Hamid Abdul Qafoor is the international spokesperson of Maldivian Democratic Party and has faced lots of rough weather. “Yes, we have been hounded,” is how he would like to put his 27-day stint in jail on charges that were later dropped by the High Court. While he is still respectful to the judiciary yet he feels that the same institution derailed the democratic process by cancelling the elections again and again. “This is not a democracy anymore,” he says in an interview with Namta Gupta. “This is a judicial dictatorship and this has been achieved because the state is executing their decisions… and Gayoom is behind judiciary…”
Here are the excerpts:
1. How is the situation in the country after recent elections?
You have to understand that for this country this is all very new. In 2005, we had found out how ready people were to identify with a political party because our initiative caught on like a wildfire. But more troubling is what happened afterwards; corruption, the coup and the way international community especially India reacted, well to sum that up, people are shocked, totally shocked. Howsoever much India talks about democracy but it failed the people here. There are people who are aligned with the present government whom I would call ‘Gayoomists’ and they are like the Bath Party, very xenophobic and they are anti-Indian and anti-anything…
2. During the election Nasheed was accused of being pro-West and also a secular. My question is that, is ‘secularism’ such a bad word there?
No that is not the case at all…
3. But does this win not mean that people of Maldives want a rigid Islamic state?
No, Maldivians follow a very liberal line of Islam, and since we did not have any competing religions hence, people don’t have any hang ups about it. But it is the Gayoomists and the people who came from Egypt like Zahir Hussain who are the problem makers. In fact Gayoom had praised Saddam Hussain. So, this country is polarized between liberal democracy and conservatism.
4. What is the general feeling amongst people post elections?
Our democracy has been totally disappointed…they (people of Maldives) seem to have accepted their fate. It is also a disgrace to Indian democracy. People of Maldives do not think that India is that ‘great country’. We have been disappointed, we have been hounded.
5. But Mr. Mohammed Waheed’s government’s foreign office had accused India of meddling in the internal affairs and the Indian government is of the perception that if you interfere in the internal process of a democracy then you are bound to get bad press…so this could be the reason why India did not interfere in these elections at all. Do you not think that this was the right decision?
The `interfering in internal affairs` is a ridiculous story. On the eve of these elections the leader of the PPM, Gayoom said that we support economic protectionism thereby justifying the throwing out of something that is 800 million dollar of Indian corporate investment in this country (reference to GMR deal). Then coming to the internal affairs issue, well this is a classic Gayoomist thing.
6. I really did not understand one thing that if the election process was being hampered by whom you call Gayoomists, then why has Nasheed welcomed the result? Why not protest against this election? After all you were protesting when the elections were being delayed.
You know, we had no choice. The international community, Commonwealth endorsed the coup. It is similar to what the British did in India, we too have something called CONI reports (Commission of National Inquiry). Just like until the Indian independence, everything that they (British) did was swept under the carpet…here too there was a huge mutiny, and we were all harassed, and we are still being harassed by the court, but the CONI report said nothing; it was total covered.
7. What is your take on Gayoom’s re-entry then?
We maintained that a coup installed administration cannot ensure a free and fair election; to even think that it can be done is just illogical. In the process India changed its ambassador. Surprisingly, there was a time when a number of people in this country respected Indian involvement. Basically, we were just totally shocked that after 30 years of dictatorship, Gayoom could come back like this. But he is there and now we are looking at the bright side of things because we crossed the legal deadline of November 11 and we crossed the constitutional deadline as well. And then the fact that we were able to hold elections is good enough for us because we never had free elections. So, the risk is very high but we are hopeful that countries like India will understand what they might have done.
8. Nasheed had to face a lot of allegations of being pro-India.
Ms. Gupta please understand that for us this is not personal. India is the biggest democracy and geographically we happen to be situated next to it and what Nasheed said was that, is it not our luck that we have a democracy right next to us and we are democrats. He only said that it would be so good for us to be associated with the Indian economy.
9. What is the economic situation now? What is your take on the GMR issue?
We attracted around 1 billion dollar in the investment in three years even when the investment climate was not totally conducive. But they (investors) trusted us, and they trusted our liberal government. Unfortunately, the Indian company were not backed by Indian government. These men (previous Maldivian government) threw out GMR; that was a huge blow to our tourism industry because we needed an airport.
10. What really surprised me was that Mr. Waheed replaced Mr. Nasheed…they were supposed to be very close!
We admit that it was a mistake and we never really understood Mr. Waheed and yes he totally shocked us…
11. He actually shocked everyone…here was a guy who is close to the President and then after the coup he replaces him!
And the Indian government accepted him too.
12. Could it be due to India-China tussle because China has very strong footing in Maldives and that could be the reason why Indian government was not aggressive on the government that was formed after coup?
I have no idea and I don’t think that at all because China is a country that has always had diplomatic relations with Maldives. And there are a bunch of Islamists here; I mean India should be concerned. As a politician, especially as an MDP person, I get disappointed whenever I hear such sentences like ‘we are with the people of Maldives’; it just makes me sick. No one is with the people of Maldives because if they were with the people of Maldives, then they would have come to help us in this violent coup.
13. When you say that no one is with the people of Maldives, what exactly do you want the international community to do?
We wanted the international community to say that it was a ‘coup.’ The Parliamentary government accountability committee has summoned some of the generals, and they had declared that it was indeed a coup and from then on, the international community sort of disappeared. And you know we thought that it was in India’s interest to have a healthy democratic community which is safe for everybody, but no... Now these people have started indulging in extremist Islamic rhetoric lately, we had one scholar murdered and several other things which we never had in this country before. And to cover it up two or three more murders of innocent Maldivians…but at best what India can do now is support the democratic change that we have started.
14. And what do you foresee as Abdullah Yameen government`s biggest challenge?
I think the biggest challenge for him is his party because we have a democratic constitution but his party does not believe in democracy, and neither does it work on democratic lines. But even bigger challenge is the coalition that he has had to make to gain power and everyone in this country understands that the elections were rigged. But we are not going to cry over it because we know it is a tough game and even the government of India knows that these elections were not free and fair.
15. So what I understand from this conversation is that waiting for the next elections is a better deal because by then democratic forces will gain more…
Yes...you are right…and we have done that…people are tired…after charging a thousand protestors, this is the best option. We were hoping that now Yameen will call truce, and he will stop persecuting people but this has not happened yet. But we will be a responsible opposition although when they were in opposition they never accepted that we had won. In Parliament they opposed everything that we proposed but we still managed to work on education, tourism etc.
But we are not crushed and Inshallah we will be there for the next elections.