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Maldives: The Nasheed Presidency - Surviving on Military might?

Male', Maldives.

The Nasheed Presidency, now into its 4th year, was rocked to its foundations by the scale of the civic protest against it on December 23rd, 2011. Media estimate that over 20,000 civilians participated in the peaceful protest held at Victory Square, Male', under the aegis of a Civic Coalition of over 90 civic associations and interest groups.

While bickering opposition leaders scramble to take steering wheel of the civic protest into their hands, President Nasheed has relied on his military to maintain his grip on the presidency. On the sidelines of military interference in civic affairs, Nasheed's cronies in his militant party (Maldives Democratic Party, MDP) and his Cabinet, continue to throw up various smokescreens in the public eye.

Nasheed's military made a decisive entry into the civic forum hours prior to the Civic Protest, by sending intimidatory directives to all media, threatening to close down all media outlets which air anti-government sentiments. This was followed up by a press conference by Military Chief Lt. Gen. Moosa Jaleel, in which he stated in no uncertain terms that the military would be active on the streets during the December 23rd protest.

The Maldives Military's explicit interference in the civic affairs of the state have been denounced by opposition leaders as being in violation of the Maldivian constitution and laws. Such denouncement has only served to charge the military, with Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, yesterday telling media point blank that he would shut down any media station/entity even suspected of promoting anti-government sentiments.

Nasheed has successfully co-opted the military first through his close family friend Ameen Faisal as Defence Minister and crony Roy Jayasuriya as second-in-command in the military. Both Ameen Faisal and Roy Jayasuria were collaborators with Nasheed's uncle Sikka Ahmed Ismail (Bodu Sikka) in the November 23rd coup to oust then President Gayoom. Bodu Sikka's failed coup was staged with troop and weapons support from the Tamil terrorist organization, LTTE.

The current Defence Minister Thalhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, of the DIK clan is a close school friend of Nasheed's who joined the MDP's militant front ranks in 2006 after resigning from the military. Thalhath is the youngest brother of Ali Hashim, Nasheed's failed Finance Minister, and presently occupies the cabinet seat allocated by the Nasheed regime to the DIK (Dhidhdhoo Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu) clan. Failed Finance Minister Ali Hashim is a joint owner of Lintel Maldives. The owners of Lintel Maldives, presently occuppying various top positions in the Nasheed government as cabinet ministers and chief advisors, are widely believed to be the masterminds behind Nasheed's political campaigns and policies.

With its explicit intimidation of media in recent days, it is more than likely that the military will again play a major role in subduing President Nasheed's political opponents. Nasheed's shaky regime was bolstered by military action in mid 2010 when the military uprooted and detained opposition politicians Gasim Ibrahim and Abdulla Yaameen on Nasheed's orders. The military's actions during that episode clearly show that military leaders would not be swayed from their purpose even by court order.

In the days following the massive civic protest against President Nasheed and his corrupt government, it is the military which has stepped up as the pillar that upholds the Nasheed regime. As should be expected, the media has been cowed by the military threats, with reports of ongoing civic dissent in the country getting little or no coverage. It remains to be seen how long this situation of military intimidation can last.

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