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Maldives

Ten years ago was a time of optimism and change in the Maldives. In 2008, the free and fair election of Mohamed Nasheed ended a 30-year dictatorship and a new constitution gave the impression that democracy was established. It wasn't. Today is anything but. The Maldives has had the same experience as other autocratic nations where the words "democratic reform" are pronounced. The reform process has been moulded to fit the interests of the political players and spawned a disfigured democracy.

 

President Abdulla Yameen of the Maldives is threatening the stability of the Indian Ocean region by making the country increasingly dependent on a single country, his political opponent and former president Mohammed Nasheed has said.

 

Democrats and dictators are at it again in the Indian Ocean, churning the waters for their shot at immortality. Except in this version of the ‘samudra manthan,’ former president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed is allying himself with former autocrats, promoters of coups as well as confirmed Islamists in order to unseat the man responsible for the successive waves of unrest washing over this coral paradise on earth, current president Abdulla Yameen.

 
 

The Maldives is facing a critical juncture, as civil unrest grows, and the government of President Abdulla Yameen continues to lose support. Since coming to power in 2013, Yameen has enacted a series of increasingly draconian laws, changes which have led to widespread political and public opposition. 

 
 
The Maldives legalised criminal defamation on Tuesday in a move the opposition said was aimed at stifling dissent in the Indian Ocean archipelago and which was criticised by the UN and the US. Best known as a paradise for wealthy tourists, Maldives has been mired in political unrest since Mohamed Nasheed, its first democratically elected leader, was ousted in disputed circumstances in 2012.
 

The Maldives brushed off warnings from Western governments Monday that a new defamation bill risked undermining basic freedoms on the troubled honeymoon islands, accusing its critics of hypocrisy.

 
In 2008, the Maldives had emerged as a beacon of democratic hope across the globe. A fledgling democracy had started taking baby steps in Asia’s longest-running dictatorship. But, what was once the world’s most secular Sunni Muslim nation is today being driven towards hard-line Islam by its controversial and increasingly autocratic President, writes Sumon K. Chakrabarti.  
 

Hundreds of men and women stand on the side of the road waving placards under the hot sun. Police and military are nearby, watching. I’m in Male, the capital of the Maldives and standing in the middle of a protest.

 
Mohamed Asim, till recently Maldives’ High Commissioner to Bangladesh, has been appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. In September last year, Dr. Asim was made the High Commissioner.  In 1982, he joined the government service and served as his country's envoy to Pakistan and the United Kingdom during 2004-2008. He succeeds Dunya Maumoon, who resigned from the Cabinet last week, citing opposition to the government’s plans to implement the death penalty.   
 

As the strategically important Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives continues its descent into political anarchy with democratic institutions facing an unabated onslaught under the authoritarian regime of President Abdulla Yameen, India can no longer afford to be a mere spectator.

 


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