"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and the freedom to communicate opinions and expressions in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam" - Article 27 - Constitution of the Republic of Maldives … [THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS BLOG ARE MY OWN] … 'Kratos Demos' ...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Democracy!! Are we following it?

-Maeed Mohamed Zahir-

Countless years of struggle has achieved new changes! New experiences! New Visions! New Hopes! A new picture!! Struggle has achieved a so-called democracy in the small island nation of Maldives, which we call home. We have achieved a so-called press freedom, the right to speak freely, the very right to express our opinions, the basic right of peaceful assembly, to exercise basic human rights. Definitely we have seen a change. Change is happening. Change is taking place. And change will take its rightful place in due time.

This brings us to a question! Is change itself a good thing or a bad thing? Has change brought democracy? Has change achieved democracy? Or rather the most appropriate question; whether we are following democracy?

Well the constitution says we are! The constitution clearly states that “the Maldives is a sovereign, independent, democratic Republic based on the principles of Islam and is a unitary State”. So are we?

Let’s begin by understanding what democracy really means! The simple pocket dictionary meaning for the term democracy is; ‘government by all people, through elected representatives’. In a democratic form of government, there should be a parliament consisting of representatives elected by the people and this parliament has an important say in the running of the state. In other words Democracy is a system of government in which the people are able to choose by election those who shall govern.

Last October the country held its very first historical Multi-Party Presidential Elections. The election was held with 208,252 eligible voters. Presidential Elections were held in the Maldives on October 8th and the second round on the 28th. Six candidates competed, out of which one was an independent candidate and the remaining five were from five different political parties. On October 8th, no candidate gained more than 50% of the vote; a runoff was held on October 28th between Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Dhivehi Raiyithunge Party (DRP) and Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Nasheed won the election, unseating long time incumbent Gayoom.

The Maldivian parliament, the ‘Peoples Majlis’ has 77 seats. The number of seats have been determined according to; two members for the first five thousand residents registered for each administrative division or two members for administrative divisions with less than five thousand residents; and where the residents registered to an administrative division exceed five thousand residents, one additional member for each group of five thousand residents in excess of the first five thousand.

Just a few days ago, on 9th of May, with approximately 214,405 eligible voters, the first ever Multi-Party Parliamentary Elections was held. So far the provisional result of the parliamentary elections shows that the Dhivehi Raiyithunge Party (DRP) had won 28 seats while the People’s Alliance (PA), which is in a coalition with DRP, had won 7 seats, giving DRP-PA coalition 35 seats at the Majlis. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) followed DRP closely with 26 seats, while the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (QDP) candidates had won 2 seats. The Jumhooree Party (JP) also had won 1 seat. Independent candidates won a total of 13 seats.

Well are we following democracy? It looks quite so…

As it is clearly understood that Democracy comes from the people and Democracy is the people, it’s also important that the members elected by the people again for the people should work with the people! Members of the Parliament (MPs) should always represent their constituencies, meaning they should figuratively be servants of the people who elected them to represent the people! It’s important that MPs being elected by the people should listen to the people. Elected MPs should always be available for the people. MPs should be reachable!

However, is this picture that we see today? Out of 77 seats in the parliament, 64 seats have gone to political parties clearly demonstrating that the Maldivians have ultimately turned to party politics.

Yet again a new question arises. Now are party politics democratic? Are the parties themselves democratic? Do the parties have a proper internal democracy? Now if democracy is the people and democracy comes from the people, then political parties in a democracy should also be democratic! How many parties had held national party congresses? Do they have strong internal elections for party leadership? Is the party leadership elected? Or are they self appointed?

We cannot call ourselves a democracy unless all political parties and factions in the country are democratically elected. If MPs make decisions in the parliament after being instructed by a politburo style party council, can we practice what we call democracy?

Let me leave the question open for all of you. Are we following Democracy?

Monday, May 11, 2009



Maeed M. Zahir

“When a fisherman in an outer island of the Maldives, ventures out in to the sea at dawn, and watches the sun rising out of a deep azure sea, and observes spellbound the magic of a resplendent morning in the tropics; and when our young boys joyously swim in our crystal clear lagoons, drinking in the invigorating sea breeze to there heart’s, content; and when our people, both young and old, enjoy strolling on a moonlit beach, savoring nature at its very best, it is hardly possible that any of them would ever imagine that the beauty which is theirs today could be lost to others like them to a date in the not too distant future. Nor would any of our fishermen ever think that the sea which is bountiful source of his livelihood could, in a mater of decades, become his eternal grave. But that is precisely the prospect that we have to face today.”

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom , Small states conference on sea level rise, Male’, 16th November 1989.

“Death of a nation” was a speech delivered by the President of Maldives, at the common wealth Heads of government meeting, Vancouver 15th October 1987. This was the first time that any leader of a low-lying nation spoke about his countries fate.

Today we keep on arguing about the political reform movement being slow. Here and there we see political activities. Political activists demonstrating over their rights calling for what they deserve.

Today we spend millions on development projects. Price level of daily products has risen to unreachable heights. If the country’s economy goes like this it may lead to massive inflation.

And yet the island nation has still become a paradise for tourists. Maldives, famous for its high class quality resorts, spas and services not to mention, the beautiful under water coral gardens,

Has been nominated as one of the best travel destinations in the world and the country’s resorts are being awarded with internationally recognized awards.

But………. Are we aware of our fate? Personally, I would say no.

In the late 1980s there happen to be growing evidence that the seas of the world were rising and that it will continue to rise in the years to come. Oceanologists believe that there would probably be a global sea-level rise of about 50 cm to 2 meters in the next 100 years.

Let me tell you the story. The human advancement that became known as the great industrial revolution caused massive changes in the global atmospheric chemistry. The industrialization, which we cannot live without had caused the emission of different harmful gases in to the atmosphere leading to what we call as the global warming. When the green house gases reach the atmosphere, it forms a harmful gaseous layer. Meanwhile, the sun sends its solar rays on to the earth from which the earth reflects back some amount of these rays and lets in some. Again as these rays enter the earth and touches on the earth surfaces it reflects back as infra-red radiation to the atmosphere, where it will release the rays back to the space. But due to the green house gas layer, some rays are retained and held back on the earth’s atmosphere.

Automatically the earth would start to get warmer, when these rays are not reflected out. And if this keeps continuing, the earth becomes like a microwave.

We humans who inhabit the earth today are not able to live without modern day technology. Today we are not able to live without cars, planes, boats and other means of transportations. Today it has become difficult for us to live without refrigerators or even without body spray etc…. Today the human need is very high; therefore the production of these supplies has expanded and had become more developed. More factories had come into existence. This development has increased the emission of harmful gases in to the atmosphere. This is not all, today the human population has increased rapidly and every human being needs a place of his own to live. More and more land is needed for human settlement and construction, this leads to the cutting down of trees. Deforestation had lead to the decrease of forest land on the earth. These trees help us to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. During the process of photosynthesis in green plants, light energy is captured and used to convert water, carbon dioxide and minerals into oxygen and energy-rich organic compounds.

When global warming takes place it also leads to other major problems. As the earth gets heated the two poles; north and south consisting of large ice caps, and the tops of the mountains that have huge glacier start melting. These waters from the glaciers deposits to the seas making the sea-level rise. This is not all, due to global warming some areas experience desertification, which is due to high temperatures.

Measurements of carbon dioxide amounts from Mauna Loa observatory show that CO2 has increased from about 313 ppm (parts per million) in 1960 to about 375 ppm in 2005. The present atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 383 parts per million (ppm) by volume. The IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios gives a wide range of future CO2 scenarios, ranging from 541 to 970 ppm by the year 2100. The Earth has warmed by approximately 0.75°C since pre-industrial times. Twelve of the warmest years in the past 126 years occurred since 1990, with 2005 the warmest on record. And it is been believed that this year 2007 is much warmer than 2005.

If this keeps continuing the low lying countries like Maldives that barely is 2-3 meter above sea-level would be disappear. The enlightened view among the scientists in the late 1980’s is that the seas are going to rise by the rate of about one centimeter by a year during 40 years, which means about 40 centimeters by the year 2030.

It would be the low-laying island nations that would suffer the consequences of what the developed industrial countries are responsible for. Scientists first raised this issue, in Stockholm in the United Nations conference on the human environment from 5th - 16th June 1972. In this conference people became aware of the growing scientific evidence of global warming and the effect it would cause to the low-laying island nations. This conference led to another major conference that became known as the famous Earth summit, or The United Nations conference on environment and development (UNCED), which was held in Rio-de-Janeiro, 3rd -14th June 1992. In this conference an international environmental treaty was coined; The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC). This led to the Kyoto protocol, The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an amendment to the international treaty on climate change, assigning mandatory emission limitations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the signatory nations. As of December 2006, a total of 169 countries and other governmental entities have ratified the agreement. Notable exceptions include the United States and Australia.

Other countries, like India and China, which have ratified the protocol, are not required to reduce carbon emissions under the present agreement.

Desertification has affected a lot of people living in the through out the world.

Well, from all the evidences it is clear that the major industrial countries are not that concerned over the fact that we, the low-laying island nations like the Maldives, are to be destroyed and submerged under water.

Though some of the industrial nations do not bother much about this there are some organizations that do care. They are aware of the fact that the global warming is causing the ice to melt at a rapid rate and that this leads to the rise in sea level. Organizations like The UNEP have taken these issues globally. They have declared their theme for this year, 2007, as MELTING ICE – A HOT TOPIC?

5th June, World Environment Day, 2007. UNEP

There are a lot of low-lying island nations. That would be submerged under water due to this rising.

Tuvalu, for example, is a low-lying island nation that lies in the South Pacific.

Giant waves were overflowing the atolls of Tuvalu, in February 19th 2004 the tide caught up three meters in height, submerging houses, government offices and part of the airport and making the marine water emerge even in to the inner parts of the islands. The phenomenon appeared more and more frequently and with greater intensity in the recent years. By now it is written that within the end of this century the nation of Tuvalu, having a maximum height of 4-5 meters above sea level, is destined to disappear. Now just think about Maldives, which is just BARELY 1-2 meters above sea level.

“As for Maldives, we cannot even consider such a rise. On average, our islands are only three to six feet above the mean sea-level. The rise will be sufficient to submerge our whole entire country. It will be the death of a nation” - Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Common Wealth heads of government meeting Vancouver, 15 October 1987

It should be kept in mind that as the earth gets warmer the seas do get warmer too. As the global warming takes place one of its deadliest effects is the bleaching of corals. Previously in the year 1998 the Maldivian reefs were also affected, and in some parts almost all corals bleached leaving the reef dead for years. It had taken years for the corals to re-grow. And again there is the fear of another coral bleaching that may take place. These coral gardens had become one of the main reasons for the increased number of tourists that visit the country. It is also the white sandy beaches of the Maldives that the tourists attract that makes them come to spend their holidays in Maldives. As the sea level rise these beaches are not going to have a long life. Gradually these beaches would erode away. The beaches would be destroyed. Then the number of tourists who come to the country would reduce. Since the main occupation of the country is the tourism industry, which covers almost half of the entire population’s employment, this would lead to unemployment. It should be kept in mind that the main source of income to the country is from the tourism industry. If this is the case then we have to say “bye, bye” for our development and the major source of income.

The rapid rate of melting ice causes the great seas to rise, that would lead to our destruction. Not only ours, but all the other low-lying island nations as well. Our islands would be submerged under the water. We shall become home less. Our communities and island societies would be destroyed. We shall become refugees. We shall lose our identity as Maldivians. We would loose our home land to the seas. There would be no more an independent nation that goes by the name of Maldives. There would be no more a tourist travel destination called the Maldivian Islands. This piece of land would be nothing but a submerged island in the Indian Ocean. Being a Maldivian this is not what I want. Of course I don’t want to become a second-class citizen of a neighboring country or leave this country. Do you?

If the ice keeps on melting at this rate the seas would rise rapidly submerging the island nation of Maldives.

Well what can we do? Is this supposed to be our fate? It is not us, the Maldivians, who are responsible for this fate but it is the whole world. It’s the industrial super powers who are doing this to us.


Already the Maldivian Islands are witnessing these changes. The unusual storm surges locally called as ‘Udha’, which we are facing these days, are due to these changes. Already these waves had become nightmares for the inhabitants of the islands. People live in fear of the sea. Islanders are being psychologically affected.

Well this had been predicted 20 years ago.


Today there is nothing much to do for the inhabitants of the Maldives but call for help. Let the world know our fate. Make the world aware of the global warming and the climate change. I would call all the political parties of the Maldives for their assistance; I would call the citizens’ of this small nation to settle our disputes quickly, and let’s work together for our survival, for our existence, for our children and families for the future generations of our country, for our nation. Let us all join hands; together we can bring a change.

The only thing we can still do is to plant more trees and encourage others to do so. It should be kept in mind that the trees do help us by playing there part to save the earth. Let us all take part in the billion tree campaign of the UNEP and plant for the planet. Let’s plant more trees, and pray for our survival. It is time that we should hold our hands together to save our country as well as our planet.

Let’s take part in this event.

I would like to mention that this article has no political motive but to create more awareness among the people regarding the environment especially on the issue of sea-level rise.

*this article has been published on HAAMA DAILY a local news paper in Maldives

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