Ep. 619: World Environment Day w/ Fmr. President of the Maldives

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trait to our top story in a nation that arguably encapsulate s– the fragility of the world from trade wars to carbon emissions the Maldives it's 1, 200 Islands a famous for dream holidays but today it's in the eye of a storm on Monday deposed leader Mohamed Nasheed criticized Chinese influence in the region this after Britain's foreign secretary bars Johnson voiced concerns disarmed it appears that NATO nations were nasheed in and president Abdulla yameen out at elections this autumn well joining me now is the Maldives former president Mohamed Waheed Hassan he's just been recognized by the center for international competitiveness and research as a member of its 2018 power brands Hall of Fame former president welcome to going undergrad right now what is the strategic importance of your nation because we're hearing all manner of things from press releases from different foreign offices whether it be in the EU NATO nations whether it be from China and whether it be from India the Maldives is strategically located in the middle of the Indian Ocean and so anyone who wants to have influence in the Indian Ocean region would want Maldives on their side so this is where motives is important but it survived for thousands of years without being involved in any global strategic conflict so I believe that Maldives is going to continue 1, 211 I want to get to those specifics of it later but let's just take us back to arguably the the beginning of the most current concerns take us back to the night of February the 7th or was the day of every 7 2012 and the coup and how you became president what happened yes I was vice president at the time and there was mounting opposition against the president for various reasons economic and political president came in in a coalition together with me and other political parties but this coalition fell apart and so many of the coalition partners turned against him and so the mounting opposition machine that's not she who is currently yes yes trying yes to the Commission City he's trying to come back but you know he made a mistake fundamental mistake in arresting serving judge Chief Justice of the Criminal Court without any you know the proper legal process since so that is haunting him today because he is now under a sentence for having abducted a serving judge the Constitution doesn't allow this kind of Acts any more now living in Sri Lanka and now living in Sri Lanka and also seen as a hero of the environment but of course what you're alluding to there is that these 1200 islands we have good time for the whole history of how Islam managed to conquer conquer all that over over centuries the the critical conflict between judiciary and the executive yes the we got a new constitution in 2008 yeah which for the first time in maldives guaranteed fundamental rights of the people and also for the first time separated the three powers of government my sense of it is that we came out with a constitution that is mostly theoretical you know without a base in the practice of politics in the motives you know a country that has gone through years and years authoritarian rule with patronage playing a very important role and now suddenly you have a constitution that looks like you know you are in the UK or us in fact it was the hybrids Constitution or which elements of an executive presidency and the Parliament system Westminster or antic parliamentary system so that was you know inconsistent and so you you know you have a country where the president was all-powerful and so on and suddenly his powers have been taken away there's anyone from the global elite lucky enough to visit them all these would say you arrived on one of these twelve hundred islands it's a five-star hotel the manager is basically the dictator and the head of personnel is the sheriff there is it doesn't seem to be any lower there at all no motives you know the the resorts and motives operate very independently and they have you know all the room to function effectively as as five star seven star hotels there's really very little or no interference from the government which involve gives is an old old society you know people have lived there for over almost two thousand years you know the written history goes back to hundreds of years so there are cultures they're already there that takes a little bit of time to evolve and adapt to new new systems so I mean you I become president but I don't have the powers of a king so if people want things from me I can't just you know hand out money there are systems now in place but that's one of the issues but of course it could become a very very rich country it's interesting because when when the coup happened Indian media were condemning you as far as I know some elements of it the u.

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assistant secretary stated at the time Robert Blake said it was okay for you to become president I don't have Oh Beijing said at the time did you listen to all these different I was actually quite busy I wasn't at all prepared for it and therefore it's the United States didn't want you to be President but I think the United States knew exactly what was going on in Maldives you know they were following the situation so it wasn't really a coup in the you know traditional sense in the US but the US has a military base you know south of motives in Diego Garcia in the Chagos archipelago he's technically leased from the British so when it comes to foreign interference then as you became president very soon afterwards there were voices I think you yourself was saying there's a degree of interference coming from the Commonwealth and there was a threat to leave the Commonwealth what was well you see at that time there were countries that were calling for immediate elections but you know the president in more recent the new constitution don't have the powers to call for an election it's like the American system the president or any reason leaves the office the vice president completes the term and the situation in Maldives was quite difficult at the time and also two other leaders might have just said at that point in London into Washington and say I'll do whatever you tell me and maybe they can big loan from the IMF you didn't know I didn't do that I didn't do that you know we tried to manage the situation and I didn't arrest people you know Nasheed was not never arrested he was free to continue to do his political work and so it was a difficult situation I tried to manage as best as I can and then we had elections difficult elections but nevertheless it was free and fair elections they were difficult for you there was some controversy because you hired Baroness Scotland Gordon Brown's attorney-general we had her to advise us on how to deal with particularly some of our you know international partners because there was a misunderstanding there you know they thought that you know how come this very popular guy who's you know the first democratically elected president you know suddenly resigns history and then the next day he comes out and says it's a coup and that I hear the gun it is a head I mean it was too much for people to you know deal with and so it's very very indigenous this isn't some CIA back no changes yes there were people who were unhappy with the way things were going and the opposition because you know a lot of the coalition partners had now become going on to the opposition they were coming out on the on the streets and the religious element of further inflated it and in December of I think it was 2011 there was a huge demonstration in Moslems against the government you know that was a really a turning point for people well you can't just then of outside forces I know you had some pretty controversial PR firms tourism so important in the Maldives as a for foreign exchange we're very conscious as president I was very conscious that we have to really maintain yeah we have to maintain stability because tourism is the lifeline of the country well if it stops then people will stop overnight you know so this is why I thought it was really important to try to calm down the situation you know and be a is tolerant as possible and I've formed a government of national unity in by all the people the political parties to come all the PR from its wiping on is equal rude ruder fin somebody came up with the suggestion of you know this company MA and we hired we didn't know who actually to hire you know because because they did israel's ll which caused the element of disquiet of say against population and then of all the things to do you choose china for a contract you know what over in you know what the first loan agreeement with chinese Exim Bank was done by Nishida himself well I made the infrastructure project actually rather than the loan yeah the loan was for infrastructure projects it was for the airport upgrade no it was for housing projects the first billion dollars was taken from Chinese Exim Bank by nasheed for housing projects okay and then later we took more some more money for discover more actually took money for that cuz I'm not criticizing you for doing this yes I'm just saying I can imagine what we're doing in Whitehall here little Brussels yeah I don't say that his boy he was wrong in taking that money we needed the money because we want we didn't have the money to be able to meet the rising expectations of people in a Democratic Society newly newly democratic country people want housing they want several easy saying that somehow it's become the People's Republic of the bold this is misleading it's misleading and I think you know Maldives economy strong motives will pay its debts and I don't think we will fall into a situation where you know China will be able to twist our arms because of unpaid loans how does the developing world nation leader today especially in the Indian Ocean let alone in it could be of course in the red sea or perhaps in the Caribbean managed to pivot between these huge trading blocks which are in effect actually at the moment in a global trade war we are caught in between big powers in the region India on one side and China on the other side you know I mean we wish both India and China were you know you know resolve their differences and not have small countries like Maldives get caught in between you know it's very difficult for small countries not just for Maldives but also for other developing and small countries in East Asia and Africa but you know we need the development funds from somewhere and unfortunately now UK or us not providing that kind of development financing and so many countries not just Maldives are being forced to go to China because those funds are available from China and you know when you have a democratic country where people's aspirations are high you know expectations have suddenly going up you know the Constitution there's you have you are entitled to the two you have a right to housing you have a right to safe drinking water then the government is forced to do something about it former president I'll stop you there more from former president of Maldives Mohamed Waheed has sought after the break welcome back we're still with the former president of the Maldives Mohamed Waheed Hassan why mr.

Rashid was so popular was his famous demonstration of climate change and the power of climate change I mean what is your opinion about the latest scientific evidence that suggests your country will disappear within 80 years unfortunately that's a reality we have to face but in the meantime you know in the immediate near future we are going to be experiencing rough weather third of the Maldives Islands are being eroded severely and you know as a politician you go around the islands and number one demand today is help us protect the beaches just recently one of the southern islands which is the only island at all in the world it's called formula it's below sea level but it has a rim around it that protects the ocean from coming into the country but that is eroding now and just last month they had major flooding and they have two or three fresh water bodies on the island they were all contaminated now because of this so Maldives is threatened absolutely and it's not a long-term trends because some have suspected that they this has been the desire for aid and it actually some islands there is they're getting bigger we also have the technology to be able to expand islands and reclaim islands there are deposits of sand in the ocean that can be taken out and for building and raising islands and that we are doing quite successfully because that technology is influenced in China which is doing all sorts of climate change activities the increasing solar and so on whereas in Washington President Trump obviously has dissolved the Paris climate change agreement do you think developing nations also will turn away from Washington because of this key issue of climate change when it comes to the economics of developing world nations I think people are not stupid they know what's going on in climate change and people believe in it now Paris Accord was difficult it took a long time to get to Paris Accord and so or you know us it's unfortunate that they have you know pull it out of it but most of the nations are going to go ahead now with the Accord and you know India China all of them are investing heavily in renewables you know they have set high targets for adopting renewable energy so I'm optimistic I think we will together we will be able to deal with this issue of climate change how invented is this competition between India and China over the Maldives especially given that they are obviously in the BRICS movement a new trade bloc do you think to an extent it suits the European Union and other NATO nations that there is this fight between these two massive powers it is definitely not healthy for Maldives you know I mean India and China may have had their differences over other issues for a long time border issues and so history speaks fluent Mandarin but you know but they also cooperating on technology on the economic affairs and so on and trade so I mean it's unfortunate that a small country like Maldives is seen to be taking sides we need to ask for assistance from from either of those countries you know as I said this is a problem facing many small countries and I go to Singapore I think they have the same kind of difficulty you know caught between big powers but that's something you know I think that heads of state from small countries need to also talk to each other and you know compare notes and see you know how do you deal with it this was your first question how do you deal with this kind of competition and I don't think there are any easy answers to that but ironic that for those critics of Washington foreign policy in that America in Africa in Southeast Asia it could indeed be the United States that destroys your country not through any kind of foreign intervention but because it fosters climate change I hope not because you know the private sector in the u.

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is not going along with President Trump's policies you know many of them have said you know David I buy it buy it so I'm not so desperate and hopeless I think United States also has a key role to play and especially you know technologically in the United States is able to contribute enormously to renewable energy in particular I'm just finally I must ask this because I know this goes out in all some of the Maldives Islands some of those 1, 200 Islands what about trade union rights and rights of workers in all these different hotel complexes because how on earth is the central government in Mali keep tabs on worker rights when it seems like big multinational hotel chains are running those islands yeah it is very much self-regulated now we have a labor the Council for labor Affairs which which listens to complaints that come from all these yes yes you can I mean they have the power to visit any resort and see to shut it down yeah unfortunately because of the geography many of our workers have to stay away from their families their families and their inhabited Islands well they have to come and live on the resort island so that's a huge disadvantage but many resorts allow them to go back to their resorts periodically still in the pay is so good in the resort's most of them prefer to work in resorts even we're going to fishing for president thank you thank you [Music].

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