Mitchell Reports | March 30, 2012
>>> the tiny island country of maldives is both remote and beautiful. but for a country of just over 300,000 people, it is on the frontlines when it comes to climate change . rising sea levels could wipe out this chain of low lying islands in the indian ocean in a matter of years. even as the country faces huge political and security problems, details in a new documentary, the island president.
>> he survived 30 years of brutal dictatorship, 18 months in solitary confinement and he is in exile. against all odds, he returned to his country. and was elected president. but in a country that is barely above sea level .
>> on this corner, we've seen almost five meters of beachfront lost.
>> he faces a challenge that could destroy his nation.
>> and mohamed nasheed was forced to quit the presidency under pressure last month he says at gunpoint. despite continuing threats he is continue the fight to save his nation from being wiped out as the oceans rise. the former president of maldives mohamed nash she had. it is such a pleasure to meet you. first of all, your crusade for climate change , you began this years ago. you began it in exile and took it to the united nations and to copenhagen in 2009 . how severe is the threat to the country?
>> thank you very much. climate change is a very real issue to the maldives . it's not something in the future. we already have 16 islands where we have to relocate people. we have a number of islands where water contamination is a serious issue. the maldives is just 1.5 meters above the sea level . so any imbalance in nature, any imbalance or even a slight rise in the levels of the ocean can have a very serious challenge to the existence of the maldives .
>> now, you've been forced out of office and you're in exile. you had previously been in exile. you had been in prison. you had been tortured, you went back and won the presidency. the human drama of what you're going through, what lies ahead for you in terms of the threats against you as you continue this effort? can you ever return to your country?
>> well, yes, in 2008 , after 30 years of dictatorship, we had our first multiparty elections. during which time i was fortunate to have been elected. and the dictatorship was beaten through the vote. but now again, 3 1/2 years later, they have come back through a coup and the military and the police forced me to resign. the former dictator back in the maldives . what we are saying is that the maldives need to be back on tack and we have to have elections there as quickly as possible. it's not that i have lost the presidency. that is not the issue. the issue is restoration of democracy in the maldives and for that to happen, we have to have elections as quickly as possible.
>> i know you're going to be meeting with the deputy secretary of state this afternoon i believe. and what are you asking for? what would you like the united states to do?
>> we would like united states to impress upon the regime in the maldives the need for early elections. i understand that the united states have some concerns whether we have the capacity to have elections now. yes, we had free and fair elections in 2008 . we had parliamentary elections in 2009 . we had local government elections intoelection s in in 2011 . there is an independent elections commission appointed by the parliament and we can have elections even right now. we would be asking the state department to see how they may be able to impress upon the regime in the maldives to have elections as quickly as possible.
>> you galvanized the world with your speech at the united nations leading up to copenhagen to the climate conference and then tried to broker agreements with brazil, with india, with china to try to break through all of the impediments to an agreement on climate change . here i wanted to just play a bit of your speech inform 2009 to the united nations .
>> we did not do any of these things. but if things go business as usual , we will not live, we will die. and our country will not exist.
>> how can you get the attention of the world? how can the world save your country?
>> well, i think it is very, very important that we have a legally binding agreement among nations on how much carbon people would be emitting. but we feel is that carbon contained in the atmosphere has to be not more than 350 parts per million . it must be the earth cannot heat over 1.5 degrees from the industrial revolution . and for that to happen, countries have to come around and sit down and agree on how much they be emitting carbon. so in 2009 in copenhagen , 25 countries agreed upon these measures. and in my mind what now remains to be done is to get the details sorted. i hope that in 2015 , which is what everyone is now aiming at, that there will be a legally binding agreement among nations. i also do feel that the u.n. process which is asking countries to limit carbon would also think about asking countries to invest a certain amount of money. renewable energies as much as asking people to cap carbon. they would ask countries to also invest in renewable energy .
>> renewable energy ? part of your effort also is, of course, to get the world's attention. the island president, the document trilt is clearly going to do that. it is getting a lot of attention. you were on david letterman the other day. let's watch a little bit of that interview.
>> as i was watching the film, i thought to myself, maybe folks shouldn't have built homes on these islands. but when you tell me that the population has been there 5,000 years, well it clearly wasn't a bad idea to build there.
>> no, it's actually best for birds.
>> better for birds.
>> it may be good for birds and it's certainly beautiful for tourists we're told. it's an island paradise in many ways.
>> it's a very delicate country. it's very fragile. it's in the middle of the indian ocean . we're not only just talking about the maldives . more than a quarter of the world's population are living in coastal areas and what happens to the maldives today is definitely going to happen the same to everyone else.
>> eventually it will be the maldives today, manhattan tomorrow. i mean, to get attention, you once held a cabinet meeting underwater i understand?
>> well, the idea, you know, our means are very, very modest and we do not have all the funding to go into big advertising campaigns. what we wanted to do was to impress upon the international community the need to have -- take action as quickly as possible. to do that, we felt that our cabinet going underwater would bring the message home to a number of people.
>> it certainly did. we just showed the pictures. it was pretty striking. how con sender are you about your personal security ?
>> i'm very concerned about my security. it's only seven weeks ago they tried to murder me and they tried to mob me. and even since then, i've been beaten up twice on the streets of mali, the capital of maldives and i'm always hearing there are people trying to get at me because the regime in the maldives fears me and if there were elections in the maldives , they do understand that it would be difficult for them to win it if the maldive democrat party and if i am around.
>> what about your wife and children?
>> they are also scared but they are right now in the maldives and they've been away for a very long time once in sri lanka and in india. i hope they would be safe in the maldives . why they are safe is because we have so much support in the country and people are in a sense protecting them. there is also international concern on what might happen to me and my family. so we have some sort of protection in that regard.
>> well, we wish you safe travels and good luck with your efforts. and we will, of course, be following this for quite some time. thank you for being with us.