Wednesday, October 29, 2008
THE MALDIVES ISLANDS, CONGRATULATIONS !
The Maldives, a group of about 1,200 islands, 200 of which are inhabited, separated into a series of coral atolls, north of the Equator in the Indian Ocean is free at last. The Maldives was long a sultanate, first under Dutch control, and later under British protection. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965, and three years later, declared itself an independent republic. For the very first time, since her independence from Britain in 1965, the people were allowed to chose their leader and they spoke overwhelmingly by throwing away the old guard. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled the islands for about 30 years, was defeated by Mohamed Nasheed, a former "prisoner of conscience", in what was seen as the country's first truly democratic election.
Mr Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), pictured left, who is known on the islands as "Anni", won 54 per cent of the vote in a two-horse presidential race with the outgoing president, Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, pictured below. Mr Nasheed becomes the third president since the island nation in the Indian Ocean was granted independence from Britain in 1965. Over 209,000 Maldivians were registered to vote in the contest and turnout was extremely high at 86 per cent. In a statement following his victory, Mr Mohamed Nasheed said "We are very happy that President Gayoom peacefully conceded defeat'!
While in power President Gayoom was repeatedly criticised for his abysmal human rights record and style of governance. As a prominent pro-democracy activist Mr Mohamed Nasheed was targeted by the authorities and was a constant guest of the government as a prisoner of conscience for his pro-democracy activities. He served several jail terms and was tortured while in custody. But he was magnanimous in victory praising the "dignity and honour" shown by Mr Gayoom after he accepted the election result.
Some of the islands were severely damaged during the December, 2004 Tsunami.
Icheoku says that what happened in The Maldives is a message in real democracy where the peoples voice is heard and respected. African "leaders" such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Kenya's Kibaki, and Nigeria's ruling PDP should take a cue from the good example of the outgoing president of The Maldives and know when to take a graceful bow. Once the people had freely expressed their will, such must be respected. With this peaceful concession of power, whatever sins the outgoing president Gayoom committed or may have committed have been washed away! Once again, Icheoku says congratulations to the people of The Maldives for regaining your voice and may your new president-elect bring to you, lots of fulfilment of hopes and aspirations!