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Maldives drifts from political chaos to anarchy

Last updated on: February 9, 2012 16:41 IST

Maldives drifts from political chaos to anarchy

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Rediff News Desk

In a major blow to former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, a criminal court has issued a warrant for his arrest. A warrant was also issued a warrant for former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim.

Nasheed was forced to step down after three weeks of opposition protests, which erupted following the military detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed at the training island of Girifushi -- the same island used to hold Nasheed's underwater cabinet meeting.

Nasheed's government had accused the chief judge of political bias, among other allegations going back to 2005 under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's administration. However, opposition parties, the country's supreme court and the judicial services commission said the detention of Mohamed was unlawful and called for his release.

Subsequent protests culminated in a mutiny by the police. The office of Nasheed's party was set on fire and control of state broadcaster was seized, following which Nasheed stepped down.

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Image: Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

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Judge Mohamed was released from military detention following the swearing-in of then Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Giving his first response on the circumstances behind his exit, Nasheed wrote in a New York Times editorial piece on Thursday: 'My country, the Maldives, voted out President Gayoom, its iron-fisted ruler, back in 2008, in historic elections that swept away three decades of his authoritarian rule. And yet the dictatorship bequeathed to the infant democracy a looted treasury, a ballooning budget deficit and a rotten judiciary.'

'I was elected that year, and with the help of the International Monetary Fund, my government worked to cut the deficit, while also building a modern tax base. For the first time in its history, the Maldives -- a group of islands in the Indian Ocean -- had a democratically elected president, parliament and local councils.'

'But it also had a judiciary handpicked by the former president, which was now hiding behind a democratic constitution. These powerful judges provided protection for the former president, his family members and political allies, many of whom are accused of corruption, embezzlement and human rights crimes.'

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Image: An army officer kicks a tear gas cannister during a clash with the supporters of ousted Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed in Male
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

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'At the same time, new laws guaranteeing freedom of speech were abused by a new force in Maldivian politics: Islamic extremists. The former president's cabinet members threw anti-Semitic and anti-Christian slurs at my government, branding as apostates anyone who tried to defend the country's liberal Islamic traditions and claiming that democracy granted them and their allies license to call for violent jihad and indulge in hate speech.'

 

'In response to these issues, my government asked the United Nations to help us investigate judicial abuses and ordered the arrest of Abdulla Mohamed, the chief judge of the criminal court, on charges of protecting the former president and corrupting the judicial system.'

 

'However, in a dramatic turn of events on Tuesday, the former president's supporters protested in the streets, and police officers and army personnel loyal to the old government mutinied and forced me, at gunpoint, to resign. To avoid bloodshed, I did so. I believe this to be a coup d'etat and suspect that my vice president, who has since been sworn into office, helped to plan it.'

 

Nasheed's wife Laila and his two daughters are in Sri Lanka.

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Image: A supporter of ousted Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed argues with the riot police during a clash in Male
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

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On Thursday, even as security forces were reported to be (till the filing of this report) on their way to Nasheed's home at Keneryge to arrest him, his supporters are still unaware of the charges against their leader.

 

A day earlier, Nasheed and supporters of his Maldivian Democratic Party took to the streets to oppose what they claimed was an illegitimate government established in a bloodless military coup.

 

Talking to media persons during the rally, Nasheed said: "I was forced to resign at gunpoint. There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn't hesitate to use them if I didn't resign."

 

Nasheed rallied MDP supporters, declaring that his resignation had been under duress and called for the freshly-appointed Dr Hassan to step down and call for elections.

 

Nasheed's supporters then clashed with police and military forces near Republic Square, and were repeatedly tear gassed by the police.

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Image: Ousted Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed is carried by his supporters during the Maldivian Democratic Party's meeting in Male
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

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According to minivannews.com, a local news agency, Nasheed was reported to be among the injured, receiving head injuries. He was briefly taken under police custody before being released back into the crowd.

MDP's former Chairperson Maria Ahmed Didi was also seen "dragged away by her hair" while MDP's Chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik is in critical condition at ADK Hospital. Didi and two other MDP MPs were released from prison post midnight on Thursday.

On Thursday, Maldives police commissioner Abdullah Riyaz said 18 police stations on several islands, along with an undetermined number of court houses and police vehicles, were destroyed in the violence.

Meanwhile, President Dr Waheed has assured that rule of law will be maintained in the Maldives.

In a statement, Dr Waheed gave assurance to the public that no unlawful order would be issued to the police, the Maldives national defence forces, or to any individual.

"The nation witnessed difficult times in the recent past, but today the Maldivian people have made a momentous decision. Following that decision, at any cost, the rule of law must be upheld," the president said.

He said differences among political parties and the public must be set aside for the sake of national unity. He urged everyone to join hands for the public interest.

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Image: Newly sworn-in President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan addresses the nation


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