Interview with Mohamed Nasheed - transcript


RL       Rebecca Lowe

MN      Mohamed Nasheed




RL       I'm Rebecca Lowe from the IBA, and joining me at our annual conference in Tokyo is Mohamed Nasheed, the former President of the Maldives and a passionate environmentalist.  President Nasheed shot to worldwide fame in 2009 when he held the first ever underwater cabinet meeting to raise awareness about climate change.  And in 2011, was made the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary, The Island President.  President Nasheed, thank you very much for joining us.


MN      Thank you.  Thank you very much for inviting me here. 


RL       Now, I'd like to focus on climate justice, because that's the reason you're in Tokyo with us this week.  I know it's an issue that's very close to your heart.  You made a very impassioned speech about it yesterday at the session, which, I understand, brought a lot of people close to tears, I think yourself included.  Perhaps you could just explain a little bit firstly about what climate justice is and why it means so much to you.


MN      Climate change is having a very profound impact on the people of the Maldives, and a number of other people all over the world.  The science of it is very certain and it is actually happening.  For us, in the Maldives, it's not something in the future, but it is something which is happening now.  Climate change, what we basically mean by that is climate aberration.  The winds are stronger, the seas are rough, the wet seasons are wetter and the dry seasons are drier.  And the sea level is also rising. 




Now, these changes in climate is having a very profound, as I said, impact on the people.  Now, there are a number of injustices that arise from these issues, especially issues to do with migration, issues to do with having to relocate yourself from one place to another.  And also issues to do with food security and issues to do with conflict and a number of fundament of rights that you are entitled to otherwise.  So we feel that it's very, very important that we look into these issues now.  The Maldives, probably, will not be there in our lifetime, and if that happens, we are asking this question; where will our people go?  And if our people go, would that be, you know, would we be going into someone else's nationality.  Would we be going in as a nation, as a people?  Where would our culture go?  Where would our language go?  Where would our… the whole…  The Maldives has been there, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, for the last 10,000 years, and we have a written history that goes back 2,000.  Now, exactly, would that history also go with us?  Would everything to do with us go with us? 




Recently, we saw Kiribati buying land in Fiji, getting ready for the rainy day, getting prepared for that eventuality.  Now, Fiji is asking… I think Kiribati, of course, is asking the same questions.  Would they go into Fiji and become Fijians?  Or would they remain as a country within Fiji?  Now, these issues have been muddled, as we all know, for instance, after the second war, when boundaries were drawn and when societies or cultures were not able to claim a homeland, the conflict that has taken, arisen, from that, that is the main issues of present day politics.  I mean, if you look at Palestine, if you look at the Kurds, the Rohingyas, wherever, that is the main issue.  So I'm very encouraged to be here to see, and with so many lawyers, who have an in-depth, professional understanding of how we may be able to deal with these issues. 


RL       And, as you say, for the Maldives, and for Fiji and other places, it's very much and existential issue, isn't it?  And it's very pressing.  So, then, is it a frustration for you when you see other countries, other much more powerful countries, where, perhaps, it is still a pressing issue, but not quite so immediate, not really paying due attention to this subject?  And the last UN climate summit in September, I mean, some of the big countries didn't even attend.  India, Russia, Canada, Australia, they all seem to be turning their backs on this idea of climate justice.  Is that a frustration for you?


MN      It, of course, is.  In some people's views, carbon emission, which lies at the heart of the climate issue, climate is changing, according to the science, because of increasing carbon emission and carbon pollution in the atmosphere.  Now, very often emission is equated with development, so in one sense, there is this view that developed countries, anyone who is asking anyone to be mindful of the environment, apparently, is asking developing countries not to develop.  I don't think that we should view the issue in that regard.  There is a carbon free development projection, trajectory, that I'm sure we can achieve that.  The kind of renewable energy available now is very, very different from even the last few years. 




I understand that photovoltaic prizes of solar modules have gone down by 80% in the last years.  And therefore, in many places, solar energy is becoming financially and economically far more viable than fossil fuel, certainly in the Maldives.  We import, we spend more than 25% of our GDP on fuel imports.  So while we have all these other resources available, mainly solar, the sun, it is only natural that we try to harness that energy instead of setting fire to sludge, which his very Victorian. 


So in my view, for India, for China, for Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, all these developing countries, if you want to be the leaders of tomorrow, you cannot be hooked on to technology, Victorian technology of internal combustion.  You must embrace the technology of the future, which is the renewable… which is renewable energy.  So yes, there is this issue of bigger countries and big emerging countries, developing countries, taking a very short minded view on what we are talking about and proceeding business as usual.  I think the consequences of that on themselves would be far greater in the very near future.




RL       It is understandable, though, that developing countries might feel frustrated that perhaps they haven't had their opportunity to develop with cheap energy in the way that developed countries have with the fossil fuels, with the coal, with the gas.  So how do you try and change the mindset? 


MN      Well, it was cheaper during Victorian times, but it is no longer cheaper.  It's not cheap in the sense that we are not costing it, the effect it has on other people.  It is also not cheap… this is the main… what are really, I think, what we must all very much focus on right now is to understand that the economics have changed.  Carbon or fossil fuel is no longer cheaper than renewable energy.  It's very, very possible to have a carbon neutral economy, world economy, by 2050, and we are unable to comprehend this or we are unable to get a good grip on this, not because the economics is not settled, but mainly because the strength of oil companies and energy companies who are spending so much on anti-earth messaging and environmentally degrading ideas.


So if countries would, if politicians would actually sit down and have a look at the figures, look at the facts, I don't think they would go for fossil fuel development trajectories.  They would be going into modern technology.  What we are going for is tomorrow, and in my view, it's quite outrageous that they are thinking about sticking to Victorian technology and developing themselves.


RL       And we did see recent reports that was chaired by the Mexican president Felipe Calderon, and it was advised by Lord Stern from the UK, and that made exactly this point that I think it said that you can deal with climate change in not just a way that doesn't lose you money, that will actually save you money in the long-term, which is, obviously, the point.




MN      Basically, I've never advocated for giving up the good life.  I think you can have the good life, but you can have renewable energy provided good life.  And the only… I'll stress this again and again, the main reason why we are able to promote the idea and get the idea right into boardrooms and many, many cabinet rooms, is simply because the oil companies have such a big stake in this and they have a hold on government and corporation.


RL       And how do you go about undermining that power that they have?


MN      You see, we don't have that kind of finances, and therefore, the question comes, you know, how do you impress upon the people the gravity of the issue?  I was accused by many that the underwater cabinet meeting was a media stunt.  Of course it was a media stunt, but the idea is to impress upon the people the gravity of the issue without publicity companies and without all the money that goes into a PR.  And I think the people of this planet have so much power, and they must become active; a direct action is so important.  Just recently, we saw 400,000 people in New York, and that's the kind of support that we have for these issues.  And I think it's really quite positive and I think we are going on the right path.  And humanity has this amazing capacity to pull out from the brink, and I am seeing it now.  And I think we will probably just step back from the brink and get it right and get it done.




RL       We are getting close to that brink now, though, aren't we?  So now is the time to step back.


MN      Well, we still… now is the time, certainly, you know, for countries like the Maldives, if carbon contained in the atmosphere increases above 400 pounds per million, we are told by science that the temperature would rise by four degrees.  Therefore, the Maldives will be inundated [?] and the Maldives will sink.  Now, so what do we do about it?  A, on the one hand, we must be trying to address the issues of migration.  I mean, if this thing comes in one big environmental, as one big environment disaster, and if, you know, big countries are unable to handle the situation that would arise from that disaster, we may be going into a longer term destruction, a collapse and failures of states, a number of states. 


I mean, you could really envisage… you could really see that picture.  So what do we do, as intelligent people?  Get ready for the rainy day.  We must have now… so therefore, A, mitigation, which is try to see if we could reduce carbon content by using renewables.  And, B, going for adaptation. 


RL       And is there enough focus on adaptation?  Because some people think that there isn't or there hasn't been.




MN      No, there's not.  We've pushed very hard on mitigation, because after all, adaptation is not what you are actually looking at.  What you want to do is to save this planet at it is.  We don't have many planets.  There is no plan B because there's no planet B.  So we are stuck with this and we must try and keep this in the existing balance.  But we've tempered the balance.  For instance, the Maldives must find adaptation issues.  Now, for adaptation, right now, we are building embankments, water breakers, revetments.  Now, embankments, well, these things are very, very expensive.  $4,000 when I was in government, $4,000 for a metre of a breakwater, for a breakwater.  And we have 2,000 islands, and if we were to protect 2,000 islands with this kind of breakwater, it's just simply not possible.


So we must find more possible adaptation measures, and I would say, more biological adaptation measures.  Now, reefs have always protected the islands.  So we're asking; can we find ways of growing or enhancing reef growth?  We've seen the green revolution in India where genetically modified rice grains were able to produce far more rice and, you know, they'd survived after that.  And I think we must now be looking at genetically, hopefully, modifying polyps or getting a reef to grow. 




Recently, I've seen 3D printings of all sorts of things; hearts, organs, dishes.  There's a restaurant in France where all the dishes, apparently, are printed.  So I'm hoping that there will be a construction company who would print or enhance reef growth, and see that, you know, we can have more biological adaptation methods, rather than going in for concrete.  Not just on the reefs, but mangroves and many, many other natural defence systems.  So trying to understand natural defence systems and seeing how we may be able to enhance them.


RL       I'd like to go back to the subject of the Island President, when you were trying to secure an agreement at Copenhagen on carbon emissions.  And it was very successful.  You gave a very emotional plea.  You got a deal, but it wasn't a legally binding deal.  And I just wonder how you assess the achievement there and what your thoughts are about the fact that we still don't have a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.  We haven't had… we don't have an agreement.  It won't come into effect, it won't be legally binding until 2020.  I mean, is this really enough?


MN      Well, certainly not, but 2009 Copenhagen, for the first time, big emitting countries agreed on something, even if it wasn't legally binding.  President Obama, the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, Lula [?], Zuma, everyone agreed upon the need for climate… the need for reduction.  And they gave an ambition on how much carbon reduction they are willing to go for and they actually agreed upon it.  Of course, it wasn't legally binding, but this was… for the first time, they agreed upon something. 




And since then, I think many other conference of the parties have tried to build upon it, and we are now hoping that by the time the parties come to conference in France, which would be the 21stconference, we are hoping that we would be having a legally binding agreement.  Now, again, this agreement need not limit development.  Again, I would argue, you can have ambitions of reducing carbon emission without having certain impact on your development.  Renewable energy is available and countries must be thinking on that regard, rather than seeing it in a negative manner.  It's going to be difficult.  It's going to be tough.  But we hope that countries are able to take leadership and try to save the future and the coming generation.


We've had a good time and our forefathers, perhaps, probably, have had a very good planet.  And, you know, what's our legacy?  What are we going to leave for our children?  You can't be so naïve as to think that business as usual is going to provide you a home, provide you a development.  I mean, yes, good, the developing countries have brought us to the brink.  Now, the developed countries have brought us to the brink.  The industrial revolution has done that.  Now, does that mean that, you know, big emitting countries now can push us off the cliff?  No, we must… both developing countries and developed countries must sit down and get out their entrenched positions and take a fresh look at this.  It's madness to say, while the whole world is burning, it's madness to say that we are going to go business as usual.




RL       And in the Island President, you're shown manoeuvring your way between the US, the China, the Indian delegates, and the problem, it seemed at the time, you said was the lack of trust between them.


MN      Yes.


RL       But that lack of trust seems as profound today as it did then and it has done for a long time. 


MN      We share a world history that's not been exactly very fair.  But there is still a lack of trust, but that is a new generation.  I mean, I was born after partition, Indian partition and Indian independence.  I don't have a hang-up with colonialism.  And I am so happy and so proud that India is doing so much better now, in its development efforts.  And I think there are many, many young people in India, in China, in Brazil, in Indonesia, as much as there are many, many young people in the developed world, so that we may be able to overcome these differences and the issues of trust.  It's going to be difficult, especially, you know, there's always a race.  Resources are limited and we're trying to capture each other's richness, and therefore, there will always be a fight and a conflict. 




How best we may be able to divide the cake and how far we may be able to live without conflict in understanding on how to divide that cake, these have been issues not just now, they have always been… these issues have always been there, and it will probably continue to be there.  But we can't be so naïve as to think that by sticking to our entrenched positions, we can have a better life.  No, you can't.


RL       And under the Kyoto Protocol, China didn't have any binding targets.  I'm assuming, from what you've said, you would like to see it have some binding targets for the next agreement that's made, because it is the biggest emitter.  And if China is not onboard, then we're not really going to get anywhere, are we?


MN      No.  The United States must be onboard as well. 


RL       Yes, well, of course.  [Overtalking] sign up. 




MN      I mean, China, yes, of course, China is an issue, but I think the United States must come onboard before we start talking about China.  It's not fair that we instantly talk about China and India.  Well, we must talk about developing countries and big emitting countries.  But if the United States, Canada and Australia, if these countries are unable to understand and come around, it's very, very difficult for us to go and talk about India, China, and Brazil, and other, you know, developing countries.  It's not developed country, developing country issue.  It's our issue, it's everyone's issue, and we must all sit together and see how we may be able to deal with this.  We can't be, again and again, we must stress that we can't be entrenched in our old positions and then try and find a solution for this.  It's not going to be possible. 


RL       It's always complicated, though, isn't it?  Because you talk to the US, and in Europe, it's Poland that seems to be holding up negotiations there because it wants coal energy because it wants independence from Russia.  So this whole geopolitical issue is going on underlying the energy issues, and that seems to be what's holding up the EU signing up to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.  I mean, how do you get past that?


MN      Well, by understanding the economics of this, by changing the economics.  There is a geopolitical undercurrent to this because there is an economic undercurrent to it.  The minute you understand that solar and renewables are cheaper, economically and financially viable, then the geopolitics would change.  I mean, they can have all these oil reserves and assets as reserves, but you can't tap them if there is a cheaper form of energy.  Now, countries are going in and buying future reserves from other countries, but if, you know, if we can come out, and I think we are, if we can come out with this new technology, so therefore, when we sit in France, the conference, the parties sit in conference in Peyrou [?] and in France, it's, in my view, very, very important that we focus on how much of our GDP are we going to be spending on renewable energy. 




How much research and development are we going to be doing or spending on renewable energy?  Not just carbon emissions ambitions.  Carbon emission ambitions are good, but in my view, we could do this in a more positive light if we asked countries to spend more.  It's very difficult to ask politicians not to spend and not to cut ribbons of power plants, but it's going to be impossible.  Politicians like… we like cutting ribbons.  So we must be asking them to cut renewable energy ribbons, more spending on green energy.  And I think it is possible.  We are really, really finding cheaper ways of producing electricity, energy, far cheaper and far safer ways of producing energy.  And I think when the economics change, and economics is changing, that is going to have the impact on the geopolitics of it.




RL       There are those who think that politicians have had their chance to change the world, regarding climate change, and they failed, yourself excepted.  But now it's lawyers' turn.  Now, lawyers need to step into that gap and they need to take on governments, they need to take on corporations in the courts and hold them to account for failing to adapt to climate change, for failing to bring in measures to deal with climate change.  Do you want to see lawyers doing more?  You talked to a lot of them yesterday?


MN      Well, yes.  I told, all my life, I've so wished for lawyers… I've had a very tough time in my life, and I've so very wished for lawyers.  And, again, here, I am wishing for lawyers.  We've seen what the legal fraternity has been able to do, for instance, in tobacco.  Now, Marlboro Man is now a man without a neck, and I think the kind of leverage that the legal fraternity was able to bring on the tobacco issue is a very good example of governments are averse to risks, corporations are, they don't like risks.  And lawyers have this possibility, the ability to produce a risk, especially, this is so very good that the link between climate change and climate justice and human rights.  So it is a human right that you have a good life.  Right to life is the most fundamental basic human right. 


And I think, therefore, lawyers must start taking on states.  To start with, they might be losing, but I think lawyers must, they must quickly start taking on states.  So the issue would be now who would be spending on it?  And I am asking lawyers, and I am sure there are many, many pro bono… lawyers do a whole lot of other voluntary work, and I think the reputation among us, among politicians, is not really that founded.  There are many, many very conscious lawyers, I'm sure, especially human rights lawyers.  And I've met many corporate lawyers here, you know.  It's very exciting to see all these lawyers here, and I've seen many, many corporate lawyers also now wanting to be more active in climate change, in climate justice.  So, yes, the lawyers must, I think, take, you know, they must take the torch, start running and do it quickly. 





RL       I guess, one of the sticking points seems to be, like with the tobacco industry, the harm was very direct and there was a direct cause and effect.  Whereas climate change, the cause and effect is much more dispersed, isn't it?  It's very hard to pin the blame of sea level rise on one company and one government.


MN      Well, you know, we had a long time trying to see if tobacco had a link, a relationship to our health.  It took a long time.  And there are still people arguing against it.  There are still people arguing against it.  The science is very, very, very sorted.  Now, there was a Japanese professor yesterday speaking, Professor Mua [?] was speaking yesterday on a convention on the atmosphere.  Now, when smoke is emitted, carbon is emitted to the atmosphere, it apparently circulates around the world at a speed of 700 miles per hour.  So the minute you produce any amount of carbon, you know, very soon, it's hitting the Maldives or wherever.  And I think the science is very, very sorted and the link is very obvious. 




If you want to believe… you can't pick and choose on science.  If you want to believe that there is electricity because you switch on the light, that's because of a…  You can't just, kind of, take one bit of science and believe that, and get the comfort out of that and not believe the other parts of science.  And you can't be that naïve.  And I think judges would understand the links, and I'm sure intelligent lawyers would be able to make the link, and they would be very eloquent in doing that.  I'll be so happy when we start seeing it.  And I'm hoping that many, many, many lawyers would take these issues, would take the states, many states, many governments to court.  And, you know, every time that government is trying to buy a fossil fuel reserve…  There are many, many instances where they could do this, and I'm sure they'll find intelligent ways of doing it.


RL       It sounds like you would be a very strong advocate for some of the recommendations in the recent IBA Climate Justice Report, which was for an international court for the environment, and also for universal international human rights to clean unhealthy environments.  So you think those are very important things to [overtalking]?


MN      I think they're very important, you know, not to diminish human rights as, you know, a right against torture, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly.  I don't want to diminish the gravity of… I don't want to, you know, overshadow them at all.  But right now, we need environment… we need to look after the planet.  Previously, we have been looking after the person, the human, and we've done a very good deal… we've done a good job out of that.  You know, many, many people are very grateful for the international human rights organs and all these conventions and treaties.  I, for one, am extremely grateful for these treaties and conventions. 




And, you know, the treaties and conventions, and the present world order, has looked after us, the humans.  But we now have a bigger problem; we must look after the planet.  And I think you need a whole set of other organs, conventions, and treaties and bodies, to do that.  So the report, the IBA Report on Climate Justice, the recommendations must, must be implemented.


RL       It's going to be tricky, though, isn't it?  Because we've got the US and China, who we've talked a little bit about, neither of whom have ratified the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Courts, and we'd be asking them to sign up to an international court on the environment.  How on earth will we get them onside to do that?


MN      I think we'll have revolutions there.  It's just, you know, when leaders are unable to comprehend what their people are looking for, and when they are stuck in their own minds on what the people are wanting…  I mean, when you have 400,000 people coming out in New York, and I think soon, the environment would become election issues, and they will lose governments.  They will lose governments.  And we must try and… we must try and do that.  We must go for direct action and we must change governments and we must make these issues to become election issues.  And I think that's going to happen.  I mean, human rights became election issues.  And if you… when we look at patterns of history, it's obvious that this is going to happen.  We must be positive, optimistic, and I think this is happening. 




RL       And Jon Shenk, who made the Island President, said of you; he doesn't back down.  And I'm just wondering, you came up with this idea of the underwater cabinet meeting.  You got your cabinet to learn how to scuba dive to do it.  I mean, it was a great PR stunt, as you say.  What's next?  What's the next stunt?  What's going to mobilise people?  What's going to fire up people's imaginations? 


MN      Well, yes, I think we need to fire up people's imaginations.  And hopefully, going to France, you know, this is where revolution is.  And that's the home of revolution, the French Revolution, and that's where human rights, actually…  So many of fundamental ideas that we have became modern ideas.  This is not to diminish the achievements of other cultures and other societies, not to say that at all.  But we have an opportunity that we can make good use of in France, and we have an excellent person in President Mary Robinson, the UN special repertoire on that, on climate change.  And we have good NGOs now, very confident after the New York rally.  And I think yes, we must think outside the box.  We must see how we may be able to disseminate information, inform the people as much as we can.


I've just come from Abu Dhabi.  I am a member of the jury for Zayed Future Energy Prize.  Now, this prize, this… it's a prize for future energy.  Now, Abu Dhabi is an oil producing country. The MEA has decided that they are going to give millions of dollars to people who have a vision for future energy.  Now, they're competing against themselves.  So I think there is hope.  I really, really think that there is hope and I very humbly call upon naïve people to come out of their shells.




RL       And now just very briefly, I'd like to move on to talk a little bit about the Maldives and the human rights and rule of law situation there at the moment.  Because I know that there have been some issues recently with the Supreme Court.  You've been critical of the judiciary in the past and the lack of independence from the Executive.  And I think, just a few days ago, the UN Human Rights Council voiced deep concern about criminal charges initiated by the Supreme Court against members of the Countries Human Rights Commission.  There have also been issues with the Maldives Bar Association with it being told it had to change its name, then it was recently dissolved by the government.  Talk a little bit about that.  What's going on there?




MN      It's a mess.  It's a mess.  Well, basically, what's going on in the Maldives is that we are coming out of autocratic rule; there is a period of transition.  In 2008, we were able to come up with our first multiparty elections, and we were able to amend the constitution before that.  And this new constitution separated the three powers of the state.  The judiciary is now becoming a dictatorship by itself.  Now, the Supreme Court has, as you pointed out, the Supreme Court is fiddling with everything that they can.  They've imposed criminal charges against the Elections Commission, and they've actually charged the election centres, the Elections Commission.  And this was the only free institution that we have, and now they're going on to the Human Rights Council.  And the Maldives, by association, many of the regulating functions of the Bar Association, are now taken by the Supreme Court.  So it's very difficult to have rule of law when you have that situation. 


And without rule of law, it's very difficult to have good governance and democracy.  Now, again, democracy and good governance is the most important adaptation measure.  You cannot save the environment, you cannot save the world with a dictatorship.  You must have transparency, you must have consultancy, you must be able to speak to your people.  So the legal issues in the Maldives, the judicial issues in the Maldives is not just a Maldives issue, it's not just a Maldives issue.  I think the international community cannot lose focus on what is happening in the Maldives. 


The Maldives is very small, yes, but we are a Muslim country and we were able to successfully amend the constitution and peacefully have a multiparty election and transfer government.  Of course, it's slipped.  It's easy to topple a dictator, but it's not easy to get rid of a dictatorship.  The roots of dictatorship go very, very, very deep.  So, you know, Tunisia is going towards their first elections after their, you know, second elections.  Now, that's the tricky election.  Would the previous dictatorship come back?  Would they attempt to have a coup?  Would they attempt to fiddle the system?  And will the world be watching at it?




Now, if you look at countries, like Libya.  Now without the political infrastructure, you cannot have good governance.  It's like asking people to have a shower without the plumbing.  Now, you need… the political infrastructure is… you need political parties.  Building political parties, in my view, is far, far more important than doing anything else in these Arab countries, Middle Eastern countries.  You can bomb them every other year and you're not going to come out with solutions.  But if you, I mean, we need it, for instance.  Brotherhood was the only, you know, reasonably organised political entity. 


RL       Right, yes.


MN      So they succeeded.  They should have… we should have got them to build political parties first before they went into the election.  So, again, you know, Libya, I mentioned Libya.  Libya has independent MPs in the parliament.  Freedom of Association is there because you need that for good governance.  So I think in the Maldives, as well, we are surviving, in one sense, because we've been able to build a political party.  The Maldivian Democratic Party, we built that, then the dictatorship had to mirror that, you know, they had to mimic what we were doing.  We were able to change language of politics, and, you know, everyone else took our language, the terminologies that we were coming up with. 




And if you have the proper language, you have the proper imagination.  And if you have the proper imagination, you're bound to survive.  Yes, you know, the Supreme Court, I still have charges pending on me. 


RL       Yes, I wanted to ask you about that.  So you're on bail, officially, at the moment, is that right? 


MN      I am on bail, and obviously, they want to proceed and arrest me and do all sorts of things with me.


RL       And it was because of abuse of office, are they the charges?


MN      Well, that's the charges, that's the charges on me.  While I was in government, our Defence Force restrained the judge.  Now, what transpired, what happened, actually, we are going through the same thing again, exactly the same person.  Now, there was a boy, a gang, a boy who was in jail.  Now, he was in jail for murder.  This judge released him and he went and killed, murdered again.  And it looked so much like a contract.  So the Minister of Defence, or the Chief of Defence Force, then decided that they had to act.  I mean, thank God they didn't want to have a military takeover for that, but later on, they did. 




But I think, you know, I don't, in hindsight, I don't want to justify this [?] to the judge, and I think it's wrong, and, you know, whatever part anyone had in it was wrong.  But also, I would like people to understand that the judiciary was the dictatorship.  The judges were from the previous era.  And this specific incident of him, the boy, the gang boy, he was a boy, he was, he came out, he was released.  He came out, killed on the same day, and it looked so much like a contract, and it looked to much like the judge had a hand in this contract. 


Of course, we should have gone through the process, undoubtedly true.  But then all sorts of people have had issues with the same judge with the Judicial Services Commission, even by then, there were 12 complaints, and the Judicial Services Commission was not acting on it.  The dictatorship had a strong hold on the Judicial Services Commission.  I'm not trying to justify the arrest of the judge, but I want people to, you know, have a much broader look at what exactly did happen.




RL       And what about the coup in 2012?  You said you had to step down at gunpoint.  There was a report by The Commonwealth in 2012 that found there was no coup.  So how do you respond to that [overtalking]?


MN      Well, you know, then, I'm asking The Commonwealth now, if that was a legitimate transfer of government, then can we do it again?  Would the commonwealth say the same thing if it happened, for instance, in England?  Would you say the same thing if it happened in Tokyo, if it happened here?  This was the only televised coup.  And The Commonwealth and the United Nations can fiddle and come up with reports, and it's outrageous. 


RL       You think they fiddled the report?


MN      I think they fiddled.


RL       But there were 300 witnesses, it was six months of work.


MN      Yes, of course, you can put any amount of work into anything.  But there was… the Copenhagen University, a Danish university did an initial report on the coup, and they came out and said; legally, this is a coup.  And it's strange that The Commonwealth was able to say otherwise. 


RL       But why do you think it did?  Why do you think it might have fiddled it?




MN      Well, you know, I think the United States recognised the transfer of power, or the new government, before the ink was dry on my resignation letter, on my forced resignation letter.  And then India recognised it.  Britain was the only country that stepped back and did not, kind of, until very late, Britain was calling the President the former Vice President.  So yes, you know, there were…  I think The Commonwealth had a look at it in the sense that, let's see if they could run the process, if they could, you know, get elections back on track, get the country back on track.  If it said that it was a coup, then it would have to deal with so many other skeletons.  And it's always easier, I mean, in one sense, again, in hindsight, I sometimes think, you know, actually, I agreed that it was not a coup.  I agreed with The Commonwealth Report.


RL       But you've said, also, it is a coup.  So if it's not a coup…


MN      Well, you know, we agreed with the report or we accepted the report. 




RL       Well, they're two very different things.


MN      No, we didn't agree with the report, we accepted the report.  Now, we accepted the report because the report had other elements in it.  It said that the military had to be reformed.  It said that the police had to be reformed.  It said that the judiciary had to be reformed.  But none of these things are happening.  So I think The Commonwealth has really, actually, played us.  We accepted the report because we wanted these reforms, and we wanted to go into the elections with these reforms.  And we had gone into the 2013 elections with the reforms, I'm very confident the political landscape of the Maldives would be very, very different.  And with that, I think a number of Commonwealth countries' political landscapes would be different. 


If The Commonwealth think that they could fiddle with one country and get away with it, no, that's not how it works.  We are a family of nations and what you do to the Maldives has a strong impact on the others.  I have harsh words for The Commonwealth, but we agreed with the report because we wanted the recommendations of the report.  But we didn't get the recommendations of the report.  I think we were very badly done, but such is life.


RL       Do you think you'll be President of the Maldives again any time?




MN      I think the people of the Maldives would decide that, and I wouldn't mind, you know, either way.  There is work to be done, especially I cannot, I should not leave the political work that I do at home, because in my view, that's the most important adaptation measure for the Maldives.  And we must build democracy.  We must build multiparty politics in a liberal… we must aim for a liberal society.  And I'll keep doing that as long as I can, but I have a death threat every day.  The last death threat I got, the air [?] death threat I got, was while I was in Birmingham, attending the Conservative Party…


RL       Yes, I heard this.  The Islamic threats.


MN      Yes…. a party conference.  So I reported it to the British police.  I complained to the British police, and I'm with the view that the British police has actually found the culprit.  And I hope that, you know, there would be recourse for this in, I don't know, the lawyers would probably say… they'll take up issues of jurisdiction, you know, this was coming from elsewhere.  But, in my view, they did use a British website to make this threat.  So I… the point is, I have threats, we all have threats on our lives, but we must keep doing what we can do, you know, you can't give up life.




RL       Those words, it's a very positive statement.  I mean, you've got a lot going on.  You've got death threats, you've got the world survival on your shoulders with climate change, you're on bail at the moment.  How do you stay so cheerful and so optimistic?  What's your secret?  


MN      Well, you know, there's… you can't be jumping up and down in life.  You just have to see the comical side of it all.  I think the comical side helps the drama of the comic, of the comedy.  And also, in many ways, the romance of the tragedy is also, I think, important.  It's a tragedy, but it's your tragedy, and because it's yours, it's your passion and that's your romance.  So I think the comedy of it and the romance of it will keep people going.


RL       I think that's a very nice note to end on.  President Nasheed, thank you so much for your time. 


MN      Thank you very much.