Trouble in the Paradise

Published: February 13, 2018 - 14:48 Updated: February 13, 2018 - 14:50

The most remarkable thing about the Maldivian crisis, precipitated by the refusal of President Yameen Abdullah Gayoom’s government to implement the Supreme Court ruling to release nine political prisoners and a dozen MPs and allow them to contest the Presidential polls scheduled for August 2018, is the unanimity amongst Maldivians and outsiders that President Yameen must go. He has shown a total disregard for the abhorrence that Maldivians and the Opposition have shown for him and has gone about subverting democracy and destroying its institutions. The manner in which he has attacked the Supreme Court and its Chief Justice for daring to give a ruling to release the judges has few parallels.

From Yameen’s promise to extract from the captive Chief Justice names of people who were behind the conspiracy to throw him out, it is possible to draw inferences that the judges would be subjected to third-degree methods. If it indeed happens, then it would not just brutalise a tiny nation, but destroy ordinary people’s trust in the judiciary.It must be known why President Yameen is behaving like an authoritarian. The only reason why he does not want an independent scrutiny of the courts and free and fair elections is due to the fact that he cannot withstand people prying into his money-making enterprises. He has been accused of squirrelling away billions of dollars in tax havens and elsewhere.

If it indeed happens, then it would not just brutalise a tiny nation, but destroy ordinary people’s trust in the judiciary.It must be known why President Yameen is behaving like an authoritarian.

An Al-Jazeera documentary, Stealing Paradise, showed money being transferred in black plastic bags to his house. In August 2017, he had acknowledged that he had indeed received money from his deputy, and while asserting that it was unlawful, he had promised to return it to the treasury. There is nothing to suggest that he did, but his saga of rapacious corruption did not end with the exposure by the Doha-based channel. Since then, he has perfected a system by which all the decisions pertaining to the grant of contracts in the infrastructure are taken by him. His detractors say that they see no one in the government except him and there is no clue about how much the tiny nation owes to the Chinese who are investing big funds here without due diligence or following standard procedure. His detractors also claim that most of these projects costs are padded for the benefit of pay-offs. All this is making the possibility of the Maldives sliding into a debt trap and suffering the fate of Sri Lanka that squandered control over its port, Hambantota, look more real.

The Maldives signed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to become part of China’s maritime silk route. A former foreign minister of the Maldives cautioned that the Chinese had been expanding themselves in his country. He also accused President Yameen of changing the balance of power in the region and deliberately spoiling ties with India.President Yameen’s dislike for India largely stems from his fear that his unaccountable—ways will not be accepted by the country as it comprises a democratic society. With China, there are no fears as their companies are driven by their government’s policy to enlarge themselves, irrespective of whatever it takes. Yameen has also been pandering to the Islamic radicals who are being used to browbeat moderate democratic sections of society. A blogger who opposed Yameen was killed and others were threatened with dire consequences.President Yameen’s abrasive conduct and the manner in which he has brazened out international condemnation and pressure to restore a fair and just democracy in his country presents a major challenge to India. Big powers like the US are pushing India to sort this matter out in its backyard as it hurts its regional influence. This is far trickier than made out to be, despite India cleaning out Tamil militants from this island in 1988. Unlike then, China will perceive this removal of Yameen through military boots as an attempt to diminish their growing status. Be that as it may, India would have to find some creative solution with the help of its other allies to help restore representative democracy and end this messy crisis.

Editor of Delhi's Hardnews magazine and author of Bad Money Bad Politics- the untold story of Hawala scandal.

Read more stories by Sanjay Kapoor

This story is from print issue of HardNews