ISSN 2330-717X

Maldives Under President Solih – Analysis

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By R M Panda

The performance of the President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government has had mixed results so far.  But judging from the enormous problems inherited by Solih, it is fair to say that Solih is doing his best.  

Though the Government has done exceptionally well in some of the sectors, there are many other areas where immediate attention will be required.  With JP leader Gasim Ibrahim back to his old ways, it is going to be quite a challenge not only for Solih but for the MDP  also to get along with the JP and continue with the Coalition administration.

 This government has implemented 56 pledges out of 67 they had committed to achieve in their first 30 days’ time period as was mentioned by the President’s Office. The unprecedented disclosure of assets of the President and his Cabinet has been incomplete and this has to be attended to by President Solih to establish his credibility, integrity and transparency.

Despite the constitutional requirements, neither former President Yameen nor the majority of lawmakers of the previous government had made information public about their personal assets.. But that government paid the price and fell down mainly because of their corruption and non-transparency.  Solih’s government had promised the nation to declare their assets within the first seven days of their period and yet this promise is yet to be delivered.

As I had already mentioned in my previous papers – there are many challenges for the new Government and most of them are urgent and need immediate attention.  The first will of course be the release of all those who have unjustly been imprisoned.  Some have been jailed under criminal charges and the procedure to release them will be cumbersome.  Other challenges will include

  • The debt trap, thanks to China.
  • Neighbourhood policy
  • Democratic institutions to be set right
  • Most of the Constitutional Bodies have become politicised.  They will have to be reformed and rehabilitated. The Election commission has many complaints against them that will have to be looked into quickly.
  • Judiciary was totally humiliated and used as a tool by the previous regime..  This needs to change and change soon to establish its respectability.
  • Repealing of Repressive laws
  • Distortion in Institutional Mechanisms will have to be remedied before these cause more havoc in the administration.
  • The Armed forces will have to be de- politicised

 It will not be fair to judge the Government’s performance as it is hardly a little more than two months since the Government took over- there is so much accumulated dirt that it cannot be swept aside overnight!

Released of those Unjustly imprisoned

Most of the leaders those who were unjustly imprisoned or were in exile are free now. The charges framed against them by the Courts then were found to be false, fabricated and politically motivated. So, the Court dropped all the charges against most of them and are free.

The debt trap, thanks to China

The debt trap of China has developed into very serious proportions and the Government is still struggling to find out the exact amount Maldives owes to Chinese companies and how to cope with the developing debt trap. According to the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) the country’s finances are in worst shape and the amount owed to China is still being assessed.

Former president and Advisor to President Solih’s government Mohamed Nasheed  divulged that in a meeting between Chinese ambassador and President Solih on 6th October 2018, the ambassador handed over an invoice of US$ 3.2 billion which is equivalent to about US$ 8000 for every citizen of the Maldives-an unbearable burden!

With annual revenues of 1.5 billion USD and an annual GDP of around 3.9 billion USD, it would be difficult for the Maldives to deal with such a huge debt. Though the Ministers are silent, the World should know the predatory tactics of China in luring poorer countries into a debt trap in such far off countries like Sri Lanka, Kenya and some of the Central Asian States!

What China would try to do is to extract the value for its investments in the Maldives in strategic terms, possibly by setting up a military base in one of the islands. Any move in that direction would be of serious concern to India.

Neighbourhood policy

For the first time in Maldivian history more than 300 foreign dignitaries of 36 countries attended President Solih’s inauguration ceremony

This government promptly took up the challenges of restoring its relations with neighbouring countries and has achieved significant success. The India First Policy has been restored. Solih’s Government has assured India that it would be fully sensitive towards India’s security and strategic concerns.

India has assured support in the implementation of  Maldives’ development priorities and to  ensure a fiscal and budgetary stability with a promise of US$1.4 billion assistance.

 President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Maldives, Major General (Retd) B.R.W.M.R.A.B Thoradeniya, discussed on improving commercial ties between both the countries.

President Solih’s government signed a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi during Presidents UAE visit. Both countries will form a joint cooperation committee and the Crown Prince assured of continuous support to Maldives on Fisheries, Farming and Agriculture

The United Kingdom has decided to open an embassy in Maldives.  This was long overdue. This will certainly open up enhancement opportunities for education, trade, tourism and investments. The US also pledged US$10 million aid for the Maldives.

The Government has exposed biggest corruption scandals

Recently exposed corruption scandals by President Solih’s Government has uncovered of diversion of funds exceeding US$ 90 million. The new government found that total money stolen from public coffers are higher than that estimated in a February 2016 audit. The anti-corruption commission revealed in a statement that the money was funnelled through a private company into 155 individual bank accounts!

The Police revealed that former President Yameen was questioned about  false testimony given by him  to Anti-corruption commission. In the course of the investigation into the unprecedented theft of US$ 90 million from a state-owned tourism company the bank account of former president Yameen has been frozen with more than with US$ 6.5 million. Former president Yameen admitted of using funds transferred from a company linked to a massive corruption scandal under his watch. This is just the beginning – many more corruption scandals of Yameen are due to come to surface.

De politicising Constitutional Bodies

To revive the constitutional bodies and in the process to depoliticise, President Solih ha made a beginning in dismissing the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Defence force and appointed y reinstated officers as their replacements with a court order. A lot more has to be done

This government has successfully repealed two laws

  • Age limit of presidency.
  • Endorses decision to re-join Commonwealth

And many more amendments to the laws are in process. These include

  • Reforming the fisheries law
  • Reforming the decentralisation law
  • Reforming the land transport law and regulations
  • Legal profession bill
  • Whistle blower protection bill
  • Presidential commissions bill
  • Amendments to Tourism Act
  • Amendments to Company Act
  • Amendments to Jails and Parole Act
  • Amendments to National Language Act
  • Amendments to Pension Act
  • Amendments to National University Act
  • Amendments to Import-Export Act

Biggest challenge for the President Solih is to keep the Coalition intact

The future of the Ruling coalition has been thrown in doubt with the Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim announcing openly that he was open to talk with other Parties to challenge the MDP a member of the Ruling Coalition, in the upcoming Parliamentary Election on April 6th 2019.

This dispute started when the MDP unilaterally decided to field candidates in all the 87 constituencies. Gasim accused the MDP of breaching the coalition agreement.  The MDP in response said that there was no binding agreement among the four parties on seat sharing. It is back to square one with Gasim Ibrahim breaking away from the unity shown so far and the MDP going back again to its arrogant old methods.  Surely the coalition leaders know what happened earlier when Yameen took over with all of them ending up in prison or in exile.  At least that prospect should have bound them together to run the Government.  It is not too late now- but Gasim Ibrahim who has not given up his haughtiness and his ambitions should talk to the leaders and come to an understanding.

 Abdul Latheef Mohamed, a member of JP and Parliamentary Member  has proposed a legislation to scuttle  the candidacy of former President Nasheed who has been given the MDP ticket for the newly created central Machchangaolhi constituency in Male city. This he has done despite being instructed not to do so by its leader Abdulla Riyaz.  It is suspected that Lateef has the backing of JP Chairman Gasim Ibrahim.  The JP with the opposition PPM has the necessary numbers to push through the legislation.

The Adhaalath party made its stand clear by advocating the way forward by prioritising national interest while referring to the party’s politics. Former president Gayoom tweeted that it is their responsibility to make sure that the coalition doesn’t break and remains strong. JP lawmaker Ali Hussain also called on president Solih to lead urgent discussions between the leaders to resolve the conflict.

A small group of activists named Navaanvai are protesting against the lawmakers who have not disclosed their assets and urging the people not to vote for them. Raising some valid points, this group is openly targeting Business tycoons like JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, MDA leader Ahmed Siyam Mohamed and other PPM and MDP politicians to come out clean with a statement of their assets.

All together it is a mixed report for President Solih’s Government so far. He has to keep the coalition intact.  He has to clean up the administration and also ensure to keep the over ambitious politicians under control.  It is a difficult task and has to be done.  And finally, he should ensure that Maldivian politics do not permit tyrants like Yameen coming up again and use the very same laws to subvert the country.

The author can be reached – [email protected]

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SAAG

SAAG

SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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