President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed/The Commonwealth/Flickr

Paradise in Peril

The plight of Mohamed Nasheed – the former president of the Maldives who has now been sentenced to 13 years imprisonment by the military government that overthrew him in 2012 – seems to have fallen off the world’s radar. This is bad news for the Maldives, where a fledgling democracy’s fate is inextricably tied to that of Nasheed.

LONDON – With Amal Clooney, the human-rights lawyer who recently married the actor George Clooney, acting as your advocate, you would think that your case would grab headlines. And yet Mohamed Nasheed – the Maldives’ first democratically elected president, who was just sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for unnamed “terrorist offenses” by the military-backed government that overthrew him in 2012 – seems to have fallen off the world’s radar.

This is bad news for the Maldives, where the fate of a fledgling democratic regime is inextricably tied to that of Nasheed. And, with radical Islam gaining traction on the archipelago, it does not bode well for the rest of the world, either.

Nasheed’s predecessor, Maumoon Gayoom, who won the presidency in a 1978 parliamentary vote, adopted an authoritarian style, and subjected the country to three decades of misrule. While Gayoom oversaw the archipelago’s transformation into a popular holiday destination, it was he and his associates – not ordinary citizens – who benefited from the tourist industry’s success.

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