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Maldives: Is President Waheed in Control?

Paper No. 5356                                       Dated 10-Jan-2013

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.

Looking at the developments in Maldives, one gets the feeling that President ( by accident as some prefer to call him) Waheed does not appear to be in control of the events. In a moment of frustration he is said to have remarked that "Everybody runs the State as they please" and this has been widely reported in the press.

He is aware of the remarks of his own adviser Dr. Hassan Saeed who said that President Waheed is "politically the weakest person in the country" and yet Saeed is merrily carrying on and some suspect that he may even join hands with Waheed to contest the next presidential elections in 2013.

President Waheed’s own official spokesperson Abbas Adil Raza broke all diplomatic protocol and openly called the Indian High Commissioner as a "traitor and enemy of the Maldives and the Maldivian people" over the controversy surrounding the GMR agreement. Though he tried to distance himself away, it took a while for him to remove Raza from the post of official spokesperson, only to be given a ministerial post later.

When President Waheed dismissed his minister for transport and communications Dr. Ahmed Shamsheed for acts of indiscipline, the Chief of Jumhoree party Gasim Ibrahim threatened to review the alliance of his party with the government. Gaasim was met by the President twice and another Jumhoree party candidate has been posted as minister for transport.

No action was taken against Dr. Shamsheed for unilaterally extending the lease of the private airport at Maamagile belonging to his chief from 30 years to 99 years. Though the sacking of the minister has not been reversed, President Waheed has not dared to reverse the lease order !

In another incident two members of Majlis were arrested for possessing and consuming alcohol in a remote island ( Kasshidhoo constituency member Abdulla Jabir and another MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor) on the eve of voting on a crucial issue in the Majlis for which the presence of the two members was necessary. The President was not aware of the operation and it was done entirely by the Defence Minister’s outfit.

President Waheed appears to be unable to rein in the Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla who is mainly responsible in creating a climate of " intolerance and hatred" in the country. Sheikh Imran openly called for a national jihad to take the Male International Airport from the developer. Contrary to the assurances given to the Indian Prime minister, President Waheed meekly submitted himself to the calls made by a combination of vested interests, religious, business, nationalist and anti Indian elements to unilaterally annul the contract with the GMR.

Amidst all these, there are speculations that President Waheed has ambitions of his own to contest the next Presidential elections in mid 2013. For this he needs the full support of former President Gayoom and his party PPM. He is said to be meeting Gayoom regularly over lunches and dinners and taking advice!

Gayoom has already declared that he would contest the chairmanship of PPM. He has also hinted that Waheed will have to join his party before thinking of contesting. Waheed on his own is learnt to have not more than ten percent of support in the counry!

Relations with India appear to be reaching rock bottom. Following the cancellation of the GMR agreement, the Indian Foreign Secretary summoned the Maldivian High Commissioner in Delhi and expressed India’s deep regret at that the unilateral move and had also warned that the decision will have a negative impact on bilateral relations.

India is seen to have tightened the visa regime to visiting Maldivians in following strictly the stipulation that the 90 day free entry will be for tourism purpose only and not for any other purpose. All along the Maldivians are used to use the tourist visa for medical checkup or admission into educational instittutions etc. This no doubt is causing problems to the common people. The Home Minister Dr. Jamal is said to have remarked that India is not the only place where the Maldivians should go for medical check up and that they could also go to Sri Lanka or Thailand. Perhaps he could add China too. It is also not clear why the ordinary Maldivian citizen should be put to difficulties by the Indian mission as such a move will be considered as an "unfriendly act" by people who are well disposed towards India.

The recent visit of the Defence Minister to China and the signing of a military agreement with China is also not going to be liked by India.

Former President appears to be getting desperate though he has no reasons to be so. In the informal popularity poll, he is still leading and should do nothing that would dent his image. His recent call to the people in a rally for a revolution to overthrow President Waheed’s government will get him into legal problems as those opposed to him and there are many , who are out to disqualify him from contesting the next Presidential polls.

Surprisingly, the National Council of MDP followed Nasheed in forming a ‘revolution committee’ to follow it up. Nasheed needs patience. All he has to do is to ensure that efforts of those opposed to him are thwarted from disqualifying him and that the elections are held in July in a free and fair manner.