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Freedom, liberty and Maldivian ownership: President Solih’s Independence Day address

The speech heavily emphasised freedom as an inalienable right.



In his first Independence Day address since assuming office, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Friday pledged to protect fundamental freedoms and vowed to prevent foreign ownership of Maldivian territory.

The Maldives remained a sovereign nation since gaining full independence on July 26, 1965 – after 77 years as a British protectorate – but individual liberty and personal freedoms were threatened in recent years, Solih observed in a thinly veiled rebuke of the previous government.

“I do not believe that this country should a face a single moment where the people are deprived of fundamental rights and the related freedoms guaranteed by the constitution,” he avowed in the televised address, which heavily emphasised freedom as an “inalienable birthright.”

The Maldives faced a widely condemned “authoritarian reversal” under former president Abdulla Yameen, whose administration jailed political opponents, restricted constitutional rights and suspended parliament.

In a statement released on the occasion of Independence Day, the opposition coalition led by Yameen meanwhile warned that the Maldives faces the loss of independence if foreign powers were allowed to dictate and meddle in internal affairs.

The former president resisted such alleged attempts, the Progressive Party of Maldives and People’s National Congress contended, suggesting that the current administration’s policies were threatening the country’s sovereignty and economic independence.

An alleged conspiracy by foreign powers to undermine the country’s Islamic identity was a recurring theme of Yameen’s speeches during his embattled presidency.

In his address, Solih said his administration would seek to uphold the country’s independence by “empowering the public,” ensuring home ownership and providing the benefits of “this vast blue economy” for all citizens. The government is working on repealing laws and regulations that infringe on civil liberties and fundamental rights, he added.

The new Maldives foreign policy is based on human rights, democracy and climate change, he said.

The Jazeera (island) nation faces many challenges in achieving economic development and prosperity for all, Solih continued. “But no matter how much we want to develop the Maldives, giving up ownership of even the smallest part of this beloved soil to a foreign party for short-term gain is not something I would do,” he declared.

In April, the outgoing parliament repealed a controversial constitutional amendment that authorised foreign ownership of Maldivian land. Restoring the prohibition on foreign ownership was a campaign pledge of Solih.

The foreign freeholds amendment was passed in July 2015 with the backing of 10 MPs from Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party. It later emerged that the MDP had issued a free whip as part of a failed deal with the government to secure the release of former president Mohamed Nasheed and other jailed politicians.