Maldivians have failed to achieve the same level of development as Singapore due to a lack of good behaviour and discipline, President Abdulla Yameen said this morning.
Speaking at an official function held on the island of Utheemu to mark this year’s National Day (December 12), Yameen noted that the Maldives had gained independence before Singapore, and had faced similar challenges during the past 50 years. Both countries are small nations, with advantageous “geophysical locations,” he said.
But “In my mind, the difference is very clear…Singaporeans have a very strong discipline,” he said. “Singapore did not face disciplinary problems in the past 50 years. There was not one person who dared to challenge the sovereignty of the Singaporean state.”
Singapore also has political parties, human rights groups, and an independent judiciary as well as other democratic institutions that the Maldives had established with the adoption of the 2008 constitution, he added.
“The difference is what I said: Singapore will not allow anyone to challenge the state or do anything that could damage the honour and dignity of the state. So behaviour and discipline were given the highest priority in Singapore.”
He added that former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew and the country’s founders gave precedence to discipline over democracy.
“No doubt Lee Kwan Yew didn’t say democracy is not important. But in Lee Kwan Yew’s thinking in making Singapore what it is, he gave the highest priority to improving discipline. Lee Kwan Yew saw that developing discipline is much better than strengthening democracy. We saw the result of that in Singapore.
“We are seeing here the other side of the coin. All the scourges we are seeing among us is because we don’t give attention to discipline.”
Yameen went on to quote Singapore’s founding father: “I believe that a country needs to develop its discipline more than its democracy.”
In a recurring theme in his speeches, Yameen also slammed what he called undue foreign interference in domestic affairs. The Maldives is under fire over the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed and other political prisoners.
In the modern day, foreign interference will not come in the form of a military invasion or even “ideological warfare,” Yameen said, but “through different economic agendas.”
“It is the war that comes through the ideology of regional and international organisations that we are part of,” he said.
The Maldives’ development has been held back because the personal interests of powerful individuals were placed above that of national interest, he suggested. But individual rights should be “subjugated” to the rights of the nation, he added.
The Maldives is facing criticism over human rights violations, he continued, claiming that international organisations are exerting pressure over the government’s refusal to legalise same-sex marriage and allow freedom of religion.
As part of the National Day events, Yameen meanwhile unveiled a replica of the legendary Kalhuohfummi boat used to liberate the Maldives from Portuguese rule in the sixteenth century.
National hero Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his brothers from Utheemu used the boat in an eight-year-long guerilla war. The home ministry plans to bring the boat to Malé for public display.
The Maldives National Defence Force meanwhile held a children’s evening at the Republic Square yesterday as part of National Day celebrations. The event featured games, entertainment activities, and display of military vehicles and equipment.
The event is set to continue from 4 to 6:00pm this evening on popular demand.