UNLIKE the military dictators, the democratically elected civilian leaders have to carry the heavy cross of their rosy promises on coming to power, of which many being too pompous and unrealistic are never met. Mohammad Nasheed was one such leader who resigned Tuesday. Not because he had badly failed to deliver on his promises, though that was one reason that he decided to quit. He became a victim of the power struggle that had been brewing in the sun-drenched archipelago for quite some time. Nasheed said he was quitting for he was not the ‘one who would like to rule with the use of force’.
He has handed over power to Vice President Mohammad Waheed Hassan, in line with the constitutional requirement. As the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, Nasheed came to power in 2008 riding the anti-Gayoom wave and has now left running before angry demonstrators.
On the face of it, for many months he was under public pressure as the cost of living had gone up following his moves to curtail the budgetary deficit. He was also the target of religious elements who accused him of being anti-Islam, a charge accentuated by the visit of UN human rights campaigner Navi Pillay who wanted the Maldivians to debate on the flogging of women accused of adultery. But what actually brought to head the simmering public anger against Nasheed was the arrest of Abdulla Mohammad, the chief judge of the Criminal Court.
The judge had ordered the release of the government critic, Mohammad Jameel Ahmed, who in a TV talk show, had accused Nasheed of working against Islam with the support of the Christians and Jews. That a life-long campaigner for freedom and democracy, who spent many years in jail for his opposition of the iron-fisted Maumoon Abdul Gayoom regime, should order the arrest of a judge - there is no explanation for his action, except that over time, his Utopian idealism was overtaken by pragmatism dictated by matters of State. After he came to power after toppling one of the most durable dictators in the region, he did not put on trial his life-long nemesis.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was allowed to live a normal life. And, Nasheed was also mindful of the rising level of the sea. He was rightly concerned about the threat that his archipelago nation may go underwater consequent to global warming. To make his point he held that widely reported underwater meeting of his cabinet. What the future holds for Nasheed nothing can be said with any degree of certainty, though there are reports suggesting his opponents would like to put him on trial on charges of corruption. In a Third World country there is nothing new about such a move, which ultimately leads to nothing. But his potential to bounce back is there. His removal from the scene could have been violent, and if it was not so, is because of Nasheed’s personal thinking and frame of mind.
Even when he stepped down he had considerable support among the army and some sections of the administration in Male. Should he decide to return to politics, which cannot be ruled, he can, but then it would be a different ball game, unlike his first arrival. Not only his erstwhile ally and now president, Waheed Hassan is unfavourably disposed towards him, the remnants of Gayoom’s regime are also active, as quite a part of the present turmoil is of their making. But the Maldives cannot afford turmoil.
Its economy, largely dependent on tourism, has got be tranquil and free of tension, a responsibility that has to be shared by all sections of Maldivian polity.