Opposition supporters shout slogans during a protest in Male, Maldives, on Feb. 4. (Mohamed Sharuhaan/AP)

If you’ve heard of Maldives, a South Asian country southwest of Sri Lanka in the Arabian Sea, you may know it as an island paradise. But severe political crisis erupted there Feb. 5 when President Yameen Abdul Gayoom of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) declared a state of emergency. Security forces stormed the Supreme Court and arrested two of its five sitting judges, and sealed parliament, arresting two members of the opposition. As his term comes to a close, Gayoom is cracking down on the opposition. Numerous opposition leaders are in jail and others fear arrest, as he attempts to continue ruling as a strongman, despite court opposition.…  Seguir leyendo »

On March 13, former President Mohamed Nasheed began the first day of a 13-year prison sentence on charges of “terrorism.” For those of us who witnessed the birth of democracy in the Maldives in 2008 and its desperate battle to cling to life, news of his sentencing sounded more like a death knell than a court ruling.

The Maldives, an island chain off the Southern coast of India, is home to nearly 400,000 people. It attracts tourists and climate change activists (ours will be one of the first nations to sink if the world keeps warming), but few foreigners stay long enough to learn our history or about our struggle for the freedom affluent visitors often take for granted.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Maldives stand on a knife edge. At stake is its hard-won liberal democracy, forged from the ruins of a brutal, 30-year dictatorship – a period that was synonymous with serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's rule was eventually ended in 2008, by a democratic vote in which I was elected. But it is important that the outside world clearly understands that Gayoom, his allies and his henchmen are back. It was they who established, late last year, the "December coalition" of Islamic extremists who accused my government of being controlled by "Jews" and "Christians" and used incitement to religious hatred and violence as political tools.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office. The wave of revolutions that toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year was certainly cause for hope. But the people of those countries should be aware that, long after the revolutions, powerful networks of regime loyalists can remain behind and can attempt to strangle their nascent democracies.

I learned this lesson quickly. My country, the Maldives, voted out President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, its iron-fisted ruler, back in 2008, in historic elections that swept away three decades of his authoritarian rule. And yet the dictatorship bequeathed to the infant democracy a looted treasury, a ballooning budget deficit and a rotten judiciary.…  Seguir leyendo »

The British tourists who come to the Maldives' beaches are unlikely to know about the Foreign Office's warning this week to steer clear of large political gatherings. But the country's two-year-old government is in crisis. The resignation en masse of President Mohamed Nasheed's cabinet at the end of June created a constitutional crisis, leaving the Maldives without a government for two weeks. The president then unconstitutionally reappointed his cabinet without reference to parliament. Opposition MPs were arrested and only released after a prolonged appeal to the supreme court – after which the governing party called for demonstrations in an effort to make the judges change their mind.…  Seguir leyendo »