Dr Hassan Saeed is an educated, articulate man. The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) leader, former Attorney General and one time Presidential hopeful has penned a series of articles in a local daily, in which he outlines his vision for a democratic future for the Maldives – although one could argue that much of it is various justifications for getting rid of President Nasheed ahead of 2013.
He was launched into the national limelight by former President Gayoom – along with Dr Ahmed Shaheed and Dr Mohamed Jameel – as the reformist, camera-friendly face of his dictatorial regime.
Perhaps to Gayoom’s detriment, the media savvy Dr Hassan Saeed was perceived as collaborating with various agencies to actually implement those reforms – efficiently working within the system to lay some of the groundwork for the historic 2008 elections that he would contest himself.
As Attorney General in 2005, he was the first to file complaints against Abdulla Mohamed – the Criminal Court ‘Judge’ who was detained by Nasheed’s government earlier this year leading to the national crisis that ultimately led to its downfall.
Hassan Saeed, who would later campaign vigorously for the Judge’s release, had highlighted serious cases of Abdullah Mohamed’s misconduct, including misogyny, obstruction of justice, and perhaps committing child abuse in court by making children enact their own molestation in front of the actual perpetrators and the rest of the court.
While one cannot legally defend the unlawful detention of any citizen, Dr Hassan Saeed’s efforts certainly gives one some moral ammunition to combat the country’s broken judiciary and the vile characters at its helm.
On 14 November 2012, Minivan News published a leaked letterwritten by this gentleman to the Indian Prime Minister.
In the letter, Dr Hassan urged the Prime Minister to make Indian infrastructure giant GMR terminate its contract to develop Male’s international airport, on the basis of a range of serious allegations – from the Indian High Commissioner not knowing his job, to massive bribery allegedly being carried out by GMR.
Failing this, Saeed warned, the Maldives would become a ‘fertile ground for extremist and nationalist politicians’.
Dr Hassan Saeed’s warnings are absolutely correct, as any observer of Maldivian politics over the last few months would agree. The extremist, nationalist rhetoric has reached a feverish pitch, and never before in modern times has any Maldivian political party taken to abuse regional neighbours as a political platform.
Having said that, the same observers would also notice that it is Dr Hassan Saeed and his allies who best embody this nationalist, extremist threat.
Will the real Hassan Saeed please stand up?
It is a bewildering metamorphosis that Dr Hassan Saeed undergoes between his clashing personalities, playing Jekyll and Hyde with staggering ease.
“Nationalism and extremism in India’s backyard is not good for India or our small country,” said the reasonable Dr Hassan in his letter.
But the same Dr Hassan Saeed was present on the podium on 23 December 2011, where he joined other parties in rallying thousands behind extremist, nationalist demands – including the closing down of ‘massage parlours’ and preventing the landing of Israeli airlines, thus saving us all from the impending Zionist invasion that exists primarily in Sheikh Imran’s imagination.
On one hand, he has co-authored a book titled ‘Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam’, where he academically and emphatically argues for freedom of religion within the framework of Islam, while making the case against capital punishment for apostasy.
On the other hand, he has published a series of pamphlets, including one titled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’, pouring vitriol on President Nasheed for ‘fostering ties with Jews’ and failing to support medieval practices like flogging in the Maldives.
Dr Hassan Saeed extends copious platitudes to Dr Manmohan Singh in his letter, even thanking India for defending the country in 1988 against armed terrorists.
But how does he reconcile this with the fact that he – through his minority Dhivehi Qaumee Party pamphlets – is the primary source that has poisoned the airport debate with harsh anti-Indian rhetoric?
On one hand, he warns against India bashing and how unhelpful it can get. On the other hand his only representative in Parliament vocally defends the willful public slander against the Indian High Commissioner by Abbas Adil Riza, the spokesperson for the Waheed Regime.
So then, one wonders, who is the real Dr Hassan Saeed?
Is he the democrat who pens numerous articles extolling the virtues of democracy? Or is it the man who candidly acknowledged that the controversial February 7 transfer of power that he was involved in was a ‘unique coup’?
One Hassan Saeed brought up ‘legitimacy issues’ of the Waheed regime in private, calling the former Vice President “politically weakest person in the country“. Another Hassan Saeed publicly lauded the Waheed regime, giving it a generally favourable report card.
Is Dr Hassan Saeed the enlightened academic that makes convincing arguments of a pluralist, modern, tolerant Islam? Or was that just a mask for the Jew-bashing, anti-semitic Hassan Saeed behind the feverish Islamist rhetoric that constantly destabilised the country over much of the last year?
Is he the reasonable statesman who understands the wisdom of maintaining close ties with a friendly neighbour like India? Or is the real Hassan Saeed the guy who publishes India-bashing literature? Is he the mild-mannered man who is married to a foreign lady, or the rabid xenophobe spewing nationalist rhetoric?
Could the Hassan Saeed that calls President Nasheed’s record in office “indefensible” also be the same guy whose party defends the bombastic imbecile in the President’s office who might very well lead us to war with India before lunch?
These are important questions to ask, because one of these Hassan Saeeds is an asset to the nation – an educated, intellectually sound, democratic, modern Muslim who can contribute immensely to salvaging what precious little is left of our democracy.
A democracy, one sadly notes, that was shredded with the connivance and active support of the other, irresponsible and much more unwelcome Hassan Saeed.
[First published on Minivan News on 15 November 2012]