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Post election Maldives - Autocracy, intimidation and police brutality by the shaken Nasheed government

President Nasheed of the Maldives today sacked his Attorney General Fathimath Diyana Saeed without any explanation to her or to the public. The President’s Office announced this merely as an action which the President had the power to take under the constitution.

However, this move did not come as a surprise to the public given the very vocal fight between Nasheed and his Attorney General with respect to the increasing illegal actions of Nasheed and his government. When Diyana made public her repeated injunctions for President Nasheed to stop his interference in the recent parliamentary elections, he accused Diyana of acting in self interest. Her public criticism of Nasheed’s Province Bill as being explicitly contrary to the constitution led to Nasheed casting doubts about her professional competency. Nasheed’s dissatisfaction with Diyana was also due to her advice for him to stop threatening civil servants with dismissal, transfer, or demotion if they did not support the MDP candidate.

In the run up to the parliamentary elections, Nasheed lived up to his vow in January this year that he would not rest until MDP secured 50 seats in the parliament. Speaking at a nationally televised MDP rally at Imaaduddeen School on January 30th, Nasheed vowed "I intend to interfere, not just indirectly but directly, in the upcoming parliamentary elections, and I will do so until the MDP wins". Living up to his words for once, Nasheed and his MDP entourage frenetically scampered throughout the country, laying foundation stones for projects not included in the 2009 budget, signing mega project deals with shady investors and promising the world to each constituency.

In addition to using Government resources for his MDP parliamentary campaign, Nasheed publicly issued threats to island communities that they would not receive any development assistance or benefits from his government unless they elected MDP candidates. Speaking in his capacity as President at a public meeting at Alifushi, he threatened citizens stating that, “When a member of my party pesters me for something, I will grant that member’s request. But, if a member of another party pesters me, my evilness will be clearly seen. I can also do many things with my left hand and right hand. Never think, and none of you can even imagine, the things I would do or would not do.”

Despite Nasheed’s intimidation campaign, the Maldivian public very strongly rejected him and his government in the recent elections. Last week, his ruling party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was routed in the first multiparty parliamentary elections held in the Maldives. The coalition led by former president Gayoom’s Dhivehi Raiyyinthunge Party (DRP) secured a resounding victory with 35 seats in the 77 seat parliament, while Nasheed’s MDP scraped up only 25. Of the 13 seats held by independents, sources report that five MPS have committed to work with the DRP/People’s Alliance (PA) coalition. All have refused to work with MDP in spite of President Nasheed’s repeated offers of financial buyouts. Ahmed Hamza, MDP sympathizer and brother of Nasheed’s confidante and radical MDP activist Ali Shiyam, has offered independent MP for Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo Ahmed Amir MRF 7 million to sign up for the MDP. Similar offers ranging from MRF 3 to 7 million have been offered by Nasheed and his proxies to other independent MPs.

In the post election days, Nasheed has set about carrying out his threats with a vengeance. Within the last week, police have thrice brutally attacked peaceful gatherings and arrested several opposition activists. The capital Male’ is patrolled by army and police armed with batons and riot gear. Muggings of opposition party members are reported from constituencies where MDP suffered huge defeats. Two young DRP activists were knifed in Male’ last week.

Protected by the regime, MDP activists commit acts of arson and vandalism against non-MDP residents. DRP financier and activist businessman Ibrahim Suja’s bonded warehouse on Thilafushi Industrial Island was razed to the ground on 16th May, resulting in over MRF 30 million losses. Opposition leader Gayoom has been threatened with death by lynching by MDP mouthpiece Reeko Moosa on public TV. At the national level, Nasheed’s intimidation of independent MPs, opposition leaders, young dissidents, and civil servants has escalated. Two independent MPs have been threatened with trumped up fraud cases, while young dissidents and their families are harassed by MDP thugs.

In this climate of terror created by the disintegrating Nasheed regime, scared Maldivians watch with mounting alarm as within six months of office Nasheed overturns all democratic institutions and gathers all powers into his own hands. The Home Ministry remains vacant 5 months after Gasim Ibrahim resigned from office. By forcibly silencing the Attorney General at a time that legal counsel is most important to the regime, Nasheed has ensured that there is no Cabinet Minister whom the new parliament can question with respect to the internal affairs of the state.

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