The issue of corruption and graft is not a new topic in the society. Consistently and constantly making headlines, the topic of corruption has become a daily part of life. The headlines are the same. Millions stolen from a company. A senior government official is implicated in the embezzlement of millions from a government agency. The media reports are endless, highlighting a prevalent issue in the country.
Public officials such as judges opening guesthouses, Parliament Members purchasing large plots in Male’ and starting new businesses are not new stories. Spouses of Ministers have opened big businesses. Figures who once rode motorcycles, are now in BMW cars, recipients of new found wealth.
The scene is worrisome. What’s even more worrisome? When the President of the nation speaks in a manner that not only confirms corruption but also supports corruption.
In his address, President Yameen said that corruption was an intrinsic part of human nature. He said there were many avenues to corruption within his own Government, adding that in spite of this every Government will work to minimize corruption.
He said that he was in no way “justifying” corruption but said that anything which was part of human nature will be present in Maldivians as well.
As the leader of a sovereign nation, a President is held to a moral higher ground than any other individual. While we can argue that corruption and other vices were an intrinsic part of human nature, we have to remember that we are in control of our actions. Islam tells us that we have control over who we choose to be. Therefore, if we deem ourselves thieves, we will emulate thievery.
There is a saying in Maldives, that when a person speaks, he speaks from what he believes. Therefore, what the President had said with regards to corruption, he would be privy to the information and sources. What he said afterwards is also concerning – that there was room for corruption within his Government.
The Constitution and laws of this country bans any and all forms of corruption within the Government. Any such act is subject to severe penalties. It is, therefore, puzzling in the face of such heavy penalties and safety measures, when the President says there is room for corruption. The question begs to be asked: is corruption sanctioned by the powers granted to the President? Or is the President refusing to use his executive powers not to prevent corruption?
It is also said that if a person becomes addicted to something, that thing becomes legal to that person.
In his speech, President Yameen said his Government will seek to minimize corruption where possible. Perhaps President Yameen is the first President seeking to minimize corruption. All who have spoken on corruption agree that corruption must be eliminated. Perhaps our President is cut from a different cloth than others. In the event, he manages to limit the allegations of corruption then that would be an unprecedented achievement.
Opposition MDP was quick to condemn the President’s statements. In response, PPM held its own press conference, doing what many dubbed as “translating” what the President had said. The members at the press conference claimed that the President was the first in the history of the nation to lead a broad offensive against corruption.
Let’s take another look at the past again. Previously President Yameen said the source of money did not matter. He had also said Government will enact laws permitting theft if it came to that. PPM did not hold press conferences then.
Previously, the spokesperson would have spun an alternative narrative to defend the President. This time, Government Ministers and Parliament Members stood up to translate what the President said. Funny thing is, even at the end of the press conference the hosts were unable to clearly define what the President had said.
Apart from a few scattered thoughts, there is really not much one can say about the President’s speech. There are certain things you don’t say to the President because he’s the President.
But the money moved through corruption, embezzlement and fraud are funds of the public. Tax money that could have been used for other development projects, rather than for dollar purchase and other expenses. Its funds of the public taken by the upper echelons of the Government, while the subsidies and grants and salaries are cut.
Ask yourselves this question: will a benevolent leader claim that corruption is an intrinsic facet to human nature?