In a statement issued today, Opposition Leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom condemned in the strongest possible words, the continued harassment and persecution of political opponents by Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed’s regime. Alluding to repeated unsuccessful attempts by Police Commissioner Faseeh to obtain court warrants for President Nasheed’s political hit list, Opposition Leader Gayoom welcomed the courage shown by the judiciary to protect the civil liberties of citizens.
“At this time of grave darkness and infringement of the civil and political rights of the peace loving members of this country we applaud and welcome the courageous decision by the judiciary in general and the Criminal Court in particular to uphold the Constitution and protect the civil liberties of citizens in the face of strong-arm tactics by the Executive” Gayoom stated.
In a week of fear and persecution of political opponents by Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, the public wait with trepidation about whom he will arrest today. Sources report that several arrests of opposition leaders are scheduled for this morning. Last night international pressure from well meaning countries and the watchful eye of international media forced President Nasheed to back down from arresting former President and opposition leader Gayoom. Police and army had been ordered to arrest the former leader before midnight last night.
Gayoom’s scheduled arrest was publicized earlier yesterday when Nasheed’s party Maldivian Democratic Party jumped the gun by circulating short text messages assuring their members that “President Gayoom would be arrested this evening” and “brought before the commission”. The MDP further called upon its street gangs to come and witness the “show”.
Military sources confirmed late yesterday that the Police and the army were “ordered” to arrest the Former President. Top officers were reportedly threatened with dismissal should they fail to follow Nasheed’s orders. These reports were proven when Nasheed arbitrarily dismissed dozens of senior MNDF and Police officers yesterday, on ‘suspicion of sympathising with the opposition’.
While the Maldives Police Service headed by Nasheed appointee Ahmed Faseeh has been zealous in attacking the Nasheed regime’s political opponents by carrying out extra-judicial arrests and searches, the army has so far stayed silent. The armed forces, headed by career officer and national hero Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel is widely believed to be largely loyal to the former leader.
From the early hours of yesterday evening, thousands of democracy loving members of the public and Gayoom supporters continued to gather at his Male’ residence calling upon President Nasheed to stop his persecution. The Gayoom family informed media sources close to them that international condemnation of President Nasheed’s actions, and messages and phone calls of support have been pouring in throughout the day from local and international friends and well-wishers.
In his statement today, Gayoom called upon President Nasheed to accept defeat gratefully. “President Nasheed will be ill-advised to pursue this policy of revenge, against the will of the vast majority of the Maldivian people and the aspirations of the international community. He must focus on healing the rifts that the MDP had created during the presidential election and, thereafter, further widened during the parliamentary election. He should learn to accept defeat graciously” he said.
In his statement Gayoom was alluding to the escalation of President Nasheed’s ongoing and systematic persecution of its political opponents, immediately after having lost more than two-thirds of the parliament to the opposition coalition led by Gayoom. The hallmarks of Nasheed’s intimidation campaign include repeated unconstitutional acts, blatant disregard of the rule of law and subversion of constitutionally-mandated independent institutions.
Daily threats have been leveled by President Nasheed and his party leaders against the Opposition Leader threatening his imminent arrest. Nasheed and top members of his government continue to incessantly level unfounded corruption charges against Gayoom and senior members of his former government. Despite repeated requests, the media and public has not been shown of any concrete proof to back these allegations. While Nasheed has avoided answering questions by media as to concrete proof, Maldives Police has issued a statement saying that investigations have not reached a stage where it can be made public. The Maldives Judiciary has steadfastly refused to sanction Nasheed stooge Commissioner Faseeh’s blanket fishing trips to gather evidence by refusing search and arrest warrants based on insufficient justification by police.
This persistent campaign of vilification of top opposition leaders has seen a senior MDP parliamentarian call, on state television, for Gayoom’s public lynching, supported by violent mobs of MDP hooligans congregating outside the residence of the former President more than once.
In a much publicized interview to international media upon Gayoom’s conceding the presidential elections to him, the then President-elect Nasheed assured local and international media that he would honor his constitutional duty of extending due respect, security and privileges to the former President. Also, he stated in the presence of local and international media, that he would not harass the former President.
However, over the past six months, Nasheed and his MDP government have intimidated, bullied and harassed the former President as an ‘attention diversion tactic’, whenever there is a public outcry over controversial government policies. Whenever the public gather peacefully to protest against various government actions, the MDP have sent their thugs led by Nasheed’s State Ministers and Deputy Ministers to President Gayoom’s residence in Male’ to create unrest and disruption. Rumors are floated, almost every week that the Nasheed government was pressing legal charges against Gayoom on various fictitious allegations.
The oft-repeated threats to arrest President Gayoom reportedly came to a head last night in a standoff between elements within both the MNDF and Maldives Police Service, who fervently disagree with the current policies of politicization of the security services, and others within their respective command structures unquestioningly obeying politically-motivated unlawful orders. The regime has not provided Gayoom with adequate security and protection, thereby limiting the Opposition Leader’s daily activities and his participation in public events.
President Nasheed continues to deny that he has any interest in bullying President Gayoom and blames ‘hardliners in his party’ for such actions. However, no steps have been taken to date to put an end to such incidents. On the contrary, Nasheed has codified his hate politics into the governance arena by establishing a Presidential Commission to investigate embezzlement of state funds. Top legal experts in the country have slammed this commission for having extra legal powers, for encroaching upon the mandates constitutionally created independent commissions and for being comprised of hard line MDP stooges known for public hate campaigns against President Gayoom and his government officials. Its remit is also unclear.
President Nasheed systemic persecution campaign is clearly aimed at overturning the current majority for the opposition by imprisoning various DRP/PA MPs, and, thereby, holding by-elections to elect MDP candidates. Nasheed’s Witch Hunt Commission fired its opening salvo last Sunday night (24th May) with the police ransacking without a court order the corporate offices of opposition MP Ahmed Nazim. While Hon. Nazim, who is also the Deputy Leader of Gayoom’s coalition partner the People’s Alliance, was abroad, the Police also barged into his residence and arrested his wife! Mrs. Zeenath Abdulla was arrested arbitrarily, handcuffed and kept in prison overnight amid male convicts. She was not provided clean drinking water, appropriate toilet facilities or proper food. Hon. Nazim is slated by the opposition coalition to be fielded as their candidate for the post of Deputy Speaker of parliament, to be elected at its first sitting on 28th May.
Failing to deliver on any of his campaign manifesto pledges, President Nasheed continues to employ attention diversion tactics and boosts the morale of his party militia by promising them a ‘piece of Former President Gayoom’. Other opposition leaders on President Nasheed’s hit list are PA Leader Abdulla Yameen, the DRP’s candidate for Speaker of the Parliament and former Foreign Minister Hon. Abdulla Shahid and DRP-sympathetic independent MP Hon. Ahmed Saleem. Should President Nasheed succeed with his planned arrests today, it will reduce the numbers of opposition MPs in session for the crucial opening of the parliament, during which the new Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected by secret ballot. Nasheed has reportedly promised the Speaker’s post to his cousin by marriage Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, MP for the Hinnavaru constituency. The parliamentary ballot for the Hinnavaru constituency has been challenged in the High Court by independent candidate Ahmed Shareef, charging illegal acts by Solih and his supporters.
In his statement today, Opposition Leader Gayoom called upon President Nasheed “to govern responsibly and in accordance with the Constitution and to give up its policy of unconstitutional acts, malicious prosecutions and to look instead to heal rifts, unite the nation and work to deliver on their [election] promises”.
President Nasheed’s failure to deliver on his promises of upholding democratic principles and the widening gulf between his actions domestically and words overseas has resulted in an overall loss in public faith in the democratic reform agenda. His opposition has little avenue to voice its concerns, as the MDP government continues to muzzle state and private media.
The opposition DRP is currently dispatching envoys to meet with key diplomatic stakeholders to seek assistance in exerting pressure on President Nasheed to put an end to these Soviet-style ‘show trials’. It believes that the international community, who worked hand-in-hand with us in implementing the democratic reform agenda, has a moral obligation to ensure that the opposition movement can continue to fulfill its parliamentary and institutional duties to the people, without intimidation, harassment and bullying.