Delaying elections will only strengthen radicals and endanger Indian Ocean: Nasheed
26 April 2012
When Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, the former President of the Republic of Maldives, decided to visit India and take up his case for immediate Presidential election with the Indian leadership directly, it was Observer Research Foundation he chose to air his position publicly in India.
Participating in an interaction at ORF on 18 April 2012, Mr. Nasheed, who resigned following a coup, called for early elections to restore democracy, arguing this was important for securing the nation from the back door control of Muslim radicals, who are strengthening their base.
Mr. Nasheed, who had earlier addressed audiences at ORF twice - few months before becoming the President of Maldives and also as the President - warned that any delaying of elections would only help the radicals, the military and police officials loyal to former dictator Mohammed Gayoom, to consolidate their position and sabotage democracy.
If Maldives becomes the biggest radical Islamic cell, it would affect every nation in the Indian Ocean region as a huge part of trade in the Indian Ocean passes through the Maldives, Mr. Nasheed said.
Before the interaction, delivering a talk on ’Consolidation of Democracy in Maldives’, Mr. Nasheed said that Gayoom is back in power as his associates and cronies are now in the government. He reiterated that he was overthrown in a coup while the Indian officials failed to see a "televised coup". He wondered what made India to recognise the new government so soon.
Mr. Nasheed said he has been trying to consolidate democracy in the Maldives since 2008 when he was elected President. He argued the people of Maldives want elections and democracy and must decide who will rule them. He said this can be done only through the robust engagement of the Indian government. There is a need to have elections as in its absence, Islamic radicals are gaining strength in the Maldives.
Mr. Nasheed pointed out that after the coup, Islamic radicals, who had lost the Presidential, Parliamentary and local elections, now have three portfolios in the cabinet and are consolidating themselves.
If elections are delayed, the present government will skew the playing field in a manner in which elections in 2013 will become impossible. When the dictatorship is consolidated, underground movements like radical Islamists will become stronger as they will be the only available avenue or dissent. So the military and police and Gayoom should not be given time to become entrenched, Mr. Nasheed argued.
Further, if elections are not held, the Maldivian economy will disintegrate and it will become a bigger economic burden to India than it is now. There is great India phobia in the Maldives like in other neighbours, Mr. Nasheed said. He claimed that he had worked to overcome this India phobia and were able to bring Indian investments to various sectors though the opposition was against it. The vast majority of the people of Maldives do not subscribe to this India phobia.
Mr. Nasheed said it was shocking to see how quickly the Indian government recognised the new government in the Maldives. He also claimed that two days after the coup, he was approached by two Generals for a counter-coup, an offer which he did not accept as a true democrat. He further argued that as President, he had implemented many social security programmes. He vowed to keep fighting and come back. He ended by hoping that the Indian government would press for early elections.
In the question and answer session, Mr. Nasheed claimed that the US had outsourced its foreign policy towards Maldives to India while the European government had supported him and had not recognised the present government.
He said Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai had brought about an agreement after talking to all the parties that there will be elections soon and India must deliver on this. He said he is willing to compromise and talk to anyone concerned to find an amicable solution.
He said his vision for Maldivian Democratic Party is for it to be a custodian of freedom of speech, assembly and expression and work for human rights and not be obsessed with power. He said the street protests for immediate elections would continue.
Mr. Nasheed urged the Indian government to recognise the ground reality in Maldives as the MDP is there to stay and must be in the equation. He said he was confident of returning to power in the next elections as his party had been winning and increasing its vote share in all the by-elections.
He claimed that as President, he had rejected a Chinese project worth $1.4 billion project in 17 islands because this would have meant employing large numbers of Chinese in Maldives and would have changed the demographic character of the Maldives.
The talk was by chaired by Prof. C Raja Mohan and was attended by former diplomats, academicians, media persons and diplomats from neighbouring countries.
(This report is prepared by Dr Uma Purushothaman, Junior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation)
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