It is 7pm on the evening of June 29. I am packing my suitcase to visit the country of my birth. In a few days time, I fly Singapore Air to visit my family and friends in the Maldive Islands.
But the visit is more than that. It always has been. It is an important emotional reconnection with a land I cannot leave behind. It is a longing for something real, something uniquely me.
Today as I write this, the thought of touching down on Maldivian soil, the joy of feeling that first blast of warm air hitting my face and the anticipation of being surrounded by smiling, brown faces I have loved all my life, fail to excite me.
My mind fills with other images. A young man waiting on death row. A hangman’s rope. A tightening of the noose. A last breath.
And the irony, that as we feast and celebrate the end of Ramazan, we should be weeping for things we have lost as a people. Innocence. Justice. Humanity.
More than anything I am afraid. I am afraid that Hussein Humam Ahmed is a victim: a victim of a corrupt judiciary, a victim of a government hellbent on selective justice and a victim of a system that has settled for an easy answer.
I am afraid of the speed with which his killing is engineered; giving me no option but to think that his death has very little to do with justice and a great deal to do with someone else’s fear.
One death. Compared to Auschwitz or more recently The Killing Fields, one death is barely a statistic. Does one life matter?
In the face of humanity’s worst atrocities, one death is unlikely to reach the headlines. But as Humam’s life ends, a new evil rises in the Maldives.
When we kill Humam, we are collectively crossing a line. His execution is a testament to how much we are prepared to compromise our sense of right and wrong. We have already allowed judges to fornicate, corruption to flourish and innocent people to be declared terrorists. These are inexcusable enough, but to revoke the death penalty after a 60-year moratorium is something quite, quite different.
Incarceration is not enough. Exile is not enough. Torture is not enough. Only annihilation through execution will suffice.
It is not that I want to insist on the sanctity of human life. But, when we accept state-sanctioned executions, we move into an arena where the most bestial of human behaviour is the norm. What other compromises would we not make?
Humam’s death is a crossing over of boundaries that define who we are as a people. To say that once it is done, it cannot be undone, seem condescending. But what other words are there to use?
Perhaps the Welsh have an answer. ‘Hiraeth’ is a word which is difficult to define, but it suggests a homesickness tinged with grief and sadness over something that is lost. It is a nostalgic longing for the way their country used to be.
I am an adult. Sitting here, aware of the weight of my age pressing down on my shoulders, I know that the Maldives of our childhood does not exist. But that elusive feeling, that longing for that indefinable something good and wholesome, the shared experiences that shaped us, is what makes us a people, what makes you and I uniquely ourselves.
Humam’s death will affect all of us, our national psyche because with him we will lose that sense of longing for something good that we might have been.
It is a tightening of the noose around our national consciousness.
Photo by Vnews.
Latheefa Ahmed Verall is an educator working in New Zealand.
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