Thursday, September 18, 2014

Breaking Island News

Maldives: The Island President Speaks Out

Less than three months after his controversial resignation as president of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed is back hitting the press circuit.

(Film at theislandpresident.com)

It’s almost unheard-of for the leader of a small country like the Maldives to achieve international prominence, but in the case of Mohamed Nasheed, who became the islands’ first new president in almost three decades in 2008, he seems to have done the impossible. His platform for stardom was a dramatic one; shedding light on the potential danger to low-lying island nations posed by global warming, he became a climate change icon, lobbying for the wealthy West to sign on to environmental treaties and commit financial aid to threatened countries. The exotic allure of the Maldives, with its ultra-luxurious private island resorts, gave a glamorous edge to global warming campaigns.

As previously reported in Private Island News (link), Mr. Nasheed underwent a tumultuous rise – and fall – from power, in a flame of controversy that captured the imagination of the world. During Nasheed’s four years in office, he pushed forward a progressive, pro-democracy agenda that ran headlong against the traditional governing elite, in particular those associated with Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was deposed by Nasheed’s election after having ruled the country since 1983. During the latter part of 2011, a battle for control engulfed the country, culminating in what Nasheed claimed was a “forced resignation” in February of 2012.

Nasheed was replaced by his previous second in command, Mohammed Waheed Manik, who was rumoured to have brokered a deal with the opposition party. According to environmental NGO Blue Peace, Waheed has so far been quiet on the subject of global warming, prompting questions as to whether the Maldives will be continuing Nasheed’s crusade against climate change in his absence.  Nasheed, however, shows no sign of slowing down his personal campaign, and the public release of an award-winning documentary he had a starring role in is set to give him an even wider audience.

(Image of Male Island by Shahee Ilyas)

At the Toronto International Film Festival, The Island President won the prestigious Cadillac People’s Choice Documentary Award, and it received smashingly positive reviews from publications like The New York Times, who said that it was “…impossible , while watching it, to root against Mr. Nasheed or to believe that he will fail.” With the March 28th release of the film in markets New York, with upcoming dates in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, the recent political turmoil in the Maldives will no doubt be under increased scrutiny.

Nasheed has certainly been busy since what he says was a coup d’état in February, and according to a recent interview published in The Nation magazine, his attention has been divided between the promotion of The Island President and lobbying internationally for countries to exert pressure for quick elections in the Maldives. In his interview, it was revealed that Nasheed had met with the U.S. State Department, and gained an endorsement in support of “early elections” and a promise of $500,000 in technical assistance. After all, when it comes to the Maldives’ battle against climate change, the most important factor is, says Nasheed, “democracy at home.”

Read the interview with Mohamed Nasheed:  The Nation

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