Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Golha Gasim" not sorry

Gasim admits ordering the riot police in and Anni apologises for the incident, but a big question mark hangs over the stated commitment to human rights of the new government formed by the MDP-led coalition. 

After the human rights commission stated that police used excessive force to break up a peaceful protest by workers on One And Only Reethi Rah Resort, including using irritant-spray and beating up people with batons, home minister Gasim Ibrahim was defiant. Instead of apologising to those hurt by the violence, he chose to thank the police for the "sincerity" with which they did their "duty". Maldivians will recall that after police murdered Hassan Eevan Naseem and other inmates in Maafushi jail, Gayoom also praised the police force and gave them promotions.

Gasim is aligning with the PR of Reethi Rah to conjure up bogus images of an island under threat: "If police had not been sent and buildings had been set on fire and people had been knifed, who would the public hold accountable?" Knifings have continued to happen in the capital Male regularly since Gasim took over as home minister but, to my  knowledge, he hasn't lifted a finger to stop it. It's not clear quite why Gasim thought the striking workers on Reethi Rah would torch the island and knife the guests, but the resort's PR manager Zhannie Long also claimed to Minivan News that there was violence although she failed to substantiate her claim. "They were running around the resort," was the best she could manage. In fact the only time the workers breached the guest area was when they ran to the main restaurant to flee the attack by the police.

It's not surprising that Gasim, who owns a fleet of tourists resorts himself, is more concerned about corporate interests than human rights abuses. Indeed, he showed outright contempt for the human rights commissioner who, he said, "based his statement on hearsay." 

Although the human rights commission should sue Gasim and Anni should sack him, it is unlikely to happen .

The Maldivian electorate rallied behind the MDP largely because they had had enough of the violence and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Gayoom government. Now, the new government has used precisely the same tactics to deal with the Reethi Rah crisis. The term "golha" springs to mind here and, by sending in the "golha force" to break up a legitimate protest, the home minister has clearly invited the title of "Golha Gasim".

Anni may have resolved the dispute between the strikers and the management of the Reethi Rah, but he must now see to the more difficult task seeing that justice is done in this sorry affair.

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