“Who checks if the money they receive is legitimate?” – Translation of President Yameen’s Feb 24 speech

“Who checks if the money they receive is legitimate?” – Translation of President Yameen’s Feb 24 speech
February 27 23:07 2016

I see it as a great joy, that on my visit to this island, I very sincerely thank the kind, beloved people of Thoddoo for the the warm welcome I have received.

This venture in Thoddoo, as a part of government plans to fulfil basic citizen needs and spread more greenery into the island, from the green harbour of this island, is no doubt a very valuable and expensive venture.

As Thoddoo is an exemplary island in agriculture and as Thoddoo products have always interested us greatly, this new water project that has just begun, or rather been completed, would not doubt greatly assist the people of Thoddoo in their households, as well as in their work they do to earn income. And so, I very sincerely thank the people who have worked on this project. In particular, the hardworking Environment Minister from our cabinet, Minister Thoriq Ibrahim and the team from his ministry, of which the higher ranks are here on the front rows. And in all such, in this government, in this regime, we see that the role of state owned companies expanding widely.

This project is by Stelco. And alongside them, we have MWSC (Maldives Water and Sewerage Company) assisting in water issues and water projects, and Fenaka’s help in electricity and such issues. In our opinion, the empowerment of state owned companies and increased economic resilience, no doubt for projects like this, will greatly reduce the burden on the government budget.

When we go to the islands, and if someone from the island gets the chance to speak before me, I hear all about the island’s needs. In fact, it should reach me. I was happy to listen to and was interested in listening to the area’s honorable MP Ibrahim Hassan. Inshallah Thoddoo will get its needs fulfilled during this regime. We’ve just spoken about, I have just been advised about the inner and outer seawall of the Thoddoo harbour. I would like to tell the honourable people of Thoddoo that I will do my best to hasten this, Inshallah.

As this government goes about serving the people in different areas, the Maldives is under scrutiny by a lot of international parties. I gave some details of this in Ukulhas earlier today, at the beginning of my trip. In conjunction to that, I would like to say that today may not be such a happy day for the Maldives. I think at this moment, in England, the Commonwealth countries are coming to a decision on how much they will interfere in the matters of the Maldives, or how much they would monitor the Maldives. The Attorney General and Foreign Minister are in London, no doubt, to defend the government and the citizens. And the government will, in alliance with the leaders of our neighbouring states who work with these countries, and we hope with the grace of Allah, that truth will prevail.

But even as I say all this, I would like to take the initiative to warn the citizens of Maldives. It is not far off that action may be taken against us because of our policies. Today’s decision is also close to transpiring this way. Even if that turns out to be the case, this will not affect a change in our thinking. We want to bring the same democratic system provided by the leaders of the developed countries of the word to Maldivians, based on democracy and Islamic principles. We refuse to accept it when they come to our country and tell us that the judges in our courts are not of the same calibre as theirs. In the problems facing our Maldives, believe me, this is the reality of it. If we are to go into detail, there might be details. When one or two people have received specific sentences, the judiciary [is seen to have] acted wrongly. The judges who delivered the verdicts [are said to] lack qualifications. But the Maldives, from antiquity till now, when Maldivians have committed criminal offences, even if unintentionally, it is these same judges who have stepped up and – within the same culture, the same processes – issued deserving sentences in the courtroom. Foreign governments did not interfere. Things were perfectly acceptable. However, what bothers them now, is that certain people are affected now.

What I want to say about this, to those working abroad to rob the dignity of the Maldives – those who believe that they need to be here for Maldives to become democratic- if they are so innocent, I invite them to come the Maldives. Come to the Maldives and prove your innocence to Maldivians. These are people who claim they will be in charge of the next government. To become a president, they have to have the strength to stand up to the laws, the religious processes, and the behaviours of the Maldives, and must not be suspect of, or sentenced to such a crime. If the people who have committed crimes, people who have been sentenced to crimes, come to the Maldives, and if they say they can rule according to our norms, we’re saying that it is right to place a thief as the shopkeeper of the auction house.

So to these people, those who claim they can strengthen democracy in the Maldives, I want to say, come back and prove yourselves! Do they have such ability and the courage? I don’t want to name any names. This is an invitation I am extending for everyone. Come back and clear your names from the slander and the sentences you have been exposed to. Prove your innocence in court. If they can prove their innocence in court, if they can do this, they need to have the courage to come to the Maldives. In my government, I will not take action against a politician for being political. But if a politician, or even a sheikh disobeys the law to infringe on people’s rights, they will be brought to trial. And any sentence they face, there are appeal procedures. Take them on.
When I was speaking at a previous occasion I mentioned that if what is hindering these people is the cost of the transport cost, then I will bear the cost for their taxis. However, they do need to complete the high court process. They need to go through the supreme court for their final appeal. Without completing such processes, if they go the white people and talk about matters relating to the Maldives, how is this any different from the actions of ancient leaders of the Maldives who invited foreigners to rule and take over the sovereignty of the Maldives and incited fear among Maldivians? Some of the most valuable people have left us because of such instances. For example if one of the most invaluable people is Mohamed Thakurufaan, then his son was also killed in the discontent created by Maldivians in alliance with foreigners. Aren’t these a lot of lessons we can gather from our history?

Today in the Maldives, in today’s world, such matters can be brought to the attention of foreigners. And so, groups can analyse the work we do. But I advise them to be fair in their analysis. I will happily say, when religious scholars talk about my government, they say, falsely, that we are an irreligious government. Now they are holding the hands of those who they once deemed the most irreligious. Even today, I happily note. There is an event tonight. A joyous event. As I am not scheduled to speak at the event, I will speak ahead here and let you know this.

Inshallah the largest, the most beautiful Islamic structure to be built in the Maldives, with the assistance of the Saudi government, the Maldives Golden Jubilee Mosque, will be inaugurated tonight. We cannot debate with religious scholars on matters such as this. However, we can, with our actions, with our words, we will prove our beliefs. We are here to serve the people. We are not here to challenge anyone who speaks out. But even with that, I would like to ask, what sentence applies to those scholars who attempt to incite chaos in the country, outside of religion, and outside of what is actually going on in the country? Isn’t it perfectly legitimate for them to clear this up for the citizens? Why don’t they clarify this? When they clarify this, we will very happily accept what they have to say.

It might not be easy for us, what the CMAG or the Commonwealth does this time. If it results in action that affects us negatively, it is possible that it reduces aid and assistance we get from various sources. And we will have to face other difficulties as well.

I want to say this here in Thoddoo as well – we have to bear the difficulties of what we face now because some Maldivians, albeit a few, are acting illegally abroad to rob the state of its reputation. If we are to consider the travelling, the apprehension, and the cost facing government ministers because of their attempts, even based on this alone, I will tell you. I will tell you that we could complete Thoddoo’s outer and inner seawall here and now, today, if we didn’t have to incur these costs. This is our current circumstance, isn’t it? But even while the state tries to fulfil the needs of our people, we have to use up a large amount of the finances we have allocated do these things in order to fight these battles. But in today’s world, we have to do these things. We have to spend a lot, we have to pay a lot to do the things we do to defend ourselves.

So, the citizens also have to think for themselves! What I have to say about these matters. Come and challenge what we are saying, what I am saying, come to us with the numbers. What is most difficult for the government is, as what Thorig said in his speech, is the massive issue of corruption that has taken place in this government. The massive corruption issue that took place within MMPRC. I don’t think corruption at such a large scale has transpired in the Maldives. It hasn’t.

But even with that, I would like to say, and to former presidents, I would like to say, and to the ministers who worked under them, and to the Maldivians who saw how things transpired in their rule, I want to say, that corruption was not invented in the Maldives yesterday. This was not even invented in the Maldives. It is everywhere in the world. I don’t say this with any joy or pride. It is something we must regret. But when people who hold legal responsibilities, act illegally, they will keep doing so until the law catches up-to their activities. But once they have to face justice, even the strongest man, will have to face justice in my regime. Adeeb was very close to me, and he was in a very powerful position. Vice President. However, because of his actions, he too, has to go work the courts to see if he has any sympathy.

There has been corruption in past governments. Corruption didn’t happen [only] with this government. And so, while corruption has taken place in past governments, and for those who today claim that it hasn’t, I would like to say, remember, and include this information too. There has always been corruption in the Maldives. And when one takes into account the time it took place, it hasn’t been any less than the corruption of today. This isn’t something we speak of with joy today. But the reason why we want to address this issue today is because I came to serve the people. I came to the people to legally and sincerely serve the people. I didn’t come to let the people who worked me trample over the rights of the citizens.

And so I am saddened. Saddened that such an atrocity has taken place through someone who was the Vice President. But when we think about it, we must believe that it has taken place. We have to believe that (he is) capable of it. How terrible are his intentions, when he was willing to blow up a speedboat to harm the life of the very person, the very president who elevated him to that position? This is the first such incident in the history of the Maldives. And so, to someone who could carry things to that extent, we must believe that, without oversight, he is capable of that level of corruptness. And so he has been. My government is saddened by this. But that is not a reason for MDP or our opposition to criticise this government. Look at MDP’s rule. The short, three year rule. Every publication by the auditor general at the time contained details of corrupt ministers. The ministers, the figures, are included in the publication. I am saddened by the corruption carried out in this government.

But what I want to say is, the corruption stops at Ahmed Adeeb. Other ministers are not complicit in this. And the president was not aware of it. We hear being said on the holhuashi, that others have benefitted from this. Who hasn’t benefitted from this money? Who hasn’t benefitted from this money? We need money to help each other. And the receivers of charity, do they check of they got it justly? Who checks if the money they receive is legitimate? And so, Ahmed Adeeb has helped MPs. And there are businessmen who support my political activities, who are giving me various amounts of money to work for 2018 (elections). So far, this money has been managed for me by Adeeb. I don’t know the details of these funds. However, along with the MMPRC corruption funds, he has helped people who have needed to do things – including MPs who have asked for help.

But what I want to say is, the receiver, whether it be the president, or an MP, they are unaware that the money has been obtained via MMPRC, or illegally from the state treasury. All will be revealed when, now that these matters have been submitted to court. So many of these cases, so many of these cases have been submitted to court now. So those people who are abroad who say they have the figures, who are saying even today that they gave this amount to this person, why don’t they come back, why don’t they come back to give evidence? We need their word in the courtroom. So whether it is Allam, or Ali Waheed, or someone else, why don’t they come to Malé to prove their word. They need to give us some time in the Maldivian courtrooms. Doing this while being overseas isn’t going to help them. Why have they left their own country, and exiled themselves? This is their beloved land. And they are those who claim to serve the citizens here. If you want to serve the people here, you have to be here. I don’t think you can serve this country by being away. We are serving the Maldives while being present in the Maldives. President Nasheed can prove his innocence to the Supreme Court. Should he do it, he too has a chance in 2018.

But we have written this in our laws. The difference was, in the past, the laws allowed the president to pardon or waive sentences of anyone sentenced for any crime, after a particular period of time has passed. However, in the 2008 constitution – the Majlis at the time, I was a member of that Majlis – I did not believe that the president should have the power to pardon any crime. The president should not have the authority to pardon someone who has infringed on the rights of so many people. The president should be able to issue pardons only within certain procedures. Why should the president be able to pardon, at his own will, someone who has harmed the residents of a whole island, or someone who has killed? We did not believe in this.

And so when we were revising the constitution, we wrote that the president could only pardon within certain lawful procedures. That was written for the protection of the entire community. It wasn’t done to undermine to dignity of the president. It was done to reduce the criticism directed at whoever is president. President Nasheed came to power holding on to this constitution. It is written in laws written under this constitution that someone who arrests people without their consent, without action by the courts, could be charged with terrorism. We had to include that clause because, fifteen or twenty years ago, school children were carried off into cars, abducted by people who had their faces covered, because children were being hurt, because these types of events were becoming common in Malé and it wasn’t something we were prepared to accept. So abducting and arresting people in this way entails terrorism charges. And so this type of enforced disappearance is a major criminal offense around the world and in human rights conventions.

So after he came to power while the laws were such, and then abducting and arresting people, without giving them a chance in the courts or any chance for the person to defend himself, and when those people are the chief judges and his political opponents, then the law will catch up to him too. That is the problem we are facing today.

And when we look at the people who are detained today, we have people who had been arrested for keeping weapons in their homes. I have all the sympathy. However, when the matter is taken to court, they themselves have to prove their innocence. The state, or the president cannot do that. That is not something I can do.

Then there are people who act as religious scholars, who came out to forcibly overthrow the government on May 1 last year. Their actions are clear for you to see. You can see what they have said (in their speeches). And, not having done enough, they had planned to blow up a pick-up carrying petrol cans to hurt the police. We have seen from our television screens, haven’t we, an innocent police officer fallen on the street without defence, with people kicking him? Is he not a Maldivian citizen? Is this not a child borne to a Maldivian mother and father? But is it because he is a policeman, is it because he is in uniform, that we are so heartless? They surely went to the demonstration that day having signed a declaration. Ali Waheed signed it. Imran Abdulla signed it. The declaration said that they would not do anything unlawful. That they would bear responsibility if it did. And so, the result of their attempt to forcibly overthrow a government, I can say, was that the law caught up with them.

So my advice is that they must go to the courts. Get justice through the courts. Prove their innocence through the courts. There is nothing I can do. We are the people who decided to separate three powers. The president will not interfere with the judicial system. The president will only interfere in one field: the judicial system. If the cases are being delayed, then to hasten them. The president has to interfere in speeding up cases. Article 115 of the constitution gives the president power to ensure that all the institutions are carried out their mandate lawfully. To speed things up. To check of these matters are carried out accordingly. But the president cannot criticise the court’s verdicts. So I cannot interfere in these matters.

And when we regard other people in our midst, all their actions are similar to this. They haven’t been arrested because they are politicians. It is because they have been extraordinarily disobedient. Because they believed there are people who did not believe that they have to obey the law. If I have disobeyed the law, I have no problem with me being taken to fulfil the my legal punishment. But I too, was taken, in that democratic government, in that democratic regime, I was taken twice and held against my will and outside of the law, without having seen the light of a courtroom. That was the extent of democracy then.

In today’s democracy, I am saying, no one will be arrested for something they have said. And that is why I advise those who are abroad, why don’t they come to the Maldives, and share what they have to say with us, and on our holhuashi, if they wish us well. And if they aren’t facing any charges, what are they afraid of? Certainly, their contentment would be complete only over these green harbours, isn’t that so? So why don’t you come here? And they say they plan to serve us. So, when people like this talk about these things, I just way to say, if they want to discuss and establish their innocence, to prove their innocence to the people, they should speak to the people in a way they would understand. From nearby. So that the citizens can challenge each other back and forth. Come to such a meeting and take these question and answers! President Nasheed, come here. Why don’t you come here and take our questions? President Nasheed should take our questions. That’s how he can prove his innocence, that he did not commit a crime, to the citizens.

So what I want to say about the corruption story, is that we are saddened by the MMPRC corruption. But I also want to say alongside this, is that everyone that Adeeb helped did not know that the money was that money. The MPs, the politicians, our various political activities may have been funded with that money. But when we received the funds, we didn’t know that they were those funds. We only became aware that the money may be illegitimate when the launch was blown up when president came back from a Hajj trip. That’s when this surfaced. The correspondences that had taken place before that, weren’t influenced by anyone, or with the awareness that there was any information of any misconduct associated with it.

So when President Nasheed, or other leading national figures say what they say, what I want to tell them is that it is not fair to talk of corruption, today’s corruption. There has always been corruption in the Maldives. Every government attempts to decrease corruption. But who has managed to? Tell me here, now? Who hasn’t accepted a bit of cash if they’d gotten it? And if the cash was of a good amount, would they ask [the person who had given it to them] how they had gotten it? How do you ask that? Even the wife doesn’t ask if the household expenditure is halal? So how do we do this? So when we talk in this vein, there is corruption in the Maldives, and there is corruption in all countries. I am not advocating for corruption here.

What I am trying to say, what I am trying to defend is that, this issue of corruption, we are the ones who took this matter to the auditor general. The president is the onw who submitted the matter to the auditor general for investigation. The president submitted the matter. And what the former Auditor General is claiming, claiming things he did not raise when he was in the position, I have to say with great sadness, why would I give him a flat in order to endear him to my standing? It isn’t in my hands. A committee of ministers had decided for the flats built with government funds, to be given to the heads of independent institutions. The then-Auditor General was the head of an independent institution. It is not easy for us when judges, and heads of independent institutions pay rent and stay in people’s homes. It is not easy for us in case that it somehow influences their work. And so it was discussed with the cabinet, and it was decided that we would get spaces from these flats for people in institutions. If he had gotten that offer from me, I don’t remember it. If he had gotten that offer from me, it wasn’t done in any way to influence him and sway him to my side.

Next in the matters I want to speak on, I will say, the work we do, is genuinely to bring the development that did not reach citizens under previous administrations. I will be very happy, if we made a platform, and all the people who worked during different times to gather at these platforms, and debate about what was done then, and what is being done now, and how these have been funded, and the situation of the Maldives, and its situation now, and should there be any sanctions from abroad how that may make things harder for Maldivians, what difficulties the people would face, what difficulties the government would face in providing services for the innocent citizens? Why don’t we just debate this? There should be nothing to hide from the citizens. And so, there is no need to discuss these things secretly. You can just debate it in front of the citizens. Whether we’ve done something great? What an atrocious, awful act it is, to portray the Maldives as a place that exports all these great crimes to the outside world, while being in the outside world? Is it only Maldivians who go to fight the war in Syria? My god! That is not the case. Why wouldn’t Maldivians go? If there are Muslims in the Maldives who believe in it, however much the government tries to stop this, our constitution, and our beliefs do not permit restricting people’s transport, movement or actions. They have a valid passport they use to leave the Maldives to go to India, to Bangkok. And when they change their destination from those points, what can the Maldivian government do? There’s nothing we can do.

But I want to say is that it isn’t only Maldivians who go to Syria or to join ISIS. And no matter how much President Nasheed attempts to highlight this in his comments, the number isn’t even proportionally higher. It isn’t even proportionally higher. We have seen, haven’t we, that the most influential, if we are to say it in English, the butcher, the butcher was an Englishman. It was an Englishman. So what can we say? We invite foreign countries, foreign bodies to consult the Maldives and assist us in development. But when they always coming after us with a slab of wood, with a whip, that is not something that’s easy for us to accept.

It is not in the Maldives that the biggest crimes occur. What takes place in the Maldives is based on its laws, and its judicial processes. The people who are receiving punishment haven’t been able to convince citizens, to ensure to citizens why they shouldn’t be punished. They haven’t been able to convince people of that. Instead, they talk of someone else. So some of them came out because of great state corruption, to overthrow the state. But it is a terrible sin, to divide a state based on things the state is not committing. It is such a terrible sin. It is better, it would be much better to serve the citizens. It is much better to write books based on their Islamic scholarship. Much better to teach students. And the politicians based abroad, it would be much better for them to come back to the Maldives and participate in political activity. Come to the table to talk to us. Come and discuss with us how to resolve matters we have not been able to solve yet. Didn’t they get the choice to solve these matters? Why do we think that all the issues facing the Maldives currently were born during the current government? Is that the case? Is there anyone based abroad, who hadn’t the opportunity to solve these issues during their political lives? No there isn’t, right? These are people who have served as MPs, vice presidents, home ministers, presidents. And there are people who have served as foreign ministers. So haven’t they already had the opportunity to solve these issues? What they weren’t able to solve then, is what we are trying to solve in this government.

The reality that citizens are able to believe is that youth have opportunities now. The youth believe that they have a government who will hold their hands. The youth believe that in this five years, Inshallah, if our projects are allowed to go on without difficulty, without challenges, in these five years alone, the youth have faith in our government that we will provide about 13,000 flats, or housing for about 80,000 people. The youth can believe that they won’t have to brave rough seas in order to get to Hulhulé from Malé. The youth have faith. That they won’t have to be late when they come from Hulhulé or Hulhumalé to Malé. Easily, and faster than you can go from Malé to Hithadhoo, you can go from Malé to Hulhumalé. Women have faith. That the Maldivian government will work to empower women. They know that there are women on company boards. That women can carry out responsibilities in institutions. This wasn’t the case before, was it? The youth know, that if they have a lot of idle time, they would engage in some misdeed or misconduct. And the youth know that by doing so, they will infringe on the rights of some people.

But today in all regions of the Maldives, it is becoming common, the development of sports infrastructures needed by the youth. We don’t claim that we aren’t able to build futsal grounds because we had to build harbours. We don’t claim that we can’t build hospitals because we have to widen harbours. We are trying to do these things. And so, by the end of the five years of this government, Inshallah, there won’t be any islands with populations over 2000 without a futsal ground. And similarly, the sports infrastructure needed for women is being built, isnt it? If we are to look at water and sewerage systems alone, I am not one to compare previous governments to this one. But in our government, our ministers are providing services to the citizens, to prove their sincerity or their perseverance. They are saying that if President Yameen can manage to get the funds, these two projects alone that they have in mind, but these two projects, no doubt, are important for all islands. If we are to look at water and sewerage, for these five years, we will set up water and sewerage for 50 islands. If we are to look at inhabited islands in the Maldives, this is about one third. If we are to look at it in terms of population, this is about 80 percent of people getting water and sewerage systems, in these five years.

The economy of the Maldives is in debt with a difference of 3 years of income. But today we are talking about our Maldives as a place where foreign investors have an interest in investing. So why do we claim it is a place that doesn’t befit tourists, a tourist destination? If we don’t get tourists coming to the Maldives, will there be people coming to these guesthouses? When we talk about these things, just how much of national responsibility are we carrying? Or how much of a traitorous action is this? They don’t want to think about it. When they carry out sanctions against the citizens, it isn’t just the government that suffers. If you want to get votes, it makes it difficult for you to get votes as well.

And so, I will end my speech by saying I have very strong feelings about these things. I didn’t come to waste my time on political matters. I took my position to serve the people. In that position my aim was to increase economic growth. To increase the amounts in our pockets. Because I had ideas to help the impoverished youth, the helpless demographics. I came to set up hospitals where there weren’t hospitals. I came to increase the GDP twofold. I came to do the things that were said to be impossible. I came to make people content. I came to make people content. I came because I don’t want to give space for foreigners to infringe on our politics and our sovereignty. I came to do that. I came wishing well for the Maldives. I came to serve Maldivians. I didn’t come to waste my time on political matters.

So I want to advise citizens, to stay on our side in this work. Stay on our side and you will not go without the harbours and hospitals and your water and sewerage systems you deserve. But stay on our side and you might not be able to find some young people to beat up the police and the army. But you citizens can decide on this matter.

Inshallah, Allah will reward us in our work. Inshallah Allah will grant us success.

Translator’s note: The Maldives Independent has taken care to remain faithful to President Yameen’s speech. Incomplete sentences and awkward phrasing in the translation are a function of the president’s style of speaking.