Maldivians across the 1,200 scattered islands have been having small yet frequent public protests against the government led by the Maldivian Democratic Party for the past year.
The local population in Maldives have suffered under the worsening economic situation already before the pandemic hit. They had started their protests to show their disapproval of the new government’s failure to address the issue of corruption in the new government.
Many government ministers have been accused of indirect links to previous or current corruption cases that are being investigated. There are further concerns that the Maldives Anti Corruption Commission had delayed opening investigations against high political figures linked to the President’s relatives.
On top of this the Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has been accused of not releasing valuable information under the freedom of information act relating to the expenses on political appointments of his close friends to foreign diplomatic posts, while local unemployment is skyrocketing.
As the protests continues against the Maldives government, the Maldives opposition as well as some NGOs and youth movements are calling for the former President Abdullah Yameen to be released or transferred home.
According to some of the protestors we to talk to, they had helped campaign and then voted for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led government for the Presidential elections as well as the Parliament elections. Their support for MDP was mainly due to the promises of zero tolerance on corruption and protecting the country’s sovereignty from foreign influence. Now according to these protestors, they were ticked with false election promises to get their votes, because they have witnessed the Maldivian Democratic Party and all their coalition partners do exactly the opposite of what they have promised before elections.
What many people we talked to in different regions of the country fear the most is, if their country’s economy can hold on for another two years or so to election time, or should the government call for early elections to save the country from an economic crash that could lead to social and political unrest.
When we asked on the situation in the Maldives to the highly experienced politician and the vice president of the opposition People’s National Congress (PNC), Mohamed H. Shareef, he explained, “Corruption is rampant. Public confidence in the administration and institutions are at an all time low. The problem is compounded by the government’s reluctance to take speedy and decisive action against perpetrators in the top echelons of the administration. Whistleblowers are instead being hounded and silenced, instead of removing and prosecuting corrupt officials. Selective justice, exercised through absolute power deriving from the ruling regime’s super majority in parliament and continued meddling in the judiciary has prompted nationwide protest. When a government minister takes kickbacks from the purchase of ventilators to enhance the country’s Covid response, it is easy to gauge the extent of the problem. To make matters worse, the President retained him in office and allowed for his party colleagues to assure that he would not face prosecution.”