In June 2002, in Maverick 1.35 we recalled the atmosphere of fear prevailing in the Maldives in the year 2000 in the backdrop of a declining economy, in our article “Big Brother Flexes Muscle in the Maldives”.
Police were everywhere; in teashops and cafes and restaurants, streets and near public pay phones. In cafes and eateries the police kept vigil, sometimes taking turns, in shifts. Their mission was to listen to public conversations and pick up any clue that could lead to the people who were creating trouble for government.
This was not the first time the police had to be in such a vigil. In 2000 the economy suffered quite badly to the extent that many Maldivians believed they were about to see economic collapse. Corruption and excessive spending by the President and cabinet were to blame for the decline. The national airline of Maldives, Air Maldives, went bankrupt a few months before this decline. Minister of Finance Arif Himly resigned for ‘personal reasons’. Analysts believed he fell out with the regime because he did not favor their excessive spending and corruption.
Rumors spread that Ghassan, the president’s younger son, had a problem with law while he was studying in UK. Some people said that he was in a hit and run accident in which a person was killed. Others said that he was arrested while in possession of drugs. It was said that the regime paid a large sum, from public coffers, as his bail. Some people said that this was the reason why Arif Hilmy resigned. Others said that the finance minister was forced to resign because he refused to approve a government loan to build the office building of Society for Health Education (SHE), an NGO in which First Lady Nasreena Ibrahim is a founder member.
To silence any anti-government forces that might gather in the backdrop of this economic decline, the regime put police on the streets, cafes and public places. They were in plain clothes but they were not inconspicuous. It is also said that, during that time, the police were equipped with special listening devices to listen to people’s chat in public places. Later the economy did recover for sometime and the police activity relaxed to some extent.
One hot rumour during that time was Gayoom’s son Ghassan had trouble with the law at UK and a huge sum was transferred from state coffers to bail him. The allegations against Ghassan has resurfaced again during campaign trail now after the sons and daughters of Gayoom have filed lawsuits against the political party Maldivian National Congress (MNC) for alleging that “While abroad, the president’s boy was drunk and in various states and killed someone in an accident.”
We do not have enough information yet about Gayoom’s son’s offense in the UK. However, we can confirm that Ghassan had trouble with law while in the UK. Furthermore, we have information that it was Dr Hassan Saeed who acted as Ghassan’s lawyer in that particular case. This is likely to be denied by both Saeed and Gayoom family as this secret is damaging to the presidential campaigns of both Saeed and Gayoom.
Dr Hassan Saeed’s close links with the Gayoom family started after he defended Ghassan in that particular court case. To reward Saeed, a cabinet portfolio was given to him when Gayoom picked his cabinet for a new term in November 2003. This was how the inexperienced Saeed became Attorney General at a very young age. Saeed maintained his close links with the Gayoom family and as he has stated in a recent interview with DhiFM, it was Gayoom’s son-in-law Shuaib Shah who first revealed to Saeed that Gayoom intends to run for a seventh consecutive term. Whether Saeed’s decision to run for Presidency stemmed from his distress upon learning that the old dictator has kept him out of the family secret, or if the former Attorney General is doing a favour to the Gayoom family by dividing opposition votes, is yet to be seen.