In every country, there is that inspirational & motivational figure which if you spend some time with, would leave you feeling struck by a treasure of motivation. For the Maldives island paradise, that figure is Muad Mohamad Zaki from the ‘Nazaki Family’. This unique individual is abundant with political experience, yet he decided to stay out of the political limelight for what he explains to be as ‘not that interesting’ as he would like it to be. Today, he enjoys his time as a motivational speaker, business consultant & lobbyist for various international entities.
Muad Mohamad Zaki was one of the first senior members of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to ever work with the British Members of Parliament and the European Union in helping to build a credible Maldivian opposition, while its leader, Mohamed Nasheed, was in exile in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Muad was part of the infamous independent political news magazine (Sandhaanu) that leaked widespread government corruption information during the dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom when his father Dato’ Mohamad Zaki and other prominent figures were arrested and sentenced to life in prison for their parts in the news magazine. The Maldives government, on false pretenses, coordinated with various other governments to go after Sandhaanu news media members residing in various Asian countries. This is when Muad decided to move to England where his sister lived to avoid being arrested himself. While in England, he played an active and critical role in what was to become a turning point for European and British support for the Maldivian opposition that would, in the next few years, go on to win the Presidential Elections.
Before the Sandhaanu news members rose to prominence in Western nations, opposition political activists like Mohamed Nasheed and others had unsuccessfully tried for many years to bring change to the Maldives. What was missing in their opposition struggle was any concrete support from influential powers like the British government and the European Union. The United States, UK and Europe did not see any political, military or economic importance to the Maldives at the time. This is where the work done by Muad had a significant impact. He became the first lobbyist for the Maldives opposition where his approach to foreign political figures were from an international political standpoint. He understood the importance of building relationships as a long-term strategy, finding common interests and knowing how to push a small tiny nation like the Maldives to top discussions in foreign relation meetings. He understood the bigger political, military and economic picture of globalization. He understood that at any given time, the world is running on a complex web of various political events, domestically and internationally, that inter-relate to one another in different ways. Within all this, there are different strategic interests for big nations, and a small country like Maldives will never be on their priority list unless they were lobbied so that they may understand things in an international perspective; just as Muad had set out to do. His lobbying was mainly for the release of his father and other news media journalists. As he gained more and more support to pressure the Maldives government, he decided it was the right time to use his lobbying experience and contacts to support his relative Nasheed and three other Maldivian Democratic Party members. They would eventually move to England after a few years and use the contacts & relationships Muad had established for MDP.
For those who do not know the historical political events in Maldives from the years 2000 to 2010, it is important to remember that the Maldives military dictatorship at the time ran the country for 30 years; very similar to the military state of North Korea. There was absolutely no room for criticism or even joking about the Government. It was a handful of businessmen, journalists and political individuals that had the courage to carry out different opposition roles in this openly hostile political atmosphere. The majority of the country’s people, including the government, were convinced that no journalist or political activist like those of Sandhaanu will ever succeed. It was a constant uphill battle.
In August 2004, Muad visited his father who was acquiring treatment at a local hospital after having suffered over 6 months of solitary confinement while the balance of the year was spent on his interrogation and torture with other Sandhaanu prisoners. During this time, a small group of MDP supporters, including Muad, began the first ever public protest in the capital Male’ to demand the release of Sandhaanu political prisoners. This protest grew by the hour and continued to the next day. This day became known as Black Friday. On Friday the 13th August 2004, on the orders of the President, the Maldives National Security Service and the military violently moved in and cracked down on the protesters. The protesters tried their best to defend themselves, however, thousands (including Muad) were arrested and beaten. Human Rights NGOs had particularly emphasized how over seven military officers were violently beating Muad with wooden batons out in the open, which left him bleeding due to his injuries. He spent two weeks in a military camp with other opposition activists before being released just ahead of the European Union that was arriving as a fact-finding group.
Europe had threatened the Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom of economic sanctions if their violent crackdown continued. This fear of economic sanctions gave the Maldives opposition more leverage to seek an understanding with the President to allow free and transparent elections where both parties respect the end result. With few years of heated negotiations, the first ever multi-party elections were held in the Maldives. Muad’s relative, Mohamed Nasheed, stood for the opposition coalition’s 2008 Presidential candidate and was victorious. He became the first ever democratically elected President of Maldives.
After achieving what he had intended for the Maldives, and with the release of his father, he did not see any reason to be further involved in Maldivian politics. He was already an activist taking part in many civil rights and social movements in the UK while undertaking his studies there in International Relations & Security. Hence, after the Maldives Presidential elections, he began lobbying to help other causes including assisting refugees from Myanmar & Syria. Being a strong human rights advocate, he is also a strong supporter of International Law & Freedom of Information movement.
Business & Family Before Politics
One would think that with all the political work Muad has occupied himself with, he would not have time for business or anything else for that matter. In fact, the opposite is true. Muad always speaks of himself as being, first and foremost, a devout family man who brings traditional family values; then comes business and politics. He comes from a pious aristocrat family called the ‘Nazaki Family’, where his father and grandfather held very influential social statuses in the Maldives community. His father, Mohamed Zaki, is the first person to start international trade between Malaysia and Maldives, not to mention the first to ever bring the Cinema and other businesses to the Maldives. To the generation that knows him, Mohamed Zaki is rightfully known as the first entrepreneur of the Maldives. The local household name, Nazaki, is derived from the names of Nazima and Zaki, who are Muad’s mother and father’s name, respectively. All the businesses that Muad’s father had started in the Maldives was through his experience and knowledge gained through extensive traveling around the world in the 1970s and the1980s. As he opened one business after another, he kept his children close to him to teach them about his different businesses, allowing them to learn the many lessons that he had learnt. In 2016, the family business went into the Maldives hotel industry with their own beach front hotel in the south of Maldives called Nazaki Residences.
Muad has, in many ways, followed his father’s footsteps in regard to politics and business. But he is not your ordinary politician or businessman. Those who met him always speak of how he loves to motivate the youth to think bigger and to never accept the status quo on anything in life. Many youths, and even older individuals, love sitting down with him to learn business & politics because of his realistic approach in dealing with issues and people. He is a man with a unique understanding of how the world works, how people work and how everything relates to one another. And he shares all this knowledge with others to motivate them to see life in a better and more positive perspective. So, if you’re looking for some life boosting lessons while in the Maldives, be sure to look him up. One thing is certain, with Maldives being a small community of under 400,000 people, it’s not hard to find someone’s contact if you ask around.