The beauty of democracy is that one is free to demand anything anytime anywhere, irrespective of whether the demand is reasonable or feasible. The IDP sponsored* fishermen's demonstration last weekend is a superb example of democracy in action.
One thing must be said about IDP President Umar Naseer. He sure knows how to organize a demonstration on a shoe string budget. Most of his demonstrations last year would have just incurred the cost of hiring a couple of pickups for 2-3 hours, printing a few sets of banners and hosting tea for about 30 to 40 guys going on the lorry ride. This was a much more cost-effective way of getting publicity than the rallies held by MDP and the meetings organized by DRP. It is also a lot safer than swimming through speed launch infested seas from Male to Villingilli, a technique he used earlier before discovering the current method.
From IDP standards, the fisherman's demonstration was huge. Full 8 vessels took part in the flotilla. This rather impressive attendance might of course have something to do with the fact that Friday is a holiday for fisherman. But never mind.
From an academic point of view the results of the demonstration was spectacular. Some of the participants rediscovered the theory of supply and demand, more than 200 years after Adam Smith described it in his Wealth of Nations. "When we catch more fish the price goes down; when we catch less the price goes up," a young participant said.
Umar's main demand was to empower fishermen to set their own prices. He does have a point here. Currently the market is a buyer's market where a cartel of monopolists decides the price because they are better organized with more resources. Fishermen could get better prices if they had collective bargaining power.
On the other hand, Umar's demand for base prices of Rf 45/kg for yellow fin tuna and Rf 10/kg for skipjack may not be feasible without government subsidies. The question is can the Maldives afford more subsidies in the present economic crisis?
There is one more thing you can say about IDP President Umar Naseer. He has steadfastly fulfilled the role of a responsible opposition party during both DRP and MDP rule. In fact during the first three months of MDP rule he played this role almost single handedly, in the process winning the hearts of a small niche audience.
[*Note: On Saturday IDP members left the scene of demonstration after participating fishermen requested them to do so, as they did not want to politicize their demonstration.]