Ousted Maldives president ‘held at gunpoint’

Rioting broke out in the Maldives after Mohamed Nasheed, the ousted president, claimed he was forced to give up his office at gunpoint, raising the prospect of a fierce struggle for power.

Smoke rose above the capital, Male, after Nasheed supporters threw petrol bombs at police and attacked a private television station that had been critical of his government. Earlier, Nasheed’s party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said he was beaten when riot police fired teargas and launched baton charges against hundreds of his supporters who had gathered in Republic Square.

“We strongly condemned the violent attack by the Maldivian police service on President Nasheed and senior officials of the MDP,” the party said. “President Nasheed is being beaten up as of now in an ongoing peaceful protest.”

The 44-year-old pro-democracy activist resigned on Tuesday under pressure from the military after a mutiny by police officers and clashes between demonstrators.

“There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I didn’t resign,” Nasheed, who won the former British protectorate’s first multiparty elections in 2008, told reporters.

Polarised country
Nasheed, an internationally respected campaigner against global warming, said he and his supporters would “try [their] best to bring back the lawful government” and called on the Indian Ocean nation’s chief justice “to look into the matter of who was behind this coup”.

His words contradicted his replacement, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, the former vice-president, who said the transfer of power had been peaceful and constitutional. “Do I look like someone who will bring about a coup d’état?” Waheed asked reporters. “There was no plan. I was not prepared at all.” He called for a government of national unity.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said he hoped the “handover of power, which has been announced as a constitutional step to avoid further violence and instability, will lead to the peaceful resolution of the political crisis that has polarised the country”.

Nasheed’s resignation was the culmination of weeks of protests following his order to the military to arrest a judge, whom he accused of blocking multimillion-dollar corruption cases against members of the government of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years before Nasheed came to power.

The standoff pitted a police force, still largely loyal to Gayoom, against a military more supportive of Nasheed. However, it appears to have been elements of the same military that marched the president into his own office to sign his resignation, a close aide told Reuters in the first witness account of Nasheed’s exit.

Unmarked vehicles
“The gates of the president’s office swung open and in came these unmarked vehicles we’d never seen before and Nasheed came out with around 50 soldiers around him, and senior military men we’d never seen before,” said Paul Roberts, Nasheed’s communications adviser.

Nasheed was brought to his office, met his Cabinet, and then went on television to announce his resignation, Roberts said from an undisclosed location.

“He was forced to resign by the military,” said Roberts, a 32-year-old British citizen. “He could have gone down shooting, but he didn’t want blood on his hands.”

Nasheed, educated in the UK, was detained dozens of times during the rule of Gayoom, earning the nickname “the Mandela of the Maldives”. He may now be protected to some extent by the international reputation he has earned campaigning on climate change and rising seas, which threaten to engulf the low-lying nation.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, appears to have been impressed by Nasheed’s efforts, calling him his “new best friend” in an interview last year. —

Subscribe to the M&G

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.

Related stories

2019: The ones who left us

From Uyinene Mrwetyana, Oliver Mtukudzi to Xolani Gwala, Mail & Guardian remembers those who have passed on

More battles ahead for domestic worker unions

Florence Sosiba, speaks to the Mail & Guardian about how important domestic workers are and exclusion in the COIDA

“Life has been good to me, considering where I come from” – Xolani Gwala

Just over a year ago, veteran radio presenter Xolani Gwala’s cancer was in remission. He spoke to the Mail & Guardian once he was back on air.

Kanya Cekeshe’s lawyer appeals decision not to grant him bail to the high court

Kanya Cekeshe’s legal team filed an urgent appeal at the Johannesburg high court on Tuesday against Monday’s judgment by magistrate Theunis Carstens.

Leader’s principal aim to build IFP

Gravitas: Velenkosini Hlabisa brings his experience to his new post as leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Police Minister Bheke Cele addresses Jeppestown

Police minister Bheki Cele visited Jeppestown on Tuesday to speak to business owners and community leaders.

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

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

More top stories

Shabnim Ismail bowls her way into the record books Down...

The night before Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) final, fiery South African fast bowler Shabnim Ismail lay awake pondering how...

Hawks make arrest in matric maths paper leak

Themba Daniel Shikwambana, who works at a printing company, was granted bail and is due to return to court in January

Andile Lungisa: Early parole for the house of truth

Disgraced Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Andile Lungisa calls for a change of leadership in the ANC immediately after being released on parole

War of words at Zondo commission: ‘Grow up Mr Gordhan,...

The cross-examination of the public enterprises minister by Tom Moyane’s lawyers at the state capture inquiry went on well into overtime on Monday evening

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…