By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
For a small place like Maldives, current developments should be cause for concern to the neighbouring countries and particularly India.
For an observer from outside it looks that a “battle royal” is going on between the Government, its security forces and the civil service including the judiciary on one side and the opposition led by the ousted former President Mohamed Nasheed on the other.
Added to this is the excessive enthusiasm of the security forces shown on behalf of the government and this has only made the law and order situation worse. One girl from opposition who was affected in an offensive of the Police termed the behaviour of the security forces as “animalistic.” The opposition is still able to muster a crowd of 5000 anytime to oppose the government policies. The forces faced stiff opposition when the structures made by the MDP in the meeting ground at Usfasgandu were being dismantled and the High court order stopping the demolition came too late!
On the economic front, Maldives is the only country in this region that has not seen an increase in tourist arrivals this year. Inflation on an average is about 15.99 percent and the budget deficit is projected to go up by 27 percent of the GDP. In order to please certain sections the government is forced to subsidise and there is also an increase in capital expenditure on government institutions. There is also a drop in government income by 23 percent. The most recent case is the attempt to placate the media by giving government notifications and announcements which the President says is necessary for the media to survive!
President Waheed is digging his heels. He made the most shocking statement that he does not have to resign even if it is proved that there was a “coup” unless his involvement in the coup was established. If Nasheed’s ouster was found to be illegal even then he can continue as the “Maldivian laws ” do not permit any change! So he says. What a stand for Stanfordian who has seen many UN jobs? Apparently he is enjoying the power which he would not be doing but for a quirk of circumstances!
Clearly, President Waheed has consolidated his position. But this has been possible only because as one observer said, by sacrificing his powers to appease the coalition partners, who have but for a few hiccups appear to stay in contact so far. But this may not last long. Gayoom is still seen to be guiding the country from behind. The current approach of the government to use religious paranoia and the security forces to break the rallies has the foot prints of Gayoom!
Will the coalition stay in tact when we see differences erupting between the DQP and the DRP and between DRP and the PPM? Will Waheed have presidential ambitions for another full term? One cannot say now as that would depend on what former President Gayoom wants to do. There are also other ambitious persons who were directly or indirectly responsible for ousting Nasheed. Gasim is one. Nothing is heard of Yameen, Gayoom’s step brother. Would Dr. Hassan Saeed who is playing the second fiddle by ‘advising’ and contributing his thoughts in the local papers regularly be happy to be in the same position in the next elections?
What I am surprised is that India has been completely outwitted and outmaneuvered. ( This has happened in Sri Lanka too)
The Indian-sponsored talks on road map is moving slowly after many hiccups. The agenda consisted of six items in the order of 1. Public order and stability 2. State Budget Concerns 3. Independence of national institutions 4. Identification and revision of laws. 5. Constitutional amendments 6. Setting a date for early elections.
Discussion was more on thirty points put forth by the government side which consisted mostly of “don’ts” and the talks obviously have not progressed at all.
Setting a date for early elections is the last priority though India wanted this to be given top priority. President Waheed and more than he, Gayoom’s daughter Dunya has repeatedly said that elections cannot be held without constitutional amendments. The earliest date will be July 2013 and whatever India may want or say privately, President Waheed as advised by Gayoom is not going to hold the elections anytime sooner.
Gayoom claimed a month ago that “international calls for early elections have grown faint” and was not an issue anymore!
President Waheed claimed after his five-day visit to India that the Indian Government is with him. He did play lip service for early elections to please the Indian hosts, though earlier he had categorically declared that the next elections will be only in July 2013. He succeeded in persuading India to give an additional standby credit of 20 (25?) Million dollars and roll over for one year of the SBI Treasury bonds of US $ 50 million.
On the other hand, the Commonwealth Action Group (CMAG) succeeded in forcing the government before the deadline to expand the membership of the National Enquiry Commission (CNI) to expand it to include one foreign Judge from Singapore and one nominee by Nasheed. The government had put almost impossible conditions on the nomination by Nasheed. Finally just before the deadline and after many rejections one name was accepted. The revised membership of the Commission was announced on the 18th.
But before the new revised commission could start functioning, the government released a 283-point “time line” for the information of the public. This was most unfair and it is not clear who is advising President Waheed to do this. The MDP soon after published a detailed report giving specific names of individuals in the conspiracy that led to the ouster of former President Nasheed. Now the government is harassing the whistle blowers including the chief of intelligence for exposing the members of the security forces.
This has been followed by another report by Maria Ahmed Didi of the MDP naming President Waheed specifically for his involvement in toppling the elected government of Nasheed. Maria says that she has taken the points only from the time line given by the government!
What we see is a complete breakdown in the relations between the government now in power and the opposition MDP that has a sizeable following. The fight is getting bitter and the “report war” is the latest. Both sides are moving ahead vehemently giving no space for reconciliation. This is a very disturbing trend.