The integrity of democracy requires decisive action to prevent voter fraud. When Maldivian police received reports of possible election tampering, they rushed to the scene and took the suspect into custody.
The suspect was described as “young.” By all accounts, the suspect was nutty. That’s not an indictment against the suspect’s mental condition; it’s an accurate description of the suspect. The alleged vote rigger who was arrested was a coconut.
Located about 750 kilometers (470 miles) southwest of India, the Maldives consists of 26 atolls stretched across 90,000 km2 (35,000 mi2) of ocean. Many in the rural areas of the atolls retain a strong belief in magic.
The dramatic arrest took place on September 3, 2013, on Guraidhoo Island, located 209 kilometers (130 miles) from the capital, Male. Police were called in when a suspicious coconut showed up near a public polling place at a local school. When the school was selected as a polling place, school officials and members of the public resisted the choice. They cited prior situations where practitioners of black magic had caused problems. The national election commission sought to allay these concerns by promising it would accept responsibility “if anyone falls under a spell or comes down ill”.
These fears seemed justified when the suspicious coconut brought a halt to the peaceful voting. It was covered in Arabic verses and “suspicious symbols.” Police took the coconut into custody out of concern that it was cursed and would influence voters or harm political opponents. Although it was unclear with which political party the coconut might have been affiliated, authorities acted decisively to ensure the integrity of the election process.
The coconut was eventually released with no charges filed against it after a practitioner of white magic examined the suspicious fruit and determined it was harmless. This assessment no doubt was of little comfort to the 150 people per year who are killed by falling coconuts.
“It seems like it was a joke, just a prank so that people will become aware, learn the moral, and not do it again,” a police source told a local news outlet. “Now the police and school officials are more aware and police are patrolling the school at night, so magicians can’t practice real black magic at the school.”
This was not the first or last time the Maldives has dealt with accusations of coconut-influenced election tampering. The Maldivian news site Minivan News reported an earlier incident where Easa, a black magic practitioner from Fuvahmulah allegedly cast spells on five yellow young coconuts to influence the election. He gave the cursed coconuts to a man named Moosa to place near voting stations. Moosa, however, left the coconuts on his bed, where they were discovered by his wife.
Mrs. Moosa, unaware of the nefarious plots of her husband, was shocked to find her bed filled with fruit and called the police. Authorities took the coconuts into custody. Later, when Moosa attempted to reclaim the items, police officers refused to hand them over.
Easa’s efforts proved to be counterproductive. Evidently, he was attempting to help presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen, but instead of writing, “Get benefits from Yameen” on the coconuts, he made a typographical error and wrote, “Get rid of Yameen.”
That’s just plain sloppy. In the future, he should probably restrict himself to handing out campaign literature.
Easa’s political posturing dates back to the 2008 presidential election. According to a member of the island council, “Every day after dawn prayer he went to the beach and did black magic stuff. He also went near the polling station and threw cursed objects at people, [ut] Easa’s spells did not work the last time.”
The Maldives is not the only country where politicians and fruit have had a bad relationship. It was Zimbabwe’s first president, Canaan Banana, who made it illegal to make jokes about his name. Nor is the Maldives the only place that has had to worry about election fraud. The 1927 Liberian presidential election still holds the record for being the most fraudulent, with nearly 20 times more votes cast than there were registered voters. It may, however, be a place for a political future for the guy who paid a wizard to make him invisible so he could rob a bank.