Did Climate Change Activism Lead to Coup of Island President?

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Common Dreams

Did Climate Change Activism Lead to Coup of Island President?

Maldives ousted president appeals for global help to bring early elections

by
Common Dreams staff

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted by gunpoint in February, is in Delhi to lobby policymakers. (Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the Maldives who was ousted in a military coup in February, today suggested that his ouster was carried out by forces acting as a 'facade' for the former dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and that recognition of the new government by certain powers in the international community indicates that his outspoken activism on the issue of 'climate change' has been a significant factor.

"If you do a map of who supported [us] and who did not, it maps the climate change issue. The Europeans are far, far better than bigger emitting countries and the USA," Nasheed told the Guardian on a visit to India. He continued, saying he hoped for "robust" pressure from regional and world powers to "restore democracy" in the Maldives as soon as possible.  To his dismay, both the United States and India recognized the coup government shortly after Nasheed's ouster and both now oppose the early elections that Nasheed has called for.

In 2008, Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. A longtime pro-democracy and human rights activist, during his time in office he spearheaded the Maldivian transition to democracy and became one of the most vocal heads of state on the issue of climate change. A new documentary, The Island President, has just been released which champions Nasheed's climate activism.

“The Maldives has been the most outspoken and engaged nation on earth about the climate crisis, mostly because of President Nasheed,” Bill McKibben, longtime environmental activist and founder of 350.org, tells MediaGlobal. “Until the coup, the Maldives was on track to become the planet’s first carbon-neutral nation. They were building windmills and so on—and in the process shaming the much richer countries doing far less.”

But now, it seems democracy is on hold in the Maldives, and much of that work along with it.

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The Guardian: Maldives ousted president appeals for global help to bring early elections

Nasheed, a respected climate change campaigner who was forced out of power in February, said on Wednesday that he hoped for "robust" pressure from regional and world powers to "restore democracy" in the Maldives as soon as possible.

"If you do a map of who supported [us] and who did not, it maps the climate change issue." - Ousted President Nasheed

The 44-year-old politician, who became president in 2008 after the Maldives's first multiparty election for 30 years, described his disappointment at the reactions of the US and India to his overthrow by elements of the police and military. Both Washington and Delhi recognised the new administration of President Mohammed Waheed and called for a government of unity instead of early polls. Both have opposed stricter measures on climate change, Nasheed said.

"If you do a map of who supported [us] and who did not, it maps the climate change issue. The Europeans are far, far better than bigger emitting countries and the USA," he told the Guardian on a visit to India.

The former journalist, who was imprisoned and tortured under the repressive rule of former dictator Mamoon Abdul Gayoom, is in Delhi to lobby policymakers. Recently in Washington, he also hopes to visit the UK next month.

"The government in the Maldives must be formed through the consent of the people … through democracy," he said. "We would like to see Britain to engage more robustly with the regime … and do some straight talking. We don't want [all the progress made towards democracy] to go down the drain after this coup."

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The Indian Express: Maldives: Nasheed demands early polls, claims Gayoom hand in coup

Ousted Maldivian President Mohammad Nasheed today made a strong case for early elections and accused the present leadership in the archipelago of being a "facade" for former ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Pitching himself as a true democrat, Nasheed also claimed that he had rejected offers of a "counter-coup" from a section of the military days after his ouster from office following a army-backed coup on February 7.

Nasheed said he told the military officers that though he was ousted in a coup, he would not resort to similar means to get back to power and stressed on the democratic way.

"I did not consider the offer. I told the two generals 'dont waste your time'," he said delivering a talk on 'Consolidation of Democracy in Maldives' at the Observer Research Foundation here.

Nasheed said he told the military officers that though he was ousted in a coup, he would not resort to similar means to get back to power and stressed on the democratic way.

The former President is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior officials in the External Affairs Ministry during his six-day stay in India.

He was critical of India's quick recognition to President Mohammad Waheed's government. Waheed was the Vice President in the Nasheed government.

"I cannot understand why the (Indian) High Commissioner did not see what was unfolding. Neither can I understand his briefs and utterances," he said.

Nasheed said President Gayoom, whom he had defeated in the 2008 elections, was back in power in the Maldives "with a facade of my Vice President as the President."

He claimed that the new government had no relations with the people of the archipelago nation as it was "forced" to assume power by the military and the police.

"There is a need to have early elections in Maldives," Nasheed said.

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Media Global News: Maldives climate change action ‘dead in the water’

Former president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed had often said that climate change could not be fought without democratic governance. Now, more than two months after the 7 February coup that deposed him from the presidency, the implications of that statement are being felt anew in the Indian Ocean island nation.

In 2008, Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. A longtime pro-democracy and human rights activist, during his time in office he spearheaded the Maldivian transition to democracy and became one of the most vocal heads of state on the issue of climate change.

“The Maldives has been the most outspoken and engaged nation on earth about the climate crisis, mostly because of President Nasheed,” BIll McKibben, longtime environmental activist and founder of 350.org, tells MediaGlobal. “Until the coup, the Maldives was on track to become the planet’s first carbon-neutral nation. They were building windmills and so on—and in the process shaming the much richer countries doing far less.”

Jon Shenk, filmmaker and director of the currently showing documentary about Nasheed, “The Island President,” spent a year and a half filming with the former head of state. “When he stepped into the presidency, he decided he was going to do whatever he possibly could to combat climate change, and use the power of his office to try to do that,” Shenk tells MediaGlobal. “To him, the climate change struggle is really an extension of his human rights struggle. He sees climate change as a threat to human rights and human livelihood.”

The Maldives has good reason to be concerned about the dangers of a transforming environmental landscape. With an average elevation of one and a half meters, the nation’s 1,190 islands only barely break the surface of the Indian Ocean. Phenomena such as coastal erosion, freshwater contamination, and coral bleaching have already been observed for many years, and the nation’s acute vulnerability to the effects of sea level rise and weather aberrations has been well documented.

Nasheed installs solar panels on the Maldivian presidential residence's roof last year. Photo credit: 350.org/Mohamed Ali

While the political turmoil that followed the coup has drawn worldwide attention to the fragility of the Maldives’ young democracy, its effects have also revealed the fragility of the nation’s 2020 carbon neutral target and its international leadership role on climate change.

“The Maldives has been the most outspoken and engaged nation on earth about the climate crisis, mostly because of President Nasheed,” BIll McKibben, longtime environmental activist and founder of 350.org, tells MediaGlobal. “Until the coup, the Maldives was on track to become the planet’s first carbon-neutral nation. They were building windmills and so on—and in the process shaming the much richer countries doing far less.”

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'The Island President' trailer:

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