Coup in the Maldives?
Image Credit: Adam Welz

Coup in the Maldives?


The Maldives was plunged into a political crisis on Tuesday when the first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, was forced to resign after weeks of protests that culminated in open clashes between the police and army on the streets of the capital, Males.

“I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power,” the president 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.” Later in the day his deputy, Muhammad Waheed Hassan, was sworn in as the new president of the archipelago.

Nasheed came to power in 2008 when he defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had run the country for thirty years, during a run-off vote in the country’s first multiparty elections. Nasheed, who had at one time been a political prisoner, ran on a platform of democratic change and environmentalism.

Despite his electoral victory, Nasheed was unable to consolidate his power as radical Islamic groups loyal to Gayoom continued to wield significant influence. This was evident, for instance, when the government recently shut down the spas and health centers at all the resorts after an opposition conservative Islamic party claimed these were really fronts for brothel houses. (The government later rescinded the ban in order to save the economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism.)

The chain of events leading to Nasheed’s resignation began when the president ordered the arrest of the country’s Chief Criminal Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Mohamed has long been accused of various wrongdoings including misogyny, sexual deviance and, in one instance, throwing out an assault case even though the defendant confessed.

The government only took action against Mohamed, however, after he ordered the release of two figures of the DQP opposition party: Deputy Leader Dr. Mohamed Jameel and Council Member Sandhaanu Didi. The two men had recently publically accused the president of conniving with Christians and Jews and encouraging vice around the country. They were unable to substantiate their claims when they were later confronted by security forces and taken into custody.

After Mohamed ordered their release, President Nasheed accused him of being in former President Gayoom’s pocket and ordered the military to arrest the judge. Mohamed’s arrested sparked widespread protests by pro-Islamic parties led by former President Gayoom. According to news reports, the protests erupted Monday night when police began mutinying and, along with the supporters of Gayoom, burnt the main rallying point of Nasheed’s Maldives Democratic Party (MDP). They then seized the state broadcaster MNBC and promptly renamed it TV Maldives, as it had been called during Gayoom’s rule.

Reuters quoted an unnamed Nasheed aide as claiming “it’s a coup, I am afraid. The police and Gayoom’s people as well as some elements in the military have forced the President Nasheed to resign. According to my book it’s a coup.”

The new president has, however, disputed this interpretation of the events and said there was no pre-arranged plan for him to take over.

“We will respect the rule of law, we will uphold the constitution, the executive will not interfere in legislation and we will make sure that democracy is consolidated,” the BBC quoted him as saying at a news conference on Wednesday.

In any case, Nasheed was a moderate, democratic force in Maldives. As such, his removal threatens to usher in the revival of two worrying forces: radical Islam and autocratic rule.

Radical Islam has been on the rise in the Maldives since 1997, when Gayoom declared that Islam was the state religion and restricted the freedoms of non-Islamic believers. Since taking office, Nasheed had tried to curb the rising influence radical Islamic groups. However, they have continued to loom over the country’s politics and have demonstrated an ability to appeal to religious sentiment in order to whip up public opinion against the government and other secular forces in society.

What has happened in Maldives is the antithesis of the Arab Spring. In much of the Arab world, the masses are struggling to overthrow autocrats and establish democracy in their place. In contrast, democracy in Maldives is at risk of being hijacked by reactionary groups who oppose the democratization of the government.

Millie Khanna
February 10, 2012 at 13:07

Shouldn’t the world’s largest democracy, India, closely monitor / follow what is happening in Maldives. Close ties to Pakistan, and now a major shift towards Islamic fundamentalism. Isn’t Maldives’ deviating from democracy something India should take note of, and take a stand about?

Mohamed Rageeb
February 10, 2012 at 11:15

Maumoon has been actively operating in Malaysia to topple the democratically elected government of Maldives from the day he was thrown out of the government. The torture machine and corrupt followers of him blended in to Nasheed government and have been actively disrupting the democratically elected government to make reforms in the government. Such as free health care, dental and optical were provided to all people. Monthly Pensions were given to the old and frail. Water and electricity subsidies are provided to every family in the country. People of Maldives do not know there government must give these kinds of services before. Nasheed’s mode of transport to presidential office is by bicycle or foot. Maumoon lives in a million dollar palace and mode of transport was BMW and Mercedes Benz and road closure were imposed every roads he have to travel.

The democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed is toppled by hefty bribes to junior police officers and low-level military officers. This is confirmed because; the police officer giving the interview is the leader of the mutiny. Acting Commissioner Abdulla Fairooz is a one of notorious torturer of Maumoon Abdul Gayooms. The torture area is located in the basement of the police headquarters in capital Male’. He is believed to arbitrarily arrest people for minor offences like passing red light and torture them for weeks striping them in naked, sexually abusing them and keeping them wet in solitary confinement, Abu Ghraib style. Then send them to notorious prison in Maafushi Island for more.

Arresting of the judge is by these above mentioned rouge officers, to show legitimacy to their course in overthrowing the democratically elected government. Similar coup d’état strategy was used against democratically elected president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez in 2002, but the instigators failed too. These officers were actively operating in Maumoon Abdul Gayoon’s 30-year dictatorship rule in Maldives. Already the tactics used to oppress the Maldivian people used in Gayoom’s dictatorship is getting implemented beating and killing anyone going against them.

These officers are also scared, that the people of Maldives will get back there country so they will be lawfully arrested and judged for the coup they brought against a democratically elected government. These rough officers are fighting for their own interest not for the interest of the people of Maldives. They also believe they have been given power by higher authority from Allah to fight against an anti-Islamic government of Maldives. The so-called Munity soldiers were shouting Allah Akbar when they came out to streets. Please see the video in the link to see for you own eyes.

February 9, 2012 at 03:47

In ademocracy, the police are supposed to be civil servants and are answerable to the legislature who represent the voting public. If the police then come along to a leader and have him put under house arrest with no charge nor evidence of wrong doing, then you can say there has been a coup.
Guess I’ll skip the Maldives as a holiday destination this year.

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