For the past couple of years I have had the privilege of working for Mohamed Nasheed, who won power in the Maldives in 2008 after putting an end to 30 years of dictatorship. Yesterday he was forced to resign after police joined street protests and mounted a coup attempt, orchestrated by forces of the former regime who were threatened by his efforts to root out corruption in the judiciary.
From what I know of him, Mr Nasheed is not only a deeply moral man but also a very canny political operator. For the past three years he looked and spoke like a President, communicating on equal terms with world leaders about issues that mattered to his country – in particular, the threat posed by climate change, which unless tackled will drown the Maldives as sea levels rise. His underwater cabinet meeting is perhaps the best-known climate-related stunt ever.
As his adviser on the issue, many people have asked me what might happen to the Maldives' pledge to be the first carbon-neutral nation. I tell them this hardly matters now: what matters is that democracy, the system that Mr Nasheed has fought for his whole life, survives – and that if the carbon neutral plan is the will of the people, then it too will survive.
In his resignation statement, Mr Nasheed made clear that his commitment to human rights was sacrosanct and that he would rather step down than use force against protesters. This is admirable, but perhaps to be expected from a man who suffered torture to bring democracy to his country. And if democracy is threatened again in the Maldives, he will fight again to protect it.
The writer was appointed adviser on climate change to the President of the Maldives in 2009
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