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COVID-19: Racism, Blame Shifting and Politicizing a Pandemic.

Hamdhan Shakeel

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The spread of the COVID-19 virus and the global pandemic has also paved way for a new wave for Anti-Asian hatred and rhetoric’s. Due to disinformation and fake news fueled by global politics, the Asians, especially China has been blamed for the COVID-19 virus.

This accusation and following hysteria have been further exacerbated by some global powers such as the U.S. and its allies specifically blaming China and accusing that the COVID-19 virus originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

First promoted by then U.S. President Donald Trump as a part of his feud against China, the “Wuhan Lab-Leak Theory” was dismissed by Scientists and journalists as a conspiracy theory.

However, when China curbed the spread of the virus and initiated one of the world’s most successful and largest vaccine drives while the U.S. recorded 35 million cases with 610,000 deaths along with it, Anti-Chinese rhetoric’s once against became mainstream as the U.S. struggled to maintain its dominance over the rest of the world.

In a classic Chinese move, China gained the support of the globe by providing the much-needed aid. While the U.S. was hoarding COVID-19 vaccines enough for more than 3 times its adult population according to The Washington Post, China engaged in humanitarian work by donating and providing medical supplies and the COVID-19 vaccine to the rest of the globe.

Till date, China has provided more than 300 billion masks, 3.7 billion protective suits, 4.8 billion testing kits and over 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 200 countries.

However, instead of working on eliminating the COVID-19 pandemic which has had devastating effects on the global economy and tracing the origin of the virus in a scientific manner, some western states backed and coerced by the U.S. is attempting to shift the blame to China by distorting facts and spreading disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 virus.

An undeniable fact is that finding the origin of the COVID-19 virus is paramount to ensuring that health professionals are ready for when the next such pandemic strikes. The recently publish joint WHO-China report on the origin of the COVID-19 is the much-needed foundation and guideline on which the rest of the world should conduct their scientific studies on the origin of the COVID-19 virus.

The notion that the virus originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China is also highly unlikely as the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a highly specialized and respected institute with international standards of safety. The idea that the virus escaped due to poor security features is another aspect that one needs to analyze when looking into the accusations that the virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan. The age-old racism fueled viewpoint that all Chinese products and institutions are of inferior quality is undeniably a part of what is fueling the allegations that the virus leaked from an internationally accredited lab in Wuhan, China.

Even following the publication of the joint WHO-China report on the origin of the virus, a few countries have politicized the efforts to find the origin of the virus. While this has been met with criticism from the vast majority of the world, these few states continue to act in a bid to politicize and blame shift for the current situation.

In reaction to this, 48 countries around the globe have written to the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urging the WHO to act according to the resolutions made by the World Health Assembly. They called for the WHO to push forward the “Global probe on traceability of the virus”.

The 48 countries stated that the virus is the common enemy of humanity and that it can only be conquered through a joint effort by the global community.

They also stated that the probe on the origin of the virus is a scientific work and that it should not be politicized.

This sentiment was backed by several academics including Professor Su Jingjing from the Peking University’s School of Health Humanities, who stated that while tracing the origin of a virus is critical to ensuring the medical professionals are better equipped to coping with future outbreaks, finding it however, is a massive scientific effort and a “great deal of luck”.

If we are to look at other similar incidents, it took scientists nearly 2 decades of global research free of political bias before they could identify the patient zero of HIV/AIDS. In case of the Ebola pandemic, scientists have been researching its origin since the 1970’s to no avail.

This in itself is proof that tracing the origin of a virus is a highly scientific work requiring multiple disciplines and years of research without political influence or disinformation.

The politicization of the tracing of the origin of the COVID-19 virus will undoubtedly interfere and obstruct the scientific effort required to successfully trace and establish proper procedures to combat the next such pandemic. If the WHO and other global powers are to successfully curb the spread of the virus and achieve normalcy, all states need to refrain from racism, blame shifting and politicizing a global pandemic.

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MNP to decide on going to court over Villimale’ WDC by-election

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Maldives National Party (MNP) has stated a decision will be made soon on going to court over concerns related to the Women’s Development Committee (WDC) by-election held for Villimale’ constituency in Male’ City.

The by-election, which was held on May 14, was contested by candidates from MNP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The election was won by PPM’s Fathimath Nazima with 359 votes, just one vote ahead of MNP’s candidate Aminath Sheeza who received 358 votes.

Speaking at a press conference, Vice President of MNP Ahmed Usham said the party has some valid concerns over the way ballots were counted in some polling stations. Usham stated there were inconsistencies in declaring null or invalid votes at different stations, noting ballots at some stations were counted out due to an additional line on the ballot paper while ballots with the same issue were counted as valid in other stations. He said the party is thinking of going to court over the case, and would be making a decision after the case is fully analysed.

Following the by-election, MNP requested a recount of the ballots to confirm the result. After reviewing MNP’s request, ECM decided to recount two ballots which received complaints during the vote. However, after recounting the two ballots, ECM stated there is no issue that would lead to a change of results.

 

Source: psmnews

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Dr. Ahmed Shaheed: Solih administration joins ranks of most repressive governments, time to CMAG Maldives?

Hamdhan Shakeel

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Former Maldivian Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr. Ahmed Shaheed has stated that the Solih administration has joined the most repressive governments.

Following yesterday’s arrest of key activists associated with the India Out campaign which seeks to expel the Indian military forces in the Maldives and the ensuing protest and arrests last night, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed took to Twitter to express his disapproval of the Solih administration’s suppression of people’s right to freedom of expression.

In his Tweet, the former Foreign Minister state that “if the news reports of arrests to suppress dissent against Indian military presence in Maldives is true, this government has joined the ranks of the most repressive governments in Maldives”.

He also questioned whether it is time to add the Government of Maldives to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s agenda.

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Police attacks on Media contributes to decline in accountability and democratic backsliding.

Hamdhan Shakeel

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Staff Sergeant Solih is alleged to have threatened local media on the night of 18 May 2022.

The recent rallies and protest calling for the removal of Indian military forces in the Maldives has one undeniable fact, that the Maldives Police Service has become highly critical of local media outlets.

The advent of democracy marked the ushering in of a new era where unlike the yesteryears of Maumoon and his predecessors, the public were free to criticize and call for reform within the government and military forces. No longer were the police able to arrest people in the middle of the night and hold them in solitary confinement till a verdict is passed against them in a highly politicized judiciary.

Just as with every other sate institution, the police were held accountable, senior officers were prosecuted for their actions. Massive reform was made within the institution to hold them accountable and to develop a modern police force.

However, following the appointment of the former officer Mohamed Hameed who had been dismissed for leaking intelligence documents, as the Commissioner of Police, the whole institution has undergone a dramatic backsliding in its reform and development.

As a member of the press, we deal with the Police on a daily basis, submitting queries on a wide range of cases. Maldives Police Service has always not been on much good terms with the media thanks to their apparent prejudice that the media is the antithesis to the police in executing their duties during protest and rallies. However, under Commissioner Mohamed Hameed, the Maldives Police Service has adopted an unprecedented stand against media, actively barring media from covering domestic events.

Echoing the Maumoon era police brutality, the Solih administration has also utilized the Police to cover the brutality towards protestors and the media. Several high-profile attacks on the media has been brought to the attention of international media organizations such as RSF. However, this does not even remotely do justice for the countless attacks against the press, as they too perform their duty.

Their alienation and refusal to cooperate with the fourth estate is evident from their official police media group where the police repeatedly decline to even comment on any query by the press, only releasing statements and other messages they see fit.

Unforeseen to he general public, this poses a serious threat to the fundamental checks and balances in the democratic system where state institutions with overwhelming powers are kept in balance by independent state institutions and the fourth estate. In this case, the police’s refusal to cooperate nor allow the media to freely operate and cover political and other protests pose a direct threat to and contribute to the democratic backsliding in the Maldives, by removing the element of accountability from the equation.

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