I would like to wish all Maldivians a very happy New Year. I hope 2013 will be a year filled with hope, promise and success for the Maldivian people.
There is no denying that 2012 has been difficult. In February, our young democracy was stolen from us by people prepared to commit high treason to further their narrow political ambitions. Since then, we have seen a worrying return of police brutality and state-sanctioned violence and intimidation. With this we saw an increase in violent crimes including the tragic murder of Member of Parliament and Islamic scholar Dr. Afrasheem Ali, fatal attacks on a journalist and members of public of whom some are children. Democracy activists are constantly being threatened, intimidated or prosecuted on politically motivated charges for demonstrating against the undemocratic regime. Social protection programmes have been stalled and dozens of important infrastructure projects stopped. Independent instititutions continued to fail and regrettably in 2012, the international community failed the people of the Maldives. In short, it was an ‘annus horribilis’.
The Maldives has been in the world’s newspapers for all the wrong reasons. No longer is our country the shining, successful Muslim democracy, and poster child in the battle against climate change, as it once was. Instead, the media has been full of stories about human rights abuses, coup d’etat and the government’s disastrous foreign policy decisions that forced out the largest foreign direct investor in the Maldives. Last year, the redeeming image of our country was of ordinary people waiting patiently in our hospitals – enjoying free health care for the first time. A year later, the picture is one of people queuing all night outside the Indian High Commission in the hope of a visa because the Government has foolishly picked a fight with a powerful neighbour.
I hope that 2013 will be a better year for Maldivians. This passing year was challenging, but it has given us the strength and unity to stand up for what we believe in. I am heartened by the perseverance people have shown across the country. In 2008, Maldivians enjoyed their first taste of democracy and I believe Maldivians will keep fighting to see that democracy restored. I hope that this year, we will see a genuinely free and fair election, in which everyone is allowed to compete. 2012 was the year when people were robbed of their democratic rights. 2013 must be the year where a truly democratic Maldives prevails.