A change of systems will not fix the culture of inept institutions nor suddenly reform the bad faith actors who fancy themselves ‘king makers’ looking to further entrench and enrich themselves in power, influence and money.
Another day and another bit of ‘reform’ touted to ‘safeguard democracy’ and bring more ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ to the nation.
The merits of Presidential vs. Parliamentary systems aside; one should look at the actors the nation has on hand to implement the change and move forward with systems and institutions.
At what cost?
Let us forget for a micro-second the exceedingly high cost to the public and state that any change over of the system of government will assuredly bring; especially at a time when the nation is haemorrhaging and facing debt in the two figure billions. Citizens would not have forgotten all of the hours, money and people depleted in the race to establish 'proper' local governance mechanisms — mechanisms and systems which, to this day, remain grossly under realised and virtually toothless to implement their mandates other than to remunerate councilpersons and other vendors, and suppliers, with next to no tangible benefits transferred to the people over the short, medium or long term. But let us, for now, put aside these very valid concerns.
Indulging one ego vs. the true will of the people
Ignore for a moment the incorrigible, brutish and bullying self-titled, and self-important, ‘democrat, reformist’ and flash-card ‘environmentalist’ anglophile who initially came to power by, among others, decrying the 30 year dictatorial rule of President Maumoon — the anglophile who, as we speak, is readying the path to firm his reins on party politics, and that of the nation, for quite possibly well beyond 30 years. Of course when it comes to him; a different set of rules should always be applied. One should be willing to look past his almost rambling and self entitled, leaked, text message to President Solih complaining that he was tired of waiting in the sidelines — because for him being in government isn’t about the people; it is about his vainglorious ascent as a ‘democrat and environmentalist', especially, and ironically, outside the country. It seems the people of the Maldives are not the only ones happy to have the wool pulled over their eyes when it comes to this man’s true nature. So let us proceed, for the moment, to skip over our unfortunate circumstance when it comes to such self-aggrandisement.
The great misdirect
When speaking of ‘ushering in reform’ let us but merely glance at the institution that is being spoken of, and one that is the bearer of disproportionate power over the other estates of nation. Simplistically put, this is looking at adopting a system where effectively representatives in the Legislature will also be actively driving the Executive. Realistically, given what is at play, this will result in a scenario not unlike when Maumoon was in power. Naturally the Prime Minister who is the head of state and of the Executive branch, will feature heavily in the Legislature, as will his Ministers — thus for a nation that has had a muddled understanding of separation of powers, the situation gets murkier still; with no added points for gandering how the remuneration schemes will wind up being worked out. Then there is the Judicial Services Commission, which it has been firmly established is in the pocket of the Legislature thus exerting the estate's influence over the Judiciary.
When examining the consistent ground reality of those sacred chambers one has to consider some of the more colourful perpetrators from the nation’s recent past, and even the present, who have graduated from those hallowed halls — pending, and proven, charges of grand corruption, bribery and harassment are still fresh in air. Add to this the flagrant ineptitude on display during each and every televised session of Majlis; one should think exceedingly carefully before depositing more hope and responsibility with this burdened institution. An institution burdened with passing laws that have been in the pipeline since 2008 still not passed. An institution that has failed to represent constituents through lack of attendance or quorum, or due purely to partisan party political goals or one having acted collectively in the interests of excluding, or including, specific individuals — Gasim and Adeeb comes to mind in terms of the latter.
Answer us this
How many times has the nation witnessed MPs grossly abandon their duties in favour of creating value for the ‘one percent’? How many times have they gravely misrepresented the purposes of the legislations they have expedited? How many times have the honourable members defiled the honour of individuals, colleagues and institutions purely to grandstand and in no way in defence of nation and citizens?
And all this is setting aside a true, mature and bi-partisan discussion of which of the features of the systems in question would truly work for a young, idealistic society such as the Maldives — where the younger population are increasingly forward-thinking and making progressive strides in terms of activism. Which system better protects minorities and subverts majority mob rule? Which system best serves nation as opposed to party alone? Which system allows for more fiscal responsibility when considering population density and lessons learnt from prior system changes and indeed referendums (as we seem to have forgotten that this had already been put to a vote almost a decade and a half ago but perhaps not to the satisfaction of the ego of a grand total of one)? This is a discussion that is well worth having, at length, in detail, with as much public participation as possible, over as extended a period of time as possible.
Clear the mechanism
However if things are to proceed in 'due urgency', what the nation needs in a hurry likely isn’t a ‘revision of systems’. The immediate focus should be, and what is sorely lacking is, the calibre, and constitutions, of the representative in the institution and the clarity, efficacy and integrity of the institutions, independent or otherwise, that are supposed to keep those hallowed chambers in check. Placing a hollow shell of a ‘system change’ over the current mechanism without cleaning up the inside apparatus might as well leave the nation holding a jaadi full of bull manure.