Is Maldives self-destructing?
It was bad enough for the Maldives Government to have scored a self-goal by terminating the GMR Male Airport contract for political reasons rather than economic. Events since then worryingly signal that the Gayoom- backed, Islamist Adaalath-supported Waheed government is hurtling the country towards self-destruction.
Look at the sequence of events. The High Court of Singapore, which is the designated court as per the terms of the contract to deal with disputes, gave a stay order on December 03, 2012 against the termination of the contract.
A few hours later, the Defence Minister, the Home Minister and the Advisor of the President held a press conference in which the order was called illegal and it was asserted that despite the order, the Male airport would be taken over from GMR from the midnight of December 7.
Did the ministers know what they were saying? What were the implications of their open defiance of international contracts entered into with sovereign guarantees ?
If they did, they would not have torn the contract into pieces with scant regard for consequences.
One will have to give them the benefit of doubt, a case of false bravado. This is so because while the trio were huffing and puffing, the lawyers of the government were working out the niceties of filing an appeal in the Singapore Court against the injunction.
This contradiction is also indicative of a split in the cabinet between the hardliners led by the Defence and Home Ministers and the others who would prefer legal recourse rather than arm-twisting measures.
That the hardliners are winning is borne out by other developments. Visas for the foreign employees of GMR will not be renewed; the aerodrome licence of GMR will stand terminated on the midnight of December 7 preventing it from operating the airport; police presence has been increased at the airport, a precursor to forcible eviction; the Defence Minister has personally visited the airport and threatened GMR employees to vacate by 7th midnight; while the crowds at the stage-managed shows put by the Adalaath Party-led December 23 coalition is dwindling, the rhetoric against GMR is becoming menacing.
The GMR imbroglio, being manipulated by former President Gayoom for point-scoring against his nemesis former President Nasheed, has got enmeshed with the political developments in the country. The day the Singapore Court pronounced its injunction, the Majlis by a vote of 41 to 34 passed a motion to allow secret ballot for voting on a no-confidence motion against the President.
The same motion had been defeated barely two weeks ago on Nov 19, 2012 by 34 to 39. What has shocked the Gayoom-Waheed-Adaalath nexus and made them nervous is that the MDP had increased its voting strength from 34 to 41 in two weeks. At this rate, for the MDP to cobble together the requisite two-third majority of 52 MPs for passing the no-confidence motion against President Waheed may not be difficult.
But even before the formalities of a no-confidence motion against the President are gone through, it would be far easier for the MDP coalition to pass, by a simple majority, motions to remove the Defence and Home Ministers.
Would the Defence Minister, the head of the MNDF, countenance this unceremonious removal? Going by the track record of his dismissing the order of the Singapore Court, would it be surprising if he dismissed any motion passed by the Majlis. Or better still, not allow the motion to be passed at all?
These are dangerous portents for Maldives.
Thus, on the one hand, Maldives faces the prospect of becoming an international pariah and all because Gayoom is determined to settle personal scores with Nasheed using GMR.
On the other, Maldives risks its nascent and hard-fought democracy going asunder.
Unless saner counsels prevail in the government, Maldives is being pushed towards self-destruction.
The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Salim Haq.