Maldives: On the road to democracy
Maldivian President M.
Nasheed’s Political Advisor Hassan Afeef spoke to
The Sunday Leader in Male last week. He
elaborated the five major pledges President Nasheed
has made to steer Maldives into a better and more
By Raisa Wickrematunge in Male
Q: In light of President Nasheed’s election in
October, what has he pledged to do to bring the
A: Well, according to the President’s
manifesto, he has made five major pledges. He would
like to address the problem of drugs, change
transport networks, bring down inflation, introduce
more affordable housing and implement a better
health insurance scheme. We hope to achieve these
Q: It’s been said that drug trafficking is a major
problem in the Maldives. Would you agree?
A: It’s been suspected that the problem was
high in the previous regime. We are not trying to
eliminate the problem, because it can’t be
completely stopped. However from the inception we
have been working to curtail drug trafficking. There
are six major drug traffickers operating here. Now,
two of them are behind bars. So the people feel and
see that this problem is being solved.
Q: What other schemes are being implemented?
A: The government has long term plans in
dealing with congested schools. Currently there are
three sets of children attending three different
sessions. We are trying to make sure that the first
session gets use of the school premises for the
whole day. This will provide a more rounded
education, since they get to spend the whole day at
school. Extra curricular and academic calendars are
being planned as well. Earlier, the Ministry of
Education was in charge of policy-making, and this
was not always very productive. Now we have a School
Board which makes decisions.
The President has also pledged to reduce congestion
and increase affordability of housing in the
No previous government has tried to provide housing
instead citizens have to construct their own houses.
China is providing $200 million funding for this purpose.
There is also a need to improve the current
infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools. We
are a right-wing party, and operate on a commercial
basis. In other words, we want to improve trade and
industries and create more job opportunities. We are
also going into public-private sector partnerships,
entering into joint sector partnerships from abroad.
With these partnerships we hope to develop other
industries as well.
Q: Tourism is a major source of income for the
Maldives. What is being done to develop the
A: The key phrases we keep emphasising are
carbon-neutral, eco-friendly and green tourism.
is a destination which mostly caters to a wealthier
market, because of the high prices of resorts.
Charter flights have been reduced because of this,
which is unfortunate. However, many international
hotel chains have invested in the Maldives –
respected and well known brands such as the Hilton,
Conrad, Best Western, Carlton and the Regent. While
this is very encouraging, it is important that we
should not forget about budget travelers. Our aim is
to build resorts to cater to them, and to ensure
better returns for a hotel room.
Q: Do you have any comments on Maldivian- Sri Lankan
A: Well, it’s always good for the Maldives
when Sri Lanka is at peace. We have always followed
a combined destination policy, tourism-wise. We
encourage tourists to visit
for its historical riches, and the
the beautiful beaches and sea. Now that
is at peace we hope to continue this.
Q: President Nasheed has often been vocal about the
human-rights situation in the Maldives prior to his
election. Would you say there has been an
improvement in the situation now?
A: Of course. Earlier if there were protests
held, the police would beat protestors, detain them
and threaten to jail them. Now, the people can voice
their opinions. There are no political prisoners.
One thing I’d like to emphasise is that the use of
torture is over. There is rehabilitation available
for drug offenders.
Recently, the Freedom House 2009 report (an annual
survey of global political rights and civil
liberties) upgraded the Maldives from ‘not free’ to
‘partially free,’ the biggest jump in a short
period. The government has also appointed a person
as Human Rights Ambassador, Mohammed Latheef.
Q: President Nasheed once said if sea-levels
continue to rise, there would be a need for land
reclamation to preserve the Maldives. Is this true?
A: What the President was referring to was
the urgent need for nations to wake up to the
dangers of global warming. There needs to be
discussions about slashing greenhouse gasses, and
more open forums between countries. The Maldives is
only 1.5 meters above sea-level, which is rising.
Now we are coming into the 22nd century, we have to
tackle this issue, or we’ll become “environmental