Good Governance in Maldives
Speech delivered at the GIP Public Gathering
Dr. Mohamed Waheed, Vice President of Maldives and
Leader of Gaumee Ithihad Party
(Translated from Dhivehi Language)
24 April 2010

Asalaam Alaikum,

It’s a very special evening. It’s the first time we are having a public meeting of the party since its formation in 2008. Most of you know us as a coalition partner in the present government. Over the past year and a half, our senior leadership has worked diligently to support this government. The only purpose in joining this government was to do good deeds for the people. Like us, a lot of other people in our country struggled to bring about a positive change. Many capable and important people in the country worked together to change the government.

Its a rainy evening. It reminds me of a similar but unforgettable evening which I am sure many of you will also not forget. It was the night of the 26 October 2008. It was the last rally prior to the second round of voting in the presidential elections. It was held in the open area south of Dharubaruge where about 8000 people participated completely drenched in the rain. There the leaders of the coalition formed under the banner of “watan edhey gothah” (How the nation wants!) assembled before the people during the last hours prior to the second round of election. MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed, Republican Party’s Gasim Ibrahim, Hassan Saeed of the then New Maldives, together with the other leaders of their parties and the members of GIP stood that night according to the wishes of the people to bring about change in the way this nation is governed.

Extending from the swimming area to the tsunami monument, thousands of people gathered in great hope and enthusiasm.  Each of our parties made pledges loudly, promising to bring about the change the people wanted and to change the old government. We promised that we would form a government with capable and competent people, that we would not let prices of goods and services rise, and that we would make the lives of our people more pleasant and comfortable. We all made those promises.

We raised our voices and prayed to Allah Almighty for a good government. In the midst of the prayers that were led by Sheikh Ilyas, a torrent of rain poured on us soaking the thousands of people who were gathered there, but no one even moved. I have not experienced a moment of divine blessing greater than that. Our prayers were answered. The presidential election held a day later produced the results we prayed for.

I believe that to be grateful for divine blessings, we must use them for good outcomes and in the spirit of the original intentions. The call for democracy had original intentions. They include improving the livelihood of our people, stamping out corruption in government and to introduce good governance using more capable people in government.  However, today the people are starting to question these intentions. They are questioning if the change they brought about is moving in the right direction. Many people are of the opinion that both our citizens and our leaders need to reflect deeply and correct the course of democracy.

Honorable members,

The democratic government we seek is one that practices good governance. A free and fair election is not the beginning and the end of democracy. Election is the first step. Following that we must govern according to the wishes of the people and with the participation and consent of the people. Although some politicians amongst us may believe that following the election, governance should be completely left to a few and that the majority should remain politically uninvolved, this is not a position acceptable to the Maldivian people today. One of the threats to democracy is to leave all powers in the hands of a few who then exercise them whenever and whichever way they so choose. The reason why administrative procedures and rules are set in a bureaucracy is to prevent such arbitrary exercise of power. That is why a bureaucracy is so essential for a democracy.

According to Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, good governance is essential for the establishment of a fair and justice society. It is also essential for the eradication of poverty. Good governance is the principled and fair exercise of power among the people, peoples’ organizations and the government. It is not good governance to favor only those who belong to the government party and to become ruthless with opponents.

The leaders of a nation must rule for all its people. The President and the Vice President of the Republic did not take their oaths of office to rule the country for a particular party or group. One might raise legal issues with the claim that today’s government belongs to MDP or GIP or some other party. The Maldives Constitution has clearly established the principles of rule of law. For example, it would be unconstitutional to award jobs on party lines. It is regrettable that today we are all classified according to party colors and whenever we need to get anything done, the first question that is being asked is which color we belong to. If this continues, even the right to citizenship may be determined by color. One might wonder, if we are not inadvertently perpetuating a new sort of discrimination.

There are certain conditions by which good governance is measured.

1.    Government should be inclusive and participatory. It needs a framework within which the people, their representatives and civil society could engage in discussion. For instance, there should be a principled approach for discussion among coalition partners. A similar mechanism must exist for discussion between the government and the opposition. Major reforms introduced in the country should be acceptable to most of the political parties. Emphasis should be given to identify and promote the common ground.
2.    There should be strong systems for planning and implementation of development programmes. A good plan is necessary but insufficient for the translation of a vision into action. Implementation requires empowering people, assigning responsibilities, and holding them accountable. The proverbial “issuing of a boat to Mohonu” without meaningful authority would be contrary to good governance.
3.    It must result in positive outcomes for the people. The result of good governance cannot be greater difficulties. It cannot be longer lines for handouts. Today the biggest fear of the people is the loss of employment. People have self-esteem, they do not want to live on handouts, even from their government.
4.    Good government is always responsible and accountable to the people. Elected leaders and employees of the government are there to serve and be accountable to the people. The raison d’etre of any government is to serve the people. The personal interests of leaders and those of their associates should not become a priority. All actions have to be transparent and known to the people.
5.    The results of good governance should be felt equitably to all. This means everyone should have access to opportunities for improving their lives. Special projects and programmes cannot be drawn up to benefit people belonging to a particular political party.

Brothers and sisters,

As we get distributed into various political parties we must reflect on the purpose of forming political parties. I believe that the most important purpose is to achieve good governance for the people. It is to produce beneficial results for the people by managing the nation’s human and material resources justly and equitably. It is to conduct the affairs of government, political or administrative, in a fair and just manner.

I do not accept that political ingenuity in the exercise of power, is to be deceitful or to be ruthless with people who oppose you. There must be a difference in the way we conceive power in the 21st century as oppose to the way it was conceived in the 15th century. We no longer believe that the earth is flat. Similarly, we no longer believe that the resources of the earth including the seas are inexhaustible. Those were ancient ideas. Today even children know that we all live in an inter connected environment. The atmospheric warming is not something that affects a particular nation; the prices of goods and services do not affect members of a particular political party; nor does street fighting and civil unrest affect just one neighborhood. Therefore, we must give up stubbornly competitive and archaic thinking and embrace a more cooperative, peaceful and equitable Maldives in the 21st century. Today’s educated youth and those with wisdom must strive to bring about this change. We will not let the nation be destroyed by those who embrace such old and destructive thoughts.

I pray to Allah Almighty to grant us the wisdom and the courage to make good use of the blessing of democracy in Maldives.

Wassalaam Alaikum.