preventing him from ‘even cutting the cake!’ does not stop him from leading the party. As for locking Maumoon out of his own office, putting a padlock somewhere and shouting “It’s mine!’ is as legally binding an ownership claim as pissing around a disputed area to mark territory.

Drawing on walls to insult others, perhaps popular entertainment in the caveman era, isn’t all that clever anymore. For one thing, it can backfire, as when Maumoon ended up owning Goruhan’daa and looking Gatu. “Grandpa totally killed it,” said the millennials.

And that business of deleting the name from the wall. Is a party ever only its office?

Just as clear is what  a political party is not. A group of men and women who, having claimed ownership of eight truckloads of party paraphernalia, take over the physical office of an established political party and declare themselves leaders of close to 40,000 people without so much as a by your leave, is not a political party.

The Real PPM is a gang of men and women, led by Abdulla Yameen, the President, who have staged a hostile takeover of the Maldives and a majority of its people, and are exploiting their leadership of the country to make as much money as quickly as possible from the people, the islands and their unique natural beauty.

That is what is being packaged as a new political party, ‘The Real PPM’, and being presented to anyone who will look and listen.

Yameen has a story to promote his product.

The West wants to colonise ‘us Muslims’. We must fight against Them. More, there are enemies within, eating us up from the inside like an autoimmune disease. These enemies were born to Maldivian mothers, the traitors. In these dangerous times, we must be afraid. We are all victims in need of protection. We need a strong leader, like Yameen.

Maumoon, the lazy, meddlesome, old brother, must bow out, his time is past. He should make way for young blood. Young Yameen has balls, he gets things done. He brought back the death penalty, no sissy him. He is tough on the criminals he is not on a first name basis with. He is ‘brave enough’ to change the Constitution whenever he wants, for whomever he chooses.

He will do whatever it takes to ‘develop the Maldives’.

What Maldives needs to grow as a nation is money. Money will end social inequality, money will guarantee a happier life, world class infrastructure will end poverty, dredging will solve the housing crisis.

Trust me, I am an economist.

Selling everything will get us money, it will cost us nothing.

Progress is skyscrapers, artificial trees, man-made beaches, imported marble.

Development is never again having to be on a boat to cross even a kilometre of the ocean. Chee, lonu.

Sustainable living? Takes too long. We can get fifteen million dollars for that island over there, and twenty for the other one in the distance, now. People are unhappy? Let’s cut down those trees, build an ice-rink and host a party.

You can’t beat us. Join us, let us buy you.

Yameen has great plans, and great plans need time to execute. We must reelect him. For ‘God and country’.

Are you watching Yameen’s product launch? Are you buying it?

PARADISE WITH HELL’S FURORE

Mushfique Mohamed writes on how the Maldives’ government uses postcolonial rhetoric to justify subjugation and economic exploitation

After just three years of economic transition, Maldivian democratic transition has come to an abrupt end. All recently introduced democratic rights and practices are being eroded daily. In order to deflect blame, autocratic leaders often use anti-colonial rhetoric. Thus, the international system is a continuation of European imperialism, says Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen. The international community’s admonitions for the country regarding international democratic practices stem from their “envy” of Maldivian sovereignty and faith.

“Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge to our national unity in our contemporary history was the failed attempt, encouraged by a foreign power, to create a breakaway republic comprising of the three southernmost atolls in the country”, the president stated at the ceremony held to mark the 51st Independence Day.

President Yameen equates attempts by Maldivians who oppose authoritarianism and work with the international community to revert to democratic rule with “working against Maldivian sovereignty”. The narrative of Muslim co-conspirators in the attempts to cause loss of sovereignty converge with Takfiri ideas that legitimize intra-Muslim violence: “It was not surprising that a few Maldivians were, yet again, involved in this plot”, he continued.

In President Yameen’s rhetoric, the international community is putting pressure on the Maldives because it is “a Muslim country”. He claims “they” want to “cultivate cultural norms and so-called values that are alien to and frowned upon by our Islamic faith.”

It is ironic that postcolonial rhetoric is being used to re-invent new methods to enslave the majority of the population. The government consistently deploys the façade of democracy to achieve these means, using lawmakers and judges under its payroll. Ensuring that the overwhelming majority of the Maldives remains invisibilized, and that its riches are only accessible to a small percentage, is beneficial to the ruling elite. Leaving the masses under abject poverty enables easy manipulation of local politics. For instance, elections in the Maldives can be reduced to countrywide business transactions where the elite with accumulated wealth of decades can buy-off the less privileged majority.

Oppressing the masses using economic exploitation and exclusion has been a practice used by successive Maldivian governments. From 1984 until 2009 any form of tourism was illegal on inhabited islands (of which there are approximately 200), while uninhabited islands (of over 1,200) were given away for tourist resort development.

These moneymaking islands continue to be awarded to enrich those loyal to Maldivian regimes in power, or as a means to silence budding dissidents. The ability to amass wealth through these pristine islands are now not limited to the Maldivian oligarchy alone.

In the late 1970s, the restructuring of the Maldivian economy through the rise of luxury tourism further exacerbated socio-economic disparities between the vast majority and the autocratic elite in the capital. Majority of Maldivians were excluded from directly capitalising on this lucrative economic pie.

Power relations that determine the distribution of wealth, however, are excluded from the rhetoric of the rulers. A recurring theme is to, instead, blame it on the influence of the Other. President Yameen, for example, has repeatedly asserted that the Maldives has not been able to achieve economic progress because of the “bitter outcome of so-called attempts at improving” freedoms, liberties and human rights—“Western concepts” alien to “us” Maldivians.

Paradise for tourists; hell for the subaltern

Although the Maldives’ luxury tourism industry is ostensibly segregated from the country’s politics, their connections run deep. In 2008, the Maldives began the project of democratisation with a new Constitution following street protests calling for democratic reform in September 2003 and August 2005. A modern tax regime was introduced, and tourism on inhabited islands was decriminalised to alleviate the widening socio-economic gap.

The Tourism Goods and Services Act and Business Profit Tax Act enacted in 2011 were direct threats to the king-making oligarchy that enjoyed a carpe diem attitude over the nation’s wealth. In February 2012 the first democratically elected Maldivian president, Mohamed Nasheed, was forced out by a military coup supported by a cabal of dictator-loyalists with alleged funding from resort-owners.

The Yameen administration has been able to accrue wealth and distort the equal distribution of it at an unprecedented scale in the Maldives. In October 2014 the independent auditor general flagged the state-owned tourism promotion company for corruption of US$6 million. In response, the auditor general was abruptly removed by the ruling-party dominated parliament.

special audit five months later indicated a further US$79 million was embezzled after the former Auditor General’s warning. Of this grand theft, US$65 million were acquired as acquisition costs for uninhabited islands and lagoons leased for tourism. These funds were fraudulently siphoned off to private accounts. The former top auditor later estimated the total amount in damages to the state to be over MVR3.5 billion (US$226 million). Although former Tourism Minister and Vice President—directly under the President’s supervision as his protégé—was made the fall guy for the entire scandal and has been jailed for over 30 years on multiple counts, all the dirty deals that resulted from the dirty deals remain valid. To further enable illicit enrichment of a few, the government recently revised tourism laws to formalize the very practices that enabled the corruption, in essence legalising the methods which allowed the largest corruption in the country.

Past insecurities

The pervasive form of a country’s national identity and its nationalism is determined through many geopolitical factors. Experiences nations have with the outside world; more importantly with its perceived “Other” generates a deep impact on a community’s consciousness. Identity signifiers such as culture and religion play into this mix of identity politics.

The Maldives’ status as a British protectorate from December 1887 to July 1965, its subjection to Portuguese occupation in the 16th Century (1558-1573), and instances of invasions from south India affected the transformations of Maldivian national identity. Historical records show that in addition to Dutch, Portuguese and British forces in the Indian Ocean, the small Muslim island nation suffered attacks from the southern coast of India. In 1609, Malabars who helped liberate the Maldives from the Portuguese in 1573 attempted to conquer the islands during Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar’s rule.

Another invasion came 81 years later, and again in 1752. A new reality to these Indian invasions was the involvement of Maldivian collaborators who had fallen out with the ruling clan.

United Suvadive Republic

QgzQ6NHqPresident Yameen described the secessionist movement in the south of the Maldives as the “biggest threat to national unity”, although British imperial ambitions in the Maldives were limited to its strategic location due to a lack of natural resources. Infighting among Maldivian royal families and domination of trade by Borah traders with the help of Imperial Britain paved the way for the Maldives to become a protected state.

Two decades after Britain established a naval base in Addu Atoll, the islanders seceded and the short-lived United Suvadive Republic (1959-1963) was formed along with two other atolls from the south. Islanders resisting the centralized government were violently uprooted and the secessionist movement was brutally suppressed by the Ibrahim Nasir administration (as Prime Minister from 1957 to 1968 and as president from 1968 to 1978).

In February 1960, Britain brokered a deal with the Maldivian government securing the naval base in the south for another 30 years. At this point solidarity with the liberation of the south was no longer within its interests. When Britain began to encourage an end to self-rule, secessionists had to then resist the unconscious tool of history that helped ignite the liberation movement.

After forcibly depopulating natives of the Chagos Islands to establish a joint military facility with the United States, a naval base a few hundred kilometres away in the Maldives was not exigent for Britain by the early 1970s.

Postcolonial rhetoric

Virulent nationalism is used to gain partial consent of subjects, to detach their grievances from the real site of oppression, injustice and economic exploitation. Ordinary Maldivians are dehumanised through indigenous structures of exclusion and discrimination that has manifested in government policies.

Maldivian writer Muna Mohamed’s book, Falhu Aliran Muiy highlights how development policies have historically been solely focused around the capital. She argues that inhabitants of the outer islands are being forced into internal displacement due to reclamation of new islands for development while leaving existing inhabited ones underdeveloped.

Most of the islands in the outer atolls still consist of ghost towns with highly restricted availability of public services. The book suggests that the causes of underdevelopment and forced internal migration are not just born out of climate change and natural disasters, but through concentrated efforts by successive governments.

Since President Yameen assumed power in late 2013, virtually all of his public appearances send out a clear message: harsh punishments and vengeance are endemic to Maldivian culture; it is the lifeblood of Maldivian Islam. President Yameen, the brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (1979-2008), envisions a population that is docile with an unflinching submissiveness when Islam is raised. In his view, the end to the de facto moratorium on the death penalty is designed to bring the country’s “youth back to the right path”.

Conclusion

Given the Maldives’ current human rights record, the only nations that provide development aid without criticism are China and Saudi Arabia – both with its own distinctive imperialist agendas. The Yameen administration’s selective anti-imperialism is exposed due to the incontrovertible link between its development goals and the two undemocratic world powers.

Authoritarianism and religious conservatism are projected as necessary civilising forces, independent from “the West”, weaving liberalism and freedom into narratives of “Western decadence”. The fact that the unpopular government has resorted to employing a public relations firm and law firm from the US and UK—to shield its rampant human rights abuse and corruption—is conveniently left out.

Along with increasing relations and economic ties with Saudi Arabia, the Yameen administration’s rhetoric continues to overlap. At the end of 2015 the Maldivian government joined the Islamic military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to battle terror organisations. Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran, with its Shia majority, is not part of the coalition. In May this year the Yameen administration severed diplomatic ties with Iran, mimicking Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran rhetoric.

Even if the government has spoken out against violent jihad, the brand of nationalism it constructs has undeniable and uncomfortable similarities to Salafi-influenced anti-Western doctrine. The government commonly evokes the notion of a Western conspiracy to undermine Muslim communities using democracy, human rights and secularism, as well as accusations of the opposition, journalists and civil society actors being “native informants”. The Maldives are popular for its natural beauty, but the country is increasingly becoming known for its violent extremists fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Using this brand of anti-imperialism that does not include Saudi Arabia and China as imperial forces, President Yameen has managed to dismantle the nascent democratic framework. His mission to reinstate autocracy in the Maldives is now complete. The parliament continually derogates rights and emphasizes restrictions.

Freedom of expression, which is indivisible from other rights; freedom of thought, right to access information, press freedom, freedom of assembly and freedom of association; has been criminalised through legislative means. Again, religion and terms undefined under the Act, such as “societal norms” were used to curtail free speech. The right to freely hold assemblies without prior permission has recently been abrogated, requiring prior permission from the police. All recent trends signal a return to the Maldives’ long experience with one-party rule under a totalitarian state.

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About the authorMushfique Mohamed is a human rights lawyer. He has an LLB (Hons) Law and MSc(Econs) in Postcolonial Politics from Aberystwyth University.

Photos in order:

1. “Fishballs for curry”, Maldivian women in Laamu Gan, Dying Regime

2. Maldives United Opposition protest blocked in Male’, Dying Regime

3. Royal Air Force in Gan, Discover Addu

An eye for an eye, or save the lives of mankind?

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 09.31.11
by Shahindha Ismail

“…whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind” (Al-Mai’dah – 5:32)[1]

Some few of us have spoken on the penalty of death in the Maldives. We have discovered many, many flaws in the trials and processes of criminal justice that have led to the verdicts to kill. Those of us who spoke against implementing the sentence have faced some heavy criticism, if not harassment, for having spoken against it. We have been called anti-Islamic, defenders of criminals, and we have been labelled as disbelievers. It is quite interesting, the rigour with which some of us have defended the death sentence with Islam here in our small nation. A 100% Islamic state – at least according to the Constitution.

The first person to comment on my previous article about killing Humaam, Kirudhooni, concluded, “until a relative of the writer is brutally killed the voice is justified”. Allah forbid that a relative of anyone face such an end. I cannot speak for those who have lost loved ones to brutal murders, but I can certainly understand their pain. Little do you know, Kirudhooni, that I have had my relatives face some unimaginable pain and brutality around here. I don’t see any benefit in putting those perpetrators through the same pain. The benefit I do see, however, is to prevent them from causing further injustice to another, and it does not have to be through violent means. I do not believe in taking an eye for an eye – what would I do with that third eye anyway? The two that Allah blessed me with are just fine as they are.

وَجَزَاء سَيِّئَةٍ سَيِّئَةٌ مِّثْلُهَا فَمَنْ عَفَا وَأَصْلَحَ فَأَجْرُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الظَّالِمِين 42:40

“But [remember that an attempt at] requiting evil may, too, become an evil: hence, whoever par­dons [his foe] and makes peace, his reward rests with God – for, verily, He does not love evildoers” (Ash-Shura)[2]

Thus the question that has burned a hole in my world of late: When did we become such a rancorous, unforgiving society?

It makes me wonder if our nation has always been like this. The answer I get every time is that no, we were a much gentler people. There were, of course, times when the whole country have shaken with the shock of those few events that we still hear of to this day – about the darkness, the iniquity of it. I do not believe it is our culture. It is what we call atrocities – what few people commit and the rest cannot relate with. There is the story of when Ibn Batuta, the Moroccan missionary who became a judge in the Maldives, first sentenced to cut the hands of a man, the people in the court fainted.[3]

Let us think about it. We have so much to think about, to do in a day, let alone a lifetime. Why should we resort to taking the life of another? I do not believe any of us have that right.

We, or at least many of us, have been raised with a common value. Forgiveness. As children our parents tell us to “let it go” many times. We carry that value close to heart through life, and eventually teach our children that vengeance serves no purpose, that bitterness is only a reflection of ourselves, and that forgiveness leads to peace. I wonder how many of the families who lost someone to brutal murders were reminded by the State of the concept of forgiveness in qisas. It appears to me that the notion of forgiveness associated with qisas in the Qur’an was deliberately omitted from the discourse. Why have our renowned sheikhs not spoken out about this issue? Not raised the aspect of forgiveness in these very trying times where a woman who lost her husband to a vicious slaying, the mother and father who lost a son in a blood bath, have faced the decision of whether they would like to have the man who is believed to have killed their loved one, killed in return? What state of mind are these families in when they are handed the fate of a man held captive? Was anyone asked if they would choose any other form of qisas?

وَكَتَبْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ فِيهَا أَنَّ النَّفْسَ بِالنَّفْسِ وَالْعَيْنَ بِالْعَيْنِ وَالأَنفَ بِالأَنفِ وَالأُذُنَ بِالأُذُنِ وَالسِّنَّ بِالسِّنِّ وَالْجُرُوحَ قِصَاصٌ فَمَن تَصَدَّقَ بِهِ فَهُوَ كَفَّارَةٌ لَّهُ وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أنزَلَ اللّهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ 5:45

“And We ordained for them in that [Torah]: A life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and a [similar] retribution for wounds; but he who shall forgo it out of charity will atone thereby for some of his past sins. And they who do not judge in accordance with what God has revealed – they, they are the evildoers!” (Al-Mai’dah)[4]

How unfortunate and unfair that the most beautiful and powerful portion of the verse has not been talked of in our society. “but he who shall forgo it out of charity will atone thereby for some of his past sins

وَإِنْ عَاقَبْتُمْ فَعَاقِبُواْ بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبْتُم بِهِ وَلَئِن صَبَرْتُمْ لَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لِّلصَّابِرينَ 16:126

“Hence, if you have to respond to an attack (in argument], respond only to the extent of the attack levelled against you; but to bear yourselves with patience is indeed far better for you, since God is with] those who are patient in adversity” (An-Nahl)[5]

Did the courts ever remind a family that Allah is with those who are patient in adversity? That patience is better for them? More importantly, why have we, as a community, looked on when men and women, in their moment of great weakness and sorrow over the unjust killing of a loved one, have been fed with the tools to do away with another life, been fed more bitterness and vengeance in the face of that calamity that will have changed them forever from the gentle souls they were raised to be? I fear it may be too late if we look on.

ذَلِكَ وَمَنْ عَاقَبَ بِمِثْلِ مَا عُوقِبَ بِهِ ثُمَّ بُغِيَ عَلَيْهِ لَيَنصُرَنَّهُ اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَعَفُوٌّ غَفُورٌ 22:60

“Thus shall it be. And as for him who responds to aggression only to the extent of the attack levelled against him, and is thereupon [again] treacherously attacked – God will most certainly succour him: for, behold, God is indeed an absolver of sins, much-forgiving” (Al-Hajj)[6]

وَلَكُمْ فِي الْقِصَاصِ حَيَاةٌ يَاْ أُولِيْ الأَلْبَابِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ 2:179

“for, in [the law of] just retribution, O you who are endowed with insight, there is life for you, so that you might remain conscious of God!” (Al-Baqara)[7]

Why have we not spoken of forgiveness entirely?

Have we been fooled to believe that Islam only teaches to take an eye for an eye? If this is so we will have a completely unforgiving nation a few generations down the line, would we not? Which turns my thoughts to the future. The generations that we will groom to lead us to peace and the right path – our children. Will we raise them to lead that dark life of hatred and vengeance?

No. The culture, the Islam, the identity of this small nation that our ancestors left us was something peaceful and gentle. We do not want to leave a legacy of blood for our children. We want them to learn that Allah is the ultimate owner of our souls, and that a life can only be given and taken by Him. Not on the streets and not by a state. We want them to have faith in truth and justice, and learn patience and forgiveness.

[1] www.islamicity.com

[2] www.islamicity.com

[3] Ibn Batuta in the Maldives and Ceylon, Albert Grey

[4] www.islamicity.com

[5] www.islamicity.com

[6] www.islamicity.com

[7] www.islamicity.com


 

Related:

Are we all going to kill Humaam?

Maldives state ready to kill Humam, and a way of life

Stop the death penalty, speak up

Shari’a and the death penalty: how Islamic is Marah Maru?

No sympathy for people like us

A tightening of the noose

Not in our name