Maldives has become synonymous with sandy beaches, azure waters and luxurious resorts in the past few years. The hedonistic tropical island welcomes millions of tourists from across the globe every year, relaxing their eyes and warming their hearts with great hospitality. But on the other side the rosy picture lie a dark and grim reality full of criminal gang violence and murders fueled by political interests.
Between 2013 and 2018, the years of PPM government and Gayoom’s presidency, have been marked by a surge in violence, religious extremism and migration of over 250 Maldivians to join ISIS. It should come as no surprise that ex-President Gayoom’s protégé, Mr. Muizzu, would tread the same path.
Since the change of government in late 2023 there has been a disturbing uptick in the incidents of violence and religious extremism in the country. The most recent examples are the brutal stabbing of Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem during the impeachment process and the embarrassing tussle in the parliament with MDP MPs. Worth noting here that Mr. Shameem was appointed as the Prosecutor General during the Solih government.[i] Though to a layman, the stabbing incident might look like an unfortunate accident, anyone who keeps close watch on Maldivian politics would immediately say that it was a politically motivated attack.
The PPM/PNC alliance has been accused of being involved in such incidents on several occasions now, however, they manage to get out scot-free every time. PPM has been accused of being a party to the forced disappearance and murder of two journalists – Yameen Rashid in 2017 and Ahmed Rilwan in 2018. Yameen Rashid was an independent blogger and a critic of the Maldivian government at the time. In April 2017, he was found critically injured with 34 stab wounds in the stairwell of his apartment building in Malé.[ii] Ahmed Rilwan was an outspoken journalist for Maldives Independent, who exposed political corruption in the country. He has been missing since 2014.[iii] The government’s response to these gang violence incidents has been more than muted which raises questions if the government itself had been involved in these cases.
Although major gang leaders were apprehended for these offenses in 2022, they were subsequently freed in the lead-up to the recent election, and all their charges have since been dismissed.[iv] The government’s in-your-face apparent ties to violent gangs are strengthening under the political influence, saving them from any further legal troubles. Using their influence, the Muizzu government is unleashing a reign of terror on its people and jeopardizing the Maldivian democracy. As the current government pushes its strong Islamist sentiments, radical groups and gangs are finding a fertile ground for their fundamentalist ideology. The need for transparency, accountability, and a genuine commitment to the rule of law has never been more critical. It is essential to safeguard the hard-earned democracy of the Maldives and protect its citizens from the reign of terror that threatens to undermine their peace and security.