Good Governance in Maldives Speech delivered at the GIP Public Gathering Dr. Mohamed Waheed, Vice President of Maldives and Leader of Gaumee Ithihad Party

Good Governance in Maldives
Speech delivered at the GIP Public Gathering
Dr. Mohamed Waheed, Vice President of Maldives and
Leader of Gaumee Ithihad Party
(Translated from Dhivehi Language)
24 April 2010

Asalaam Alaikum,

It’s a very special evening. It’s the first time we are having a public meeting of the party since its formation in 2008. Most of you know us as a coalition partner in the present government. Over the past year and a half, our senior leadership has worked diligently to support this government. The only purpose in joining this government was to do good deeds for the people. Like us, a lot of other people in our country struggled to bring about a positive change. Many capable and important people in the country worked together to change the government.

Its a rainy evening. It reminds me of a similar but unforgettable evening which I am sure many of you will also not forget. It was the night of the 26 October 2008. It was the last rally prior to the second round of voting in the presidential elections. It was held in the open area south of Dharubaruge where about 8000 people participated completely drenched in the rain. There the leaders of the coalition formed under the banner of “watan edhey gothah” (How the nation wants!) assembled before the people during the last hours prior to the second round of election. MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed, Republican Party’s Gasim Ibrahim, Hassan Saeed of the then New Maldives, together with the other leaders of their parties and the members of GIP stood that night according to the wishes of the people to bring about change in the way this nation is governed.

Extending from the swimming area to the tsunami monument, thousands of people gathered in great hope and enthusiasm.  Each of our parties made pledges loudly, promising to bring about the change the people wanted and to change the old government. We promised that we would form a government with capable and competent people, that we would not let prices of goods and services rise, and that we would make the lives of our people more pleasant and comfortable. We all made those promises.

We raised our voices and prayed to Allah Almighty for a good government. In the midst of the prayers that were led by Sheikh Ilyas, a torrent of rain poured on us soaking the thousands of people who were gathered there, but no one even moved. I have not experienced a moment of divine blessing greater than that. Our prayers were answered. The presidential election held a day later produced the results we prayed for.

I believe that to be grateful for divine blessings, we must use them for good outcomes and in the spirit of the original intentions. The call for democracy had original intentions. They include improving the livelihood of our people, stamping out corruption in government and to introduce good governance using more capable people in government.  However, today the people are starting to question these intentions. They are questioning if the change they brought about is moving in the right direction. Many people are of the opinion that both our citizens and our leaders need to reflect deeply and correct the course of democracy.

Honorable members,

The democratic government we seek is one that practices good governance. A free and fair election is not the beginning and the end of democracy. Election is the first step. Following that we must govern according to the wishes of the people and with the participation and consent of the people. Although some politicians amongst us may believe that following the election, governance should be completely left to a few and that the majority should remain politically uninvolved, this is not a position acceptable to the Maldivian people today. One of the threats to democracy is to leave all powers in the hands of a few who then exercise them whenever and whichever way they so choose. The reason why administrative procedures and rules are set in a bureaucracy is to prevent such arbitrary exercise of power. That is why a bureaucracy is so essential for a democracy.

According to Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, good governance is essential for the establishment of a fair and justice society. It is also essential for the eradication of poverty. Good governance is the principled and fair exercise of power among the people, peoples’ organizations and the government. It is not good governance to favor only those who belong to the government party and to become ruthless with opponents.

The leaders of a nation must rule for all its people. The President and the Vice President of the Republic did not take their oaths of office to rule the country for a particular party or group. One might raise legal issues with the claim that today’s government belongs to MDP or GIP or some other party. The Maldives Constitution has clearly established the principles of rule of law. For example, it would be unconstitutional to award jobs on party lines. It is regrettable that today we are all classified according to party colors and whenever we need to get anything done, the first question that is being asked is which color we belong to. If this continues, even the right to citizenship may be determined by color. One might wonder, if we are not inadvertently perpetuating a new sort of discrimination.

There are certain conditions by which good governance is measured.

1.    Government should be inclusive and participatory. It needs a framework within which the people, their representatives and civil society could engage in discussion. For instance, there should be a principled approach for discussion among coalition partners. A similar mechanism must exist for discussion between the government and the opposition. Major reforms introduced in the country should be acceptable to most of the political parties. Emphasis should be given to identify and promote the common ground.
2.    There should be strong systems for planning and implementation of development programmes. A good plan is necessary but insufficient for the translation of a vision into action. Implementation requires empowering people, assigning responsibilities, and holding them accountable. The proverbial “issuing of a boat to Mohonu” without meaningful authority would be contrary to good governance.
3.    It must result in positive outcomes for the people. The result of good governance cannot be greater difficulties. It cannot be longer lines for handouts. Today the biggest fear of the people is the loss of employment. People have self-esteem, they do not want to live on handouts, even from their government.
4.    Good government is always responsible and accountable to the people. Elected leaders and employees of the government are there to serve and be accountable to the people. The raison d’etre of any government is to serve the people. The personal interests of leaders and those of their associates should not become a priority. All actions have to be transparent and known to the people.
5.    The results of good governance should be felt equitably to all. This means everyone should have access to opportunities for improving their lives. Special projects and programmes cannot be drawn up to benefit people belonging to a particular political party.

Brothers and sisters,

As we get distributed into various political parties we must reflect on the purpose of forming political parties. I believe that the most important purpose is to achieve good governance for the people. It is to produce beneficial results for the people by managing the nation’s human and material resources justly and equitably. It is to conduct the affairs of government, political or administrative, in a fair and just manner.

I do not accept that political ingenuity in the exercise of power, is to be deceitful or to be ruthless with people who oppose you. There must be a difference in the way we conceive power in the 21st century as oppose to the way it was conceived in the 15th century. We no longer believe that the earth is flat. Similarly, we no longer believe that the resources of the earth including the seas are inexhaustible. Those were ancient ideas. Today even children know that we all live in an inter connected environment. The atmospheric warming is not something that affects a particular nation; the prices of goods and services do not affect members of a particular political party; nor does street fighting and civil unrest affect just one neighborhood. Therefore, we must give up stubbornly competitive and archaic thinking and embrace a more cooperative, peaceful and equitable Maldives in the 21st century. Today’s educated youth and those with wisdom must strive to bring about this change. We will not let the nation be destroyed by those who embrace such old and destructive thoughts.

I pray to Allah Almighty to grant us the wisdom and the courage to make good use of the blessing of democracy in Maldives.

Wassalaam Alaikum.

Address to the Dissemination Meeting Review of SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking of Women and Children for Prostitution.

I would like to congratulate the Asian Development Bank and the International organization for Migration (IOM) for undertaking this review. Since the Convention has been in effect for four years, it’s a good time to take stock of what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done. I would also like to thank the National Human Rights Commission and the Department of Immigration for organizing this dissemination meeting.

What this convention covers is one of the most serious transnational crimes that our region faces. It addresses a crime that is a direct affront against the dignity and human rights of the two most vulnerable populations in this region. Our women and our children. The aim of this convention is to criminalize and punish trafficking offences. It also aims to strengthen regional cooperation in law enforcement, which includes mutual legal assistance, extradition, protection of trafficked persons and their timely repatriation. The overall aim is to take substantial steps towards addressing this problem; this blight on all our nations.

This review shows, that we have not fully succeeded in taking these initial steps and that serious shortcoming exist in both its implementation and coverage.

We find these short comings in proposed implementation blatantly evident across the board. We find them in the relatively limited scope of this agreement. In the narrow(or/broad/inappropriate?) definitions used, In the limited use of Human Rights Perspectives. In the limited regional cooperation for law enforcement. The insufficient data and analysis. And finally, we find them in the complete absence of an independent monitoring system.

Yet addressing these implementation issues is not enough. We need to look beyond them and take into account coverage as well. We need to include male victims and better define what a victim is. A victim is more than someone forced into prostitution, but also a forced laborer, a sex slave, and other forced into slave-like practices, including those forced to beg. Under the current framework, there is inadequate provisions for victim protection and their rehabilitation. In order to address these issues, we need to acknowledge that the absence of an effective and independent compliance mechanism undermines the overall the effectiveness of this convention.

The cause of trafficking is relatively simple. It is primarily greed and a complete disregard for human rights.

Trafficking is a worldwide, multi-billion-dollar industry. And although the problem is global, some of the worst forms of exploitation are found in Asia, where more than a million people are being affected. This is not acceptable.

Trafficking on this level cannot continue to escape the attention of local and national law authorities and I call on the governments of these and other countries to enforce both their national laws and to accept their obligations under this Convention.

For the good of our region, a unified effort must be made to address trafficking, and new contributing factors must be taken into account.The Internet is one of these new factors, contributing to sexual exploitation of women and children. The low cost of Internet advertising of the sex trade is attracting sex tourists and pedophiles to our nations and atrocities that are effectively banned in these degenerates’ homelands are being committed in ours instead.

These are activities legally banned in all of our countries. All of us have laws that prohibit such activities. Yet not all of these laws are being effectively enforced. I am calling on our law enforcement agencies to take effective and collaborative action against the continuation of such atrocities. Similarly, I urge governments of our neighboring countries to take serious preventive actions and to protect women and children from human traffickers.

Children, especially girl children are especially vulnerable and the effect on them is profound and may be permanent. Their sexual, physical and emotional development is often stunted and their lives are forever altered, often hindering the possibility for their future positive contribution to society.

While we have seen clear indications and evidence of trafficking across the region, Maldives is affected as well, and we are concerned that human trafficking could be a growing problem in our country. The report mentions Maldives as both a source country and a destination country.

This event provides us an excellent opportunity for a serious internal review and for us to take corrective actions necessary to protect our people. These actions will include improving the legal framework and ratification of relevant conventions including the UN Trafficking Protocol and the Convention on Migrant workers. The report recommends that Maldives is among the nations which must enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and make provisions for the timely repatriation of victims.

However, we cannot simply take action from a unilateral standpoint. The government cannot do this alone. While we strengthen state law enforcement machinery and governmental systems to combat trafficking, we also need to strengthen civil society and raise the awareness of communities to protect their women and children from trafficking and exploitation.

I urge our national authorities, our dedicated police, our Immigration department and Ministry of Human Resources, all to use this opportunity to kick start a joint initiative to combat trafficking. We must take steps to mitigate future injustice and protect our citizenry from what is a global phenomenon and regional calamity. Thank you.