Wednesday, Nov 12, 2003
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By V.S. Sambandan
Mr. Gayoom, Asia's longest serving head of state, was sworn in for a five-year term by the Chief Justice, Mohammed Rasheed Ibrahim, in Male today.
In his inaugural address, Mr. Gayoom promised the setting up of a National Commission on Human Rights to "safeguard the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution'' and "increase the accountability'' of Ministers and Government officials''. Promising greater "openness and transparency'', he said he would "establish mechanisms to undertake research and analyses in relation to trends in the global economy and various developments within the nation''.
Though Mr. Gayoom is credited with transforming the atoll-nation, comprising 1,192 coral islands, from an economy dependent on fishing to the region's most expensive tourist destination, there has been concern over human rights under his rule.
Political opponents complain of torture, repression and incarceration and have refused to accept his Presidency.
A political formation, the Maldivian Democratic Party, put together by dissenters, has charged that Mr. Gayoom was "elected by a parliament which had been formed through a process of intimidation and manipulation of the ballot'' and that the referendum was "blatantly rigged''.
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