Friday, July 24, 2009

Digital Citizens of Maldives.

Squinting through the thick lenses of his horn-rimmed glass at the LCD screen in front of him, and then shifting his gaze to the keyboard, Mohamed Ali was meticulously typing away. Oblivious of me, his 22 years old son’s friend, he was expeditious at what he was doing, even though only his index fingers were used to build up the entire conversation on a Live messenger window. Later I discovered that the Mohamed Ali was instant messaging his 56 year wife who is India for medical treatment. Both Mohamed and His wife Hawwa Didi can be called digital citizens.

The gap between those who can access and use a computer or more specifically internet and those who cannot is called digital divide. Since the introduction of internet, in Maldives, more than a decade ago in 1996 and due to the comparatively diminutive taxation of 5% levied on computer hardware this gap has lessened significantly. What this means is more internet user, or more digital citizens.

In this era of modern technology, digital citizens come from all backgrounds, profession and ages. Even the like of Mohamed Ali, who is linguistically challenged to use an operating system whose “mother tongue” is English, is no exception. I asked Mohamed Ali, how he has gained such a level of proficiency, in using Windows XP, and browsing the internet, despite the fact he cannot read English. “Well, it’s simple, Cant you see this picture next to every button over here?. That’s enough. Why do I need to know English huh?!” Sarcastically he said pointing his finger toward an icon on his desktop. Thanks to the graphical user interface adopted by Microsoft for its windows.

Still, out of sheer curiosity I asked him what he does with internet without English. Giving me a cynical look he said that there are enough Dhivehi newspapers online to keep him busy. “You cannot trust any one newspaper when it comes to political news now days. So I read it all online. I cannot imagine how my life would be without internet now.” A man who has spent half a century of his life, devoid of computers and internet now finds his life impossible without it. His granddaughter was sitting on a sofa chair nearby. With a laptop in her hand she was going Wi-Fi.

Internet’s versatility is almost infinite. For some, while internet it is a mean of escaping the boredom, for others internet opinion polls are a digital prophecy for things like predicting the next president. Over the internet everyone has something to do and that too with an extraordinary level of freedom. It’s an irreplaceable component which has entwined itself intricately into our lives. This is why it is not a bolt from the blue that Maldives is ranked highest for its internet penetration among the South Asian nations. It’s a great feat for Maldivians but amidst this newly found internet mediocrity many of us has forgotten internet is a double-edged sword.

Many Maldivians parents have a way of furnishing their homes with a computer just because their next door neighbor has done so. ADSL connections are installed days later to overcome the annoying demands of their kids. While some educated and informed parents maintains some sort of routine to check on the internet habits of their digital young ones, others simply don’t get enough time, or don’t bother to find out whether their kids are using the internet safely or getting abused over the internet. They are either too ignorant or unaware of the dark side of the internet.

Dark side of the internet is about nefarious act like child pornography, defamation, and copyright infringement. It’s about manipulation of useful features like anonymity as a shield by pedophiles. It’s about hackers stealing personal information and secret government data. It’s a place where people are blackmailed for their own self dignity. Even though no official data is there to support its, it’s an irrefutable truth, that internet have had detrimental impacts on the marriage lives of many when their personal files gets in the wrong hands. Can this be called digital divorces? These are not incidents that occur half a continent across, but within the small islands of Maldives.

The most frequent way in which the rights of many digital citizens of Maldivians are violated is by privacy invasion. Personal photographs, video clips, chat logs, and even voice call recording of many Maldivians, especially young girls, are exposed without their consent on various website run by Maldivians.

Many methods are utilized by deviants to retrieve such personal files. Stealing of storage devices is the most common and successful technique. Therefore extra precautions need to be taken, such as password protecting or encrypting the files, so even if the hardware is stolen, it would be almost impossible to obtain them. Some pictures posted on FaceBook were tagged as “these pictures are from a pen drive I got off the road.” This clear evidence the freedom the perpetrators enjoy is invading others right to privacy without the slightest fear of been detected, questioned or prosecuted.

Modern day breakups have an extra bit of pain and humiliation to it. Many of the explicit pictures posted, speak itself with a voice of betrayed trust and love and promises. Girls, who are the pride and honor of every family, now needs to be more cautious of how they treasure the intimate moments with their loved one.

Facebook, the social networking utility, has literally become discomfiture for many Maldivians. A face book group search for the keyword “bitun” result in about 56* groups which has usually girls and also boys photos posted on it. More often than not these pictures are personal and family photos acquired and posted on it by someone without the owner’s consent. Revolting is the fact that a whopping number of more than 23000* members have joined these groups. Furthermore they encourage and advocate these sinister actions by joining and remarking those pictures with atrocious and offensive comments. This aids us eventhough roughly in understanding the magnitude of this issue. It is of utmost importance to think about the image of Maldivian girls and the 100% Maldivian society that would be created in the eyes of many Facebook users from all regions of the world.

Vilest crimes of 21st century occurs over the internet. Most of us are equally susceptible to the dark side of the internet but the most vulnerable are the most innocent, the children and internet newbies. Preventable measures needs to be put in place as soon as possible. Government needs to deploy new laws governing internet and computer misuse. Internet habits of kids needs to be monitored, and guided in the right direction. It is the lack of relevant knowledge which results in most cyber crimes. Awareness programs needs to be arranged for new internet users on how to detect and dodge the dark side of the internet.

“Enemenah varah salaam..then mihaaru dhany” Mohamed Ali typed into his online conversation with his wife. Then he signed out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Maumoon Matters

It was during the 2008 November election the people decided that the 3 decade of Mr Gayooom’s presidency was superfluous and therefore he shall be deposed. The democratic electoral process which ousted gayoom of stately supremacy was a double edged sword: It slashed the hearts of some into pieces while for others it was the heavenly glue that mended the scattered pieces of their hearts which has been fragmenting over 3o years.

Many political forecasters clairvoyantly, back then, predicted that Maumoon’s failure would result in the inevitable demise of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party. They also envisaged a “Maumoon-Free” political atmosphere in Maldives. They thought DRP would go astray like a motherless child.

On the contrary to the prophecies made, DRP transformed into a party that it never was before. In fact, DRP might now be the only true political party in the Maldives. Wikipedia defines a political party as a political organization that seeks to attain and maintain political power within government, usually by participating in electoral campaigns.

The above definition illustrates the history and the present of DRP. During its heydays DRP’s sole objective was to maintain their political power. When they lost their power and when Maumoon became the ex-president their revised objective was seeking to attain power again; to appoint Maumoon once again as the President.

Truly DRP has retaliated with a vengeance and have slapped on the faces of many on May 9. On that fateful day many were flabbergasted especially the reform minded anti DRP people. The composition of the parliament bears vivid testimony that DRP is back and this time was stronger than ever. Many still contemplates upon HOW DRP managed to secure 35 seats, significantly outnumbering the seats acquired by the ruling party MDP. It also raised another important question. How Strong is MDP?

Regardless of what we think Maumoon is still the most strategic, mastermind politician alive in Maldives. That’s how he ruled over us for 30 years, and that’s how his party tactically procured 35 parliament seats. That is also how he control 2 out of 3 powers of “trias politica”, the judiciary and legislature. The young, zealous and loquacious MPs of DRP reminds me of the suicide bombers of Al-Qaedha or Hamas. They are ready to die or kill for Maumoon. Last night we saw a hint of this truth inside Alivaage.

So, what would be the future of DRP without Maumoon. Will it continue its winning streak or will it take a plunge in a downward spiral? No one quiet knows.
But one thing is certain. Mau-moon is the sun in a blue galaxy called DRP. As long as the sun is there its gravitional force will hold all blue planets stars and asteroids together rotating around Him.

Maumoon’s presence or absence matters both to DRP or MDP.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Privatisation is good.

I consider myself lucky, for the numerous times I get daily to interact with people from all walks of life.
I love listening to their hopes and dreams of a better-off tomorrow for them and their kids. But heeding to their anxieties and despair isn’t much of a luxury. Moreover I know, in such an occasion my best effort to soothe relight the flame of hope in them doesn’t always pay off.

Recently a lot of people especially parents of have approached me both personally and via phone. They were filled with uncertainty and fear about government’s announcement of privatizing government school.

This post is dedicated to our parents. Dear Moms and Dads. Believe me. Privatization is just fine.

First and foremost, I agree with you. Transferring schools from auspices of the government to a private enterprise means you have to pay your hard earned money for your children’s education. We aren’t quite sure how much, but it’s certain we would have to pay and that’s something many parents aren’t used to.

It’s never tempting to forfeit what you have been getting for free and opt to pay a price for it. Wait just a minute! How much are you already paying for your kid’s education? Yes!! More than a majority of the parents do pay hefty bucks not to the school, but as tuition fees. I personally know more than a dozen of students who get tutored for 500rf per subject.

When I was a student, I yearned for air-conditioned rooms with multi-media projectors where the student to teacher ratio doesn’t leave any kid ignored or unattended. Seriously, how cool it would be to email my assignments to the respective teacher instead of carrying in all the way? I wonder how many papers and ultimately trees would be saved.

Moving on, do not be victimized by the skepticism that private school will have a debasing effect on the child’s discipline. For it’s so untrue. In fact integration of ill or favorable discipline into the childs’s character is not determined by whether the kid goes to a nationalized school or a privatized school. What bears testimony to this the reported cases of crime committed by student studying at government school, during and after school hours.

The presence of a responsible monitoring body in this case the government, will prevent privatized school or other institutions from squeezing out the wealth of the public. Furthermore, the laws and regulations they must follow and abide by will not only make the privatized school more regulated but also will make them accountable.

By proposing the concept of privatization the government is asking us to believe in something unheard and unseen by many. But let’s not forgot that there is a big world beyond our shallow lagoons and far across the oceans and there are countries which have been through this modern day experience of privatization and discovered it be very fruitful.

So privatization is good. Just have a little faith.

Dear Mr.President

As you would be aware, with the seven-gun salute, at 10:35 on the 7th August of 2008 a ‘social contract’ between the government and the people of this nation was officially sanctioned: the new constitution of the Maldives was ratified by the then president Mr Qayyoom.

It was over insurmountable adversity, by hardship, sacrifice and the unwavering commitment of many heroes in countless ways that resulted in the materialization of the 2008 constitution. I am not oblivious, but rather grateful to the laborious effort expended for four years by the Members of the special Majilis.

I do not believe, what the people wanted back then was only a black white document with a green cover instead of blue. Rather I believe the people’s aspiration was to ensure non-discrimination when entitled to rights and freedoms with the liberty to express themselves. The people yearned for equality among all regardless of their personal, professional or political background.

The people sought to drink clean water and to eat nutritious food with access to proper Medicare, while their houses are lit with electricity and facilitated with a sewage system.
The people want not only jobs, but job security with reasonable wages and other benefits.

And the people got all this and many more from the new constitution.

Mr. President,
11 months after the ratification it won’t be utterly false to state that people’s dreams of a better Maldives, a paradise not only to the tourists but also to the Maldivian nationalities, is showing the symptoms of becoming true. Despite some controversial decisions made on the government’s side like decentralization it can be said that they have given a good attempt at executing the constitution.

Maldives attracted global attention most recently, with the achievement of Anna Lindh Prize by you.

Mr. President, you have brought the nation honor and pride. It’s a great personal as well as national achievement for you and for us, as the prize address two of the most critical issues of the 21st century, human rights and climate change.

In your new found glory, Mr. President, Please do not forget about the people. Do not be incognizant about their true condition.
As the head of the state, As the head of the government and as the commander in chief of the armed forces, Please uphold, defend and respect the constitution.

Mr. President.
While you were away in Sweden, tragic events have been occurring back in here. Small babies are been sexually abused and murdered, children’s are been gang-raped, and innocent people are becoming victims of gang fights. Crimes like this have taken the dangerous trend of amplifying with every new day while the root cause and origin is yet to be defined. More terrible is to know that police with their motto to protect and serve are incapable of doing their job, for whatever reason.

Mr. President.
The democratic recognition we have received internationally so far is only upon the basis of what’s stated in our constitution. The constitution might be the strongest argument of we have now in international front to state ourselves as a democratic nation. But what determines how much democracy is within the country, and what determines good governance is how much of the constitution is executed.
Been entitled to every other rights of the constitution is of little value, if the people are not delivered with the right of security, the right to live without fear of been robbed, raped or murdered.

Mr. President.

We still have the hope. We do have faith in you. And we are with you on the journey to “Aneh Dhivehi Rajje”. But for the moment, please deliver us the right to live without fear.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Sacrifice for Democracy, Rights, and Freedom

As I pored over fundamental rights and freedoms indited in the new constitution I felt as if I was basked in an ocean of tranquility. Lines from the nation’s most prestigious documents appeared to me as poetized verses inscribing a much desired yet a utopian dream.

After many decades I would declare that the people of our nation have once again started to believe in dreams. While the yellow kind is haste and genuine the blue kind is a bit slow and cautious when it comes to believing in dreams. The dream of which I’m talking here is no ordinary dream but rather a dream induced by the Maldivian constitution, whose characteristics are codified in the whole of chapter two.

Chapter two of the constitution of the Maldives talks about liberty, privileges and quality of life the people of this beloved nation has been desperately in pursuit of over an elongated period of time.
It talks about the mother’s dream of guaranteeing her offspring as well as herself and her husband nutritious food and clean water. It ignites an ordinary father’s dream of assuring his son an education from the same school where the son of a better-off farther studies. It entitles lover to be enlaced in sacred matrimony, and enjoy the privacy of their home, either acquired or inherited, which is lit with electricity. Furthermore it give a platform for the wrongly accused to prove his innocence and the culprit to be convicted through the means of an expeditious fair and transparent trial.

I know that those of you have read this fare might be contemptuously deriding what I have written above. If you are I totally understand your ambivalence. To a certain degree but not entirely it can be said that chapter two of the constitution is yet a legally warranted work of fiction, as the freedoms and rights stated it is only visible as text in black on white paper. It’s not visible in our lives.

Comparative study of the renowned “Aneh Dhiveirajje Manifesto” with chapter two of the constitution revealed to me one thing – the five pledges more or less falls under the chapter two, fundamental rights and freedoms. This could be an indication of government’s priority in delivering the people with their rights and freedom. I consider it as an excellent choice for (a) These five pledges are of utmost importance to the people and is within a defined time frame of five years. (b) During the process of delivering the people with the five pledges there are chances that other articles of in chapter II might consequently be executed. All in all we got a long way to go and we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Whether it’s an individual’s success or countries prosperity it takes time and dear sacrifices. The people of our generation could be referred as the pioneer citizens to whom belonged the green book. BUT we might not live to see each and every article in the green book materializes. On the contrariwise ours and few more generations ahead might have to make a lot of sacrifices for instance when decentralization and privatization revolutionizes Maldives forever. We have begun a dream that would be shared for the generations to come. Could we be called the sacrificed generations for democracy?