Why Maldives government should have let ‘India Out’ campaign die a natural death rather than banning it

A presidential decree banning the Opposition PPM-PNC combine’s controversial ‘India Out’ campaign in Maldives is expected to trigger a national discourse on the limits and limitations, if any, to the people’s ‘inalienable yet unbridled right’ to freedom of expression’, especially after police removed banners, both original and modified, in which the legend, read, ‘Indear Out’, instead. An Opposition-backed media promptly claimed that India had forced the ‘decree’ decision on President Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Solih with a 12-hour deadline.

In his early reaction to the presidential decree, Yameen said that it showed ‘how much the government is under the influence of India’. Other party leaders were relatively restrained this time, and stopped with mentioning the option of moving the nation’s Supreme Court in the matter.

The presidential decree follows a relentless, one-point Opposition campaign, variously tagged as ‘India Out’ and ‘India Military Out’, after Yameen admitted to the authorship of the original social media posts and began addressing nationwide rallies with this theme as their centre-piece, after the Supreme Court freed him in the multi-million-dollar ‘money-laundering case’, with two more pending disposal in the trial court.

The ‘India Out’ campaign was a repeat of an old strategy where the Yameen-inclusive Opposition had used (Islamic) religious NGOs, to demand the exit of then president Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed in 2011-12, but by adding Indian infra major, GMR Group, as deflection-point of national concern. This time, the Opposition is assiduously avoiding direct linkage of the anti-India campaign to their unconcealed anticipation for the exit of the Solih government, keeping the campaign focus entirely on India.

The presidential decree, proclaimed under Article 115 (c), (d) of the Constitution, is supported by a decision of the National Security Council, which noted that the ‘India Out’ campaign put the nation at the ‘risk of loss of peace and stability, huge economic and social burden, and isolation in the international arena’. It concluded that ‘failure to save Maldives from the danger could lead to irrevocable losses, and make it difficult to maintain Maldives’ independence, and ascertain the safety of Maldivians living or visiting overseas, and foreigners in Maldives’.

Ahead of the decree-proclamation, the Maldives Police Service (MPS) had issued notice to the Yameen camp to remove the offensive banners, prominently displayed outside their party offices and Yameen’s home. They later obtained a court order and removed the banners. Promptly, the pro-Yameen media questioned the need for the police obtaining a crack-of-dawn court order soon after the early morning prayers, instead of waiting for regular court hours.

Undue advantage

Triggering the current process and asking the police to remove the banners outside Yameen’s house, Nasheed, as Speaker, dismissed an Opposition motion in Parliament, for the government to ‘condemn the brutal attacks on Indian Muslims’. He told Parliament that the campaign violated the penal code. However, the pro-Yameen media contested Nasheed’s claim on this score. Not to be missed, the mainline media has also begun carrying agency reports on ‘hate songs’ against Muslims in India.

Reflecting Nasheed’s expressed sentiments in his proclamation, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said that though his administration’s policy was to allow freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to the full extent possible, the ‘India Out’ campaign took undue advantage of the policy, and with the purpose of violating the peace and security in Maldives.

Solih also explained how the campaign was a deliberate attempt to hinder the long-standing relations with India, and international efforts to maintain security in the region. It is in this background that the National Security Council decided that political campaigns targeting a specific country posed a threat to national security, and that the security forces should stop activities that incite hatred towards specific countries.

Freedom discourse

Solih, who chose the decree route after the party’s parliamentary group was divided in backing a draft legislation, identified the Nasheed camp. The division was on predictable lines, between the camps of President Solih and Speaker Nasheed, the nation’s first ‘democracy President’ who also continued as the party boss for many years.



  • Pazdin Dalal

    A marketing expert from Mumbai takes interest in covering defence and geopolitical issues. He has also been active in covering growth of private defence sector in India.

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