Monday, November 08, 2004

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: GO GO LATHEEF

In recent months, Maldivian internet magazines have been overflowing with political analysis, areas that require reform, and of course, tasteless articles on who is homosexual and what they do in their bedrooms. The Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) firmly believes that they are the “chosen ones” to introduce “democracy” to the Maldives . Their mouthpiece, the Dhivehi Observer (DO) revels in dissecting the lives of public figures and judging whether they are capable persons for their respective jobs. At times, DO tends to get a bit carried away (which is probably an understatement) and fabricates “biographies” as they go along. The author feels that there are not many articles that study the lives of the main members of MDP, and judge whether they themselves are capable for the job. For the sceptics who may jump to the conclusion that this author cannot wait to “smear” the reputation of the beloved MDP members, all the information set below are accurate. It is ultimately for the readers to judge whether some of the members are capable or not.


One of the most prominent members of the MDP is their spokesperson, Go Go Latheef. Despite rumours that the name Go Go was derived from some automobile, Go Go was actually the name of a dance that was very popular during the late 60s and early 70s. Latheef was called Go Go because he was one of the pioneers to bring the dance to the Maldives . At the time, the socially isolated Maldives was 100% dependent on the foreign culture brought by the students who used to study in Sri Lanka . There were very few Maldivian students in India , and hardly anyone in Europe . Go Go Latheef was a student at Trinity College , Kandy . His father and grand father were wealthy autocrats from South Huvadu Atoll. They were at the time the wealthiest people in the region. They were also well known for their influence and power over the people in that region. It cannot be said that Go Go Latheef's father and grandfather were great leaders. They only practised “money law”. A wealthy person may see “justice” but not the poor! The citizens of South Huvadu Atoll had to live for a number of years under rampant terrorism by Go Go Latheef's father and grandfather. These powerful corrupt men abused the rights of innocent citizens of Huvadu Atoll. Nobody could contest against them for their misdeeds, as his grand father was the atoll chief and his father was the island chief. How about that for a corrupt ruling family??


At a very tender age Latheef was brought to Male' in order to send him to Sri Lanka for studies. After completing the SSC exams in Sri Lanka , which was the equivalent of O' Levels during those days, he came back to Male'. He got a scholarship to go to Beirut while he was working in Male'. Latheef's problem was waking up early and going for work. He had missed appointments many a times, and lived an irresponsible life. On countless number of times he had gone to work just flashing some water on his face, looking rotten. He certainly did not portray the face of a budding politician who would lead the nation to democracy.


When Latheef went to Beirut to do his degree, his companion was Thumbulhi Hameed, who is now in a mental asylum in Sweden (perhaps to be accompanied by Sandhaanu Luthfee soon?). When they were in Beirut , they joined a group called the "Al - Fathah Movement" – the movement for the national liberation of Palestine. Hameed was a respected activist who visited foreign countries on their behalf to raise funds. As it was not in Latheef's nature to take anything seriously, half way through, he gave up his association with "Al - Fathah". He also gave up his studies and returned to Maldives . In Maldives he started working for a well known businessman who was also a renowned smuggler. Those days smuggling was considered as socially acceptable in the Maldives . Maldivians were so poor that whatever goods they got from abroad were shipped to Colombo to sell at the black market. At the time the Sri Lankan government prohibited import of foreign goods to the country. So there was a big demand for such goods. This was just the beginning of Go Go Latheef's wealth.


Latheef was also not a very religious man. He was a happy-go-lucky person. However, his boss, the “businessman” was a very religious person. Latheef was forced to learn how to pray and what to recite in prayers. Bear in mind that we are talking about a fully grown Maldivian man who did not know how to pray!! One clear example of his disbelief in Islam at the time is the names he gave his children. His daughter is called Jennifer and the son is called Dennis. The much embarrassed Dennis, who apparently did not take after his father unlike the daughter, was so ashamed of being called Dennis, that he changed his name to “Ahmed”. Unfortunately, none of his children have any religious knowledge. From childhood they spoke in English at home and went to western countries to pursue their educations.


Later on in life, Latheef decided to contest for a seat in Parliament. He was elected to the South Huvadu Atoll seat, but could not survive the pressure of parliamentary politics. He was never known as a great democrat. He certainly never spoke about democracy! The man who could not hold responsibility as an MP, let alone handle the demands of the citizens of South Huvadu Atoll, is now pretending to be a great politician who wants to introduce democracy. It makes one wonder whether there is an ulterior motive. Of course, Go Go Latheef has always been an opportunist and has never thrown away the chance to earn some money. As long as he is getting paid by someone, he would be the kind of person to obey his paymaster.


Go Go Latheef's experiences do not exactly portray leadership qualities. If anything, it shows that he has always been a negligent, reckless and irresponsible person. He has always been bitter about the actions that the government of former President Nasir took against his grand father, father, uncle and the rest of the family. For those of you who may not be aware of this, Go Go Latheef's family created a rebel state in Huvadu Atoll.

They wanted to get separated from the government of the Maldives , and become an independent state. POWER! They wanted to become the ultimate RULERS themselves! As a result of this rebel state, the then Nasir government sent the military and brought them to Male'. Latheef's family were tried, sentenced and imprisoned. Many of them died in the process. Many of their family members never forgave Nasir for this act. Over 45 years later, Go Go Latheef is doing exactly the same thing. He has formed a government in exile. He is following the footsteps of his ancestors by creating fear amongst the Maldivians and the battle for power. He became a “democrat” when his daughter was taken to custody.

Do you call him a freedom fighter? Are his acts for the love of democracy or is it selfishness? How can someone become a “freedom fighter” over night? He was never particularly interested in democracy. For him, it was all about money. Things have not changed today. Latheef revels in the money that he gets from his paymaster – in Ahmed Shafeeq's (Sappe's) words, from “Bappa”. As it turned out “Bappa” has confessed to financially supporting his little puppets based overseas. Sappe' had even received direct instructions from “Bappa” not to pick on the beloved Illiyasbey and his dodgy dealings. The smear campaign may continue against everyone else including President Gayyoom and Madam Nasreena. Latheef never had any issues concerning democracy. He simply has a case of congenital greed for power.


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