Maldives go to poll in sep 2018 and President Yameen synonymous with corruption, SoE and authoritarian rule, faces an uphill task to retain power. It may be recalled that during SoE, International organizations and the countries across the world had decried imposition of State of Emergency AND CONDEMNED Yameen for gross human rights violations. However, china not supported Yameen but threw its diplomatic weight behind him and ensured that external pressure does not un-settle Yameen. With elections round the corner, china will make all out efforts to re-install Yameen in the office. History seems to be repeating itself and china is in a situation similar to one in 2015 when it attempted to influence Presidential elections in sri lanka, to have her loyalist in power.
How china influenced elections in Sri Lanka
During the 2015 Sri Lankan elections, china had financed the election campaign of Mahinda Rajapaksa . Million of dollars were routed through Chinese owned companies like Chinese port construction. It is reported that At least $7.6 million was disbursed from China Harbor’s account held with Standard Chartered Bank to affiliates of Mr. Rajapaksa for his election campaign. Further, Chinese ambassador violated diplomatic norms and openly lobbied for Rajapaksa .
Barely a week ahead of polls, Chinese, through a sub account controlled by China Harbor, named “HPDP Phase 2,” a shorthand for Hambantota Port Development Project, made payments on behalf on Rajpaksa and issued cheques amounting to around $3.7 million . It is said that $678,000 was spent on printing campaign T-shirts and other promotional material, $297,000 to buy gifts ( including saris) for supporters. Another $38,000 was paid to a popular Buddhist monk who was supporting Mr. Rajapaksa’s electoral bid, while two checks totaling $1.7 million were delivered by volunteers to Temple Trees, official residence of Rajpakse
It deserves mention that once Rajapaksa lost elections, China recovered their elections expenditure by charging $ 40 million dollar for blasting a boulder by China Harbor. The exorbitant price charged raised concerns among diplomats and government officials, who knew that the company was simply overcharging and the price tag included kickbacks to Rajapaksa.
Ever-since, assuming office, jittery Yameen has been making efforts to consolidate his power through un-constitutional move. His record on human rights violations has often come for criticism from Int’l organizations. Yameen’s increasing need for an ally who can ward off Int’l pressure for such actions paved way for Chinese in Maldives.
China known for its debt trap diplomacy has often entrapped smaller countries like Sri Lanka and Maldives, to further its Belt and Road initiative
The way china made sri lanka hand over control of strategic port has put focus on OBOR and vulnerability of smaller countries to Chinese debt trap, fueling corruption and authoritarian rule.
As John Adams said that a way to subjugate a country is through either the sword or debt. China has chosen the latter,” , It is evident from the Sri Lanakn experience how china has used a struggling country for her strategic advantage. In similar vein, China offered millions of dollars loan to Yameen and in return asked for Island and atolls on along term lease. These deals brought in kickback to Yameen and his administration.
It is no surprise that Maldives ranked 112th in Transparency International report for 2017, a significant slide from rank 95 in 2016. Chinese are known to use loans and aid as an instrument of coercive diplomacy, extended loans to Maldives at a rate much higher and with strings attached. Accordingly, the external debt of country ballooned and overall financial health deteriorated to the extent that IMF classified Maldives as a fragile state because of the tense political situation, the way business is regulated and how the country’s finances and budgets have been run in recent years.
Yameen has pushed the nation into a Chinese debt trap and Every Maldivian household owes 420,300 MVR to china as the overall chines debt stands at 24 billion MVR. If yameen is voted to power the debt burden of the country may sky rocket and Maldives might not be able to service debt, forcing the nation to sell more land to china.
It may be safely inferred that Yameen’s greed for power has been at the crux of problem, the nation has witnessed a lot over past five years. However, a common Maldivian is determined to change the fate of his nation and working to defeat Yameen and his designs.