M A I N   N E W S

Rioting breaks out in Maldives, ousted President faces arrest
l Nasheed’s kin flee l Delhi intensifies diplomatic efforts l IAF on standby to evacuate Indians  
Ajay Banerjee &  Chandani Kirinde/TNS

New Delhi/Colombo, Feb 9
Even as ousted Maldivian President Nasheed awaited arrest at his home at Male on Thursday, India decided to intensify diplomatic initiatives and ‘back channel’ talks while waiting for the situation to stabilise.

The Defence Crisis Management Team met here today to take stock of the situation but ruled out any military intervention. “It is an internal matter of the Maldives and any interference is uncalled for,” said sources.

While the United States is rushing Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake to Male to take stock of the situation, there is no plan in New Delhi to send a special envoy.

Indian naval ships and three IAF planes have been kept on standby to evacuate, if necessary, the estimated 30,000 Indians living in Maldives.

The United Nations and most of the Western Governments too seem to have given their tacit approval to the change of guard in the island nation. The British High Commissioner at Male told reporters that efforts were being made to ensure that all parties back off and participate in a ‘national government’.

The ousted President’s wife, meanwhile, has taken refuge in Sri Lanka. While it was not clear who else accompanied her, the family has been a frequent visitor to Sri Lanka and Nasheed is believed to have been close to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan President, claimed sources in Colombo, spoke to both Nasheed and the current President, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, and requested the latter to ensure the safety of the ousted President and his family.

A defiant but relaxed and smiling, Nasheed claimed at Male that the new Home Minister had vowed that the former President would spend the rest of his life in prison. “ Tomorrow, I will be in jail. I hope the international community is taking note of what is happening here and will intervene,” he added.

While a warrant of arrest has been issued against Nasheed and the former Defence Minister, the charges were still unclear. Indications are that the former President will be held responsible for the night-long acts of violence in Maldives on Wednesday, during which police stations were attacked and government buildings allegedly looted and torched by Nasheed supporters. He could be accused of ‘acts of terrorism’ and instigating anarchy. There were also reports that empty liquor bottles had been recovered from the Presidential mansion after Nasheed resigned. In the Maldives, a conservative Muslim nation, liquor is strictly prohibited.

The ousted President’s opponents could also tag charges of being unislamic against him. The warrants were reportedly issued by the chief judge of the criminal court, Abdulla Mohamed, whose arrest by Nasheed triggered the crisis in the first place. The judge was released by the new government yesterday.

While the new President struggles to form the ‘national, unity government’ comprising representatives from all parties, he appointed a Home Minister and an army colonel as the Defence Minister to take charge of the situation. Describing the ground situation as ‘disgraceful’, the new Home Minister has appealed for calm.






Nasheed learnt his lesson in ’08
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 9
“Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office...” reads the opening line of a brief article on the oped page of The New York Times today by ousted Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed.

He had learnt the lesson soon after taking over in 2008 as the first democratically elected leader of the island nation, freed by Great Britain in 1965. The dictator had left him a ‘looted treasury, a budget deficit and a rotten judiciary’, he adds in the article. His rivals, he said, took refuge in democracy and claimed that it gave them a licence to call for a violent jihad. An accompanying piece on the NYT oped page by independent documentary filmmaker Jon Shank, director of a forthcoming film on Nasheed titled, ‘The Island President’, pays tributes to the ousted President’s “candour, tirelessness, humanity and commitment to transp-arency”. Shank was allowed by Nasheed to film “cabinet meetings, family meals and even tense bilateral exchanges with world leaders”. The film took one and a half years in the making and is expected to be released soon.





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