“The international community must decide if they want to support democracy in the Maldives”

Mohamed Nasheed

Interviewed by Global in late September, former President Mohamed Nasheed expressed his fears for the future of democracy in the Maldives, and for the country’s reputation as a leader on climate issues for small nations.

Global: How confident are you that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s call for greater dialogue between the key players will be productive in the months ahead?

Mohamed Nasheed: It’s really up to the international community and, more specifically, the Commonwealth countries to decide if they would want to support democracy in the Maldives. Of course, if you want a local solution, you are asking for a fistfight and I am not the person to do it. If you want a local solution where there is a fistfight, you must find someone else.

What do you mean by a “fistfight”?

By fistfight, I mean another counter-coup. The military is very receptive to a countercoup; sections of the police are very receptive to a counter-coup. But I don’t think that is necessarily going to reform the issues in the Maldives… I think it is important to keep the Maldives intact. Dialogues and conversations and discussions in the Maldives would rest and hinge upon how much the rest of the Commonwealth is willing to do.

You have made a commitment to peaceful political activity. Do you expect the present government to allow such activity in the shorter term, and even perhaps to agree to hold new elections in the not too distant future?

[Former President] Gayoom had many elections in the last 30 years and he always won those elections with very handsome majorities. So we will have elections but with no opposition. They have already charged me and I am about to be brought in front of the courts. These courts need reform. The court that I am being brought to is not a constitutional court and there are so many other constitutional and legal issues with what they are doing. But if no one wants to impress upon the government of the Maldives the need to not do these things, then it’s very difficult to have a view that there is going to be a free and fair election in the coming months. We have had seven months after the coup, after the transfer of power, and we know where we stand. Seven hundred people from our own party have been arrested and more than 500 have charges upon them. These include some eight MPs [and] some city councillors, and they are all the leadership of the party.

If the international community wants to let the existing authorities remove us from the race and then let them run an election, I don’t know if that will be fair at all.

In the light of your unique personal experience of Maldivian politics, do you expect to see the entrenchment of a more robust and open democratic system in the near future?

When you drop a catch you must then wait for the next innings. So I don’t really see anything else happening other than the next innings. God help us that the next innings is not going to be as long as it was in Burma. We won an election, we were not able to stay in government; the military came and pushed us out. Now the international community seems to [think], “OK, let him go to jail and let the country sort itself out.” I think unfortunately it’s going to be a long innings.

What is your overall vision for your country’s economy and society, and for its environmental management in the years to come?

The saddest thing is the issue of the environment. Vulnerable countries with strong democratic credentials must be able to advocate on climate change issues. The Maldives has lost that edge. The minute any Maldivian president starts talking about climate change, the next question would be: “Excuse me, sir, how did you come to where you are sitting now?” With the MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party], there was nothing that they could throw at us and ask why were we saying these things. In fact, we were saying these things against many other sensibilities in the international community and big countries as well. I’m afraid in terms of Maldives’s leadership or small nations’ leadership on climate issues, this is the first climate change coup. I think it would be very difficult for moral authority to be formulated from an underdog on this issue for a very long time.

Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?

The nice answer would be to say I would have done it differently. The actual answer should be that we knew what we were doing… When we came into government, the government revenue was 6 billion rufiyaa; this year, it is 11.6 billion. We almost doubled it. We brought in a proper taxation system. We brought down the budget deficit from 40 percent [of GDP] to 7 percent, we held on to inflation, we created jobs, we gave social protection. If you ask the people who they want to be governed by, I am very confident that they would say “Yes” to us.

Interview by Rita Payne

About the author:

Mohamed Nasheed is the former president of the Maldives


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