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Remember, remember, the 11th of November

Shaina Abdulla
01 November 2018, MVT 12:32
A quick look at the significance of presidential inaugurations on the 11th of November, the Republic Day of Maldives - a tradition long maintained since the Maldives first became a Republic. VIDEO: HAWWA AMANY ABDULLA / THE EDITION
Shaina Abdulla
01 November 2018, MVT 12:32

The 11th of November, a date engraved in the history of Maldives since the year 1968.

Across timelines, 11.11 has not only marked the celebration of the Republic Day, the symbolic end to an 853-year-old monarchy, but has also welcomed every elected president of the Maldives.

Since becoming a republic in 1968, the Maldives has had a long history of having held presidential inaugurations on the 11th of November, until November 11, 2013. From the first elected president, Ibrahim Nasir, to Asia’s longest-serving president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and former president Mohamed Nasheed, 11.11 has been a colourful celebration on calendars across the archipelago.

However, the first rift in the long-held tradition was the presidential inauguration of incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on November 17, 2013. Due to multiple delays during the 2013 presidential election, President Yameen was unable to take his oath of office on the 11th of November.

Looking back at certain controversial decisions that were made during President Yameen’s 5-year presidency term, perhaps it is fair to ponder over whether the incumbent president had a bad start by causing a change in the Republic Day history of the country.

National flag of the Maldives at Republic Square. FILE PHOTO/MIHAARU

While the Constitution does not dictate a date for the presidential inauguration, Article 301 (b) states that the first president elected under the 2008 Constitution shall take and subscribe the oath of and assume office on 11 November 2008.

The question as of now is whether President Yameen will step down and put tradition back on track with President-Elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s presidential inauguration on November 11.

Although there are no legal barriers to hold the inauguration on November 11, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) maintains the argument that President Yameen has the right to complete his five-year term until November 17.

However, the delays in the 2013 presidential election were responsible for causing the postponement of the presidential inauguration. This resulted in former president Mohamed Waheed Hassan having held his post in office for an additional period of six days, a clearly unconstitutional extension period, granted at the end of his official presidency term.

Amidst heated debate over the date of the presidential inauguration, Solih had stated that he did not wish to take his oath of office on November 11, out of consideration for national interests.

President Abdulla Yameen (L) and President-Elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. PHOTO/MIHAARU

Shortly after, the parliament had unanimously passed to set the date of presidential inauguration as November 17.

As we celebrate the golden jubilee of the Maldivian Republic, the symbolism of holding presidential inaugurations on November 11, which serves as a reminder of the ongoing republic era, continues to remain strong in the hearts of Maldivians.

Since the year 1968 and the beginning of a second republic, it has been a long-lived culture in the Maldives for all presidents to take the oath of office on the occasion.

Incorporated within the Maldives legal system is customary law, a law that refers to any traditional common practice that has become an intrinsic part of the accepted and expected conduct in the community and is thus treated as a legal requirement.

In hopes to find remedies for perceived damage which the Constitution cannot be held accountable for, Maldivians have resorted to coffee tables and social media to uphold the tradition and defend the culture.

Translation of tweet: "The fact that something goes wrong is not reason enough to withhold from making it right. November 11 is the date Maldives became a republic on. The republic government has always begun on November 11. 7 February 2012 has put the republic government into disarray. Though it may upset some people..."

Some offer that, in order to balance the equation, President Yameen must right his wrongs and put history back in pace.

Regardless, it is evident that the wish to preserve the significance of 11.11 is about a fight for Maldivian tradition and, in consideration of all that has been lost in time, perhaps this one last historical timeline in the grand story of our nation can be deemed worthy of preservation.

“For if we forget the true reason of Republic Day, we are taking for granted the freedom from monarchy we achieved.” - Ibrahim Shihab, Republic Day 1987

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