No doubt many will be watching some of the sporting events at the Olympics. At the opening ceremony an athlete, judge and coach take an oath on behalf of all the competitors and those involved to abide by the spirit of the Olympics and the rules of the sport.
by Dr Hassan Saeed
Whilst there may be a few people who break the rules, by and large the Olympics is full of sportsmanship and fair play. Some watching it might wish that our politics could resemble that sporting outlook more.
This brings me back to the issue of trust. Last week I talked about the inconsistencies in Nasheed’s position in the run-up to the last Presidential elections. He made all sorts of commitments at various points, but then did not deliver on them.
However, having arrived in office by making all sort of quickly withdrawn promises, it meant that there was little trust when it came to sustaining a coalition. It’s important to state this, because the current National Unity Government, whilst having been quickly assembled has now been in office for 6 months - something worth reviewing in a future article.
As I recounted in my last article, we in the New Maldives movement and others had decided to support Nasheed in the second round of the elections after he had come a poor second to President Gayyoom. Shortly after Nasheed took the oath of office, I met him at Hilaaleege, the current official Presidential residence, to share some thoughts I felt were important. He had just come from a joint press conference with his predecessor President Gayyoom in which the new President told those assembled that democracy in the country will be judged on how well the former President was treated. As part of his winning coalition I wanted to raise a few points with him.
Firstly, I told him that although coalition governments are not easy to manage it was important to make the effort to ensure that the coalition did not break up. There was some public goodwill after the change and it was important that those people, who had made a leap into the unknown after 30 years with the same president, were not disappointed. My suggestion was to set up a coalition committee chaired by the President himself to discuss important policy issues. Perhaps in response to this idea he did set up an informal coalition committee - but only to negotiate on cabinet composition. In fact even before the cabinet was formed, for all practical purposes, the committee ceased to function. As a result his ill-fated coalition lasted barely three weeks! Honourable Qasim resigned just 21 days after its formation and I left on the 100th day. Despite all efforts to stay the Adaalath party also did not last long in the coalition either.
Secondly, I suggested that he should get the best economic brain in the country as the finance minister. I told him that I foresaw serious financial and economic trouble – both domestic and international – the signs of which were already visible at the time. He told me that he had Ali Hashim in mind. I told him that he was a decent man but probably not the best choice for that time. The subsequent huge deficit budgets, mismanagement of public finance and flight of the best brains in the Ministry shows my concerns were right.
My third suggestion was for coalition partners to commit to fight the 2009 Parliamentary election under a coalition banner. He told me that the MDP wouldn’t agree. I told him that it was his job to get the party’s approval. After all it seemed to me that his own party could agree to him being a Vice-Presidential candidate or a Presidential candidate depending on who he was talking to. It was clear to me then that the MDP could not win that election in its own right and the coalition would face an early crisis. Subsequent events proved that I was right. Not only did the MDP – that after all had only polled a quarter of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections - not win in the Parliamentary elections; but also allowed the opposition which was battered, bruised and bankrupt, to make a spectacular comeback.
Ever since, Nasheed had to battle with the Parliament that his own arrogance created. And the consequences also contributed to his downfall.
His supporters would regularly harass MPs, stage protests outside Parliament and occasionally invade the building.
In the end his entire cabinet resigned blaming the Parliament for bringing the government to a standstill! His ministers, without any public mandate, then came on to the streets of the capital protesting against the democratically elected Parliament!
Those consequences continued all through the 2009-2012 period as Nasheed’s reaction to lack of control in Parliament became ever more extreme. He buried any democratic instinct he had. He arrested MPs without judicial warrants, charged them for sedition - the same offence for which he was once charged. He then mobilized the military with heavy armour to arrest MPs like Hon Yameen and Hon Qasim. Private communication between MPs were secretly wiretapped and played on State Media! MPs were enticed or coerced to switch sides. Despite all these actions he still could not overcome the loss of a Parliamentary election.
My final suggestion at the meeting we had was to get a Truth and Reconciliation Commission established, in line with the South African model. The purpose being to figure out where, when and how we went wrong and more importantly how to avoid that in future. Nasheed didn’t do it. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other similar national healing concepts work when the government and the leadership are sincere. It requires a strong degree of reconciliation as well as truth. However for Nasheed, his predecessor and the 30 year old story of his rule, was always a very convenient scapegoat. Before the presidency Nasheed was living off his criticism of the record of the 30 year rule of Gayyoom – continuously reminding people how bad and evil a ruler Gayyoom was. In consequence, instead of something non-partisan, he set up a Presidential Commission to investigate the allegations of 30 years of corruption and government dependent NGOs to look into the allegations of 30 years of human rights abuses.
Now out of office, he is ignoring the last 4 years and once again is back to the same old script focused on the preceding 30 years. He was the President for three years yet he couldn’t file a single prosecution for human rights abuses against the previous regime. Just to test his sincerity, the DQP once wrote to him asking for an investigation into Hussein Salah’s custodial death which Nasheed had championed so much while in opposition. The Party is still waiting for an answer!
Nasheed came to power by playing people’s concerns over a 30 year old government. He governed with the same style that he ridiculed while in opposition. He hopes for a comeback, but the damage to his reputation has already been done. Trust has been lost. Just ask any politician or political party leader, except, of course Nasheed’s close aides.
Note: Dr Hassan Saeed is currently the Special Advisor to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik