Monday, December 13, 2010
As was only to be expected, the WikiLeaks whistle-blower's accounts of US diplomatic exchanges within has something to say of little Maldives too, and it has also the potential to embarrass, if not harass, the incumbent Government of President Mohammed Nasheed.
Considering that the President and his ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are already caught in a corner on a host of domestic issues, starting with the Opposition-controlled Parliament's refusal to clear his 13-member Cabinet for re-election after their "stagged drama" resignation, as required under the Constitution, which has become a subject of contradicting interpretations.
The WikiLeaks on Maldives comprises two specific developments, at least one of them becoming controversial nearer home when the idea was first mooted. Both relate to the US, naturally -- not only because WikiLeaks is all about leaked American diplomatic exchanges among its various missions and the Washington HQ but also because they show up a strand in the Nasheed Government's thinking in moving closer to the West and secularism, particularly the US.
The already agitating issue relates to the Maldivian acceptance of at least one prisoner from the American facility on Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The Maldivian Opposition had dubbed it 'sell-out' and the fundamentalist Adhalath Party, ironically continuing as an ally of the ruling MDP with no parliamentary support to offer, too had come down heavily on the Government's move. While domestic issues and politics upstaged the controversy, when it first came to light, the Maldivian willingness to accept someone whom the US had detained as a 'terrorist' brought in conflicting criticism.
Accordingly, the peripheral fundamentalist groups within Maldives felt that the Government was joining hands with a few other nations to provide an 'escape/exit route' for the US, when the latter should have been brought to book for video-taped ill-treatment of 'terror suspects' in the Bay facility, and also in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here, one could feel their identification with 'religious fundamentalism', which the Nasheed Government in particular has been keen on eliminating from the Maldivian shores, one way or the other. But the true fact even a blind cow can see is that, whats happening in Bay facility, Iraq and Afghanistan are wrong in the eyes of humankind, not just Islamic Fundamentalists.
The other side, more moderate and secular groups, including responsible politicians and the mainline Opposition parties, felt that the presence of an ex-detainee from Guantanamo Bay could well become a focal-point for the emergence of a non-existent fundamentalist group, leading up to possible presence of a terror outfit, not very long after. Whether such extremist groups would be home-grown or 'imported' for whom the locals could provide safe-houses and contact-points were also being debated in private. The presence of peripheral fundamentalist groups and religious political parties have already become an increasing cause for concern, it was being pointed out.
The WikiLeaks on the subject now indicates that the Maldivian Government may have urged the US for help in procuring the much-needed IMF loan early on, in possible exchange for agreeing to house a Guantanamo Bay detainee. It is a well agreed and argued point that there are no free lunches in international politics and diplomacy, and that there may have been no harm in Maldives linking the two for benefiting the nation and its people in relative terms of few thousand dollars?. Yet, it may not be viewed the same way in the nation's backyard, where existing 'secular education' of the Gayoom era has given enough exposure to the 'IT generation' for them to draw their own conclusions beyond those narrow-minded self-centered politicians.
Ironically then, second WikiLeaks-related development pertains to the reported request of the Nasheed Administration for US help to modernise the educational system in Maldives. The idea, according to the leaks, was for the US to help Maldives discourage the migration of Maldivian students to countries such as Pakistan and Egypt, where they often schooled in madrassa education of a "fundamentalist" character.
On the issue, most locals believe this was among mounting attacks by Nasheed's secular administration to undermine Islam and promote their agenda by limiting ways to Islamic education. Other examples of such kinda are, their efforts to close down the only Arabic medium school in capital Male' Arabiyya and Mauhad.