Tag Archives: #mvprotest

For the many Evans

I was 16 years old when Evan Naseem was murdered in Maafushi jail. Horror stories of Maldivian jails were not new to me, but Evan’s death provided something else – photos of a battered, bruised body to go with the hushed up recollections of police brutality that have always been spoken about within my family. Maafushi and Male’ erupted that day, and in direct comparison to the cold, calculated beating that Evan Naseem received, this outpouring of emotion was spontaneous, riotous. Maldives was in shock.

It took just 48 hours for Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s (then 25 year old) government to kill 5 of its citizens in cold blood. The thinly veiled attempts to justify the shootings as ‘javah, fazaya, havayah’, was deemed enough of an explanation for the population, until of course the establishment of a sham inquiry commission. Lets also not forget the shameless photo opportunity for Maumoon and his son by Evan’s corpse.

A few hundred civilians were arrested for the incidents in Male’ where at most, government buildings were damaged, where as a quick few arrests of NSS Officers were carried out for the murders of 5 inmates. The sorry excuse for an inquiry commission produced a report riddled with redactions for the purposes of national security. It called to hold only the puppets accountable, not the men who pulled their strings.

A trial was conducted; people were sentenced and pardoned in quick succession.  The propaganda machines of the Government went on overdrive, with wild stories of Evan Naseem the drug addict, or Evan Naseem, the juvenile delinquent. Like any of it was a justification for him being wrapped in tarpaulin to be beaten to death by members of the country’s national security services? Like any of it was even a semblance of justice.

The confidence with which Maumoon was able to whitewash the Maafushi jail affair was due to the level of control he exercised over the whole of the Maldives. The pervasiveness of Maumoon’s suppressive regime was evident in the fact that he went onto win another 5-year term following September 19/20 2003.  And yet significant cracks were beginning to appear in the authoritarian fabric that was Maumoon’s Maldives, more powerful than the few percentage points Maumoon had lost in 2003 compared to his previous Presidential elections. As terrible as Evan Naseem’s murder was, the international attention it received, the furore it created domestically gave hope to the minority who had been silently and vocally resisting the dictatorship for years. There was no going back, or so we thought.

Truth be told, I never believed it was the brutality of Maumoon’s regime which led to his ultimate downfall in the 2008 elections. Maybe this is being cynical, but not enough people in the Maldives cared, or maybe not enough people in the country directly/indirectly went through his torture.  In fact, a Human Rights Commission survey, supported by the UNDP in 2005, showed that social and economic rights were more often a priority than political and civil rights. Fair enough. Probably why the auditor general’s ‘time bombs’ of 2008 made more of an impact than testimonies of custodial abuse. With the dawning of ‘Aneh Dhivehi Raajje’ the very optimistic temptation was to think that Maumoon was going to be held accountable for all his misdeeds immediately. An election-induced euphoria does not allow you to keep in mind the state of the budget, the 45.32% that still supported the old regime, the politicised police, army, judiciary and civil service that will do everything in its power to prevent said justice from taking place. It definitely did not leave room for thoughts of ‘coup d’etats’.

Was it ever a realistic option for Maumoon, Adam Zahir and Co. to be held accountable for the countless numbers of people they victimised in their jails? No. Not with the state of our country’s institutions. Why not a truth and reconciliation commission then? I don’t honestly know. Was it realistic to believe that state orchestrated brutality would no longer be condoned? Yes. Naively, yes. Except almost 8 months on from 7/2 the Maldives finds itself right back where it was in 2003. Caseloads of human rights violations, Amnesty International reports of condemnation and denials by Gayooms, resulting in no one being held accountable for the injustices. Not the puppets, and certainly not their masters.

Stories of torture do not go away; do not leave a person easily. The thoughts that Evan’s screams, his pleas for mercy were deliberately overlooked by his abusers are not things that we can or even should forget.  Precisely why Dr. Waheed is a far crueller man that I ever thought possible, for his ability to brush aside the excessive torture that his family and friends were put through, and that, mostly as a result of his opposition to Maumoon. Ironically, those who have undergone torture themselves almost seem to find it easier to not address it than those who are related to them.  They are certainly not over it, their involuntary reactions to men in combat uniforms give them away. Maybe it is too painful, too humiliating and too frustrating to re-visit those days.  Maybe their experiences have given them far greater insight into the minds of the brutes in power then and now to realise that expecting justice in the Maldives is far too great an ask. Nevertheless, my mind remains filled with shadowy pictures of andhagondis, tinu golhis, and fen golhis, reiterated by the MRIs and X-rays of the spines of my loved ones who bear the eternal brunt of Maumoon’s brutality. And of course that battered, bruised body of Evan Naseem.

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Keeping up Appearances over Keeping up Democracy?

As expected, Thursday’s events at the Majlis divided opinion. On one side you have the colourless and the coup leaders stating that MDP MPs behaved like monkeys. On the other, you have thousands of protestors celebrating them as heroes. On which side do I stand? With the thousands that peacefully protested on the streets of course.

It didn’t happen without warning. MDP’s Parliamentary Group announced on Wednesday, 29th February that they would not permit an illegitimate leader to address the Parliament, and they didn’t. Did people really expect a simple, polite walkout? Surely as ‘unique’ a coup as this one, deserves as unique a response? So, they shouted, they danced, they held up ‘baaqee’ signs, they physically blocked entrances, they sat on tables and they got beaten up by MNDF’s SPG officers, and in one instance by Mahloof. Worse than engineering and legitimising a coup d’etat? Worse than the brutal beating of protestors on the 7th, 8th of February? Worse than the lack of condemnation over police brutality from Dr. Waheed, the so called life long supporter of democracy and human rights? Absolutely not.

What is it that riles up the colourless and coup leaders so much about the mobilisation of people on the street? Why is that an armed mutiny of a few hundred MPS and MNDF officers can be so easily condoned but a dancing MP is so easily condemned? The colourless bang on about peaceful dialogue, due process and alignment with the constitution. Do they not realise that the right to assembly is guaranteed by the constitution? That, that very constitution came about as a result of the combination of mobilisation of people AND dialogue?

The real crux of the matter may not be that they are squeamish over the behaviour of MPs, but the fact they find it more convenient to criticise real people who care enough to come out on the street, who face riot police and coup leaders and who tell the so ‘called government’ what they think, rather than hiding behind the jargon of etiquette. Or they really don’t realise, unlike many others the severity of the current crisis. Maybe they don’t feel scared, as I do, when they see a MPS/MNDF uniform, they are able to overlook police brutality and they are able to justify a coup as Anni’s just rewards for his dealings with Abdulla Gaazee. Quite simply, they don’t miss the freedoms that 3 years of democratic rule allowed us, because they took it for granted.

There is a reason for protests. It is to show the Abbas Adhil Rizaas and the KDs, and the Jangiya Nazim’s and the international community that it is not just Anni, not just Ibu at the all party talks and not just MDP MPs, calling for an election, but thousands of people. Call the MDP MPs shameless, call the protestors disruptive, call it what you want, but also have the nerve to call a coup a coup.  Condemn violent protestors, but also have the courage to condemn police violence. 7th February’s mutiny was shameless. 8th and 9th February’s brutality was despicable. Worse, is over 24 days of military government legitimised by a puppet dictator and his ‘educated’ supporters.

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