The mystery of the Supreme Court judges in Male promoting democracy in their beloved country is deepening. One of the three judges who gave the ruling to destabilize the political situation had unaccounted money to the tune of $220000 in his possession and a second judge in the troika had a big amount of $2.4 million transferred to him by â€œa private firm.â€ Evidently, democracy doesnâ€™t come cheap.
We do not know who is spending all that money to promote democracy in the Maldives â€“ at least, not yet. But Maldives is such a small country that nothing remains secret for long. All we know for the present is that â€œthe investigation is not limited to Maldives.â€ Put differently, there has been the ubiquitous â€œforeign handâ€ pushing the regime change agenda in Maldives.
Male has approached unspecified foreign governments for assistance in conducting the enquiry. Hopefully, India is not one of them. It seems India â€“ along with Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Netherlands and the UK â€“ is one of the countries the two debonair judges involved in the scam had visited in the past one-year period. (Gulf Today)
There is obviously more â€“ much more â€“ to the events in Maldives than meets the eye. The Xinhua news agency carried an extraordinary commentary last Thursday attacking by name the former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed (who is spearheading the democracy campaign from his locations in Sri Lanka and India) for spreading canards about the Chinese â€œpresenceâ€ in Sri Lanka. Nasheed recently told the Hindu newspaper, â€œWithout firing a single shot, China has grabbed more land than what the East India company had, at the height of the colonial era. They have weaponised foreign direct investments.â€
Evidently, the Chinese found it an outrageous remark even by Nasheedâ€™s yardstick. The Xinhua tore into him. The commentary disclosed, inter alia, that Nasheed himself was once an enthusiastic promoter of Maldivesâ€™ relations with China when he was president, and, in fact, the commentary drops a bombshell saying, â€œHowever, as a former Maldivian president, who has also experienced the benefits from the fruitful cooperation between the Maldives and China, Nasheed this time chose to turn a blind eye to the fact.â€
The Counselor in the Chinese embassy in Male Yang Yin told Xinhua, â€œWhy did Nasheed support this normal economic and trade cooperation during his tenure and now turns to oppose it? Let alone fabricating statistics to tarnish the normal bilateral cooperation between the two countries? These doubts remain in the mind of the Chinese side.â€
Hmmm. This Nasheed fellow is turning out to be quite a guy. He always seemed a bit of a maverick. (He once made the immaculate decision on the opening of the Chinese embassy in Male to coincide with the arrival of the then PM Manmohan Singh in the Maldives on official visit in November 2011.) Indeed, it now appears that he has dark secrets that only he and the Chinese could be privy to. But,Â Yang has asked a good question: Why did Nasheed become a turncoat? Conceivably, some people made an offer to him in the recent years that he couldnâ€™t refuse.
To my mind, however, the fascinating thing about the Xinhua commentary is the snippet of information it shared in regard of the scale of the â€œChinese presenceâ€ in the Maldives. Of course, there have been dark rumors circulating in the Indian press for months on this topic, making it out that the Chinese are building a military base in the Maldives.Â Well, it seems the plain truth is that the â€œChinese presenceâ€ in the Maldives actually adds up to seven resort hotels that Chinese companies are constructing on seven islands (out of the countryâ€™s total 100 islands) for foreign tourists. To be sure, enterprising Chinese business people see that with the big influx of Chinese tourists into the Maldives, there is good money to be made.
According to Forbes magazine, Maldives figures 7thÂ among the first ten eco-tourist hot spots that Chinese jet setters are choosing.Â The number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives tripled from 1 lakh in 2010 to 3.6 lakhs in 2014, accounting for nearly one-third of the entire tourist traffic to the island, representing the single biggest source market for Maldives. Tourism is the main source of income for Maldives and Male is smart enough to know that China already accounts for more than a fifth of the money spent by outbound tourists worldwide, twice as much as the next-biggest spender,Â the US (according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.)