Mutiny in Maldives, Prez quits
Male/Colombo/New Delhi, February 7
Nasheed had been facing increasingly violent street protests and a constitutional crisis ever since he got a judge arrested on January 16, after accusing him of being ‘in the pocket’ of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for 30 years before Nasheed was swept to power in 2008 as the first democratically elected President of Maldives.
Gayoom’s ‘Progressive Party of the Maldives’ had called for the overthrow of the government and for citizens to launch a jihad against the President. Gayoom’s government had arrested Nasheed 27 times and jailed him for six years in all while agitating for democracy.
The situation turned ugly on Tuesday, with sections of the police and the army joining protesters in the capital Male and taking over the state-owned TV channel. Soon thereafter Nasheed announced that he was stepping down so that the government did not have to use force against
As many as 30,000 Indians in Maldives are said to be safe. Diplomatic sources in Colombo claimed that Nasheed had sought military intervention by India to foil the ‘coup’. But while the India had flown in paratroopers and commandos in 1988 to foil a coup-attempt in Maldives, this time the Indian government made it plain that it did not want to interfere.
A Ministry of External Affairs spokesman said in New Delhi that India was monitoring the situation closely and hoped that the issues would get resolved peacefully and democratically.
The opposition had also accused Nasheed of being anti-Islamic. Nasheed had swept to power in 2008 , pledging to introduce ‘full democracy’ to the low lying islands ( 1,200 of them, mostly uninhabited and none more than six feet above the sea level) and campaigning passionately on the dangers of climate change and rising sea levels.
The street protests began with the arrest of the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court of Maldives, Abdulla Mohamed, on January 16, forcing the government to seek assistance from the UN as well as from the Commonwealth, for a team of legal experts to visit the country and help resolve the impasse.
The government had accused Judge Abdulla of being in complicity with criminals. “The opposition has been inciting people and spreading hatred to mobilise activists on the ground; the inflammatory speeches and incitement to violence is not something that the government can condone,” Maldivian Foreign Secretary Mohamed Naseer, who was in Colombo in the last week of January, had said.
The opposition PPM denied allegations of extremism. A PPM official in the Maldives claimed that violence during the protests had been instigated by vigilanttes unleashed by the government, many of whom hard-core criminals released from prison under a special programme called ‘second chance.’
There is growing worry in New Delhi as well as Colombo over ‘radicalisation’ of Maldives. There are also worries over tourism, which along with fisheries is the mainstay of the economy.
Beijing/New Delhi, Feb 7
The islands are located strategically to the south west of India and straddle what is called the 9 degree channel of sea lane of communication. Indian warships patrol the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the islands as a goodwill gesture. The nation is within India’s sphere of influence and Indian Navy maintains regular contact.
Official sources today said there can be no comparison with the situation in 1988, when Indian Army para-commandos were flown in overnight in aid of Maldives, attacked by several hundred well armed mercenaries. — TNS