Politicians are often judged by their initial period in office. Some make a big issue of it to stress that they are taking decisive action to differentiate themselves from their predecessor. However often after the wild promises of a 'political honeymoon' public cynicism sets in.
by Dr Hassan Saeed
In the Maldives, after the excesses of the Nasheed years, many people will instead have been looking for stable and dignified government. That is why last week President Waheed marked his 100 days in office with a simple press conference, which through its demeanour demonstrated a strong contrast with the previous four years.
This contrast with the past was further reflected this week when Nasheed and his MDP celebrated and experienced justice at first hand. Judge Abdulla of Criminal Court to whom Nasheed, as the former President denied justice, this week, delivered justice to Nasheed!
The Government backed by the Attorney General’s legal opinion asked the police to evict President Nasheed and his MDP activists from the central government’s Usfasgandu land they have been occupying in the capital Male. The Government has a responsibility for the upkeep of that land so were well within their rights to seek control of property that they administer on behalf of the people.
The Police, seeking to clarify the legal basis of the Government decision, sought a court order from the Criminal Court. The Court decided that it cannot be clearly determined that the issue or case was within its mandate and therefore ruled that it cannot issue an order to dismantle the Usfasgandu area. This again shows that MDP allegations of one-sidedness of the Police and Judiciary are false.
Ironically the Chief Judge of the Court is Judge Abdullah whom Nasheed kidnapped and held in forceful custody for 21 days against court orders of all levels. Barely three months ago Nasheed planned to “abolish” lower courts and declared those judges “illegal”
In contrast to Nasheed, President Waheed did not send military with heavy armour to arrest the judge who ruled against the Government. Nor did President Waheed drag the judge to the military headquarters to confront him.
Government supporters did not padlock the court or set court buildings on fire. Nor did they set up kangaroo courts and pass death sentences on the presiding judge.
Today Nasheed should be thankful that judge Abdullah is alive, well, and still serving as the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court and dispensing justice as he sees fit! Today Nasheed can tell us how sweet justice is!
Nasheed, in his usual style of playing to a global audience, rather than addressing the concerns of ordinary Maldivians, argued that his downfall and the elevation of Dr. Waheed was a setback to democracy in the country. Examples like the one I describe above clearly shows that is not true.
Indeed Dr. Waheed’s rule has enhanced democracy and democratic values in the country. Already his coalition government, which is more complex and broader, has lasted far longer than Nasheed’s ill-fated experiment in 2008 before he moved to running a minority MDP government. Any independent observer would accept that Dr. Waheed has excelled far more than his predecessor in consensus building which is an important element of any democracy.
In the first week in office Dr. Waheed freed state media from the government control. Today he is credited as being the first head of state in the history of the nation who does not control a TV and a radio station in the country.
Nasheed could never give assurances to the security forces that they would not be asked to carry out unlawful orders. Dr. Waheed has done so categorically and repeatedly.
Dr. Waheed, once again for the first time in the history of the nation, has given a free hand to the judiciary to manage its own budget. Until now the judiciary had to rely on the Ministry of Finance for expenditure approvals no matter how small, thus compromising its independence.
Dr. Waheed has also given repeated assurances that he will respect the decisions of independent institutions and would not challenge them. Recent events confirm that his deeds match his words.
Dr. Waheed has also done a number of important things to revive a ruined economy. Investor confidence is key to any economic revival. The Government’s decision not to challenge its own judiciary and other independent institutions and Cabinet ministers not protesting on the streets of the capital are important steps in building investor confidence. The new administration has not introduced any tax to impact on that confidence. Likewise we also no longer see activists driving major policy shifts overnight adding to instability.
Tourism is the mainstay of the national economy. The Government has done remarkably well in maintaining stability and confidence here despite calls for a tourism boycott by MDP affiliates and despite the weakened and contracted economies in Europe threatening a downturn. By not taking resort lease extension money in advance the government has allowed the industry to keep some USD200 million to survive in this rough economic time and if necessary to reinvest. Likewise the government has allowed an increase in the resort development area from 20% to 30%. This again will add more rooms to provide extra capacity as economies grow again and new Asian markets develop. Thus, by investing now we will have potential to grow our economy in future.
Most importantly Dr. Waheed is yet to give any resort, contract or a loan to a family member, friend or activist. Also rent seeking government officials and party activists who roam around government offices like white sharks have suddenly disappeared. An Anti-Corruption Commission official recently told me that he is afraid of losing his job because since Dr. Waheed assumed office suddenly corruption cases have stopped coming!
Inherited unpaid 2 billion rufiyaa worth of bills and fast maturing 5 billion rufiyaa treasury bonds has all but ruined our public finances. Despite the huge challenge the government is able bring down the pressure on USD. Since Dr. Waheed assumed office the USD rate has come down from 18.50 to slightly over 16 on the black market. This is not a bad achievement considering the fiscal mess we were left with by the previous administration.
Serious crimes are down and the confiscation of illicit drugs is up. Politically motivated arrests and releases are things of past. Party membership no longer guarantees a jail-free ticket to criminals. No reporter is beaten, no media owner is yet to be charged and no media outlet has been set on fire. A state asset is yet to be sold.
Is this not a remarkable achievement for a 100 day old President? Someone who, as well as continuously defending our country’s reputation from a disgruntled and disgraced former President and his supporters on the streets, is also focusing on building our country’s future.
President Waheed came in cautiously promising to ensure stability and adherence to the rule of law, but his first 100 days have also been days of real action too.
Note: Dr Hassan Saeed is currently the Special Advisor to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik