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New ideas, new leadership for Maldives 2003
Rah-vehi Futhu (pseudonym)
January 2003

A year has ended and a new year has begun. It is time to take account of what we have done in the past year, for ourselves, for our families and relatives, for the community and for humanity. At the same time we should at least have a vague plan of what we want to achieve in this new year. History had given us lessons and experiences, and people should look forward to a better life based on the reality of that recent history.

Maldives majlis opening
President Gayyoom (left) and brother Abdullah Hameed presiding over Majlis opening
Photo: Haveeru

We have seen lots of injustices taking place throughout the world, including in our community. What one accepts as just and civilised, is not accepted by others in the same manner. The yard stick used in one case may not be used in a similar case. It has become quite complex. Law and order and justice is in the hands of a few.

History provides evidence of humanity's hardships and struggle for freedom. The stronger have made the weaker their slaves, their subjects and captives. Through long and hard struggle, certain communities have achieved some measure freedom, and their lives seem better. They live fearlessly in their communities and they have the right to question their rulers. They have made their rulers accountable to their people. Shouldn't this be called civilised? Caliph Umar bin Khattab was one Islamic ruler who has shown this good example.

Maumoon Gayyoom has made 99% of our people literate within the past 25 years. Maldives has achieved world records in many areas of development. Our media boasts of these things. With this reality, why should we not look for more changes in the coming year. A change for the betterment for our entire community - for justice, equality and human dignity, for the creation of fearless society with true leaders who are accountable and answerable, and where checks and balances are applied for all to see. Let us change ourselves, let us think about our community by examining how others are living in the world. Let us think about our next generations, our children and grandchildren, and how there can be a better future. Let us start the process of a system where people are engaged and involved in making decisions about their own affairs.

Let us not think that in Maldives we only have beautiful beaches, lagoons, and dive spots; that we only produce dried fish. Others have more resources and they get more tourists as well. They have a more professional approach and collective involvement of their people in their economy, and the lives of their people are much better too. Their governments work together with the people to bring improvement to the lives of their people. Their governments are answerable, they have to show their people what they are doing and what they have achieved. They have to show how much money they have collected from the people, how expenditure is planned, and how it has already been spent. They are accountable in all aspects. If one is not committed and cannot prove one's worth, then that person will lose the parliamentary or council seat to a more effective person.

These plans are laid out properly. All matters are brought to the parliament for discussion by the people's representatives. Ministers can be questioned in the parliament. In the case of Maldives our representative parliament (Majlis) members cannot put any question to a minister during a parliament session. Law is written in the President's Office and sent through the Majlis chambers.

This is our great republic! The great jumhooriyya of the people of Maldives! People in other democracies and republics can practice all these things, and thrash out issues in a people's parliament. They are allowed freedom to think and express themselves, and their aspirations are visible in their media. People who contribute with their taxes are stakeholders in their country and should take part in national decision making.

We must take account of how much we contribute, and how these contributions are spent. As investors in the country, we should know exactly how much is spent on anything bought from public budgetted funds. This account should be given to the people periodically. It is time we realised this, and made sure that what we are receiving is worth what we have contributed. It is the responsibility of every citizen to know this. The same way we are careful when we spend money to buy something for ourselves.

When we buy something, don't we check how much it is, and whether it is worth the money we are paying, or if it is over-priced? The Maldives national budget is a collective version of that. Its earnings (income) and its spendings (expenditures) have to be made known to public and understood thoroughly by all Maldivians. We also have to see whether our representatives are doing a fair job working for us. We have to ask our elected representatives what they are doing! What are their personal comments? Are we getting a fair distribution from the collective national earnings? What is the result for our atoll, our island, and for ourselves?

The current system cannot bring these sort of checks and balances, because it is controlled by a person who has total authority over who receives and spends. And he is not answerable, because he is the person who makes the law and he is the supreme judge as well.

This weak system has to go for good, and we should install a more Islamic modern system which will make the rulers and bureaucrats answerable. It should start with the process of changing to a parliamentary democracy.

Just 25 years ago, we had the same idea that when the previous ruler President Nasir left, we would not have such an autocratic ruler again. Our elders and experienced politicians at that time experienced political fear, but Nasir wanted to hand over power. After his final decision was made through the Majlis, within couple of days people started talking about the new ruler, President Maumoon Gayyoom, and holding him in esteem. In fact, during his initial days he was a better person who opened up education and gave a lot of importance to the islands of Maldives and provided health centres and schools for the islanders. He improved their lives. His achievements have been remarkable, but at the same time, there is a dark side too.

The country has produced many learned intellectuals; people who can carry on the leadership to run the country better than it is run today. There are a multitude of talented and capable people. The people who pushed for party democracy had solid qualifications. We, the people of Maldives, should be courageous and determined. Have faith and trust, and cast aside fear to welcome a new leader for a new generation. We should call for a level playing field, and an atmosphere where political fear is banished, and the leadership contest is open. We should accept that the political system of this modern Maldivian state has become too old and invalid for this information age, and it needs to be modernised and transformed.

There should be every respect for Maumoon Gayyoom. At the same time, we all must accept the reality of life that no one is everlasting or indispensable. He should leave his position with honour and respect, and make way for democratic processes and a better tomorrow for Maldives and its people. Our country has produced better people who have knowledge and better ways of doing things to bring improved prosperity. We have to change our thinking when changes are happening all around us, and all over the world. We have to be fast in deciding and implementing those necessary changes for better lives for our people. As a country we are in a race for development and if we hesitate we will be left behind.

As responsible people wanting a better future for the country and looking for a better government, we must find that true leadership which makes the people their own masters.

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