On the early morning of 14th June, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed was out for an early morning walk with his wife, former First Lady Ilham Hussein when they were confronted by a prominent ruling party activist. According to former President Dr. Waheed, the activist known as one “Joarey” verbally abused them with hate speech and invaded the personal space of the former first lady, intimidating the couple.
Following this attack, several prominent politicians and the opposition alliance showed their full support for former President Dr. Waheed and called to investigate the attack. The ruling party MDP however, decided to instead of condoning the attack, to support street harassment and hate speech and the attack on the former President.
The focus of hatred on Dr. Waheed stems from the 2012 resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed, following which the constitution dictates that the Vice-President be sworn in as the President. Dr. Waheed chose to carry out his constitutional duty and swore in as the President of the Maldives upon Nasheed’s resignation. However, former President Nasheed has on several occasions alleged that his resignation was under duress, a product of a coup orchestrated by the former President Dr Waheed. This claim however, has been inconsistent as former President Nasheed has on more than one instance claimed that he resigned out of his own free will and that there was no coup.
The ruling party and its supermajority led parliament’s decision to sanction support for the street harassment and hate speech against a former President came as a shock to the public as former President Dr. Waheed has largely been out of politics since 2014. Former President Dr Waheed who is an accomplished diplomat and a senior UN staff who led the UNICEF program in 10 Asian and 2 European states, has defended his position on the callous attack while prominent ruling party parliamentarians has actively called to harass the former President.
Against the societal and parliament’s norms, Ungoofaaru constituency MP Mohamed Waheed representing the ruling party submitted an emergency motion to the parliament which stated that the harassments against the former President Dr. Waheed was a fabricated lie- to the shock of the public. Though the parliament does not have the right to overarch over the boundaries of the judicial powers and to determine whether street harassment claims made by an individual of the public is true or not, the super majority led parliament indulged in a whole session actively promoting violent abusive hate speech and street harassment.
Ruling party MP Hussein Shameem made several threats against the former President including “This is just nothing, there’s more to come. Next time you meet one of our people, you won’t be going out for exercising anymore.” Said MP Hussein Shameem at former President Dr Waheed.
This was supported by Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Eva Abdulla who notoriously referred to the former President Dr. Waheed as “the big fat black crow”, questioned Dr Waheed’s role in former President Nasheed’s resignation and stated that the public should refer to Dr. Waheed as “ the big black terrorist”.
The epitome of this uncivilized barbarous circus was reached when the Fonadhoo constituency MP Moosa Siraj took to the parliament and stated that “Not only Joarey, if we see him (Dr Waheed) out on the streets, we will harass him. And I also call on to the members of the public, to join us when we go to “Ussfassgandu” (dedicated outdoor area for exercising) and harass Dr Waheed”.
It is a truly a sad day in our parliamentary history when the chambers echoed with support for harassment and hate speech, directed at a distinguished individual who as a former President led out nation through very rough seas during his short tenure. This is only further exacerbated when the President of the ruling party and Speaker of the Parliament former President Nasheed took to a press briefing and called to the public to harass the former President. Though it is unbecoming of a man of his stature to make such annunciations, Speaker Nasheed chose to take part in this charade, choosing to disregard the culture of hatred, racism and harassment that has spawned in the island nation following his resignation where the after protest by the current ruling party called to hang, murder and mutilate the former President Dr. Waheed.