New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) The father of a prominent Maldivian blogger murdered last month wants India’s help to ensure justice for his son.
“I want India to press the (Maldives) government to make my son’s murder case investigation go for a fair trial,” Hussain Rasheed, father of Yameen Rasheed who ran a popular blog called The Daily Panic that poked fun at politicians of his country, told IANS during a visit here.
Yameen, who was known for his fight for democracy and human rights, was found dead in his apartment in Male with multiple stab wounds on April 23.
This was the latest in a series of attacks on media persons and politicians critical of the government of President Abdulla Yameen ever since then President Mohamed Nasheed controversially resigned in February 2012 following a mutiny by a large number of army and police personnel.
Yameen was also very vocal about the disappearance of fellow blogger and best friend Ahmed Rilwan since August 2014 and was getting threats. He approached the police in December last year but had to really push to get his concerns registered.
He is the third media person to be attacked in the last five years. In 2012 another blogger, Ismail Rasheed, narrowly escaped death after a knife attack.
Also, in October 2012, reformist religious scholar and Member of Parliament Afrasheem Ali was killed.
Painting a grim picture of the prevailing situation in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation which is faced with growing Islamic radicalisation, the senior Rasheed said that the current government of Abdulla Yameen did not enjoy much public support.
“I think if you hold a fair election, the government of Maldives will not get even five per cent of the votes,” he said.
According to him, this was evident from the recent local council elections in which representatives of the ruling dispensation fared poorly.
Noting that India was the Maldives’ closest friend and neighbour and the biggest democracy in the world, he said that an unstable government in his country would not be good for India’s neighbourhood.
“We want India to help us to bring the government back on the path of democracy,” Rasheed said.
On Friday, at a discussion on “Threats to Free Speech and Press Freedom: Murder of Prominent Blogger in the Maldives” organised by the Observer Research Foundation think tank, Rasheed gave an account of the events surrounding his son’s murder.
He said that after being informed by the police about it at his parental home in one of the southernmost islands of the Maldives early April 23 morning, he rushed to Male but the hospital authorities there did not allow him to see his son’s body as he could not have tolerated it.
When the body was finally handed over after being cleaned, Rasheed found that his son sustained 34 cuts on his body, including 14 on the chest, one on the throat and three on the forehead.
Rasheed said that his son had been getting death threats since 2011 but he was not told about it because of his heart condition.
After studying till class 12 in Kerala, Yameen Rasheed graduated in computer science from an institute in Bengaluru and was working at the Maldives Stock Exchange till the time of his death.
Speaking on the occasion, Shauna Aminath, a prominent Maldivian human rights activist, said that since 2012, there has been a severe decline in the democratic environment in her country.
“I fear the situation will soon become irreversible. We are witnessing new elements coming into play, especially Islamic radicalisation,” she said, adding that President Yameen was increasingly becoming authoritarian.
“It is an ideology that is killing liberal values and democracy.”
Aminath said that most opposition political leaders were in jail and there was no press freedom with two newspapers and a TV channel being shut down under the current regime.
She said over 200 young Maldivians have left to fight in Syria.
“We are in India’s backyard. I hope India will not remain silent,” Aminath said.
(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at [email protected])