Beyond the Paradise
Behind the façade of wealth and prosperity in the Maldives is a story of poverty and exploitation where political instability is rife and the common people continue to suffer.
The Maldives being a relatively young democracy, it would be advisable to tread lightly on criticism for some of the problems that the country currently faces. However, recent happenings indicate fast lurches from crisis to crisis. The World Bank describes this as a “destructive political climate” which, if not looked into, “can imbalance all the efforts to maintain a stable economy.”
So, what are the factors affecting the political developments in the country? Constitutional crisis seems to be the driving force behind the instability, which political analysts fear could lead to chaos and political destruction in the Maldives if not checked in time.
For one, the Maldives has an opposition-controlled parliament (majlis) which, with its brute majority, seems to be self-imposing and is therefore considered as an impediment to the success of a stable democracy. Late last year, the country was put into a crisis after the entire cabinet of ministers resigned in a dispute with the opposition-controlled parliament, which they claimed constantly obstructed the government’s activities. The situation was fuelled by actions of the opposition when it rejected the nomination of half the cabinet members, bringing governance almost to a standstill.
While the Majlis, dominated by the opposition alliance of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the People’s Alliance (PA) was determined not to approve the entire cabinet but only a few of their liking, the government in turn obtained an injunction from the Supreme Court and blocked the selective endorsement of ministers. This led to a series of protests from the opposition in the course of which the police had to arrest sitting MPs and many cadres of the opposition.
Those rejected included ministers who were holding important portfolios like Home, Defense, Finance and Foreign Affairs. Observers lamented the loss of the best brains that had to quit. There is no doubt that a constitutional crisis had been created by the resignation of the whole cabinet. This was admitted by President Nasheed when he said that his country was facing the biggest hurdle in implementing the constitution.
In the past months, opposition legislators have continuously blocked bills and legislative enactments. The constitution stipulates that executive powers lie with the president while the parliament is the legislative body. Both are elected by the public. Critics of the opposition complain that the government has not been able to effectively function because of the constant obstruction and interference in government decision-making.
Another crisis was ignited just when the government was signing an agreement to hand over the coun- try’s only airport to a private company. The signing ceremony was postponed three times due to various issues raised by the opposition, which said the airport should be run by the state. Economic pundits believe such activities hinder smooth economic growth of the country.
Perhaps it was this hindrance only which compelled President Nasheed to clearly state his views on the turmoil within the country. Addressing the nation, and said, “Believing a huge majority is with them (the majlis), but through this majority, members of the parliament are violating the very spirit of the constitution we are trying to implement and enforce. This government was formed to establish a system which listens to the voice of the people and which fulfills the needs of the people according to their pulse. We did not come to power with the intent to do whatever we would like to but to serve the people in all their interest.”
The disruption and internal fissures are hindering stable democracy to flourish in the Maldives. It is time that such constitutional crises, that are distracting the government from dealing with other important issues, be dealt with strictly. The writer is a commentator on South Asian affairs and covers socio-legal subjects, human rights and political issues of the region.