Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I am voting for Anni

I am voting for Mohamed Nasheed (Anni), not because he is dubbed as the 'Mandela of Maldives' but because he is the candidate from the largest political party in the Maldives, which has won the hearts and minds of thousands of Maldivians. I am voting for Anni because I can see a logic in the five pledges made by MDP -- the five pledges that are symbolically embodied in the five petals of the campaign logo temple flower -- and see that there is immense public support for the promises made by MDP.

I am voting for Anni because I have travelled to different atolls in the Maldives and have seen the suffering of the people as they dwell in 'locked islands' having to pay their savings for a boat trip to the nearest hospital. I am voting for Anni because I have sensed long before this campaign started that we need a sound transportation network to connect the islands. I have visited rural areas of several South Asian countries, and seen how easy and affordable it is to travel using a public transportation system. We boast of having the highest per capita income in the region but we lack even a basic public transportation system.

I am voting for Anni because I believe poor people with low incomes should not have to beg to raise money to undergo a basic operation. I am voting for Anni because I believe our young people should not be school dropouts and end up as heroin addicts on streets. I am voting for Anni because I believe we should have a better and decent life than living in the congested and crowded Male' with sky high prices, or living in poverty-stricken islands with only paracetamol tablets in the pharmacy, or some islands without a pharmacy at all.

All candidates are promising us to take us to new heights. However, I don't believe they are sincere promises. I have some faith in MDP. I don't agree with all their policies or all the strategies they have used in the past three years. However, I believe MDP is better than the rest, and with the grassroots support, they can transform this nation if they are willing to do it.

I will always remain a critic. If we see dictatorial tendencies under an MDP government I will be among the first dissidents to oppose it. If we see an MDP government fooling the people like the current regime did for the past 30 years, I will be among the first to start the work to topple it. But at the moment I am giving MDP my vote. Just like the thousands of people who gathered at Artificial Beach Monday night, hoping for a better tomorrow and hoping for a country where justice prevails and poverty is reduced, I will be voting for Anni.

I admire Anni, not just because he spent 18 months in solitary confinement in a small cell in the 90s. I admire him because after being imprisoned several times, he had the courage to face the regime again and again and work for democracy in the Maldives. I admire him because he did not accept a high government post afterwards, or start a business offering shares to a cabinet member. I admire him because he could have had a luxurious life but sacrificed the prime of his youth for us. I admire him as a fearless journalist who brought the cabinet ministers down to ground through his sharp interviews. I admire him because he is a writer like me, a dissident like me, and a critic like me.

But on Wednesday, when I cast my vote, it will not be because Anni is the 'Mandela of Maldives', but because the common conscience of the country is calling for change, and destiny has placed Anni as the leader to take us to The Other Maldives.