President Hassan’s decision to fill his key cabinet with former dictator Gayoom’s loyalists may bring uncertainty and unrest to the South Asian nation.
The infant democracy in the Maldives seems to have been pushed to the corner following the bloodless coup in February. The new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan has offered old wine in new bottles by hiring his key cabinet members from among the loyalists of the former dictatorial regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, to stay in power and keep the wheel rolling.
However, whether it would help to continue the democratic process that began just three years ago in 2008, or would cool down or fuel internal unrest is yet to be witnessed. The archipelago of 1,192 coral islands, famed for its secluded resorts, is being keenly observed in the global perspective.
The murky situation was further spiced after former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for three decades, threw down the gauntlet by returning from Malaysia to the capital Male on March 6. The former dictator’s arrival convinced speculators and the ousted President Nasheed that the coup against him was masterminded by
By Syed Moazzam Hashmi Gayoom with the help of the nexus of rich resort owners playing the tune in the political orchestra.
The resort owners, often termed the godfathers of Maldivian politics, have been nominated as the main culprits igniting and further fueling the mutiny against democracy on the crutches of Islamist parties, in order to escape the tax net, which could have generated millions of dollars in revenue that Nasheed tried to install. Some 50,000 Maldivians of the total 330,000 in- habitants are employed in the tourism industry that generates 30 percent of Maldives’ US $2.1 billion economy, according to official figures. However, unofficial estimates account tourism up to 80 percent of the republic’s rev- enues.
The beginning of a new democratic era in Maldives after the 2008 elections brought to the fore the former human rights activist Nasheed as the first democratically elected president of the Indian Ocean nation. Interestingly, Nasheed who had been jailed and tortured several times during Gayoom’s regime was bruised again through his deputy, Waheed Hassan. He replaced Nasheed as the new president in February and is making hectic efforts to seek legitimacy for his government with the former boss following the trail. To further cement his foothold in the presidency, Hassan accommodated Gayoom’s loyalists in key offices.