Book Review: J. J. Robinson. 2015. The Maldives: Islamic Republic, Tropical Autocracy

Published date01 December 2016
Date01 December 2016
AuthorAmit Ranjan
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 379
Nayar, Baldev Raj, & Paul, T.V. (2004). India in the world order: Searching for major
power status. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.
Jalil Mehdi
Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace & Conflict Resolution,
Jamia Millia Islamia, India
J. J. Robinson. 2015. The Maldives: Islamic Republic, Tropical Autocracy.
London: Hurst Publications. 358 pp. ISBN: 978-1-84904-589-6.
DOI: 10.1177/2347797016670764
The Maldives is usually in news due to climate change induced rise in the sea
level which threatens to submerge this atoll nation. However, the country is much
more interesting than just that. It has witnessed coups and counter-coups, Islamic
radicalism has swiftly risen and roots of corruption are very deep. This book by
J. J. Robinson is an exquisite effort to spread the knowledge about the veiled
socio-political aspects of the Maldives to the international readers. He carried
out the major part of his research while working for the Maldivian newspaper
Minivan News.
As a dictator, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had ruled over the atoll
nation for 30 years and was forced out of power through democratic elections
in 2008. The election, which Gayoom never thought he would lose, was a part
to gain international legitimacy amidst home-grown discontentment against his
regime. Earlier, he ordered a crackdown against dissenters and clamped emer-
gency. Both failed to improve situation, so, in order to improve his reputation,
he hired the US-based public relations agency Hill + Knowlton Strategies,
at the price of US$1.7 million. The agency not only recommended but also
implemented much of the pre-2008 democratic reforms (p. 62). The firm urged
the president to allow foreign reporters to come and be ready to face criticism
(p. 63), but its usefulness came to an end when they recommended that his
close confidante, and later President of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, be
removed from his cabinet (p. 65). In 2008 elections Mohamed ‘Ani’ Nasheed,
a human rights activist who had been imprisoned by Gayoom (p. 3) was elected
as the president of the country but failed to remain in the office for a long
period of time. Gayoom’s loyalists conspired against his administration, even-
tually forcing him to resign following the 2012 coup d’état and face public
humiliation (p. 19).
Writing about the material condition of the Minivan News, author says: ‘Aside
from the rented room, Minivan’s total assets included an ancient, erratic and
possessed printer and a laptop with a broken shift key that demanded the user
engage and disengage caps lock for every capital letter’ (p. 40). Despite such
condition, its political contents were such that ‘where Gayoom’s regime regarded

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