In what former Maldives President Mohamad Nasheed described as a “watershed” and “turning point” for his country, a new multi-party opposition platform was launched in London on Wednesday that pledged to lead the fight for the restoration of democracy in the Maldives.
Former Vice-President of the Maldives, now living in exile in the United Kingdom, Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed will head the Shadow Cabinet of the newly formed Maldives United Opposition. The Deputy Leader is Ali Waheed, currently Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Nasheed as Advisor
Mr. Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives who was recently given political asylum in the UK, chose to take a back seat in the Shadow Cabinet with the post of Advisor. “My supporters feel that the MDP should lead an opposition front. I think we need not always be leading, but must be ready to follow others,” Mr. Nasheed said at the launch.
The former President was forced out of office in 2012, just four years after his election, and was convicted and jailed on what were widely believed to have been trumped-up terrorism charges. On the world stage, he remains the most visible opposition Maldivian leader and is likely to play a leading behind-the-scenes role in the new political formation.
The posts of Advisor have also been given to Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Leader of the Adhaalath Party and Col. Mohamed Nazim, former Defence Minister in the present Maldivian government headed by President Abdulla Yameen.
Announcing a representative 25-member Shadow Cabinet, Dr. Jameel Ahmed outlined the vision and tasks of the new government. President Yameen, Dr Jameel Ahmed said, “has taken a sledgehammer to democracy and the constitution.” The shadow cabinet has two women.
‘Unity against dictatorship’
Explaining the context for the reconciliation of differences between opposition parties, the new Leader of the Maldives United Opposition noted that “past setbacks” and “differences” would be put behind. “All of us share our commitment to the constitution, to democracy, and to the rule of law. It forces us to be united against dictatorship.”
Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the launch, Dr. Jameel Ahmed said that one of the first tasks of the new party would be to formally seek recognition and assistance for their cause from India.
We are looking to India
“India has been our closest neighbour and has always supported us. We have no doubt they will support our purpose to restore democracy in the Maldives,” he said.
In his time as Vice-President in the Yameen regime, Dr Jameel Ahmed said he noted with concern how Mr. Yameen’s foreign policy “contradicted our long-standing ties with India. I was worried at the way he purposefully tried to alienate India by giving a more undemocratic nation limitless access.” The Maldivian opposition has been critical of the growing economic footprint of China in the Maldives, which they believe Mr. Yameen has encouraged to counter India’s influence in the Indian Ocean region.
‘We will strive to remove Yameen’
The new Maldivian opposition-in-exile, in its articles of association has said it will strive for the “restoration of democracy and constitutional rule in the Maldives” and the “immediate removal of President Abdulla Yameen through all legal and lawful mechanisms,” establish a “transparent system to monitor public finances and safeguard the national treasury”, and protect the rights of 1700 individuals currently under prosecution, investigation and arbitrary arrest. It calls for the “immediate restoration” of freedoms that “have been unconstitutionally suspended by the Maldivian government.”