Dear Democracy Now!,
It is disappointing that organisations such as yours, and many other otherwise reputed international publications, continue to report as fact the fabrications of a publicity hungry pretender – especially when some cursory research on his “ouster” and track record of his “leadership” on the environment & climate change and democracy easily prove him to be quite the opposite.
You mention the Underwater Cabinet; besides the fame that it continues to bring the former president personally you would be hard pressed to identify any practical benefit to the Maldives or to climate change awareness through this publicity stunt. Publicity stunts are worth something if they’re followed up in a meaningful manner but other than make unrealistic, sweeping gestures, of declaring that the country would go “carbon neutral by 2020”, what real change has it affected?
It has raised the profile of one attention seeking destructive disruptive and brought him to the attention of others who seek the same.
You conveniently link the cabinet stunt to the Copenhagen talks where, if you had asked any of the delegates working on the technical and professional points within the proceeding, they would all agree that the former president worked against best practice interests and hijacked the agenda, with the help of the US publicity machine, whereby ensuring their specific special interests with little or no regard for nations most vulnerable to climate change. In fact The Guardian, reporting on the WikiLeaks Cables states;
“Some countries needed little persuading. The accord promised $30bn (£19bn) in aid for the poorest nations hit by global warming they had not caused. Within two weeks of Copenhagen, the Maldives [then] foreign minister, Ahmed Shaheed, wrote to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, expressing eagerness to back it.”
“By 23 February 2010, the Maldives’ [then] ambassador-designate to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, told the US deputy climate change envoy, Jonathan Pershing, his country wanted ‘tangible assistance’…
“Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately $50m (£30m).”
The report would go on to further outline that it was unusual for Maldives as a developing country to so unreservedly embrace the accord. What happened to this “aid” money? How was it deployed or utilised? Public records during this period show no renewed deployment of funds anywhere close to the amount towards mitigating climate change or other public projects. I highly doubt any preceding administration can find any such records either.
As for his “ouster”. He resigned.
Prior to his resignation he had unlawfully detained political leaders and dubiously deployed state institutions and state resources to pressure and subdue his competition – even putting pressure on those within his party he identified as future potential leaders. Events escalate when he chooses to use the Military to “arrest” a sitting Judge. The judge, who had declared the detention of political leaders unlawful, is arbitrarily abducted, detained and disappeared for more than two weeks. During this period the judge is denied his basic civil rights – he has no access to a legal defence nor is the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives allowed access so they may ascertain the conditions of his confinement. These actions by the “democracy champion” lead to widespread protests. After weeks of pro-democracy protests calling for the release of the judge, and thereby reinstating the rule of law in the country, the mounting pressure on his “leadership” leads to him becoming ever more unhinged. Ample video and audio evidence document his illegal actions in contravention of the constitution. With the nation scrambling in hope that his better angels might prevail, he abandons his presidency – as he has done with any position that he has been given or elected to. The new government takes over and is accepted by the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the international community at large; welcoming the end to the uncertainty that was the hallmark of the latter days of his presidency.
The following day he would say he resigned because a gun was pointed at him. Weeks later the narrative changes to a ‘metaphorical’ gun pointed at his head – if even this were true it was circumstances entirely of his own doing and therefore a ‘gun’ he pointed at his own head.
Left with ever transmogrifying and wild accusations, a trait that continues to this day, his successor President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik is left with little choice but to convene a Commission of National Inquiry to determine the legitimacy of these claims. A panel, which includes a representative of the former president as well as representatives from the Commonwealth & the United Nations along with a celebrated retired judge from Singapore, is convened. The panel unanimously rules that there was no coercion and that the resignation was valid and of his own accord – but not before the former president’s representative makes a show of resigning, mere hours before the ruling is delivered. The ruling is endorsed by the Commonwealth and the United Nations as well as other international organisations. There was no pressure. He resigned.
As to the celebrity human rights lawyer who is representing the former president, the allure of her famous husband seems to have distracted you from researching the more pertinent facts; that she is a lawyer – someone who is by definition bound to represent their client; guilt or innocence notwithstanding. That she has links to figures with horrendous human rights records. That she has personal and professional connections that bear more than cursory investigation and scrutiny. That she might want to cultivate an air of a “crusading wife” to bolster future political ambitions of her husband at the expense of justice to the whole of a fledgling democracy.
And in the case of asylum and cosying up to No. 10; does it not seem awfully convenient that all this is happening at a time when Prime Minister Cameron is coming under increasing scrutiny in the public, and indeed within his government and the parliament, as to the EU referendum and the level of his own personal culpability in the Panama Papers scandal? I suppose it’s “win-win” for the PM; help a buddy out, no matter that he’s admitted to the BBC – on HardTalk no less – that he did abduct a judge and that he’d do it again without regret or second thought. At the same time it provides some distraction from the more immediate and relevant troubles at home – and maybe the labels of “Human Rights and Democracy” defender might also rub off on the PM; providing some measure of enduring celebrity past his lacklustre leadership of the United Kingdom. Perhaps the PM sympathises with the leadership capacity, or lack thereof, of the former president and wishes himself be viewed by history in a similarly skewed, rose-tinted, manner?
And as far as the purported coup is concerned; he resigned, the rules of presidential succession took effect, his then vice president took over as president and all his claims that he was “ousted” in a coup have been addressed in the findings of the Commission of National Inquiry – which, let’s refresh our memories once again lest we have forgotten, was overseen, endorsed and accepted by the Commonwealth, the UN and other International Organisations. There was no coup.
Lastly I’d like to say this; that if you credit the final words of the former president to the ramblings of a “UK educated, deposed third world leader”, do us all a favour and don’t. Attribute it to the ramblings of an educated world leader and hold him to account as you would any world leader and president – just because the Maldives is all the way over on the other side of the world and has a limited population and resources it does not give you the right to treat it less seriously than any other sovereign nation.
Hold us to the same standard of research and reporting as you would do more serious nations. Don’t let our supposed leaders and “representatives-in-exile” off the hook when they make generalised, sweeping statements on democracy or the environment and shy away from the specifics and the sciences behind their words and actions – don’t treat our leaders, and us by extension, as simple minded and unable to grasp “big” concepts unless we’re being lead to it by the more learned and noble.
Treat us with the dignity that you would afford any other proper nation; or indeed yours.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Mohamed Haneef (@Dr_Hanyf on Twitter) is a construction expert currently based in the United Arab Emirates.