Maldives president calls it a day

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives resigned on Tuesday after weeks of protests erupted into a police mutiny, leaving the man — widely credited with bringing democracy to the paradise islands — accused of being as dictatorial as his predecessor.

Nasheed handed power over the Indian Ocean archipelago to Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, explaining that continuing in office would result in his having to use force against the people.

“I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power,” he said in a televised address. “I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force which would harm many citizens.”

In the morning, soldiers fired teargas at police and demonstrators who besieged the Maldives National Defence Force headquarters in Republic Square.

Later in the day, scores of demonstrators stood outside the nearby president’s office chanting “Gayoom! Gayoom!”, referring to Nasheed’s predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.


Nasheed swept to victory in 2008, pledging to bring full democracy to the luxury holiday resort nation and speaking out passionately on the dangers of climate change to the low-lying islands.

But he drew opposition fire for his arrest of a judge he accused of being in the pocket of Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years.

Acting like a dictator
Protests at the arrest set off a constitutional crisis that had Nasheed in the unaccustomed position of defending himself against accusations of acting like a dictator.

Overnight, vandals attacked the lobby of the opposition-linked VTV TV station, witnesses said, while mutinying police attacked and burnt the main rallying point of Nasheed’s Maldives Democratic Party before later taking over the state broadcaster MNBC and renaming it TV Maldives.

Gayoom’s opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives accused the military of firing rubber bullets at protesters and a party spokesperson, Mohamed Hussain “Mundhu” Shareef, said “loads of people” were injured. He gave no specifics.

An official close to the president denied the government had used rubber bullets but confirmed that about three dozen police officers defied orders overnight and attacked a ruling party facility.

“This follows Gayoom’s party calling for the overthrow of the Maldives’ first democratically elected government and for citizens to launch jihad against the president,” said the official who declined to be identified.

The protests, and the scramble for position ahead of next year’s presidential election, have seen parties adopting hard-line Islamist rhetoric and accusing Nasheed of being anti-Islamic.

The trouble has also shown the long-standing rivalry between Gayoom and Nasheed, who was jailed in all for six years after being arrested 27 times by Gayoom’s government while agitating for democracy.

Unity government
The vice-president is expected to run a national unity government until next year’s presidential election.

The trouble has been largely invisible to the 900 000 or so well-heeled tourists who come every year to visit desert islands swathed in aquamarine seas, ringed by white-sand beaches.

Most tourists are whisked straight to their island hideaway by seaplane or speedboat, where they are free to drink alcohol and get luxurious spa treatments, insulated from the everyday Maldives, a fully Islamic state where alcohol is outlawed and skimpy beachwear frowned upon.

Nasheed was famous for his pleas for help to stop the sea engulfing his nation and in 2009 even held a Cabinet meeting underwater, ministers all wearing scuba gear, to publicise the problem.

An Asian diplomat serving in Male told Reuters on condition of anonymity: “No one remembers the underwater cabinet meeting. They remember Judge Abdulla Mohamed,” a reference to Nasheed having the military arrest the judge accused of being in Gayoom’s pocket.

Meanwhile, Twitter user Alexander Brown said he was in the Maldives enjoying life.

“Maldives government overthrowing (sic) and im watching a Vogue photo shoot infront of me on Four Seasons … very strange world.” — Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Related stories

Exiled Maldives leader accuses China of ‘land grab’

The 50-year-old former president said the increased Chinese presence could threaten the Muslim-majority nation of 340 000

Eyesore ‘Rubbish Island’ hidden from Maldives tourists

Rubbish piles up on Thilafushi Island, a half hour boat trip from Male, the capital of the Maldives.

Manta rays are no longer mating, and it’s a problem

The gentle, plankton-eating giants seem reluctant to mate in water lacking the nutrients needed to support life.

Maldives president welcomes coup probe

New Maldives president Mohamed Waheed has welcomed a Commonwealth mission to investigate the ousting of his predecessor after overnight clashes.

Arrest warrant issued for ousted Maldives president

There are fears of renewed street violence after political turmoil since the Maldives's former president Mohamed Nasheed was forced out of office.

Ousted Maldives president ‘held at gunpoint’

Rioting broke out in the Maldives after Mohamed Nasheed said he was forced to give up his office at gunpoint, raising fears of a power struggle.
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…