(eTN) – President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives has welcomed Hosni Mubarak’s decision to resign from office. The President’s remarks come as Mubarak finally succumbed to relentless pressure from pro-democracy campaigners, who have camped out in central Cairo and other Egyptian towns for nearly three weeks, calling for an end to Mubarak’s 30-year rule. President Nasheed said he was “delighted” to see an end to Mubarak’s autocratic regime, which stands accused of widespread corruption and gross human rights abuses, including the frequent use of torture.
The President heralded the “wave of democratic change sweeping across the Arab world,” which, he hoped, would serve as a wake-up call to governments that abuse their citizens’ fundamental human rights. The President reiterated his call on western powers “not to fear, but to support, the forces of democracy in Muslim countries.”
“The right not to be tortured, the freedom to speak your mind, the ability to choose your own government… these liberties are not the preserve of western nations, but universal values to which everyone aspires,” the President said. The President called for “swift democratic reforms” in Egypt, including the lifting of the State of Emergency and granting of fundamental political freedoms, culminating in free and fair, multi-party elections. President Nasheed said it was imperative for the international community to support Egypt in its transition from autocracy to democracy. He noted that the development of strong political parties, a free press, and a vibrant civil society is central to building a successful and stable democracy.
Late last month, President Nasheed telephoned Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei to pledge the Maldives’ support to the Egyptian pro-democracy movement. “Maldivians have always loved freedom, and thus Maldivians will always support those who are peacefully advocating for political freedom in Egypt,” the President told Mr. ElBaradei. Mr ElBaradei thanked President Nasheed for his call and said Egyptians would take note of lessons learned from the Maldivian democracy struggle.
The Maldives President speaks from personal experience having fought long and hard to shake off the oppressive rule of his predecessor Maumoon Gayoom. Like Mubarak, Gayoom, dominated his country’s politics for thirty years and was ruthless in crushing all forms of dissent. While in opposition, Mohamed Nasheed, along with fellow activists, was jailed and tortured for daring to campaign for political reform. Having won his battle, the Maldives President is also aware that that this is not the end of the journey but only the beginning. As in the Maldives, any new government in Egypt will find it difficult to match the high expectations of people relishing their first taste of political freedom.