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Gayyoom government media machine gets nasty
19 Oct 2003 - from www.maldivesculture.com
Maumoon Gayyoom adopts defensive position
The Maldives government has been shaken by recent reports broadcast by BBC's Asia Today. This is the first time such wide-ranging attention has been focussed on Gayyoom's ruling methods, and the first time the Maldives presidential referendum has been covered by international media.
Maldivians have never before seen news footage critical of the government on their televisions. These changes are thanks to cable TV and the BBC.
The government media and local newspapers, all directly under Gayyoom’s control, are working to discredit the interviews given by Mr Shafeeq (aka 'Sappe') and Mohamed Nasheed's brother, Ahmed Nazim.
A Dhivehi article, written by 'Ali Shaafiu' in the Miadhu newspaper under the heading ‘Maldivians angered by Sappe’s interview with BBC', tried to discredit the long-term Gayyoom critic. The article may have been written by a government minder using a fake name. He tries to portray Maldivians as outraged by Sappe’s words.
In fact there are many Maldivians who admire Sappe’s courage and support him for giving the interview. They are proud of him.
Miadhu tried to portray Sappe as a traitor. If the article was written by an independent writer, then I call on him to prove his assertion. In the BBC interview Sappe told the truth, and now this Miadhu writer calls him a traitor! I wonder where he was when Gayyoom's militia thugs killed innocent Maldivians in September by shooting them point-blank in the head.
The Miadhu article said: ‘All this education and these educated people enjoying all the opportunities in business, tourism and others... could it be possible with a government so oppressive and denying our rights?’
The Maldives government propaganda machine always talks about education and highrise buildings whenever it encounters a challenge of its authority. Think again! Gayyoom’s government has been ruling the country for 25 years, and he wasn’t ruling a country of the dead, not at the start anyway. Most Maldivians have worked hard to earn their living and make the improved living conditions we enjoy today. It wasn’t the government who provided these advances. Government services are an example of how slack the present-day regime really is. If someone has ultimate power in Maldives for 25 years and an open budget, then surely he could do much more than what has actually been achieved.
Over and over again, the government emphasises the GDP of the country, but GDP does not give the full picture about living standards or wealth distribution. The ‘magic comparison’ Gayyoom made in his BBC interview, of Maldive GDP growth from US$200 in 1978 to US$2200 in 2003, is not a vast increase for such a long period of time, especially when the country was forced to be so poor for so long by its previous rulers in Malé.
For goodness' sake! the GDP figures he was comparing, are taken from the start of our tourism industry when the Maldives economy was just opening to the world. We did not have a tourism or fishing industry, just a good shipping fleet which virtually no longer exists after it was consumed by Gayyoom’s family. Along with other enterprises like Air Maldives, fisheries projects were mismanaged and the funds used for personal purposes. Any enterprise the Gayyoom government controls is destroyed by corruption.
The tourism industry is flourishing only because of the private sector and multinational travel companies that run it. It took 100 years hard labour from the private sector to bring the Maldives GDP to its present level.
I am sick of Gayyoom and his minders talking about '25 years'. The most important thing about GDP is how unevenly it is distributed in the country. Only a few Maldivians get a good income. Government employees are paid peanuts, and this encourages corruption. The average government salary is way below the US$2,200 that Gayyoom likes to talk about. Many ordinary people cannot afford decent food.
The Miadhu writer talked about people who wanted to challenge Sappe in debate. Well, there are many people who would like to back Sappe in this argument, provided there is no punishment from the government. Please let us know the venue and time to have this healthy debate about the Gayyoom government's abuse and torture programs.
I wonder if the Miadhu writer and other government agents noticed the low turnout for the referendum in Malé. The official figures are so fabricated it is almost pointless to mention them, but even these magic numbers suggest a very low voter turnout of only 60% in Malé. Since it is an open secret that Maumoon Gayyoom is offended by any figure less than 75% (a Distinction mark), the reported Malé affirmative vote of less than 69% is an astounding low figure from the official counting wizards. The commission has been forced to acknowledge at least 5125 people voted ‘no’, and I believe most of them would support Sappe.
In his article, 'Ali Shaafiu' talked about laws:
‘Laws are above people. Laws must be obeyed. Whether one is mighty or weak, the law must be respected. On referendum day in the Maldives, the law says there will be no campaigning. Let people decide for themselves. Don’t try to harass or heckle people into their choices. Throughout the country, this moratorium has been observed in all elections. Except this time – the BBC has violated that moratorium.’
Despite these pompous accusations, the BBC hasn’t violated any laws. It broadcasts from a jurisdiction where, thankfully, Maldive laws do not apply. The BBC hasn’t campaigned for or against anyone; it has given a good coverage for a change, and for that many Maldivians are grateful.
However, TV Maldives has broken our media laws over and over again. It showed many clips and other news designed to give a big boost to Maumoon Gayyoom. He was like a TV logo or a brand name you couldn't remove. CNN could learn a few onscreen tricks from our ubiquitous leader.
Gayyoom and his cronies have been breaking lots of different laws since they came to power. They break laws as regularly as most Maldivians pray, and they laugh about their crimes like the gangsters they are.
A second Dhivehi article in Miadhu also makes interesting reading. It was written by Fazil Abdul Rahman under the appalling heading ‘An Attempt to Subvert the Electoral Process in Maldives: “Referendum?” he shouted.’
Fazil is saying the BBC broke local laws by broadcasting its referendum day coverage. BBC only covered the news and tried to report the truth. I don’t think the BBC is jealous of Maldives by any means. The reporter, Adam Mynott has not been paid to distort the story. The BBC doesn’t behave like our newspapers and Television Maldives.
BBC presenters do not have to perform daily demeaning rituals to keep their jobs. They don’t have to constantly praise their managing directors. If BBC journalists don’t agree with something they can write their reports without fear. BBC journalists have to give an objective view, they can't be worried about the anger of ignorant and guilty people.
It was a shock for some Maldivians to realise that television can do more than praise Gayyoom and his cronies. TV Maldives is seen as cult TV now, and hardly anyone in Maldives watches it. This is why BBC has a high viewing audience for its Maldive election coverage. People wanted to watch something better than 'Gayyoom Akbar'.
© Dhivehi Observer 2004