BIG, BIGGER, BIGGEST... The tale of a megalomaniac
Dhivehi Observer, 11 March 2008
It was the mid 1980s. On a cold and frosty day in London, Dictator Gayyoom and his entourage descended from his brother-in-law's penthouse in the West End. He was on his way for a shopping spree. When he stepped outside, to his total chagrin, he realised that the Rolls Royce Silver Spur parked nearby was not his transport. He demanded to know why his car was "just a Mercedes" while there was a bigger and a more expensive car around? This was a time when people still believed that Gayyoom was a humble and a modest man. Yet the incident turned out to be a brief glimpse of what was to come; a fleeting insight into the megalomaniac he really is.
Megalomania is often defined as "an unrealistic belief in one's superiority, grandiose abilities, and even omnipotence". It is characterized by a need for total power and control over others. Adolf Hitler was one of the biggest megalomaniacs in the 20th century. In an international sense, it may shock people to hear his own people defining this otherwise unknown leader in a small country, Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, as a megalomaniac on the same scale as Adolf Hitler. However, today, we as Maldivians have no choice. Dictator Gayyoom is a megalomaniac.
Let us look at his lifestyle. The symptoms of megalomania are easily visible in every aspect of his life. There was a perfectly suitable Presidential residence in Mulee-Aage. But he was not satisfied with living in the same residence that former President Nasir did. He had to have a bigger residence. It did not matter how much Theemuge cost the country. Officially estimated at US$16.4 million (with independent estimates at over US$70 million) he even had a swimming pool built even though he already had his retreat in Aarah just a boat ride away where he and his family could swim to their hearts content. The furniture for Theemuge was designed by the same people who designed the furniture for the Palace of the Sultan of Brunei. The silk sheets on his bed gets sent to the UK for dry cleaning. It doesn't stop there. He has built himself a new Presidential Office, costing tens of millions of dollars. He owns one of the most expensive yachts in Asia. In addition, there are insider reports that he has one of the largest collection of Rolex watches in the world, his favourite make. Besides, his vast and expansive stock of cricket gear in Aarah would put the England and the Aussie Test Teams to shame. Even his children are treated better than the children of the world's richest families. His youngest son feasts on local Maldivian curry, cooked in the Maldives, frozen and sent all the way to London by air. The list goes on.
Now we hear that he is handing out more promotions to his cronies, trying to make his cabinet the biggest in the world. At the last count there were, 20 ministers, 13 state ministers and 45 deputy ministers. Moreover, there are 5 special advisors and 3 ambassadors who are paid a minister's salary. It costs the Maldives more than 45 million Rufiyaa just to pay these cronies annually. This is at a time when the average Maldivian earns less than 2000 Rufiyaa per month. This has nothing to do with the fact that he cannot manage with fewer cabinet members. This is all to do with the fact that he wants the largest cabinet irrespective of the cost to the nation.
Presidential Palace - Theemuge Male' President's Office - Male' Presidential Retreat Island - Aarah Presidential Yacht -MV Arumaazu
What a megalomaniac would not do to aggrandize himself is only limited by one's imagination. From surrounding himself with people who would bow down to his every whim and fancy to consulting the occult so that every action would be auspicious are some of the traits which are followed to the letter by autocratic rulers. Take the case of the Burmese Junta. When the junta moved the capital from Rangoon to a malarial town deep in the jungle, it did so because an astrologer employed by Senior General Than Shwe had warned him of an impending catastrophe that could only be averted by moving the seat of government. The fact that Dictator Gayoom has total faith in the portents and prophecies is well known. He has his local "boogal masters" and also regularly consults an astrologer in Sri Lanka. Undoubtedly this gives him extra "powers" of being invincible. Furthermore, his cronies ensure that they feed his belief that it was fate rather than accident, that gave him his powers and that his own eminence is preordained. His sidekick Sheikh Rasheed has long been preaching that the Dictator is a holy man, and as Muslims, it would be a sin to disobey him; that if we did not bow down to the Dictator, we would have to face the consequences of our actions on Judgement Day.
Over 50% of the population of Capital Island - Male' live in
congested conditions in run down houses; most households
earn extra income by renting rooms to expatriates and
Maldivians from other islands.
The destitute in the capital island Male' beg for money and food
in the Local Market just behind the multi-million dollar Palace
of their President
Maldives Tourism sector has been developed while other
sectors such as Fisheries and Shipping have been neglected.
The fishermen of Maldives are among the best in the world,
with over 2,500 years of experience. Many economists believe
that if the government had invested in Fisheries as they did in
Tourism, this sector would now contribute much more to the
But how long can normal human beings tolerate this madness? Do we elect this mad man for another five more years? Do we allow his empty promises to engulf us again like we have done year after year? Or is it time that we realised that Lupus pilum mutat, non mentem (that the wolf may changes its colour but never its disposition) Fortunately, history has shown that most dictators had seen the height of their megalomania and insanity towards the end of their rule so perhaps in the case of Dictator Gayyoom history would repeat itself. For the sake of our sanity, let us hope so.
Incidentally, the number one astrologer in the Maldives has apparently prophesised that an elderly Maldivian leader would be moving to new lodgings later this year, which would be tiny, and dark compared to his previous luxurious accommodation. Wonder what he is talking about?
© Dhivehi Observer 2004