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Isn't it high treason to work to overthrow the government of Maldives?
by Ismail Hussein (possible presidential nom de plume)
Miadhu, 21 Jan 2004
translated by Maldives Culture
Photos from President Gayyoom's authorised biography and Haveeru.

  President Gayyoom of Maldives, January 2004
President Gayyoom
January 2004

We have been hearing about a group of people overseas 'wishing Maldives well' by trying to stop the aid the country receives, and lobbying to change the government. These people have been spreading false information and news about Maldives and its government to foreign media and newspapers.

These people believe President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom's government is a selfish, self-interested, deceptive and dictatorial regime. They say the resources and income of Maldives go into the pockets and bank accounts of people in the upper echelons of government, and they claim the government does not serve the needs and interests of the people, that the rights of the people are not protected and there is no justice. For them, the government has no respect for democracy and human rights.

But the surprising thing is the different scenes we observe in Maldives. Considering it is such a small country, with very limited natural resources, the progress the country is going through has attracted the attention of foreigners and international organisations. Maldivian society is heartened and filled with gratitude for the opportunities these developments provide. We see the difficulties and hardships endured by people living in many parts of world. No one can doubt the contrast between those problems and the conditions and opportunities people have in Maldives.

The government has worked very hard to achieve these economic and social developments for the country. If we look at education, not many countries spend as much as we spend. If we consider the infrastructure of the country, the huge changes that Male' and the rest of the country are going through, these things are surprising even for Maldivians. Consider the many opportunities open in tourism and business areas! These greatly benefit and contribute to the development of the country.

Without doubt, the organisation of government in Maldives is an acceptable system. Democracy and freedoms should be based on protection of rights and stability, and function for the benefit of the people. Widening democracy and freedoms to the extent of causing strife and bloodshed, is not protecting the rights of the people. Democracy is also something that should be moulded to the customs and conditions of the people. If we go beyond these limits, then it will cause more harm than benefit for the people. Therefore, the democratic principles we have in our present governing system are all we need. The government is working very hard to establish justice among the people and to protect human rights.

The government in Maldives has been formed and run by legal means. That is, President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom has been elected to office in accordance with the constitution of Maldives. So those Maldivians who are working and planning to overthrow or change the president's government are committing a serious crime. It is an attempt to remove peace and stability from the country. It is a conspiracy to serve selfish interests. These acts are aimed at stopping development and destroying the positive image Maldives enjoys among the foreign countries and international organisations. Planning and working in these ways to change the government is high treason under the constitution.

This behaviour is self-serving, and a large majority of the population is against such activities and condemn them. These activities are not carried out to provide rights for the people, and are not being undertaken to improve conditions in Maldives. The road of opportunity for reform and development are generously left open. If these people love the country and wish its people well, they should take the road provided.

The Corals of his Birth
Maldives Culture editorial
January 2004

Until the publication of the Miadhu article (translated above) on 21 January 2004, the Gayyoom-controlled Maldives media remained completely silent about the activities of the new Maldivian Democratic Party based in Sri Lanka.

President Gayyoom has been actively lobbying President Kumaratunga to harass and arrest the party's senior members and return them to Maldives for punishment. The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, who is close to Kumaratunga, visited Maldives a few days ago and diplomatically explained to Gayyoom that the Sri Lankan president was not willing to act against the party.

The reasons for this refusal, despite a long history of close cooperation between Gayyoom and Kumaratunga, are not difficult to surmise. The influential Sinhala press has been filled with disturbing stories and protests about the treatment of Sri Lankan prisoners and workers in Maldives, and many Sri Lankans who have been employed in the country as teachers, administrators, cooks and skilled labourers, including people from the Tamil-speaking communities, are aware of the true nature of the Gayyoom regime. Kumaratunga must consider her coming election battles against arch-rival Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and she cannot afford to alienate potential supporters. Also, this month the British High Commission in Colombo and the Indian central government both indicated their support for the ideals and policies of the MDP.

The USA, with a giant military base at Diego Garcia only 400 km south of Maldives, is no longer respectful of Saddam-style dictatorships so Gayyoom finds himself internationally isolated for the first time since the Male' power brokers anointed him to rule in 1978. He remains in tenuous control of the capital, supported by a hardcore of NSS senior officers and family members who have enjoyed unbridled power and opportunities for enrichment during his ignoble reign.

In the atolls, where accurate information is scarce and people are cowered by starvation, economic deprivation and threats, opposition to Gayyoom is muted, but in Male' his critics are increasingly vocal and the president is deeply unpopular and sometimes hated. The situation in the capital has been exacerbated by the release of the worst of the Maafushi prisoners and the refusal of the NSS (commanded by Gayyoom) to act effectively against them. People phoning the police to report crimes of robbery and theft in broad daylight are being told by the NSS to beat up the criminals themselves. This is a typical Gayyoom reponse to any island that dares to criticise him, and it has been used in many other parts of Maldives as well.

The deplorable scandals surrounding vital national businesses, such as MIFCO and STO, remain unexamined and unquestioned by the Gayyoom-controlled Maldives media, while the good work done by the Commission of Inquiry into the torture and shootings at Maafushi prison and the Male' riot of 20 September 2003, has elicited a response from the regime that is an insult to every Maldivian's intelligence.

Gayyoom and his clique have not responded positively to the widespread loathing their misrule has created. The president's intellectual resources are limited, and his understanding of fellow Maldivians has been distorted by 25 years of public adulation.

  Maumoon Gayyoom reads an astronomy book during exile in Maamakunudhoo in 1973
Maumoon Gayyoom brushes up on his astronomy during exile in Maamakunudhoo in 1973.

Before becoming president, Maumoon Gayyoom lived in Maldives as an adult for only 7 years. He left Male' at the age of ten in 1947 and remained outside the country (mainly in Sri lanka and Egypt) for 24 years before eventually returning to the corals of his birth in 1971. Apart from five months comfortable exile to Maamakunudhoo island in 1973, the president has no first-hand experience of life outside Male'.

The obsequiousness the regime demands from the Maldive people has reinforced a perception of itself as Allah's gift to Maldives. Any opposition to its absolute power is considered treason and heresy. In the bizarre world of the Gayyoom dictatorship, all reality is defined by the president regardless of logic or truth. Midnight is midday if Gayyoom wants it that way, and democracy and freedom are dangerous and threatening concepts fit only for executive scorn.

In the mind of the Maldives president, truth is a deadly threat, logic is the thinking of fools, and respect for the law is a laughable affectation. The basic dishonesty of official discourse hampers the work of those Gayyoom has paid to defend his interests. His local propagandists are crippled by years of self-deception, and Gayyoom's foreign PR firm has little idea how Maldivians or Gayyoom really think. Trickery in Maldives is a finely developed art, fully understood by only a tiny handful of outsiders. The world's multinational PR firms may one day realise that Maldivians have much to teach them! But for now, these spin merchants are probably satisfied with knowing the quickest route to the bank.

The power of the Maldivian Democratic Party lies in its honesty, integrity, and respect for the healthy traditions and aspirations of the Maldivian people. The new party is proving itself more than a match for the regime's dissembling lies. It is no surprise that the article above reads like the rantings of an angry spoilt brat. Maldivians familiar with Maumoon Gayyoom's writings and speech patterns have commented it is composed in the style of the president himself and contains his favourite Dhivehi cliches.

President Gayyoom is a senior editor of Miadhu, and it is unthinkable that a controversial polemic like this, touching on previously taboo subjects, would be published without a lengthy inspection beneath his trembling hands. The writer claims Maldivians do not have the ability to manage and enjoy greater freedom and democracy, and that they should fear the effects of increased liberalisation.

However, the starkest evidence that Gayyoom has contributed to the article, is found in the first section which lists the complaints of the president's critics. No one in Maldives, least of all the Minister of Health Ahmed Abdullah (owner of Miadhu and the newspaper's other senior editor), would be willing to write such unambiguous words or allow them to be written, regardless of whether they were described as the lies of traitors. Maldivians would be frightened to repeat such ideas, even in private! These phrases would not appear in Miadhu unless they were personally permitted or written by Gayyoom himself, and they indicate a major shift in the regime's propaganda style.

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