A small group of activists grabbed the public’s attention and made headlines last week when they staged a silent protest as President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and leaders of the four coalition parties briefed the press after their monthly meeting.
‘Save Majlis from the influence of tycoons,’ ‘Don’t elect people who don’t disclose their finances,’ and ‘Take back the islands stolen by the tycoons,’ read some of the banners and placards held up by about 10 activists at the lobby of the Hotel Jen in Malé.
Much was made of the encounter. Speculation was rife about their motives and affiliations. Some party leaders labelled the protest as a “calculated” move by their partners in the uneasy coalition of former rivals.
But the group, which calls itself Navaanavi (Ninety-nine), denied any link with existing political parties.
The Maldives Independent asked spokeswoman Fathimath Saaira about the origins and aspirations of Navaanavi.
Who are you?
Navaanavai is a left-wing political movement advocating for political, economic and social change. We advocate for social justice and equal distribution of resources.
We have no affiliation with any party in the ruling coalition or outside it, nor do we support any of these parties.
We have been working since last year, long before this protest. Our members are just common people. There are no influential businessmen or a politician behind the curtain.
Usually when a group of activists are out protesting some influential person is behind it so that is why they seem to be think so. But the majority of Maldives population is not registered to any political party.
[The Maldivian Democratic Party] has clearly said over and over again that it is a centre-right party, it is a party that voted for foreign ownership of Maldivian land. How can a left-wing political movement be affiliated with MDP?
Why were you protesting?
These four leaders – four people who are not elected officials sit in their airconditioned rooms and decide how to slice the parliament seats and share constituencies among them, it is not right.
People have gotten so used to it now, it has become a culture, but it is such a dangerous thing to have wealthy businessmen in parliament.
People like [Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim] and [Maldives Development Alliance leader Ahmed Siyam Mohamed] and even [the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives] and MDP politicians are the biggest employers in the country. Can we expect them to pass laws for workers rights?
When we talk about the need to take income tax, the person who has to pay that tax is the one who is supposed to vote for that bill.
How did it start?
A group of like-minded people have been meeting and discussing this for some time now. We believed that the politics of this country revolves around a certain person or a certain group’s interest rather than the peoples. We believed that left-wing politics is very much needed in this country.
Navaanavai means 99 in old Dhivehi. We always hear everything in Maldives is controlled by the few powerful people, the one percent. We are saying we are the 99, we represent the 99 percent.
What is your goal?
We want to change how politics is practiced in this country, to overhaul the capitalist system towards a more socialist system. Socialism doesn’t mean a welfare state or state ownership and control. We want to abolish unjust hierarchies, dismantle class systems, produce for need rather than profit, de-commodify basic needs and provide everyone with a freer and more fulfilling life.
It’s not just about progressive taxation and minimum wages either. We advocate for workers rights, housing as a human right, against privatisation of basic services like education and healthcare, and most importantly right now, publicising campaign finances.
Maldives is a rich country, we have a high GDP and they say the wealth will trickle down but that does not work. The standard of living of the common person is not improving. The economy is not about Gasim getting richer, development is about people.
We will put forward candidates for the parliamentary elections.
We invite people aligned with our beliefs and ideas to join us and run for parliament. We are looking for candidates to put forward, we will follow a vetting process and we will decide on candidates to put forward.
— ނަވާނަވައި (@navaanavai) December 20, 2018
Photo by Nishan Ali for Mihaaru