By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
The MDP Spokesperson in describing the current developments in Maldives commented that the slide to dictatorship in Maldives is now complete.This appears to be a fair statement as the current regime appears to be bent upon using the archaic Terrorism Act for suppressing all opposition to it.
President Yameen is seen to be the single puppeteer pulling all the strings in every aspect of governance directly and indirectly in Maldives. For example no Public Prosecutor would dare to slap terrorism charges on main leaders of opposition political parties without clearance from the top just for participating in a rally! It is said that Yameen is planning to discard his vice President Jameel and bring in his favourite tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb as Vice President soon! The blatant interference in elections to the assembly by the regime to get Gayoom’s son elected has been noted by everyone.
How else could one explain that three of the leaders who took part in May 1 protests have been arrested and charge sheeted under Article 2(f) of the 1990 anti Terrorism Act for inciting violence in the unprecedented display of protests against the tyrannical regime? ? The three include the Adaalath party chairman Sheikh Imran, Deputy leader of Jumhooree party Ameen Ibrahim and Jumhoree party Council member Sobah Rasheed.
This particular section of the Act states that inciting fear and issuing threats to harm individuals or damage property is an act of terrorism.
In the case of May 1 demonstrations, it was the Police and other security units that provoked violence in dealing with the protestors.
The new penal code which was to come into existence that gives a better definition of terrorist acts has been indefinitely postponed. Had that been implemented Sheikh Imran and others could not have been brought under terrorism charges. The suspicion is that the regime is keen to book as many as possible of the opposition elements before the new act is brought in. Sheikh Imran being kept in handcuffs during the trial speaks volumes of the vindictive nature of Yameen’s regime.
There are other condemnable acts that need to be high lighted. It appears that the lawyer team that meets former President Nasheed undergoing imprisonment for terrorism charges discuss their case in a lighter mood laughing and joking. This is not acceptable to the regime and written instructions have now been given by the Home Minister to the prison authorities that the visit should not be used for any bon homie. What is more, the prison authorities have informed Nasheed’s family that their visits to the prison to meet Nasheed have been curtailed!
While the opposition parties are being harassed, Yameen has simultaneously called for talks of “reconciliation” not together but separately. Two teams have been formed one led by the Home Minister for the MDP and the other led by the Tourism Minister Adeeb for the other two parties Jumhooree and the Adhaalath. The Jumhooree party leader Gasim Ibrahim has been charged in a criminal court for financing the opposition protests while the leaders of the two parties are already in custody!
In the call for the talks certain conditions have been laid down. It will not involve the release of the leaders who are in prison. When the MDP wanted its former President Nasheed to represent the party, it has been turned down immediately. The question of Sheikh Imran representing the Adhaalath party is also not being considered.
The agenda has also been specifically laid down by Yameen. It will deal with three aspects- 1. Political reconciliation 2. Strengthening the judiciary and legal system and 3.political party participation in economic and social development.
The so-called dialogue is therefore a non starter, held more to please the international community.
The political parties first want Nasheed and Nazim to be released first. This is not going to be done as Yameen is using this as diversionary tactics and is himself not participating in the talks.
The second point is the judiciary. It should be noted that the same three judges who are the favourites of the regime are presiding over the terrorism cases of the three leaders. Of these two have been promoted to the High Court and one has been rewarded with a discounted new flat in Male How can the judiciary act independently, when the whole system is being run from behind the scenes by President Yameen himself.?
The British High Commissioner while presenting his credentials, said separately that Maldives needs a judiciary- a judiciary that is “visibly and credibly” independent is essential for democracy to flourish. For a diplomat this mild observation is sufficient to understand the seriousness of the situation.
Meantime for fear of getting internationally isolated, Yameen is getting closer to China which in the past had helped Myanmar (Burma) to beat the sanctions. The next investment forum for Maldives is being held in Beijing. China is already involved in a massive project of connecting the Male island with Hulhule Male.
But Maldives is not Burma and it is certain that the Indian authorities are watching the situation to ensure that their security interests in the Indian Ocean are not jeopardised.