Thursday, September 08, 2016

In the Maldives, exposing corruption is terrorism

Last night, Al Jazeera aired a documentary exposing corruption by Maldives President Abdulla Yameen. In retaliation, he raided the offices of local media and human rights organisations and had people cooperating with the documentary arrested for terrorism:

Authorities in the Maldives have raided the offices of a newspaper and a human rights NGO and cancelled the passports of fugitive opposition figures after an al-Jazeera documentary aired corruption allegations against the country’s president, Abdulla Yameen.

Local journalists involved with the documentary, broadcast by the Qatari news network on Wednesday evening, had already left the country in anticipation of a backlash, amid warnings by senior MPs that contributors risked jail under defamation laws.

Hours after the documentary was posted online on Wednesday, police raided a building in the capital, MalĂ©, housing the Maldivian Independent, a newspaper accused of links to the former president Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic party (MDP).


The Guardian understands that two men, neither of them employed by the newspaper, were arrested and accused of terrorism and plotting to the topple the government. They were released but will be questioned on Thursday. The police warrant also listed possible charges of inciting discord and threatening public order.

And that's the problem with authoritarian states: if the interests of the state are identified with the private interests of those holding power, then any criticism or attempt at reform becomes subversion. If the Maldives had a robust democratic culture, this wouldn't happen. But the whole problem is that it doesn't, and any attempt to create one is criminalised.

As for Yameen, it really sounds like he should be in jail. But that won't be happening as long as he is in power - and the prospect of it happening is a reason for him never to peacefully surrender power. And so corruption feeds authoritarianism in a vicious circle.

And for a local angle, this seems to be the direction Nauru is heading in, thanks to a never-ending stream of Australian gulag money. If we don't want Australia to destroy one of our neighbours and turn it into the Maldives, that money needs to be cut off.