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Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik
Dr. Waheed is prepared to lead the people of Maldives
By Editor-in-chief, A.S.I.Moosa (Sappe’), 24th July 2004
In this exclusive interview to Dhivehi Observer, Dr. Waheed affirms that he is prepared to take on the top job as President of the people of Maldives. "The time has come for us to claim our fundamental human rights, to remove the shackles on our thoughts and expression and to rise as a free, creative and powerful people whose government is by the people, for the people and of the people. To lead would be to serve, and serving the people is the highest privilege. I believe I am prepared to take on this responsibility if the people see it fit."says Dr. Waheed.
Dr. Waheed is a much respected person in the Maldives and a role model for this generation. Many believed and hoped that he would be their President. He returned to Maldives after his research at Stanford University in Political Science and won the first parliamentary election he contested as MP for Male'. However, Gayyoom had his plans and harassed Dr. Waheed from all sides which forced him to seek employment abroad.
Dr. Waheed continues to taste the misfortunes and brutality of Gayyoom's iron fisted rule in all its glory and manifestations. In 1979, Dr. Waheeds' late mother was banished to an island with an infant child for telling a friend that she liked the former President Ibrahim Nasir more than Gayyoom, and that she thought he was a better President.
Amongst others, his brother Naushad Waheed - www.naushadarts.com , the famous Maldivian artist has been in an out of Gayyooms' torture chambers for the past 15 years, simply for being critical to his government and for promoting democracy and human rights. Naushad is still in prison despite Amnesty International and others calling for his release because he is a prisoner of conscience. In this time, all adult male in Dr. Waheeds' family including his in-laws were arrested for their association with political reform and for being supporters of their big brother.
Among Maldivians he holds the most senior position in the United Nations. He is UNICEF Representative to Afghanistan. As Representative he is responsible for all UNICEF programmes in Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban, Dr. Waheed was asked by the United Nations to go to Afghanistan to play a lead role in the reconstruction of the country. Many recent achievements in Afghanistan are attributed to UNICEF. These include enrolling five million children in school, vaccinating six million children and providing health services, water and sanitation. Dr. Waheed heads an organisation of 250 Afghan and international staff from twenty different countries. Before going to Kabul he was Acting Regional Director of UNICEF for South Asia.
Dr Waheed is married and has three children. His eldest daughter is an architect, his second daughter is a psychologist and his son is completing high school at Oxford in England.
He has extensive experience working in Africa, Asia and the United States. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree and a Master's Degree in Political Science from Stanford University, California. He was a lecturer at the Michigan Sate University and taught at Stanford University. He worked for two years as programme manager in a computer firm in San Francisco.
Dr. Waheed was elected Member of Parliament for Male in 1989. He headed the Ministry of Education and was Director of the Educational Development Center. In the later 1970's he was a teacher in Majeediyya School. His students now hold important positions in the Government and private sector in the Maldives. He left Maldives in 1992 due to political reasons. His family and friends have been persecuted for the last 15 years. Dr. Waheed believes in peace and stability. He is a strong advocate for human rights and individual freedoms in Maldives and every where in the world in his capacity as a UN representative.
Dr Waheed is married and has three children. His eldest daughter is an architect, other daughter is a psychologist and his son is completing high school at Oxford in England.
The Editorial Board of Dhivehi Observer is grateful to Dr. Waheed for this exclusive interview and wish him well in all his endeavours.
DO When did you leave Maldives and why?
Dr Waheed met several prominent people in Maldives last year during his 50th Birthday Party organised by his family. Seen here is Mr. Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) who is one of the founder members of Maldivian Democratic Party
Dr. Waheed In 1991 I became a kind of a refugee, after I was forced to resign my parliament seat. Working in many countries and gaining many valuable experiences, I have considered it a duty to remain tuned to my country, yet I have remained unattached to any political factions.
When elected MP for Male’ in 1989, with the largest number of votes received by any candidate in the country, I wanted to be a part of a reform movement. That was a time, like now, when this government had promised reform and convened a constitutional assembly. We had spent many hours drafting and redrafting a new constitution,. However, we were not allowed to continue because many of the progressive MPs were forced to resign. The result was the constitution that we have now. The same one that our government doesn’t think allows a multi party democracy and same one that our government wants to change now.
DO What is the purpose of your visit?
Dr. Waheed There is no particular reason except that I try to visit my family in Male’ at least once a year, not to mention it keeps me in touch with my friends.
DO What are your views of political reforms taking place in the Maldives?
Dr. Waheed In all honesty, I have not noticed any political reforms. Reform at the very least must promote our fundamental human rights. Reforms must result in a more participatory form of government. Reforms must empower citizens allowing them to have a more active role in their governance. Political reforms have yet to come to our nation.
I feel that there is a sense of optimism about the possibility for change. Today more people have the courage to demand their fundamental civil and political rights. Although the President has spoken of reforms and convened a constitutional assembly, it is difficult not to be skeptical when we remember how long it took for the last constitutional assembly.
I would like to believe the government when it says it is serious about political reform. No one has ever said that before. And though the power of word may be immense the power of deed is infinite.
DO Do you support pluralistic democracy in Maldives?
"There is no such thing as a democracy in which there is no freedom of political association. And there is no such thing as a democracy in which there is no tolerance of any opposition."
Dr. Waheed Is there another type of democracy? Pluralism is a fundamental requirement of democracy. There no such thing as a democracy which is free from dissenting voices. There is no such thing as a democracy in which there is no freedom of political association. And there is no such thing as a democracy in which there is no tolerance of any opposition. People must be governed by consent not by coercion and capitulation. People must have the right to freely participate in the formation of their government and to dismantle it when it no longer serves them.
"Maldivians are an ancient people. We are a dignified people. We deserve all human rights, not some. The time has come for us to claim our fundamental human rights, to remove the shackles on our thoughts and expression and to rise as a free, creative and powerful people whose government is by the people, for the people and of the people."
Maldivians are an ancient people. We are a dignified people. We deserve all human rights, not some. The time has come for us to claim our fundamental human rights, to remove the shackles on our thoughts and expression and to rise as a free, creative and powerful people whose government is by the people, for the people and of the people.
DO Do you believe party system is the answer to the current political crisis?
Dr. Waheed I believe that the time for democracy is long over due. There cannot be a democracy without political parties. The apologists for dictators always give excuses why people are never ready for democracy. They underestimate the power of the human mind. They reduce their people to sub human levels.
Forming political parties is not the only solution. Free and fair elections are equally important. The people in power must be stopped from unduly influencing the outcome of elections. It will not happen unless we have independent election observers and unless we remove the influence of the government functionaries on the election workers. In addition, an independent human rights commission must monitor the political rights of the people.
"Men and women who serve our armed forces are the guardians of peace and security. The citizens of our nation have vested their trust in them. The people rely on them for protection from oppression and exploitation. The trust and honour bestowed on them is at stake when they become the instrument of autocratic regimes and oppressive laws."
I would also like to underscore the important role of the armed forces in establishing and maintaining a democracy. Men and women who serve our armed forces are the guardians of peace and security. The citizens of our nation have vested their trust in them. The people rely on them for protection from oppression and exploitation. The trust and honour bestowed on them is at stake when they become the instrument of autocratic regimes and oppressive laws. Simply put, the security forces must be independent of political activities.
DO Why have you not joined a party? Is there a reason?
Dr. Waheed Remember, there are no registered political parties in Maldives. My moral support is with those who fight for political freedom.
DO Many speculate that you were going to contest for presidency in the last two elections. Will you run in the next election?
"To lead would be to serve, and serving the people is the highest privilege. I believe I am prepared to take on this responsibility if the people see it fit."
Dr. Waheed In the past, there were many speculations, but I had not wanted to run for president. I mentioned earlier that I would consider when the time is ripe. I feel that time is fast approaching. To lead would be to serve, and serving the people is the highest privilege. I believe I am prepared to take on this responsibility if the people see it fit.
DO When are you planning to return to Maldives permanently?
Dr. Waheed Though I have not set a date for that but I am making arrangements in Male so that when I return I will have a place to live. Let me tell you that I feel as though I have never left. In the past twelve years when I have worked abroad, I have followed every development that has affected the citizens of our country. A part of me never actually left the Maldives.
DO Maldives is going through a face lift. What is your opinion and advice to the people?
Dr. Waheed True. Maldives has changed a lot and is changing constantly. However, I believe that it is more than a face lift. The physical changes in the environment are clear but I suspect that the physical changes are matched if not superceded by a greater change in the minds of our citizens. We are emerging as a modern state connected with the rest of the world. The internet and the mobile telephone have changed the way we interact and communicate. The satellite TV has changed the way we learn about the rest of the world. Our expectation and aspirations have changed. While we are proud to be Maldivian, we are not merely citizens of the nation, but also citizens of the world. Therefore, we need to feel and exist as citizens of the world as well.
We are the generation that saw the fall of the Berlin wall. We witnessed the Velvet Revolution in Georgia. We are the generation of peaceful revolution. We stand for peace, tolerance and change. We want to speak freely so that we may stand by our word. We want to associate freely so that we may act responsibly. We want to be respected so that we may respect others in return. The easiest to know and hardest thing to remember is to respect how others feel and their beliefs. In politics, there is nothing more important than to respect opposing views, however much they may differ from your own. We are asking for the opportunity to grow so that one day we will all live in a society where we can respect each other for who we are. We want a society where political bickering and personal jealousies give way to creativity, literature, art, music and spirituality.
© Dhivehi Observer 2004