He was the darling of the Hollywood set. Greeted with a theatrical embrace by lawyer Amal Clooney as he stepped off the plane at Heathrow Airport, former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed was held up as a hero by celebrities and politicians alike. Claiming political refuge after taking medical leave from his prison sentence, he was welcomed to the UK by floods of paparazzi — not the experience of your average asylum seeker.
It made for compelling news. Presenting himself as the rightful leader of the small island nation, Nasheed wasted no time in attracting the attention of the international media. Appearing in a string of press conferences, he quoted Clash lyrics and charmed journalists, condemning the “coup” that deposed him and gathering support for a return to power that began to seem inevitable.
A little over a year later and it seems Nasheed’s time as the golden boy of the celebrity set is waning. The world’s media have lost interest. Amal Clooney, once devoted to promoting his dubious claims, seems to have distanced herself. The two have not been spotted together for many months and the press conferences and interviews have dried up. It seems the momentum of his victorious arrival in the UK has all but dissipated. Nasheed is left isolated and struggling to appear relevant as his narrative becomes stale.
The shallow nature of his anti-Maldives campaign — rooted in his own political ambitions — is clearly to blame. The dishonesty at the heart of his plan was fuelled by a slick PR push that deliberately and effectively misled the world about the circumstances surrounding his departure from office and the political situation of the small island state.
Nasheed’s isolation in London meant he was forced to make outlandish claims to secure elusive airtime or column inches. Employing a team of international spin doctors, he has embarked on a cynical campaign to smear the very country he claims to care about. His claims of terrorist training camps and extremist hotbeds have been proven to be patent lies. In reality, The Maldives is one of the safest tourist destinations in the world and has in fact never suffered a single violent tourist death. These smears threatened to damage tourism to the Maldives and only drive a wedge between ordinary Maldivians and their former President living in comfort in Europe.
It has become evident that Nasheed does not have the interests of his country at heart. Bolstered by international attention and his own personal connections with UK politicians, his team’s call for the ‘overthrow’ of the democratically elected Maldives government showed blatant disregard for diplomatic and legal norms. It threatened to permanently destabilise the small island nation. It was an extraordinary intervention that has no place in modern diplomacy. While it grabbed headlines, it actually showed a man who realised he was running out of options.
Lately, his attempts to score points politically have become ever more desperate. He attempted to use the tragic murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed for his own gains, grabbing the opportunity to hurl insults at the Maldives Police Force, who he claimed would be incapable of catching the culprit.
Revealingly, he has remained notably silent on the two arrests made in recent days, motivated more by political point scoring than justice for ordinary Maldivians.
Beyond Nasheed’s personal ambitions, his opposition coalition made major strategic errors. Despite presenting themselves as a government in waiting, they repeatedly failed to act as one.
Their petulant refusal to engage in all-party talks proposed by the government was, for many, the final straw. They launched personal attacks on respected British parliamentarians who challenged the opposition narrative in an official, impartial report. There is a difference between holding a government to account and behaving like student politicians. Sadly, the Maldivian opposition has embarked on the latter course.
For the international community, Nasheed seems to have lost his shine. He has now made a frankly ridiculous submission to the United Nations claiming his human rights have been violated as he is no longer permitted to run for President. It is a crude volte-face — Nasheed first claimed he would play a background role in the next campaign. Clearly ambition has got the better of him. He is also now seeing the consequences of his rash application for asylum. The fundamental truth that an asylum seeker — someone who has willingly surrendered their Maldivian citizenship — can run for office back home contradicts basic international rules. If it is not allowed in the UK, why should it be allowed in the Maldives?
There are very few places left for him to turn. His closest friend David Cameron can no longer act as his international advocate. His access to the levers of power have been all but severed. As Brexit negotiations begin, the UK is focusing on strengthening trade relationships around the world. The Maldives now appears to present an opportunity to engage in a mutually supportive dialogue, rather than shallow diplomatic bullying.
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Source URL: Medium