Monday, November 3, 2008

Innovation as a Catalyst for Change

By Farooq Mohamed Hassan*

Like in successful businesses, political processes and reform movements also require innovation to be successful. When I say innovation, I mean more than just developing new ideas; for instance, the ability to recognize changes as a catalyst to anticipate and improve the ways in which the process or the movement needs to evolve in order to succeed in a changing environment. The political reform movement led by the former Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) succeeded because of this element of innovation in their campaign.

Stepping back a bit further, the end of the cold war and the resulting changes in geopolitical interests of the United States and its allies, resulted in dictators falling out of favor with the freedom loving nations of the world. As a result, Dictators became an endangered species – with no place to hide, and no one to protect them.

Anni saw this as an opportunity and a challenge. Initially as a writer, and later as a political activist, Anni demonstrated his skills and his ability to recognize innovation as catalyst for change in the rapidly changing environment, both abroad and at home.

The struggle for democracy and fundamental rights led by Anni in Maldives was an uphill battle. It was a battle that was fought in two fronts; internationally and locally. The reform movement which began in early 1990's, was met with fierce resistance from the dictator. Anni and many of his supporters were jailed, tried and banished. They were accused, abused and at times, tortured. Some of them have long left us. They were the ones that were not so fortunate to live to taste the sweetness of their noble struggle. However, they will be fondly remembered for generations to come. And they will be honored for the sacrifices they have made for the freedom of generations to come.

In the entire history of this struggle for democracy, freedom and fundamental rights, the past four to five years have been the most turbulent. It began with the brutal killing of Evan Naseem who was serving his prison term in Maafushi jail, and it has culminated in the overthrowing of the dictator - Maumoon and his regime from power, in the first ever multi-party election held in the country's entire history, on October 28, 2008.

Many just wonder as to how the Maldivians succeeded in overthrowing a dictator who has been in power for thirty long years, in such a short time. Yes! How did we do this? I would say, by being innovative. First, as Anni used to say, the word 'Golhaa Boa' was a scientific innovation to cut dictator Maumoon to size. Second, by empowering the people. This was also achieved by being innovative – by encouraging the people to 'get rid of their fear' of being punished by the regime, by 'each getting strength from the other' – in other words, through 'collective strength'. And third, by taking on to the street – to make the voice of dissent be heard and respected.

With pressure from the reform movement, the stagnant Special Majlis began more active, with Mr. Gasim Ibrahim elected to the Chair. With the new constitution passed and ratified, with independent commissions set up, the Dictators control over the affairs of the state began to crumble. In a primary held to decide MDP's presidential candidate, Anni emerged as the victor. This was followed by several so called 'heavy weights' resigning the party. For many party activists, it seemed all was lost. Mr. Zaki stepped in and salvaged the Party as he did following the crisis MDP fell into following the November 10 incidence of 2006. The rest is history.

No sooner had Anni submitted his candidacy for the presidency, he was accused of lacking leadership quality, both from outside and within the party supporters. Once again it was Anni's ability to innovate for change that united the opposition against the Dictator. And as events unfolded, it proved that there was none better than Anni to lead the reform movement.

Many of you would recall that when on Siyaasath Program, Maumoon was asked whether he saw lack of credible leaders in the country as his failure, he denied it out right. Leaving Maumoon's denial for the readers to judge, the undeniable truth is that, a shortage of capable and credible leaders of change persists because change has never been easy. According to Niccolo Machiavelli, the most difficult to carryout, the most doubtful of success, and the most dangerous to handle, is to initiate a new order of things. This is because the reform has enemies in all those who profit from the old order and only lukewarm defenders by all those who could profit by the new order. According to Machiavelli, this lukewarmness arises from the incredulity of mankind who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience with it.

Indeed! How very true. More than 500 years ago, Machiavelli, has very accurately described one of the innate natures of mankind. In retrospect, the truth of this statement is quite vivid in the changing political scenarios in our country. Today, when success seems not only within reach, but has actually been achieved, even those so called 'heavy weights', who left MDP after blaming its leadership, or were reluctant to work with Anni , are slowly coming back and joining the party. Whatever their reasons for joining MDP may be, the speed with which the changes are taking place now in Maldives, in particular, during the last few days, has underscored the essential role innovation has played in driving the very successful, yet, peaceful and historic change in Maldives.

[*Faarooq Mohamed Hassan is a former shadow cabinet member of MDP and is also the Deputy Director General of the Environment Research Center.]


Anonymous said...

Mr. Farooq, Dr. Waheed what a good read. Where have you been all these days? You guys should have started blogging eons ago. I really enjoy reading such insightful and thought provoking articles such as these. Well done and keep em' coming. We are here to listen.


Anonymous said...

The analogy of the catalyst here is very interesting. If Anni is the catalyst for change, I wonder is he the right choice for the President.

Who will mobilize MDP to get as many as possible parliamentarian for the up coming general election.

Is there anyone else in MDP who can bring people on board as Anni did.

To continue this catalytic reaction, its crucial balance is very important,either way it might end up, if the reactants are imbalanced.

The reaction which has taken place now is not a balaced equation,without many assumptions.

This is really weak reaction as the catalyst is dependent on many factors here.

Lets see the cabinet Anni has chosen, for example Adam Manik without proper education to challenge the global economic crisis currently facing. Is he the right person to be a trade Minister. Anni has advocated, this country needs educated young people to run the country for challenges of 21st century. Where is those rhetoric speeches now.

Anonymous said...

Anni was/is lucky. Just plain lucky.the struggle to bring about democracy in Maldives did not start with Anni. and it will not finish with Anni. Many journalists/writers before him did a lot, suffered a lot to bring about democracy.Anni's special success was his ability to mobilize resources for this cause. Resources from within and without.And he was lucky that so many of our people(Hassan Saeed,Shaheed, Jameel,Gasim,Ibra,UmarMullah Bari and Mullah Hussain Rasheed etc) they all wanted to succeed Maumoon and win the powers. they did not have the time to organize their campaign and party.MDP had brand recognition and organization on each island.Time was not on the side of these great leaders. since thre was a second round written in the constitution(Ibra's intelligence) every one had to , was forced to unite under Anni who with only 25% was second placed.
Anni's greatness will be judged in how he keeps the coalition going beyond its only real purpose{toppling Maumoon). His next greatness will be in taming the Talibanite Adhaalat and steering Maldives towards real democracy.

Anonymous said...

We are here to read. Well written.

Anonymous said...

Giving undue credits to Anni alone is not fair. Now you people have guts to call your former boss a dictator while people like hassan saeed and shaheed recognized it and left the dictator which ultimately lead to further fragmentation of the regime. Some people worked for the regime for decades and did not get what they wanted and in utter frustration they are now name calling their former boss a dictator.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Farooq i think you are way behind the reality. many people felt same as you. even i was thinking same way that you are. but when i saw Anni's proposed cabinet i realized i was very wrong about him. he is not reformist and he does not deserve that label. however, he is more like change agent, activist like many Maldivian think. the term reform is different from change so please don't address him as reformist. he is not.

yes i still doubt on his leadership. if you really think he won this election because of his good leadership you are wrong again. he was not the person made the opposition united. he was not the person who run the campaign in the second round. you batter check to out who was the mastermind of all these. not Anni some else. we have seen government was almost lost its credibility but regain withing no time.we have seen MDP was lost its edibility one time. we have seen DRP was very strong one time. now we see everything in different way. of cause someone or group of people are behind of these. guess who?

Anonymous said...

we have to start with someone so anni was and is one of the first who fought against the dictatorship, thats how MDP was so very well recongnised. And ofcourse they couldnt have done it without the ithihaadh leaders but if you read this article carefully it does touch on all the sides. ONly thing is Maumoon was a dictator all the way , no one can deny that, except DRP. we will see many leaders in the future we will see very competitive fights thanks to all the sacrifices from the ithihaadh and our freedom loving journalists and careful planning by reformists inside the government. Welcome to the 21st century a bit late but for sure this time.

Anonymous said...

Shame if the new cabinet has any of these people; Hassan Saeed, Shaheed, Jameel and Gasim. These are the people who really did everthing against the reform movement and built up the Maumoon government when it was getting crushed. Unbelievable people forgets these things so easily.

homles citizen in male' said...

Mr.Farooq, this s truth, thanks a lot. some people have 'zaathee hasadh for anni', but u express truth n fact, m young guys who saw how difucult situation anni was live. If Hassan saeed, dr.saheed, qasim may not even spend few minutes in Jail (where anni kept). He s from rich family n he hav choice to live confortable life, but no wonder y he choose to live such a struggle. 'v never thanks anni, wht he did for us'
-poor guy-

Anonymous said...

Comments all over the news and as well as this blog are rich with expectations of President Anni. But as soon as the initial giddiness wears off, the hard work will begin and this initial euphoria will quickly wane. Why? Because the inertia of the system will throw up road blocks at every attempt at changing the status quo and any initial changes will be modest at best and will not live up to the high hopes and expectations of his supporters.
Nevertheless, only if supporters are patient and feel morally obliged to continue their support will anything substantial come of it. It is important to keep the faith because the complexity and depth of the problems created by the last administration are enormous and only time, patience and a high level of personal sacrifice will ever bring them to a resolution.

Anonymous said...

This writer does not seem to remember the people who were associated with the person he refers to as a 'dictator'.Why? Because his associates happen to be in MDP.What an irony

Anonymous said...

Anni didnt initiate anything.He was suffering from a psychological disease of opposing rulers which he interited from his family.

What made Gogo Latheef a 'politician' is in fact due to ex-president Nasir who tortured Latheef's father.

What made Sheikh Hussein Rasheed into a 'politician' is because Al-Azhar university rejected his application

Therefore,Maldivians are driven by emotions rather than thought.People who are driven by emotions cannot initiate anything.

Anonymous said...

This is so biased. Who is the father of MDP. Gogo latheef. Who is the father of organised resistance against Golhaa. Gogo Latheef. Without Latheef, it could have been impossible for anni to escalate the movement into grass root activism. so when people like faarooq shouts they should be objective in their bablings. i hope u guys get the point.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 5.45 pm,
Slight correction. Gogo is the father of Jennifer Latheef not of MDP. He participated in the creation of MDP in order to free Jennifer from jail. As soon as she was released he became inactive. Then last year he came back to sabotage MDP grassroots level support for Anni. When it did not work he left and went along with Jumhoori Party. His brother gave a committment to Maumoon to keep Gogo quiet, if he is made ambassador in Bangladesh

Anonymous said...

So Mr Farooq, who was quiet silent, expecting a job as Permanent Secretary of Environment Ministry, now starts parroting when the regime changes. Typical hypocrite. By the way I know you were in MDP shadow cabinet once. You must have been hoping for a good position then and even now.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous [November 5, 2008 12:02 PM]

Permanant Secretaries are appointed not by political parties but by the Civil Service Commission.