President of Maldives, Climate Crusader, Ousted in Coup

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Common Dreams

President of Maldives, Climate Crusader, Ousted in Coup

by
Common Dreams staff

Soldiers, left, clash with police officers during protests in the capital, Male. (AP)

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, the first democratically elected president of the Indian Ocean archipelago nation, was forced to resign yesterday in a coup carried about by military and police forces loyal to the former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who served for 30 years and whom Mr Nasheed beat in a 2008 election.

UPDATES: (12:40 PM EST): Ex-President, MPs injured in Maldives clashes; Supporters take to the streets

The Maldives' ex-president Mohammed Nasheed was injured Wednesday and briefly hospitalised after he was beaten by police during a rally of his supporters in the capital, his cousin told AFP.

Mohamed Nasheed, who says he was forced from power on Tuesday in a bloodless coup, was injured along with several other members of his Maldivian Democratic Party, his cousin and fellow party member Eva Abdulla said.

“He was beaten,” she said. “He's safe now and back home.”

Reeko Moosa Manik, the chair of the MDP, was also admitted to hospital with head and back injuries after being beaten by police, a family member told AFP.

And former MDP chairperson Mariya Didi was also beaten, local media and Abdulla said.

Military spokesman Ibrahim Azim confirmed Nasheed had “received some small injuries because the crowds were huge and he has been taken to hospital”.

Several thousand supporters chanting pro-Nasheed slogans clashed with police and troops in riot gear in central Male in the afternoon.

Stones were thrown by protesters at the police, who responded with multiple rounds of tear gas and were later seen by an AFP correspondent beating people with their batons.

“We strongly condemn the violent attack,” the MDP said in a statement, calling on the international community to “assist us” in securing the release of those detained.

“We're not going to stop,” said Mohamed Abdulla, an MDP supporter. “We'll just regroup and protest elsewhere.”

“These people have seized our power!” another protester shouted.

According to Reuters this morning: "Police tried to break up the protests with tear gas and baton charges."

Agencies report Reeko Moosa Manik, a lawmaker and chairman of the Maldivian Democratic Party, was beaten unconscious by police and hospitalised, according to his son Mudrikath Moosa.

UPDATE: (10:15 AM EST) Nasheed supporters take to the streets to protest coup

Al-Jazeera reports:

Thousands of supporters of Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives who says he was forced to resign, have taken to the streets to protest over what they are calling a coup.

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao, reporting from the capital island of Male on Wednesday, said that up to 3,000 people were protesting in support of Nasheed and calling for his return to power.

Chao said police had fired tear gas and clashed with protesters as they attempted to push the crowds backwards.

The Indian Ocean island nation's first democratically elected leader, stepped down on Tuesday in the wake of a police mutiny and clashes on the streets after weeks of anti-government protests.

Earlier, Nasheed told our correspondent that he had been forced to resign to prevent bloodshed.

"This is definitely a coup. By any definition anywhere, this was a coup. This was a bloodless coup because I did not take part in it. I did not want to defend [my position]; that is why there was no blood,” Nasheed, speaking at his family home, thought to belong to his father, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

Asked why he had resigned, Nasheed said: "Because I didn't want them to go shooting our people. They were threatening me and they were threatening the people. I didn’t want that.“

But Nasheed said he believed he still had the backing of the Maldivian people and hinted he would seek office in new elections, currently scheduled for next year.

"We are certain that the people of this country are with us," he said.

Earlier:

President Mohamed Nasheed had appeared on ‘Television Maldives’ (TVM), and issued a brief statement on Tuesday:

“I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power. I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use force which would harm many citizens. I resign because I believe that if the government continues to stay in power, it is very likely that we may face foreign influences.

“I have always wished the citizens of this country well, now and into the future. I have made this decision and I wish for your prosperity in this life and the life after.”

The Independent reports this morning:

President Mohamed Nasheed, the man who earned a broad international profile for helping secure democracy in the Maldives and highlighting the threat to his country from climate change, has been forced to step down after weeks of opposition protests culminated in a mutiny by police. Supporters of the President said he was the victim of what amounted to a coup.

The former political prisoner who some nicknamed the "Mandela of the Maldives" announced his resignation during a live television broadcast yesterday, saying he would rather stand down than use force against his own citizens. Foreign tourists who flock to the nation's luxury resorts were not believed to be in any danger. [...]

Internationally, Mr Nasheed became an energetic environmental crusader, founding the Climate Vulnerable Forum to co-ordinate environmental policy among a group of about 30 countries most affected by climate change.

He held a cabinet meeting underwater in scuba gear to dramatise the threat of rising oceans to his low-lying archipelago nation, 80 per cent of which is no more than a metre above sea level, and said he might need to relocate his entire population if nothing was done. He also announced plans to make his nation carbon-neutral, using wind and solar projects.

Reuters adds:

Protests last year over the faltering economy and scrambling ahead of this year's presidential election, have seen parties adopting hardline Islamist rhetoric and accusing Nasheed of being anti-Islamic.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party said in a statement that "rogue elements" in the police force along with supporters of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had overthrown the government and forced Nasheed to quit.

The MDP called for help from abroad to re-establish democracy and protect Nasheed and senior members of his government. A presidential aide told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Nasheed had been allowed to return to his home in Male and was no longer under military guard.

Maryam Omidi, a freelance journalist and editor of Maldives-based website Minivan News, writes today in The Guardian:

Yesterday's turn of events were a far cry from Nasheed's stunning 2008 electoral victory in the Maldives, a string of 1,200 coral islands sprinkled across the Indian Ocean. The foreign media described the triumph as a tale of good versus evil: human rights activist, jailed and tortured countless times, ousts ageing dictator against all odds. The young president's defence of free speech and climate change advocacy won him many accolades across the globe. However, within the Maldives, opinion remained sharply divided along political lines.

Nasheed's time in office was marred by a bitter tug-of-war with his predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whose brand of soft dictatorship had prevailed for three decades. Following the 2008 election, the pair struck a deal: if Gayoom retired from politics, Nasheed would not pursue the many accusations of torture levelled against him. Gayoom's failure to keep his side of the bargain meant political fault lines in the Maldives have endured, with his supporters waiting for his return to the political stage.

The crisis came to a head, when hundreds of anti-government protesters, including rebel police officers and members of the military, took to the streets of the capital, Male, calling for Nasheed's resignation. It was the culmination of more than three weeks of daily demonstrations, following the arrest of a senior criminal court judge. A statement from Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic party said his resignation was "involuntary" and that the opposition had presented him with an ultimatum: "Step down or be faced with a bloodbath in the capital." The decision, said his brother Ibrahim, was a no-brainer.

Minivan quoted a spokesperson for Nasheed:

“Gayoom controls the judiciary, now the executive, the media, and in couple of weeks probably the parliament. One thing he cannot control is popular support for President Nasheed, so he needs to find a way to jail or discredit him ahead of the 2013 election,” the spokesperson said.

Several individuals connected with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were seriously injured during the unrest, while two sources told Minivan News that a party activist was killed today after a metal pole rammed upwards through his jaw. Minivan News is seeking confirmation.

At 3:00pm Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan was sworn in as President. As per the constitution, Dr Waheed must now appoint a vice president to be approved by the Parliament. He may also reform the Cabinet.

Following his appointment Dr Waheed addressed the nation on TVM, and said he was grateful to the police and MNDF who had made “great sacrifices” to defend constitution.

“Today is the day the rule of law has been established in the country perfectly,” Dr Waheed said.

“I will not order the police, military or any person to do anything against the law – I promise it to the public. Everyone will have the protection of constitution and laws.”

And Minivan provided this timeline of the events on Tuesday:

10:40 – Minivan News has observed that a large group of MNDF officers have joined opposition demonstrators in Republic Square. The President was reported to be still in Male and under military protection. The opposition is claiming he has been arrested, but the government has disputed this.

10:45 – Many shops and businesses, including the Bank of Maldives, have temporarily closed branches in Male’.

11:01 – A government source confirmed that they were aware that a number of MNDF personnel had joined the demonstrators. Minivan News observed 60-70 uniformed officers.

11:12 – Opposition protesters and rogue police have taken over the Maldives National Broadcasting Commission (MNBC) and are streaming VTV over the station. The occupiers have reportedly renamed it TVM.

11:22 – The headquarters of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has been set on fire.

11:36 – The MNDF personnel who joined the protesters were reportedly given the opportunity to leave if they wished, but were forbidden from taking weapons.

11:41 – The opposition aligned protesters have been issuing President Mohamed Nasheed ultimatums to resign – Minivan News was told 11:30am and 2:30pm by different sources.

11:47 – Government spokesperson confirms country is undergoing attempted coup, after state broadcaster hijacked.

12:13 – President’s office denies widespread reports that Nasheed has resigned. There is a press conference scheduled imminently at the President’s office.

12:32 – Minivan News observed no situation at the airport, contrary to earlier rumours circulating around Male.

12:54 – President’s Press conference is yet to start.

12:56 – MNBC is now showing as TVM, the name of the state broadcaster under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

12:58 – Press conference has started.

1:19 – President Nasheed announces resignation, stating that his remaining in power would require the use of force against his own population, and he was not willing to do this “foreign influences”. Minivan News is currently clarifying his statements in English.

2:55 – Another press conference has been announced and is expected to start shortly.

3:00 – Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan is due to be sworn in as the 5th President of the Maldives, according to the rebranded Television Maldives (TVM).

4:38 – Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan is addressing the nation on TVM, praising efforts “police sacrifices” to protect the constitution and law.

5:00 – Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, has been reported released.

6:31 – The mood in Male’ remains tense. Maldivian Democratic Party supporters have been thin on the ground today.

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