Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sinking Feeling Redux - Trouble in The Maldives

It's not bad enough that The Maldives are sinking.  They're also in political turmoil. While India has in the past supported the political machine of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, to the point of military intervention, that regime has lost credibility due to its increasing taste for repression and vulnerability to Takfiri infestation. Time to switch up

SBS sums up the chaos:
President Yameen is the half-brother of the dictator Nasheed ousted in 2008, President Gayoom... Since Yameen’s elevation, the political situation hasn’t really stabilised... In 2014 the country’s Supreme Court handed suspended jail sentences to the election commissioners who managed the first-round of elections the previous year, a move seen by some as a shot across the bow. The government has also moved to re-institute the death penalty, which would end a moratorium lasting more than 60 years. Clamp-downs on opposition demonstrators, human rights monitors and LGBT+ citizens have also worried international rights groups.
In 2015 Nasheed was arrested and imprisoned for allegedly ordering the arrest of a judge in 2012. The move sparked mass protests from his supporters after a dramatic and widely criticised trial in which several of the judges reportedly also served as witnesses... “Democracy is dead in the Maldives,” said Hamid Ghafoor, spokesman for Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party upon his conviction, “in its place, we have thuggish authoritarian rule.” Supporters say Nasheed’s imprisonment is part of a pattern on the part of President Yameen, who they claim is trying to eliminate opposition ahead of the country’s next elections. 
In October 2015 Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was arrested, with the government claiming he was behind an explosion on a speedboat carrying President Yameen. The blast injured the president’s wife and two other officials but left the leader unharmed... The government claims it was an assassination attempt aimed at the president, but the FBI – which the government asked to investigate – said they could find no evidence that the blast resulted from an explosive device... “Almost all opposition leaders are either in jail or in exile, fearing arrest and imprisonment if they return,” Amnesty International says. spells out the bottom line: growing inequality, unrest, and a harbor for terror:
There is civil unrest as democratically-elected President Abdulla Yameen continues to lose support, and as more locals leave the Muslim country to fight in the Middle East with Islamic State and other militant outfits. An estimated 200 Maldivians have done this, which would make the Maldives the largest foreign contributor of fighters on a per-capita basis. It’s a figure disputed by Yameen, who says the number is closer to 50 — despite the fact his government last week asked India for help sharing intelligence in light of an increasing threat form IS.
Whatever the numbers, terrorism experts say the figure is concerning, given the small population...
...While the Maldives relies heavily on its billion-dollar tourism industry, that same industry promotes a feeling of inequality. Some locals resent the wealthy foreigners. Even more resent the uneven distribution of the proceeds of tourism.The internal power struggle, combined with the increased terrorism fears, haven't hit the tourist trade. Yet.

Omkar Khandekar looks at Nasheed's plans for restoration:
The Maldives United Opposition, a coalition of major opposition parties in the country that leads the attempt, said that the incumbent president has isolated himself with his authoritarian style of leadership. “By our calculations, this is the time,” said its spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, referring to an imminent transition of government. 
The revelation came soon after former President Mohamed Nasheed flew to Sri Lanka on Friday, ostensibly to take part in “an important sit-down over the present crisis in the Maldives”. He was accompanied by former vice President and leader of the Maldives United Opposition, Dr Mohamed Jameel, and his party chief Ali Waheed. The three had secured asylum in the United Kingdom in May after being politically persecuted by the Yameen-led government. Nasheed, who had been living in exile in the United Kingdom since January, formed the MUO in June this year with the explicit aim of “restoring democracy in the archipelago”. 
Ghafoor said that the coalition is keen to capitalise on the rifts within the government. Yameen has reportedly fallen out with his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who led the country for 30 years till 2008 and continues to be an influential figure in the Maldives. Gayoom is believed to be in Singapore, purportedly on a “personal visit”, and engaged in a dialogue with the MUO.

Finally, Jyoti Malhotra implores Nahendra Modi to do the right thing:
But as Nasheed becomes the lynchpin in a renewed effort to return the Maldives to its democratic moorings – albeit, under the leadership of the former dictator Gayoom — the opportunity for India to rectify a major foreign policy error of the past has fallen into Modi’s lap. 
In 2012, when Nasheed resigned in the face of an attempted coup so as to avoid further bloodshed, the Congress-led government in Delhi refused to support him. India not only abandoned a friend in the Maldives – one who has repeatedly extolled the virtues of Indian democracy as well as its wonderful bookshops in Delhi’s Khan Market, Chennai and Bangalore – it also dumped its own democratic tradition by quickly kissing and making up with Nasheed’s hardline successors. 
The fear of China ruled the roost in Delhi. Nasheed was becoming close to the Chinese, it was said – certainly, he inaugurated the Chinese embassy on the day former prime minister Manmohan Singh landed in Male for the Saarc summit in 2011 – and India could not afford to trust him. Even in the early Modi years, the foreign policy establishment couldn’t bring itself to come to terms with the fact that this Maldivian leader, president of a country of 320,000 people, the size of Khan Market, couldn’t help but speak his mind. 
In the “ji huzoor” darbar culture that reigns in India, despite a unique freedom movement that delivered democracy not revolution as well as the peaceful transfers of power ever since, the person who bows and scrapes is much preferred over the person who speaks up. Mohamed Nasheed, former president and Amnesty prisoner of conscience, firmly belongs in the latter category.

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