A presidential decree banning the controversial ‘India Out’ campaign in the Maldives follows a relentless one-pointed opposition agenda
A presidential decree banning the opposition PPM-PNC’s controversial ‘India Out’ campaign in the Maldives is set to spark a national discourse on the limits and limitations, if any, of the people’s ‘inalienable but absolute right’ to freedom of expression,” particularly after police removed the banners, both original and modified, in which the caption read “Indear Out” instead. An opposition-backed outlet was quick to claim that India had imposed the decision by “decree” to President Ibrahim “Ibu” Solih with a deadline of 12 hours.
In his first reaction to the presidential decree, Yameen said it showed “how much the government is under the influence of India”. Other party leaders were relatively restrained this time and stopped by mentioning the option of moving the country’s Supreme Court on the matter.
The presidential decree follows a relentless one-pointed opposition campaign, variously labeled as “India Out” and “India Military Out”, after Yameen admitted to being the author of the original social media posts and began to address national gatherings with this theme as their center. -piece, after the Supreme Court freed him in the multimillion-dollar “money laundering” case, with two other decisions pending in the lower court.
The ‘India Out’ campaign was a repeat of an old strategy where Yameen’s inclusive opposition used religious (Islamic) NGOs to demand the exit of then President Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed in 2011-2012, but by adding Indian infra-majors. , Groupe GMR, as a detour point of national interest. This time, the opposition staunchly avoids the direct link between the anti-India campaign and its undisguised anticipation of the exit of the Solih government, keeping the campaign entirely India-centric.
The presidential decree, issued under Article 115(c), (d) of the Constitution, is backed by a ruling by the National Security Council, which noted that the “India Out” campaign put the nation at “risk loss of peace”. and stability, enormous economic and social burden, and international isolation”. It concluded that “failure to save the Maldives from danger could result in irrevocable losses and make it difficult to maintain the independence of the Maldives and to ensure the safety of Maldivians living or visiting abroad and foreigners in Maldives”.
Prior to the proclamation of the decree, the Maldives Police Service (MPS) had notified the Yameen camp to remove the offending banners, prominently in front of their party offices and Yameen’s home. They later got a court order and removed the banners. Quickly, pro-Yameen media questioned the need for police to obtain a court order at dawn shortly after morning prayers, instead of waiting for normal court hours.
Triggering the current process and asking the police to remove the banners outside Yameen’s house, Nasheed, as president, rejected an opposition motion in parliament, asking the government to “condemn the brutal attacks on Indian Muslims “. He told parliament that the campaign violated the penal code. However, pro-Yameen media have disputed Nasheed’s claim on this point. Not to be missed, mainstream media outlets have also started running agency reports on “hate songs” against Muslims in India.
Reflecting the sentiments expressed by Nasheed in his proclamation, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said that while his administration’s policy was to allow freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to the fullest extent possible, the campaign “India Out” took improper advantage of politics, and with the purpose of violating peace and security in the Maldives.
Solih also explained how the campaign was a deliberate attempt to hamper longstanding relations with India and international efforts to maintain security in the region. It is in this context that the National Security Council decided that political campaigns targeting a specific country constitute a threat to national security and that security forces must cease activities that incite hatred against specific countries.
Solih, who chose the executive order route after the party’s caucus split over backing a bill, identified the Nasheed camp. The divide was on predictable lines, between the camps of President Solih and President Nasheed, the country’s first “democracy president” who also continued to lead the party for many years.
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However, for some of the deputies from the Solih camp, more than for the other, their concerns about the restriction of citizens’ freedom of expression were a real problem, based on the reactions of the rank and file. In context, some recalled the opposition of the party when the short-lived government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik (2012-13) made the prior authorization of the police and the specification of the date, time and place , prerequisites for the organization of public demonstrations.
This reality remains. Ruling party MPs who want no hindrance to people’s freedom of speech and assembly, contrary to their opposition to the Yameen camp’s “misleading campaign”, as well as a significant portion of non-CDM supporters , had previously privately challenged the Nasheed camp’s draft legislation with the party’s previously avowed preference for “unbridled” freedom of speech, which they enshrined in the 2008 Constitution.
As can be seen, unlike a draft bill, a presidential decree does not require parliamentary attestation. in itself. Therefore, the opinions of these MPs will be carefully watched, if and when the Yameen camp rakes in the executive order also in parliament, and even more so in the House “National Security Committee 241”, where they are all outnumbered. So will the views of the three ruling MDP allies, who are otherwise opposed to the opposition campaign and Yameen’s type of politics.
In a relatively unrelated development, Maldivian Defense Minister Mariya Didi met with visiting Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and outlined how much there is to be gained from collaboration between the two “sister nations” – a term otherwise used in reference to India. by the heads of government of our common neighbor Sri Lanka.
The minister thanked India for always providing prompt and unconditional support to the Maldives and highlighted how the bilateral defense and security partnership was at its peak. She expressed confidence that joint training and exercises such as “EKATHA” will continue.
Admiral Hari Kumar had chosen the Maldives for his first overseas visit after taking office and also called on President Solih during his three-day visit, hosting a reception aboard ‘Sutledge’, the survey vessel visiting Indian Navy working in Maldivian waters, and also presented Minister Mariya Didi with a check for $8,000 as her nation’s share from the joint sale of the nation’s hydrographic charts.
Simultaneously, the Maldives Police Service, in response to a query from RTI, clarified that Indian trainers from the Institute of Security and Law Enforcement Studies would only provide logistical support and were subject to the exclusion of specific or special treatment. The police said that no recruitment policy has yet been established and attested that the number of trainers will be decided according to need and after mutual consultation.
Exaggerated or what
On domestic policy issues, Nasheed continued to press Solih’s leadership ahead of next month’s election for the MDP chairmanship, where both sides fielded candidates. In a social media post, he claimed the MDP would struggle to secure the 50% vote needed to win next year’s presidential elections despite government claims to the contrary. In a social media post, the second in days, he said the government had failed to deliver on party poll promises, particularly on fisheries development.
In a misguided incident that went beyond the opposition’s anti-India campaign that involved graffiti on walls and the like, a government MP told parliament that opposition cadres had vandalized the artificial turf equipment for installation at Ihavandhoo Stadium. This was before the presidential decree.
Amid all this, the question arises whether the government group would have done well to let the ‘India Out’ campaign die a natural death, given the lack of popular support for the Yameen initiative – and to sow confusion in its ranks. on the contradiction of all of this as India has provided ‘food security’ and the like for all Maldives and all Maldivians throughout the year, and for decades now. The ruling party’s exaggeration, if it could be doubled down, could signal unanswered questions if the opposition campaign contained even a tiny element of truth.
The author is a political analyst and commentator, based in Chennai, India. The opinions expressed are personal.
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