On 28 October 2008, the people of the Maldives brought democracy to the country and toppled a 30-year-old dictatorship through a nonviolent and peaceful election. It is now time to build on the foundation laid on that day and work towards a democracy of which our future generations could be proud. There are forces within our society trying to destabilise our democracy. There are forces that would like to take the country back to the corruption and autocracy that were hallmarks of the 30-year-old dictatorship. But we are not going there anymore. Never again.
The election held on October 28 in the Maldives resulted in a clear victory for the people of the Maldives. However, against the backdrop of this victory lies months, if not years, of planning and mobilising the people conducted by democracy activists, civil society groups and political parties.
Vanessa Ortiz, Director of Civic and Field Relations, International Center for Nonviolent Conflict writes in Global Campaign for Peace Education Newsletter about the key ingredients for the success of a nonviolent struggle: unity, planning, nonviolent discipline, creativity and confidence. Ortiz cites examples from Maldives to elaborate these ingredients, quoting from Hindha Ismail, one of the organisers of Badhalakah Emmen (Unite for Change) group which mobilised the youth before the election through music and other activities.
Another key ingredient is planning. In the Maldives, many local organizations and activists came together to plan strategically. Overt political gatherings were not allowed and often invited government and police harassment. Planning meetings were planned by pockets of civil society leaders and held in safe spaces. Hindha acknowledges that a great deal of time went into planning. “At the end of each day, all of the active members had a meeting to analyze the effectiveness of the activities carried out on that day,” she reflects. “We also brainstormed constantly for new ideas and took votes on how to proceed.”
The third key ingredient to success is nonviolent discipline. A nonviolent movement can enlist participation from most citizens – young and old, men and women, rich and poor. The Maldivian struggle was committed to nonviolent principles from the very beginning. “Every rally began with instructions and advice on how to use nonviolent tactics,” Hindha remembers. “Our main message was nonviolent change.” Violence invites repression, and in a contest of arms, Maldivian activists knew they could not win. The use of violence could not lead to the broad-based coalition that they developed, it would terrorize citizens, and violence would not win the international support of potential allies and economic interests that the dictator often courted. Remaining nonviolent was a strategic choice.
It is important for the people to be on alert to guard and protect the democracy in the Maldives. Any attempts to undermine democracy should be challenged through carefully planned nonviolent action.
In the run up to the second round of the presidential election, youth in Maldives are using music to express dissent and to say no to the brutal regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The first anti-regime music show was held in Maldives on 6 October 2008 before the first round of election. Enough show was organised by the democracy group Lable Red. The key attraction of this show was Maldivian heavy metal band Traphic Jamm and its vocalist Kayano. During the show messages were read out to encourage the people not to vote for the dictator Gayoom. Opposition politicians such as Dr Waheed, Ibra and Dr Shaheed attended the show.
For more photos of Enough show, please check 919 on Flickr.
On 24 October 2008 democracy activists from Villingili, Male’, organised a music show. It was mainly a jam session featuring great talents such as Adhly and Haisham. A screen near the stage displayed messages and video ads from Lable Red and 919. Messages were read out to encourage the people not to vote for the dictator Gayoom.
For more photos of the Villingili show, please check 919 on Flickr.
A series of road shows have been organised by the group Badhalakah Enmen too. Their shows have been held near Number One Jetty in Male’ and near the popular surf point known as Raalhugandu. Various talented musicians including Mohoj of Zero Degree Atoll fame have performed in these shows.
For more photos of Badhalakah Enmen shows, please check their Flickr pages.
MALE’, 07 OCTOBER 2008 – 919, a democracy movement recently established in the Maldives, has placed coffins in public places in the capital Male’ to draw attention to the torture and suppression practiced by the ruling regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Photos of people who had been tortured and killed in prison were placed on the coffin lid along with messages urging the people not to vote for people with blood on their hands. Flyers from 919 (pronounced as nine-one-nine) were put inside the coffins. The coffins, placed in high profile public places, drew much attention from the people.
The campaign has been launched ahead of the first multi-party election in the Maldives, to be held on 8 October. Gayoom has ruled the country with an iron fist since November 1978. He is Asia’s longest serving ruler, and is one of the last remaining dictators in the world. Under his rule, corruption has surged as reported by Transparency International while press freedom was suppressed for years as documented by Reporters without Borders.
The coffins are a reminder to the people of the atrocities committed by the Gayoom regime, as the dictator runs for a seventh consecutive term. For the first time he is facing opponents in an election. Previous elections were just a farce with Gayoom as the single candidate in a yes or no referendum.
919 urges the people not to vote for Gayoom and neither for other candidates who were once pillars of his brutal regime. Even though 919 is an independent movement, it is endorsing Mohamed Nasheed (Anni), the presidential candidate from Maldivian Democratic Party. 919 urges all citizens of Maldives to rally behind Anni, to bring an end to the dictatorship in the Maldives through ballot box.
Download 919 fliers on presidential election
Download press release on coffins placed in public places by 919