#Maldives: Tremors in Ruling Coalition in The First Weeks of #Yameen's Presidency?

#Maldives: As the Yameen Abdul Gayoom presidency settles in to its third week, signs of discontent are appearing among the government coalition. The new government came to power in a narrow win of 51.39% of a wide coalition of several parties led by Progressive Party of Malives (PPM) against a solitary opposition, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led by former President Mohamed Nasheed. Yameen's narrow victory can in fact be attributed to influential business man Gasim Ibrahim throwing his full weight and that of his party (Jumhooree Party) and coalition partners behind Yameen in the final runoff. Gasim, a candidate himself for Jumhooree Coalition, came third in Round 1 of the elections, with a significant voting block of 48,131 votes (23.35%). Core members of Jumhooree Coalition were Adhaalath Party (AP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

As the new Government settled into power, cabinet seats and other political appointments were rapidly distributed amongst coalition partners. Out of the 15 members Yameen’s cabinet, only five ministers are from Yameen’s PPM. The remaining 10 ministerial portfolios are of parties of the parties which backed Yameen. Gasim's leverage is evident in the core cabinet seats secured (Transport, Trade, Energy, Attorney General). The powerful post of Home Minister was also by Gasim secured for his coalition partner, former PPM Deputy Leader and formerly anti-Yameen campaigner Umar Naseer. Umar Naseer was resoundingly defeated by Yameen in PPM's presidential primaries in early 2013 following he began a strong anti-campaign against PPM and Yameen which eventually resulted in his dismissal from PPM. Adhaalath Party secured two cabinet seats, Islamic Affairs, and Housing. PPM coalition partner MDA also bagged one cabinet seat.

The government's woes have arisen due to the fact that elections for Local Council and Parliament (Majlis) were announced while it struggled for fair distribution of political appointments to coalition partners. Local council elections has been scheduled for January 18 whilst Majlis elections will be on March 22, 2014. Following the announcement, Gasim Ibrahim immediately declared that his party Jumhooree Party would contest both elections in collaborations with PPM/MDA, a very heartening move for the Government. 

However, coalition partner Adhaalath has been equally quick to declare it would contest separately in both elections for significant number of seats (32 Majlis seats and roughly 104 Council seats). Adhaalath is estimated to have a significant support base in some areas which may secure it Council seats. However, its support base may not be strong enough to defeat PPM Coalition or MDP for more than one or two Majlis seats. Given this, it is obvious that Adhaalath, while not winning by itself, will do maximum damage to PPP Coalition candidates by eating into their votes.

As the Yameen Government struggles to quickly agree with Gasim Ibrahim and remaining partners on distribution of Council and Majlis seats. MDP has thrown another spanner in the works by declaring that its MPs will not endorse non-PPM nominees to the cabinet. This is a possibly move targeted at leveraging Gasim Ibrahim away from the government coalition for the upcoming elections. Speaker Abdullah Shahid has informed the Goverment that if the parliamentary government oversight committee can complete the assessment of the ministers before December 23, he plans to schedule the parliament vote on the cabinet during the sitting on December 29.

During the short period after elections, Yameen has reportedly already done several deals with MDP. Two crucial deals were MDP's withdrawal of its no confidence motion against Deputy Speaker of Majlis PPM's Ahmed Nazim, in return for which PPM withdrew its no-confidence motion against Speaker MDP's Abdullah Shahid, much to the dismay of PPM Coalition supporters.

Yameen has also reiterated publicly that his government would not be investigating or prosecuting any alleged crimes by Nasheed's government, as it had confidence in the independent institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission whose mandate it was to investigate such matters. These moves are construed by some as part of ongoing maneuvering with MDP. He has further expressed confidence in the Judiciary and stated a non-interference policy, a policy which has drawn criticism in the light of the scandal related to Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed.

In spite of this, last weekend government scored a big hit by getting a Supreme Court ruling overturning provisions in the MPs Priviledge Bill, followed by the swift arrest of MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, a move strongly condemned by MDP. Government has also taken strong action in the military by sacking senior officers and personnel who supported MDP's stand by petition during the interim period between the annulled vote of September 7th and the rescheduled vote.

As MDP and Adaalath gear up for the local council elections, PPM coalition appears to be struggling to agree on seat distributions for both elections. In the meantime, government appears to be swiftly moving forward in its work, with Ministers expounding policies to implement the campaign manifesto. A further strong move has been to patch deteriorated relations with regional big brother India, with Yameen invited to make his first state visit overseas to India late next month. Interestingly, this is balanced by the announcement that China will provide Maldives with xx in aid. As the days proceed it can be seen that the Yameen government is proceeding cautiously, yet in tandem with opposition MDP. It remains to be seen how long this honeymoon period will last, as slight tremors and faults keep appearing within the ruling coalition, and between PPM and MDP.

#Maldives: Dr. Waheed, Gasim, Thasmeen or Yaameen? Who can best lead a uniity Govt for next 5 years?

#Maldives: As PPM's Abdulla Yaameen steps up his attempts to destabilize President Dr. Waheed and his Unity Government, questions arise as to Yaameen's eligibility to lead a coalition government. The past month has seen repeated public criticisms by Yaameen of President Waheed, his government's performance and policies. In addition, Yaameen has claimed each success of Dr. Waheed as a success by PPM. Both the Government and coalition partners have criticized Yaameen's attacks and provided facts to disprove his accusations.

President Dr. Waheed yesterday responded to Yaameen's accusations by mildly pointing out that his Unity government was composed of a coalition of parties in which the larger parties such as PPM had larger shares. In addition, he gave factual evidence that Yaameen's accusations of being sold out to foreign states was blatantly untrue. He also called upon coalition partners for unity, saying that "now is not the time for accusations and cause division".

At the forefront of defending the Government has been coalition partner, Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP), followed by Adhaalath Party (AP). Gasim Ibrahim's Jumhooree Party (JP) has remained a silent bystander. Most importantly, PPM itself has not made any official party statements in support of Yaameen, highlighting the fact this could just be a personal strategy instead of a party strategy. Yaameen is presently campaigning to become the PPM's presidential candidate, a race which many predict that his opponent Umar Naseer will win. Umar Naseer has a strong grassroots support in Male' and in the islands, whereas Yaameen has to build it up, capitalizing on his position as former president and PPM Leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's younger brother. However, media broadcasts of the campaign rallies of both show that Yaameen has far less support, while Umar Naseer's rallies are packed.

As President Waheed has pointed out, given the constitutional structure of the presidential elections, it is a practical impossibility for any single candidate to win in the first round, unless at the head of a coalition of interested parties. Similarly, even if it goes to a run-off between the top candidates as happened in 2008, a coalition is required to clinch the election. Thus, there is no doubt that if opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is to be beated, regardless of which candidate they field, there is a critical requirement for a coalition. Now that DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen categorically ruled out any chance of DRP joining with MDP for the election, it is abundantly evidence that MDP will be alone except for insignificant smaller semi-parties.

This leaves the issue of which party to lead any coalition which may form. Given the bitter rivalry between DRP and PPM, it can be concluded that neither of these will stay in a coalition led by the other. This is especially so in the light of the potential candidates from each party, namely, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali from DRP, and either Gayoom, Yaameen, Umar Naseer or Ilyas Ibrahim from PPM. PPM has a deep rooted angst against Thasmeen, while Thasmeen and his followers would never accept Gayoom or any of the others given the wide rift and abusive slanging matches still raging between the two parties.

In addition, Yaameen's current campaign clearly shows that, should he become the Presidential candidate for PPM, there is no chance of a coalition with any other party. Close sources report that Gayoom's massive crash in the second round of the elections was solely due to Yaameen. Yaameen apparently refused a coalition with Gasim Ibrahim and Hassan Saeed, leading to these two putting their weight behind MDP.

A further issue is that Adhaalath Party is also unlikely to support PPM, having as they do deep rooted religious issues with Gayoom's religious policies.

With DRP and Adhaalath Party, both strong parties in themselves, out of any coalition lead by PPM, PPM is clearly ruled out as a coalition leader for the Presidential Elections 2013. This leaves behind candidates from JP and Gaumee Itthihaad (GIP), Gasim Ibrahim and President Dr. Waheed. Gasim Ibrahim commands a strong grassroots following himself, and as magnate and philanthropist, is bound to garner a substantial percentage of votes. However, his credentials as presidential material are doubted by many, leading to a distinct aversion to fall in line behind his candidacy. Parties with educated membership such as DRP and Dr. Hasssan Saeed's Gaumee Party (GP) are unlikely to join a coalition led by Gasim Ibrahim. Given Dr. Waheed's democratic credentials, and their practical experience in the past 12 months in Dr. Waheed's Unity Government, it is more probable that both DRP and GP will work with Dr. Waheed instead of Gasim Ibrahim.

Adhaalath Party has forged strong links with President Waheed although he has kept them in line without giving them their head as Nasheed did in his presidency. The Adhaalath Party led Civic Coalition (Madhanee Itthihaad) has also expressed and shown strong support for Dr. Waheed, highlighting the probability of their support for his candidacy at the head of a coalition of parties.

At the same time, Gasim Ibrahim is also more likely to work with Dr. Waheed, albeit in a second round, than with any other candidate. This may not be as clear cut, given that, in the same vein as Yaameen, Gasim is clearly set to contest the first round on his own.

In conclusion, Dr. Waheed's track record for leading a coalition is the strongest, and the experience of the past 12 months will play a large role in trust building between coalition partners. Hence, a likely scenario for the first round is a contest between Dr. Waheed at the head of a coalition of DRP, AP, GP and GIP; Gasim Ibrahim (JP), a candidate from PPM and one from MDP. It would be very unfortunate if Yaameen's empire building dreams endanger the national interest by isolating PPM from the rest of its coalition partners, as this would certainly compromise the chances of defeating MDP in the second round.

#Maldives: President Dr. Waheed - a formidable challenge to any opponent in Presidential Elections 2013

#Maldives: Unfolding political scenarios country wide bear witness that incumbent President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan will be a formidable challenge to any opponent in the upcoming Presidential Elections 2013. President Waheed yesterday publicly announced that he would be contesting the 2013 elections, leading a coalition of interested parties. The announcement was greeted with support and respect in Maldivian social media and online media, even in the light of the fact that it came on the one year anniversary of the black day that his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed tried to topple him through brute force and arson on February 8th, 2012.

Dr. Waheed's popularity is on an exponential rise within all voting segments, bolstered by a series of bold nationalistic decisions in 2012 in the face of immense international and internal pressures. His historic decision, in the face of extreme Indian Government pressure, to terminate a contract made by Nasheed illegally with Indian multinational giant GMR, and the refusal to bow to unjust pressure from the Commonwealth and individual nations such as Canada and the UK, last year catapulted Dr. Waheed into the Maldivian political superstar league of former Presidents Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

These decisions have garnered such widespread populist support for the quiet yet decisive and straightforward President, that political opponents have started virulent attacks on him. Those with Presidential aspirations such as presidential primaries candidate in the Gayoom's Progressive Party of Maldives, his younger brother Yaameen Abdul Gayyoom, have begun all out attacks on President Waheed's Government and policies. Two days ago, at a public rally on the eve of Maldives Liberation Day February 7th, Yameen accused President Waheed's government and all its agencies as having failed in service to the public. Coupled with the accusations, came Yameen's usual claim of credit for the major successful decisions of the Waheed government in the past year. Similarly, at the closure of PPM's recent Firt National Congress, Yaameen publicly claimed credit for the "GMR decision", claiming that the decision was forced upon Dr. Waheed by Yameen himself and PPM.

Presidential aspirant Yaameen's claims has not received any support from any other party. On the contrary, coalition ally and third largest party in the country Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) has come out forcefully and condemned Yameen's attempts to shackle and destablize his opponent's government. Deputy Leader of DRP's Parliamentary Group Dr. Abdulla Mausoom yesterday accused PPM of working together with Nasheed's MDP to cut off over two billion from the annual public budget, and then turning around and accusing government agencies of non-performance. Mausoom pointed out that these budgetary constraints had been purposefully put in place by PPM to cripple a well performing government.

Dr. Mausoom further went on to accuse Yameen himself of further machinations to shackle Dr. Waheed and government functioning. The Waheed government is presently embroiled in a tussle with the Government Accountability Committee of the Parliament, a committee whose majority is held by Nasheed's MDP. Dr. Mausoom very pertinently pointed out that MDP did not have a majority in the committee before, but only did so because Yameen's previous party People's Alliance (PA) vacated its seat in the committee. Dr. Mausoom alluded to this as a purposeful act designed to mar the Government performance leading to the 2013 elections.

Leader of the Qaumee Party and Political Advisor to the President Dr. Hassan Saeed has come out strongly in support of President Waheed's prospects for re-election. Some days back, Dr. Saeed stated to media that, in his view, President Dr. Waheed is the biggest challenge to any contender in the Presidential Election 2013. The highly popular Adhaalath Party and and Civic Coalition (Madhanee Itthihaad) working for national issues have also endorsed President Dr. Waheed, showing that there will be a solid voting bloc behind Dr. Waheed should he contest Presidency 2013.

As Dr. Hassan Saeed notes, President Dr. Waheed has demonstrated that he is man who can stand steadfast in heavy storms and guide the nation firmly to calmer waters even though working with a crew all of whom may not be working towards the same goal. President Dr. Waheed heads a coalition National Unity Government in which all cabinet posts and over 80% of political are filled with individuals hailing from parties other than his own. A large percentage of this is PPM too. In spite of this, and in spite of several incidents of political differences between President Waheed's nationalist policies and opinions of coalition partners and presidential aspirants such as Yaameen and Jumhooree party leader Gasim Ibrahim, Dr. Waheed guided his National Unity Government through its toughest 10 months to end 2012 on a positive in all aspects, socially, economically and politically.

When the reins of the Maldivian Presidency passed to President Waheed on February 7th 2012, he became the fifth President of the country. Waheed, then Vice President, ascended to the Presidency when Mohamed Nasheed resigned after weeks of civic protests against him. Nasheed even today is on the streets accusing President Waheed him of leading an alleged coup. However, this claim today does not receive the support that it did internationally and nationally after the report of the CONI decisively showed that there was no coup.

When President Waheed ascended to power some political opponents accused him of being a cowardly man with a history or running away when the going got tough. However, this has shown untrue and unfounded. In reality, very few recall that the country's long road to political reform did indeed begin its modern phase with Mohamed Waheed. Political opponents seek to hide the fact that Dr. Waheed is the man who first introduced a Bill of Rights to the Constitutional Assembly, the first to introduce a Bill on Freedom of Speech to the Majlis.

Nicknamed the Professor by his classmates for his studious nature, President Waheed may not have a flamboyant history of a prisoner of conscience. Nor does he have a history of lawlessness and street fighting. However, it cannot be denied that Mohamed Waheed was one man, who had the courage and integrity to stand up for human rights and democracy during the Gayoom regime, long ago while Nasheed was a mere school boy in the UK. Dr. Waheed's Bill of Rights was a landmark bill which sought to guarantee fundamental human rights to Maldivians by entrenching these in the new Constitution of the country. Dr. Waheed ran protest campaigns against the unlawful detention of political prisoners, a notable one of which was Nasheed who now smears Dr. Waheed's reputation calling him a traitor to the country.

President Dr. Waheed comes from an ordinary Male' family which had none of the necessities for social ascendancy at the time, that is, links to nobility or money. However, President Ibrahim Nasir rewarded Handhuvaru Hassan Maniku for his long years of public service by awarding his son Waheed with a scholarship to the University of Beirut. Completing a Bachelor's in English Language and a teaching diploma in war torn Beirut was no easy feat. This exposure to an American liberal education amidst war and strife built up an idealism and activism in Waheed, which he passed on to his students upon his return to the Maldives in late 1970s. 

Dr. Waheed's real foray into politics came after he had returned to Maldives a third time (1988), this time after completing a doctorate in international development education at Stanford. Gayoom sought to co-opt Dr. Waheed with key posts in his government, including membership in a number of advisory councils. His popularity growing, Dr. Waheed was a focal point for young educated Maldivians disgruntled with the increasing evidence of corruption in the Gayoom government. His family homes became hotbeds of student dissidence. This became Dr. Waheed's formal entry into politics. A popular man amongst the youth already, much to Gayoom's dismay, Dr. Waheed became an iconic figure who was fighting against corruption and oppression. His opponent, Ilyas Ibrahim, was a powerful man who headed the military forces and controlled government trading. 

The fight between Dr. Waheed and Ilyas was seen by Maldivian youth as one of good versus evil. Thousands flocked to Waheed's banner, sporting a thumbs up sign which became synonymous with rights and democracy. Dr. Waheed ran a disciplined and educated campaign which sought to convince Male' voters to vote for their conscience. Backed by big business such as the late Ali Abdulla (Nasheed's father in law), Gasim Ibrahim (current leader of Jumhooree Party) and Ali Hussain (Novelty), the campaign flooded Male' with letters and pamphlets explaining Waheed's political philosophy and campaign manifesto. This was the first real political campaign in Maldivian history. 

Voters swept Waheed into first position ahead of Ilyas by a significant margin, about 300 votes. However, Waheed and his supporters could not believe that the margin was not larger. They alleged that the ballot had been tampered with by Gayoom's administration, in order not to defeat Ilyas from the second seat. While Dr. Waheed took his seat in Parliament, his disgruntled family and closest supporters ran anti-government campaigns amongst the Male' voters. These build up to forays in bombings, with scenes reminiscent of today's riots led by Nasheed took place. 

President Dr. Waheed's lone crusade for civic and political rights in the Majlis and in civic society cannot be denied. Dr. Waheed introduced to Majlis a Member's Bill for Freedom of Speech. A core provision of this was the citizen's right to criticize government without fear of reprisal. He followed words with action by working for the release of political detainees, the more famous of whom now is Nasheed. Dr. Waheed's Black Ribbon campaign against political detention by the Government was another milestone in the country's road to democracy.

The story of Dr. Waheed's long walk to democracy has been overshadowed by more flamboyant political figures. Yet, it is fact and it is testament to the perseverance and integrity of a patriotic Maldivian. It is significant today that it was Nasheed's attempts to limit freedom of speech by harassing and detaining political opponents who criticized his regime that stirred Dr. Waheed to finally speak out against the Nasheed Government, a sign of Dr. Waheed remaining true to his fight for democracy.

History speaks for itself, as do the actions of the man who has risen from adversity to lead the Maldives in these turbulent times. One year on from the liberation of Maldives from the dictatorship of Mohamed Nasheed, it is evident that incumbent President Waheed is in the strongest of positions to win the upcoming elections, albeit in a second round with coalition support. Dr. Waheed has managed to put the economy back on track despite serious obstacles internally and from neighbouring countries such as India, recaptured national assets such the local international airport from Indian Multinational GMR's death grip. He has restored rule of law and upheld rights of the people. He has refused to interfere in the other independent organs of the state, including the Judiciary and the Parliament. At the same time, he has refused to compromise national sovereignty and independence for short term gains, all of which have generated a strong upwelling of populist support for Dr. Waheed's continued leadership. Diplomacy and integrity appear to win as India is now back on cooperating terms with Dr. Waheed, working to rebuild damaged bridges. Strong links are being forged with Muslim countries, and neighbouring Sri Lanka remains a close friend.

Current unfolding political events and rhetoric by his political opponents bear testament to President Waheed's ascendancy. MDP and DRP are jockeying hand in hand to hasten the elections to within 60 days from opening of Parliament on March 1st, 2013, in order to maintain their eligibility and prevent President Waheed from gaining further ground. PPM has launched all out attacks on President Waheed's presidency and leadership, with its candidates for presidential primaries levelling heated public attacks on his integrity.

In spite of these attacks, once again, perhaps unbeknownst to the wider public, today President Waheed is fighting yet another crucial battle for the maldivian citizen, to defend the right to freedom of association.  All major parties represented in Parliament (where President Waheed's party GIP and Adhaalath are not represented) have teamed up to pass an atrocious Act on Political Parties which severely limits the constitutional right of freedom of political association. The act limits the registration of political parties to those parties which can garner 10,000 members raising the bar more than 3 fold from the current requirement of 3,000 members, thereby eliminating from the contest smaller parties like GIP, Adhaalath and several others. Fortunately for the general public, President Dr. Waheed has stood firm against even this attack on fundamental rights coming from within the Parliament itself. He has sent back the Bill without ratification, citing that it violates the constitutional freedom of right of political association by limiting it to arbitray bounds.  

As political opponents use all their political might to cripple the Waheed Government and to deter his candidacy, the fact remains that, as President Waheed recently pointed out to AFP, Maldives has faired better under him along its path to democracy than have many other countries. History is testament to this. It now remains up to the individual voter in this presidential democracy to vote for whomever he or she deems best for the country, in September 2013.

#Maldives #Liberation Day Feb 7: Nasheed's changing version of events: Interview on BBC #HardTalk, Feb 16 2012

#Maldives Liberation Day Feb 7: As Maldives today celebrates its Liberation from the dictatorship of Mohamed Nasheed, it is noteworthy that his allegations of a military are still unproven. This, with revelations of mass corruption and graft during his reign, plus the association to the brutal murder of MP and moderate Muslim scholar Dr. Afraasheem Ali in October 2012, have seen significant loss in grass roots support for Nasheed. Nasheed can no longer muster street riots of significance in his previous stronghold of Male'. Insiders report attendance at Male' party rallies are made mandatory. Nasheed's trips to the islands have been marred by lacklustre reception, requiring huge expenses by MDP to transport followers from Male' each time to make up the numbers.

However, a cult like blind followership still behind Nasheed, mainly the top elite of MDP who received numerous benefits from the state treasury during his short reign. The MDP front ranks lost their political posts en masse, including access to public assets, leaving behind a bitterness that still permeates the social networks, MDP Party rallies and even the previously revered halls of the Parliament. However, public trust in Nasheed and MDP leadership, including MDP MPs, has fully been lost, a case in point being the lack of public interest in current MDP MP machinations to re-open the CoNI investigation into Nasheed's wild claims of a military coup.

Meanwhile, one year past, Nasheed has yet to name any of the military officers he alleges threatened to shoot him and the people. Neither has he submitted his case to the Supreme Court, constitutionally mandated to rule on the legitimacy of the election, resignation or removal of a president. As pointed out by top legal experts, this is the route that Nasheed must take, if his allegations are true. And in any event, there is no legal need for a snap election. Yet, Nasheed shows no sign of taking his claim to a court of law in or out of Maldives, surely a point of significance to consider.

Should the Maldives Supreme Court find in favor of Nasheed, that is, that he was indeed overthrown in a military coup, then clearly he is still the legal president of the country with some months remaining in his term of office. If the Supereme Court should rule that the transfer of power was legitimate, then again President Waheed can serve the rest of the term, with election held by about September 2013 as stipulated in the Constitution.

Nasheed's legal woes add to his political woes, with skepticism rampant even in the top leadership of his party. Those political allies who spent the whole time with him, including his Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim, have not corroborated Nasheed's allegations of being threatened at gunpoint. Core members of Nasheed's cabinet have stepped back from his frontline, clearly dissociating themselves from Nasheed.

The changes in Nasheed's versions of events, his inability to provide evidence to substantiate his allegations or to provide witnesses are much discussed amongst the public.

An example of Nasheed's version is provided below, with excerpts from Nasheed's interview on BBC Hard Talk, 16th February 2012.

Stephen Sackur: Mohamed Nasheed in the Maldivian capital Male’. Welcome to HARDTALK. And let me begin with a very simple first question. On February the 7th, you resigned. And a short time later, you announced that you’ve been the victim of a coup. Tell me now what really happened.

Mohamed Nasheed: Erm … On the 6th .. erm .. of this month, at about 5 o’clock in the morning, erm … I went to the National Security Headquarters … erm … because there were mutinous police outside and then I wanted the military to see if they will arrest them. I asked the military to arrest them. And I worked on it till about 11 in the morning the next day. Err … But the military refused and later on they joined with the police and both together gave me an ultimatum that I should resign within one hour. Erm … In front of that kind of hostility … erm … and the threats that they were … erm … very clearly … erm … demonstrating to everyone … erm … I resigned because I did not want the military neither the police to use arms on … erm erm … and shooting at the people. Erm … neither did I want the police to storm the National Security Headquarters. Erm … In the interest of … erm … the people and in the interest of … err erm … peace, erm … well, I decided that the best thing at that time, actually the only thing at that time, I could do was resign. And therefore I resigned … erm … under duress. Erm … Later on, erm erm … I was able to … erm … when I was able to get out of the situation rather get out of the military headquarters and also get out of the … erm erm … Presidential … erm … Palace where I was kept for a few hours (interruption – Stephen Sackur talking.) … Sorry?

Stephen Sackur: If I may just stop you there for a second Mr. Nasheed, I want to be very clear about this. Some sources very close to you have suggested that, when you made that public declaration of resignation, you literally had guns pointed at your head. Is that your claim or not?

Mohamed Nasheed: No that’s a literal .. erm … I mean I don’t think... erm … erm … Literally no there was no guns aimed at my head at the point but I had resigned by the time I gave the statement. Err … They had already taken a letter out of me by the time I had … I gave the statement. So the statement was .. err .. aww … after the resignation. (Long pause). The resignation was under duress.

Stephen Sackur: There are statements from several people – If I may just give you one example – from the current President Mohamed Waheed Hassan who was of course the Vice President at this time before you’d actually resigned – he says that he say you he saw you - he saw you er voluntarily writing out the letter of resignation... (Nasheed interrupts and Stephen Sackur’s voice trails away)…

Mohamed Nasheed: No he didn’t. That is not true. He was not there. This is ... this is … not true at all. No Stephen he was not there. He wouldn’t have seen me writing that letter. There were three military personnel … erm … right in front of me and then there was … there were about eighteen more others … err … a little few steps behind me. Errr … the Vice-President wasn’t there. It was quite unusual that he wasn’t there. (Long pause) This is not true that he was there.

Stephen Sackur: Would you explain the fact that the Indian High Commission is quoted by Indian media sources saying that you had spoken to them hours before the resignation and had explained that because of the unrest in your country because of the potential for great bloodshed you had decided to quit the Presidential Office. That sounds to me like a resignation …

Mohamed Nasheed: Well I had decided to quit because there was a mutinous police force outside and the … erm … the National security forces had joined the police in mutiny. They had given me an ultimatum that if I did not resign within one hour they would resort to use arms. They said that they would use arms on me and, on the people. (Long pause…) that is why I resigned.

Stephen Sackur: Isn’t it true that you resigned because you’ve failed – you’ve failed to maintain the security of your Nation - the most fundamental duty of any President, and you have lost control of many of the people in your Country, including (laughs) people inside your own armed forces, you have failed.

Mohamed Nasheed: Well you have to understand that the Maldives is a very tender democracy. Erm … after thirty years of dictatorship we had a new constitution and we are in the process of consolidating democracy. Now we are unlike in the past we did not purge the police we did not purge the military. Neither did we arrest anybody from the opposition or from the previous Administration, from the dictatorship. We wanted to see how we may be able to work with people. We wanted to see how we may be able to do things more amicably. Erm … I did not remove anyone from the military neither did I remove anyone from the police. Err … The idea was that … err … we will be able to work it out so that democracy can be consolidated over a period of time. Erm … err … While … while we were doing it all along the previous regime the old dictatorship the old order have always been trying to back come and with the help of the police and with the help of the military they forced me to resign and they are back. Err … It’s not Dr. Waheed. It’s the old order in a new façade. Dr. Waheed is the Vice President. Of course he knew about the coup. He knew what was going on. And now the old order is back again. We have to get the Maldives back on track. We have to have democracy here. Our people had high aspirations in implementing the new constitution. Err… and they still … they still aspire … they still want to see the constitution implemented and they still want to see democracy ongoing. You have to have a look at what is happening in the Maldives. There are hundreds of people out on the streets thousands of people out on the streets and they all want to have … they all want to continue with the democratic establishment work we had been doing. That is why people are out on the street. That is why people are calling for an election. I have been removed from Office e forcefully. And now we cannot let an illegitimate government run we have to have fresh elections in the Maldives as quickly as possible.

Stephen Sackur: Yeah, your problem is that although you describe it as an illegitimate Government put in place by essentially a rebellion within the security forces that is not the way it clearly is being seen by many influential outside powers. Why is it you think that the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and indeed the UN Envoy, all appear to recognize the legitimacy of President Waheed?

Mohamed Nasheed: No, they are all … Look, both the Indian Government the US Government and the United Nations they are all saying they need to investigate into the events and how transfer of power happened. What they are suggesting is whoever who is in power whatever the status quo is they will have to work with the status quo. It is not necessarily recognizing the government. I very clearly heard … err … the British Foreign Secretary William Haig saying that it will be difficult to recognize the government unless, until they are clear on what happened in transfer of power. Now we have Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and they will be coming I am told to the Maldives I am told on the seventeenth and they will ascertain the fact what happened during the 7th, during the 6th and 7th which is during the transfer of power. It was very very simply, a coup. Now I am not hiding. Usually if there was such a outrage against me, and people being deposed and resigned, you usually have a situation where the whole country is in euphoria with the new government. But that is not what we are seeing here in the Maldives. What we are seeing is that everyone is out on the street in support of us. I think what is happening in the Maldives is obvious. The old order is back again in a new façade and we have to have the Country back on track.

Stephen Sackur: Let me turn around your logic a little bit – if indeed it was the forceful coup you say it was, it seems very odd to me that there you sit quite happily in the TV studios in Male’ talking to me telling me what a terrible thing has befallen you. Er indeed, the current President, Waheed has said all of your rightful privileges will be respected and he wants you to work with him to ensure calm and stability in the country. That’s a very odd coup d’état. Usually somebody like you would end up in a dungeon somewhere.

Mohamed Nasheed: Yes, usually that happens. But as soon as this happened, I was able to slip out from the military headquarters. I said I would only write the letter in the President’s Office and soon after that I was able to come to my people. Where the vast majority of the people of the Maldives then finally realized what was happening. And that they came out in support of me. I am able to talk to you today because there are thousands of people outside all supporting us. I have a arrest warrant on me. The police are out there trying to get at me. I am only able to speak to you only because the vast majority of the people of this Country want me back and want to have democracy ongoing."

While Nasheed's allegation are clearly difficult to believe for the thousands of Maldivians who were watching events unfold throughout the months leading to his fall and on the 6th and 7th of February, his allegations still retain support amongst those who lost their well paid political jobs when he resigned. However, grass roots support has waned, as calls for reform within the MDP have been denied in the past 12 months. The root of the mobocracy rule led by Nasheed is a blind cult-like belief in his allegations held by his close family and cronies, fuelled by the hard cash stolen from state coffers during his rule. Still a political figure to contend with, one year since he resigned, Nasheed has lost his tarnish so much so that his political future is very much in doubt as Presidential Elections 2013 draw near.

#Maldives Celebrates Liberation from Nasheed's Dictatorship: Feb 7th

#Maldives today celebrates one year after its Liberation Day, February 7th 2012. It was liberated on that day from the dictatorship of President Mohamed Nasheed who resigned amidst an Arab Spring of popular uprising against him. Nasheed's violations included overturning of the Constitution, violation of fundamental civic rights and usurping extraordinary powers over the Judiciary. Maldivians on social media and local media are today jubilant and expressing hope and dreams for a better future after one stable year of incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed's strong and unwavering leadership in which he has steadfastly defended national sovereignty and independence against foreign countries and foreign rich elite in support of resigned President Nasheed.

Nasheed's short presidency was marred by rampant corruption, nepotism, cronyism, sale of national assets to foreigners, graft, and wholesale violation of fundamental rights and liberties. Nasheed locked down the Supreme Court, engineered a mass resignation of his Cabinet to challenge the oversight role of the Parliament over the functioning of the Executive, ran his Executive for several months without a sworn in Cabinet, abrogated without recompense property and assets of local municipal bodies, and sold out key national assets to foreign multinationals in major graft and corrupt deals.

Nasheed further clamped down on media freedom by limiting press freedom, victimizing media station owners with threats of closure, court cases and loss of licenses. He politicized the police and military by dishing out promotions and incentives to officers who participated in his Presidential Witch hunt commission against former and current political leaders, sacked those military and police officers who would not violate their oaths in this manner, used the military against civilian protests, hunted arrested and victimized political opponents including opposition leaders and MPs.

His final downfall came after he denounced the supremacy of the Constitution, denounced the Judiciary as illegal and arbitrarily arrested the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court using military force. Judge Abdulla Mohamed was kept in solitary confinement at a military training camp for the 22 days of mass uprising that lead to Nasheed's resignation on February 7th, 2012.

Non-stop mass protests followed as civilians took to the streets to claim back their fundamental civic rights and fledgling new Constitution which upheld these rights. Nasheed retaliated with brute force using police and military might and thugs from his party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Wide use of tear gas, batons and police brutality was followed by mass arrests and hospitalizations. Key opposition leaders and MPs were arrested and hounded by the police, headed by Nasheed's appointee CP Ahmed Faseeh under the direction of the brutal Home Minister Hassan Afeef.

Key accounts of military and police in the past year document that, on that historic night February 7th 2012, Nasheed brought about his own demise by circumventing both military and police protocol in some deparate Master Plan to stay in power. Following what was reportedly a night of alcohol binging at a nearby resort, Nasheed insisted upon entering military headquarters and took over command by exerting his powers as Commander in Chief. In doing so, he circumvented both Defence Minister Tholhath Kaleyfaanu, Chief of Defence Forces Brig. Gen. Moosa Jaleel and other military commanders, to directly order Male' Area Commander Ibrahim Didi and juniors in direct operations against civilian protestors (pic).

Within the Police too, senior officers who protested against brutality against the public were arbitrarily ordered to resign by CP Faseeh who cited Nasheed's direct orders. Others were ordered to withdraw from their posts, leaving the coast clear for direct attacks on protestors by Nasheed's thugs. As Police SO protested against their illegal orders, CP Faseeh resigned leading the door wide open for Home Minister Afeef to directly transmit Nasheed's blind orders and counter orders to third tier police officers, throwing the police force too into disarray.

What resulted was a havoc created by President Nasheed himself as law and order fell apart following the example set by himself alone, amongst the citizenry and the security forces. Historic accounts from senior military and police officers involved and leading ministers of Nasheed Cabinet document that it was a combination of loss of control on Nasheed's part and resulting police disobedience in the face of unconstitutional orders were the final straws which broke Nasheed’s iron grip on the country after weeks on civic riots.
On Feb 7th, by mid-day, the capital Male' and islands were celebrating in jubilation as strongman Nasheed announced his voluntary resignation in front of mass media. Following Constitutional dictates to the letter, Vice President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was sworn in immediately as the 5th President of the Maldives (pic).

President Waheed’s first official statement as President was that the Constitution of the country is supreme, and that all powers of the state would be exercised in accordance with the Constitution. He then pledged the democratic separation of powers and the protection of the rights of the people. President Waheed noted the hardships suffered by the population in the past three years, and called for national unity to restore democracy and democratic processes.

By these very short key statements, President Waheed showed his people that he had grasped the root causes of the widespread civic opposition to Nasheed. He called for national unity. President Waheed later announced a national unity government with other political parties, which would work as a government for the people.

However, all was not to be rosy. Within 24 hours of his voluntary resignation, Nasheed was rampaging on the streets (pic), claiming a military coup against him, lead by President Dr. Waheed and former President Gayoom. Nasheed's argument is that his resignation letter was written in MNDF HeadQuarters while he was surrounded by 18 gun toting servicemen who had demanded his resignation. He contends that this letter has to be dismissed as illegal, as it was written at gunpoint under threat of personal harm and harm to his family.

However, history shows that the said resignationa letter was written by his own hand at the President's Office just prior to his public announcement of his resignation. Significantly Nasheed made no mention to his Cabinet, whom he met prior to his resignation and who stood at his side during his resignation speech to the country, of any coercion or threats although Cabinet colleagues questioned him specifically on this matter.

On February 8th, Nasheed and his ex-Ministers led street riots in Male' which vandalized private and public property. These were supported by arson, vandalism and attacks on police stations in island strongholds of Nasheed's party. In the countrywide terror campaign led by ex President Nasheed, up to now, 9 police stations, 3 Court Houses and 1 Council Office has been razed to the ground by MDP activists, accounting for over MRf 150 million in losses to public property (pic).

What followed was a true testament to President Dr. Waheed's integrity and nationalistic spirit. Days, nights and months of Nasheed's rampaging on the streets, strong arm tactics from neighbouring India and Commonwealth to force early elections, pressure from Nasheed's political buddies in UK and Canada, widespread anti-Maldives publicity in international media orchestrated by Nasheed's rich magnate friend Virgin Group head Richard Branson and CANVAS group head Popovich and other Western rich elite, did not deter President Waheed from following a straight path in investigating these claims.

Defendng Maldives' sovereignty and independence against what he termed at the UNGA "small justice for small states" (pic), President Dr. Waheed formed an international independent investigation under the guidance and participation of both the United Nations and the Commonwealth, the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI). After many delays due to Nasheed's wilful demands, changing his version of events and wild claims and obstructions, the CoNI was able to complete and report its investigation in August 2012.

The CoNI reported that Nasheed's resignation on February 7th this year was "voluntary and of his own free will". It determined that Nasheed's resignation was "not caused by any illegal coercion or intimidation

The CoNI constituted of a 5 member panel which included a member of Nasheed's party and nominated by Nasheed himself, plus an international legal expert appointed in consultation with international partners. In addition, two Independent Advisers were sent from the Commonwealth and the United Nations to support the Commission. The function of the Advisers was to observe the conduct of the Commission and advise on the issues as may be required. The final report of the CoNI which was issued at end August was endorsed by the two international Advisors. The findings of the CoNI have been accepted and welcomed by all international partners, including India, the United States, the United Nations and the Commonwealth. This report very effectively defeated partisan stands by powerful individuals within CMAG and the UK Government, and the Canadian Foreign Secretary John Baird who tried their utmost to influence early elections in favor of their poster boy Nasheed.
Two other key findings of the CoNI were that the change of President in Maldives on February 7th 2012 was legal and constitutional; and that the events that occurred on Feruary 6th and 7th were, "in large measure, reactions to the actions of President Nasheed".
On Nasheed's claim that President Waheed's presidency is unconstitutional, the CoNI report states that, "With regard to the idea that there was a 'coup d'état', nothing in the Maldives changed in constitutional terms – indeed, the Constitution was precisely followed as prescribed. Moreover, in terms of the democratic intent and legitimacy of the authority of the Presidency, as foreseen in the Constitution, President Waheed properly succeeded President Nasheed. This coheres with the electoral prescription insofar as President Nasheed and his then-Vice President were on the same ballot and so the electorate was fully informed of the persons and exact role of the candidates for whom they voted and who ultimately took the oaths of office to serve under the Constitution. Accordingly, there appears nothing contestable in constitutional terms under the generic notion of a 'coup d'état' that is alleged to have occurred – quite to the contrary, in fact."

The CoNI report was corroborated by the independent investigation of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) commissioned by the independent Prosecutor General of the Maldives, to investigate Nasheed's arbitrary military arrest of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. The HRCM report on the investigation of the Judge's arrest and subsequent solitary confinement at a military training camp for 22 days determined the said actions to be blatant violation of human rights committed under Nasheed's direct orders and supervision as Commander in Chief. It reported that Nasheed had bypassed military hierarchy and was physically present at military Headquarters in directing the military operations to arrest Judge Abdullah Mohamed and put him in solitary confinement. The reasons given by Nasheed at the time for the Judge's arrest were unspecified charges of interference with judicial process.

Sadly for the Maldivian public, the Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu's criminal case against Nasheed for these criminal acts has not proceeded beyond first stages as Nasheed and his international legal team use all their wiles to deter a court verdict prior to March 2013, the objective being to keep a foot in the door for Nasheed to contest in the upcoming Presidential elections this year.

These delays have spilled into the PG's case on the same incident against Nasheed's then Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, Chief of Defence Forces Brig Gen (Retd.) Moosa Jaleel and the two senior military personnel who were instrumental in implementing Nasheed's illegal order. Sadly for Maldives, one year on, it is still being denied justice.

Nasheed and his party MDP's riots and hate campaign did not stay in the streets alone. Maldivians witnessed yet another dark and shocking night as senior Islamic scholar and MP Dr. Afraasheem Ali was brutally slain in his home by MDP activists and associated thugs in early October 2012. Dr. Afraasheem's (pic) murder was orchstrated just as MDP faced divisive factions internally and Nasheed's party support declined dramatically.

Investigations traced money flow to the murderers originating from senior officials, the most senior of which were MDP Interim President and MP Reeko Moosa Maniku and Nasheed's former Transport Minister Adil Saleem. The exact cash transfer was handled by Nasheed's cousin by marriage and lead activist, Mariyam Naifa (pic).

Police have charged Reeko Moosa's body guard, a hired thug by the name of Humam for MP Afraasheem's murder. Police report investigations into the financing of the murder and its conception are still ongoing, and that they have multiple evidence on the key individuals involved.

Prior to Dr. Afraasheem's brutal murder an intense hate campaign had been run against him and other members of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) led by Nasheed crony and appointee to JSC Aishath Velzinee (pic). This was another prong in Nasheed's attempt to intimidate and shackle the Judiciary which steadfastly refused to compromise its integrity and independence. A review of this hate campaign shows its links to Dr. Afraasheem's brutal slaying and raises grave danger for other political opponents of Nasheed.

These contemtiple and atrocios acts against all decency and justice are currently being supported by a Nasheed controlled parliamentary suncommittee on government accountability which has illegally taken upon itself to "investigate" the CoNI investigation and Nasheed's coup allegations. The committee is headed by Nasheed buyout MP Ali Waheed and has a majority of MDP members in it, including its Parliamentary Group leader MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. This Committee has publicly supported Nasheed's claims of a coup and publicly aired selected fragments of its hearings on testimony by Nasheed stooges in the military. However, these allegations have been proven untrue by the clear repeated testimony of Nasheed's Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu.

Although the Parliament's Legal Consul has given legal opinion that the Committee does not have any legal mandate for an investigation into Nasheed's allegations of a coup, Parliamentary Speaker Abdullah Shahid has refused to take action on the matter. He has also refused to take action on the illegal airing and release of audio's of Committee hearings at MDP public rallies, illegal release of reports, and even on large scale vandalism by MPs in the Parliament Assembly Hall.

These actions have fuelled speculation that Speaker Shahid and his party Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) are hand in hand with MDP, assisting it to drive Maldives towards an earlier election than constitutionally scheduled. Speaker Shahid last night alluded to media the possibility that the incumbent president's chair may soon be vacated, in which event he said that the Vice President would assume the Presidency. This is to possibly stave off informed talk around town that upon resumption of Parliament in March, DRP and MDP will join hands to remove President Waheed and his VP, leaving Shahid to rule for the next 60 days and oversee early elections.

The earlier the elections the better for Nasheed as he can maintain his eligibility to contest, and the same for the politically and financially embattled DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. DRP is currently rapidly losing ground heavily to former President Gayoom's Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), incumbent President Dr. Mohamed Waheed's Gaumee Itthihaad Party (GIP) and the religious party, Adhaalath Party (AP). PPM has overtaken DRP in membership within a short period, making PPM the second largest party in the country.

One year on from the liberation of Maldives from the dictatorship of Mohamed Nasheed, it is evident that incumbent President Waheed is in the strongest of positions to win the upcoming elections, albeit in a second round with coalition support.

Current unfolding political events and rhetoric by his political opponents bear testament to President Waheed's ascendancy. MDP and DRP are jockeying hand in hand to hasten the elections to within 60 days from opening of Parliament on March 1st, 2013, in order to maintain their eligibility and prevent President Waheed from gaining further ground. PPM has launched all out attacks on President Waheed's presidency and leadership, with its candidates for presidential primaries levelling heated public attacks on his integrity.

Even more crucial, all major parties represented in Parliament (where President Waheed's party GIP and Adhaalath are not represented) have teamed up to pass an atrocious Act on Political Parties which severely limits the constitutional right of freedom of political association. The act limits the registration of political parties to those parties which can garner 10,000 members raising the bar more than 3 fold from the current requirement of 3,000 members, thereby eliminating from the contest smaller parties like GIP, Adhaalath and several others. Fortunately for the general public, President Dr. Waheed has stood firm against even this attack on fundamental rights coming from within the Parliament itself. He has sent back the Bill without ratification, citing that it violates the constitutional freedom of right of political association by limiting it to arbitray bounds.

As Maldives today celebrates Liberation Day, an year after the historic day in which all Maldives rose to liberate itself, its Constitution and Judiciary from the shackles of a dictator, it is still beleagured by internal and international divisive forces that seek to force it towards an early elections and seek even more to influence these elections. President Waheed has fought a long and hard battle maintianing national unity and balancing the competing demands of political opponents who seek to replace him poste haste.

While Dr. Waheed has managed to put the economy back on track despite serious obstacles internally and from neighbouring countries such as India, recaptured national assets such the local international airport from Indian Multinational GMR's death grip, the independent legal arms of the Judiciary and the Prosecutor General are struggling to bring guilty rulers to justice, a fight that Nasheed's international legal team is winning presently.

Hence, though liberated from Nasheed's dictatorship and under the steady captaincy of a true national hero President Waheed, Maldives remains a country which is still being served "small justice" locally and internationally. However, the past year is testament that President Waheed has the backbone and integrity to uphold his commitment to his people, to uphold the Constitution and laws and to defend the national faith Islam, even in the upcoming trials as rival political opponents from all round collude and try to topple him like Julius Caesar on the Ides of March.