The aim of this remarkable plan is to raise global consciousness about the issues that must be hammered out at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December, he said.
Thus Nasheed’s ministers will don wetsuits and air tanks on Saturday, gather in the shallow waters off the island of Girifushi and then get down to the business of governing the Maldives underwater — mainly by communicating through hand gestures. One minister, for education, has already had to pull out after diving experts announced he was not fit enough to take part.
The meeting will, as some observers have noted rather sardonically, bring politics in the Maldives, literally, to a new low. As one official said: “The paperwork should be challenging if nothing else.”
The idea of an underwater Cabinet meeting is certainly gimmicky, but it will focus attention on a nation that stands to suffer more than any other from global warming. The Maldives could, quite simply, be wiped off the face of the Earth.
“Unless something is done, my grandchildren will find these islands have completely disappeared under the waves,” Nasheed said last week.
Hence, those undersea meetings and carefully organized screenings.
Mohamed Nasheed was born in Male in May 1967, the son of a prosperous businessman. He was educated at Majeediyya secondary school in the Maldives before continuing his studies at a school in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1981 and then a year later at Dauntsey’s school in Wiltshire, England. Afterwards, he took a degree in marine studies at Liverpool John Moores University.
He returned to the Maldives in the late 1980s — and ran straight into trouble. He founded his own magazine, Sangu, and published a series of investigative reports about then president Gayoom’s regime, which he accused of being corrupt and guilty of a string of human rights abuses. After the fifth issue, Gayoom had had enough. Police raided the magazine’s offices and arrested Nasheed. The 23-year-old spent several months in solitary confinement, accused of attempting to overthrow the government.
These allegations and bouts of harassment were repeated over the next 10 years.
“I have personally experienced the worst that a malicious regime can contrive in order to suppress its people,” he told the Conservative conference last week. “I was imprisoned on 16 different occasions and spent a total of six years in jail. Of these, I spent 18 months in solitary confinement.”
The saddest aspect was that he missed the births of his two daughters, he said.
“It was a tough reminder of a fundamental truth ... that the freedom of the individual should not be destroyed at the whim of an over-mighty state,” he said.
The remark, predictability, sent the Tory conference into ovation overdrive. But then Nasheed knows how to work a crowd, if nothing else.
In 2005, Nasheed fled the Maldives to Britain.
“You could always talk to a Western government about democracy” he said.
He returned to his homeland after a few months, however, and last year, stood against Gayoom — then Asia’s longest serving president — in the Maldives’ first ever democratic elections. Nashood won, with 54 percent of the votes.