Friday, February 17, 2012

Wake up, civil society!

Being someone who has been involved with NGOs and volunteer work for various social causes for nearly a decade, I was and still am stupefied by the inertia and silence of the civil society during this atrocious coup and overthrow of the elected government of this country. I have worked alongside many civil society leaders who have been very vociferous about every right imaginable, who have proclaimed to be the ever alert watchdogs of society, who have set examples and inspired people like me to take the lead and venture out with our own causes and campaigns and projects to defend rights and freedoms which we hold dear.

And yet today, I am disappointed and disillusioned. The silence of these leaders is so deafening my ears hurt. I have spoken at length with many of my friends who had been active agents in civil society, following these outrageous events - not only the mutiny and overthrow of the government, but also the terrible brutality and unbelievable cruelty of the police on 8 February. I could empathize with many of them who claimed that they were not prepared or equipped to respond as well as they'd like, I could also understand that they were being ignored and sidelined by most of the media channels who are controlled by the opposition. But I cannot understand not doing anything. I cannot accept that they who had been so vocal about transparency and anti-corruption and human rights and democracy and this and that - those who claimed were such staunch defenders of these principles and values, and hence such a threat to the opposition and corrupt police that their phones were recorded and emails were intercepted... I cannot fathom why they are silent now! What will you tell your grandkids - your country called for you this day, but you could not muster up the courage or the will?

To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice. ~Confucius

This is your time civil society, this is your moment, this is when the country and her people need you the most. You can save the dolphins in these waters, you can call for an end to corruption in the parliament, you can protest against torture in jails, you can have a walk against domestic violence and a dinner night for drug abuse awareness and an exhibition to highlight child abuse... AFTER you save this country and her people from the clutches of total chaos, anarchy and selfdestruction, from the the verge of civil war and utter lawlessness! You can work for your causes, which I myself strongly support, AFTER you do what the society, what the Maldivians, expect you to do. And that is simple. Everyone knows and accepts, clear as day, that this was an overthrow, and that it cannot be right. Brutality and violence against unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest cannot be right. Vandalism of public property, whoever is responsible for it, cannot be right. Losing confidence in the law enforcement institutions, as well as abuse of power by the authorities, cannot be right. Say something, do something, do what is right.

 I do not expect civil society to take sides, I do not expect them to reiterate President Nasheed's views or MDP's opinions or this illegitimate government's rhetoric. I want to hear their voice, their independent objective word. I hear nothing, and that breaks my heart. The people decided who was to lead them, and now he is their leader no more. Now it is time to find out what the people want again. Civil society should be concerned, should strive in their fullest capacity to enable the people's voice to be heard. I am not saying it is possible to have an election in the next two months. I am saying civil society should atleast press for a timeline. We cannot and should not continue with this atrocity until elections in 2013. I have frequently seen certain faces from the civil society in the media spotlight over the past couple of years. Where are they now? Wake up and say something, do something. If you look away and give a cold shoulder, if you ignore the pleas of this country and her people when they need you the most, you have NO right whatsoever to say anything about anybody's right in the future, and you will have lost your credibility and integrity in the people's eyes.

One of my friends from the civil society reassured me that they will be voicing their views in the near future, but I can understand one voice might not amount to much in the crazy cacophony at the moment. But they important thing is that they would have done what is right, and not compromised their intregrity. I guess a sense of right and civil society's duty and role in society is not entirely forgotten. Sadly such passion and courage seem to be rare these days, and half the population sits back passively hoping for someone to come and put things right, like a bunch of ostriches with their heads in the sand, while the other half are arming themselves mentally and physically for the biggest political battle this country has ever seen.

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Ps- Right now, I am going to join the peaceful protest starting in a few minutes at Thinbaaru point, not because I am hardcore yellow, not because I hate police, not because I have any personal grievance with Dr. Waheed... but because I cannot sit back and do nothing against the trampling of the people's will and their rights, because I want to take my stand against police brutality and cruelty and injustice, because I believe this was a blatantly obvious  coup engineered by a plot among corrupt forces, because I want them to be brought to justice, and most importantly because I believe doing nothing is just as well as siding with the wrong and getting my own hands soiled with the blood of my fellow Dhivehin.

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