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#Maldives in Constitutional Crisis: Is President Nasheed's real target Islamic Sharia and not the Judiciary?

Male', Maldives.
Tension and alarm escalated amongst Maldivian citizenry yesterday with President Nasheed's re-introduction of the controversial UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navirathnam Pillai into the Maldivian internal matters.

President Nasheed's grand design in the forced disappearance of Judge Abdulla appears to be to create an opportunity for international forces to enter Maldivian domestic politics and civic matters. If it were so, this would be a sad betrayal of centuries of struggle for political independence by Maldivians high and low. The end objective of this foreign influence is perhaps not reform of the Judiciary itself, but amendment of the constitution to remove its basis on Islamic Sharia.

The fact that he chose to invite Ms. Pillai for legal assistance in the current constitutional crises shows that there is a link between the current military arrest and Ms. Pillai's agenda.

Ms. Pillai sparked the largest civic protest in the country to date, when she stepped out of her UN mandate and attacked the state religion Islam and ridiculed the Maldivian constitution. Ms Pillai went so far as to say, "I do not believe that you have a constitution", a belief that President Nasheed too appears to hold. Ms. Pillai made her inflammatory remarks in an address to Maldivian parliamentarians, while on a visit to Maldives upon the invitation of President Nasheed. Her inflammatory remarks which challenged the Islamic faith of the 100% Muslim population, sparked nationwide protests on December 23, 2011, the biggest of which rallied over 20,000 civilians to Victory Square, Male'.

President Nasheed's cousin Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem (Kerafa) announced yesterday that Nasheed had sent a letter to Ms. Pillai inviting her to send a team of legal experts to investigate and make recommendations on what he called issues relating to the Maldivian judiciary.

The issues referred for Ms. Pillai's assistance by President Nasheed are in fact gross violations of the constitution by himself and his security services in arresting Senior Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed on January 16, 2012 for alleged misconduct. Judge Abdulla was arrested within 24 hours of his ruling to release opposition politican Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed who had been arbitrarily arrested by the Police. Dr. Jameel's alleged crime was to have uttered statements alluding to the well known links between President Nasheed and Christian missionaries at a public rally.

Judge Abdulla is a case of "forced disappearance" as defined by international conventions. Judge Abdulla has been kept incommunicado since he was taken by force from his household by Maldivian military forces. His arrest has sparked over a week of unceasing protest from the Maldivian citizenry, calling for the reinstatement of the constitution and the rule of law in the country.

When Nasheed was propelled into power in 2008 by foreign support and that of foreign powers, Maldives was a healthy and stable society and economy, brought to the stage of graduation from the ranks of Least Developed Countries by experienced and hard working teams of local faithful working under President Ibrahim Nasir and President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Although Gayoom himself saw his defeat by Nasheed as due to "30 years", Gayoom's doom was perhaps rooted in his adamant refusal to allow a secular constitution as proposed by Nasheed's party, MDP. This led to a gathering of international support behind the then relatively unknown activist Nasheed, propelling him into international stardom in a media created image of democracy advocate.

The 2008 Constitution of the Maldives was written by a Constitutional Assembly gathered by Gayoom in a surprise move which took the initiative out of an incipient and inexperienced opposition's hand. In June 2004, Gayoom held a public lecture at which he announced a radical Reform Agenda, which instigated sweeping reforms to the Constitution, separated out the three powers of State and established independent watch dogs over the organs of the state.

The process of constitutional amendment was lengthy and protracted. Local and foreign interest groups tried to gain the upper hand in determining provisions of the new constitution. The strongest attempt was made by the UN, through the UNDP which funded two projects to "support" constitutional reform. The first funded an analysis of problems in the existing constitution. The second funded a Canadian legal expert to draft the new constitution. Working together with Drafting Committee Chair Male' MP Ibrahim Ismail, the first draft submitted to the committee and Majlis threw the majority of the assembly into disbelief. The draft constitution did not give Islam and Islamic Sharia its rightful place in the constitution.

Maldivian citizens witnessed on live television, the tooth and nail fight against Nasheed's MDP by Gayoom's party Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party to introduce Islamic Sharia into the provisions of the draft constitution. The defeat of the MDP's anti-Islamic agenda in the Constitutional Assembly was overwhelming, the credit for which must also go to the Speaker of the Assembly Gasim Ibrahim. Gasim Ibrahim brought back Islam and Islamic Sharia into the new constitution by inviting Malaysian Professor Hashim Kamali as an Advisor to the Assembly. Professor Kamali strongly defended the so-called "human rights" arguments levelled against Islamic Sharia, lending strength to Gayoom's parliamentarians to wrest the new constitution out of the anti-Islamic grip of the MDP.

This most recent invitation to international forces to push their political agendas in the microcosm of Maldivian society is nothing new to Nasheed. From its inception, Nasheed's fledgeling administration has swung every which way politically and economically under the influence of foreign powers and international institutions. As with any politician, Nasheed would have made various promises to his local and foreign backers. Most notable are the influences of the UK and India. The UK's Conservative Party continues to play a significant influence in determining Nasheed's domestic and foreign policies. India moved into the picture later, using its old age tactic of economic and financial influence through big business such as GMR.

The massive success of the December 23 protest against Nasheed's anti-Islamic agenda shows that, even if the country is thrown into civil war or taken over by the military, there is little hope that this latest attempt to remove the influence on Islam on the country's constitution and laws will succeed.

This failure is not all least due to the utter lack of experience of President Nasheed as a ruler, but also due to a lack of understanding of the psyche of his fellow citizen. The Maldives has long been a country which has weathered all foreign storms, yet been adept at forging strong international links with a multitude of interests. It has also been a strong ally with other developing countries. Had the issue of promoting international agendas that are not contrary to Islam in the Madives been taken up by an experienced and popular leader of integrity, there is no doubt that much could have been gained for the benefit of both Maldivians and international powers. Sadly for the Maldives today, President Nasheed is not, and never was, the caliber of man to lead a country.

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