Head of the Virgin empire, multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson, has called on President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to “do the right thing” and hold free and fair elections before the end of the year.
In an open letter to Dr Waheed, addressed to the “interim” President, Branson recollected his recent meeting with the former Vice President, who he said had told him about about the need for a truth and reconcilliation commission “to examine past misdeeds and the people who perpetuated them”.
It was, Branson wrote to Dr Waheed, “completely astounding that you have been part of an overthrow of a democratically elected government that has effectively let the old regime back into power.”
“Knowing you, I would assume that you were given no choice and that it was through threats that you have ended up in this position,” Branson said. “I do very much hope that was the case rather than you doing it of your own free will.”
Branson attended the Slow Life Symposium at the upmarket Soneva Fushi resort in October 2011.
The three day event brought together big names in business, climate science, film and renewable energy to come up with ways to address climate change.
Other attendees included actress Daryl Hannah, star of films including ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Kill Bill’ and ‘Splash’; Ed Norton, star of films including ‘Fight Club’ and ‘American History X’; Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project; then President Mohamed Nasheed; and an array of climate experts and scientists including Mark Lynas and Mike Mason.
Branson’s letter follows the Commonwealth’s temporary suspension of the Maldives from its democracy and human rights arm – the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – and its call for President Waheed and former President Nasheed “to commence an immediate dialogue, without preconditions, to agree on a date for early elections, which should take place within this calendar year.”
Sir Richard Branson’s open letter to Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, “interim President of the Maldives”:
Dear Mr Waheed
It was a real pleasure meeting you and your delightful wife when I was last in the Maldives. At that time there was a democratically elected government in the Maldives, after many years where that certainly wasn’t the case and where opposition members languished in prison and were even subjected to torture.
You personally said to me that the Maldives needed a truth and reconciliation commission to examine the past misdeeds and the people who perpetuated them, and asked if I would speak with The Elders to see whether they would set one up.
Therefore, forgive me for finding it completely astounding that you have been part of an overthrow of a democratically elected government that has effectively let the old regime back into power. From knowing you, I would assume that you were given no choice and that it was through threats that you have ended up in this position.
Anyway, I do very much hope that was the case rather than you doing it of your own free will. With the world moving towards democracies, how dreadful it is to see the beautiful Maldives moving in the opposite direction.
As interim President, you are in a position to do the right thing. We beg you to make sure that there are fair and free elections held this year, as the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group have called for. I look forward to renewing our friendship after those elections.
Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group