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#Maldives: Military intervention in political wars ... opening new options for military leaders?

Male', Maldives.
This week's military intervention in civic affairs is no small matter. Even leaving aside the subjugation of the judiciary to military and police might, the active participation of the military in the Nasheed administrations political wars with political opponents will have caused alarm amongst the more thinking Maldivian voter base.

Maldives Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim (DIK) said last night, that the military's arbitrary arrest of Senior Judge Abdulla Mohamed was to protect national security and maintain public peace.

Reading from a written statement, Minister Tholhath stated on the state television network MNBC1 that the military had acted upon a request from Home Minister Hassan Afeef for military assistance to secure the detention of Judge Abdulla. Judge Abdulla's whereabouts and the state of his health are unknown from the time of his incarceration by the military on January 16, 2012.

Military actions cannot be merely dismissed as Minister Tholhath blindly following his crony Nasheed's bidding, given the Maldives military is led by a hitherto respected national hero, Lt. Gen. Moosa Jaleel. Lt. Gen. Jaleel, supported by an educated cadre of military officers trained at top military centres in the US, Europe and India, has until the recent past maintained the integrity of the military within its legal bounds. The first violation of the law by the military was in 2010 with the arbitrary arrest of opposition leaders Abdulla Yaameen and Gasim Ibrahim. At the time, the Defence Minister was Ameen Faisal, a frontline MDP leader with a history of violation of the military rules, ethics and codes of conduct.

After a period of quiescence, the military again crossed its legal boundaries with the historic civic protest in Male' on December 23, 2011. An estimated 20,000+ civilians gathered at Victory Square that day to protest against President Nasheed and his corrupt government. The military leapt to the forefront in the run up to the December 23rd protest, issuing a written and verbal threat to all media that those which were seen as acting against national security would be closed down. This was followed by verbal threats to media by Defence Minister Tholhath (who hails from the MDP clan DIK and is the younger brother of Nasheed's inner circle member, ex-Finance Minister Ali Hashim) and by Chief of Defence Forces Lt. Gen. Moosa Jaleel.

In reality, Minister Tholhath himself is a ex-military officer highly respected amongst military servicemen. Minister Tholhath resigned from military service in political opposition to then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. With Tholhath Ibrahim's political aspirations, he will will no doubt have played an influential role in convincing career servicemen such as Lt. Gen. Moosa Jaleel to act against the constitution and laws as he did on January 16th, 2012.

Jaleel, although a decorated hero who defended the country against Tamil Tigers led by Nasheed's uncle Sikka Ahmed Ismail (Bodu Sikka), will undoubtedly be indebted to President Nasheed for elevating him up from the officer ranks to head the Maldivian military. Insiders report that Jaleel's cooperation and active participation in Nasheed's machinations are based on his career ambitions. Such reports are lent credence by the well known fact that Nasheed's crony, Roy Jayasundhura (a man of Tamil descent), has been waiting in the military wings since Nasheed's first day as President, to take over from Jaleel. Anyone in such a position would no doubt feel the gentle sway of the Sword of Damocles above their heads, were they to put one foot outside the arbitrary line drawn by the Commander in Chief, Nasheed.

For Jaleel, a career servicemen, the options are few, if not wholly lacking. The same holds for the top military leadership. The country's political and social structure does not give much opportunity for a retired serviceman to enjoy the style and privileges he/she enjoyed in active service. Nor does retirement hold much thrill, especially for one who has tasted the reins of power as Chief of Defence Forces.

The military top command's recent step outside their legal boundaries, be it as blind following of orders from the Commander-in-Chief or any other reason, leave them little choice except to continue forward. Their arrest of a senior judge is a violation of all military rules and has propelled Maldives into international limelight. The Prosecutor General has added his weight to the national and international condemnation of the Maldives military, vowing to prosecute all individuals and institutions responsible for this overturning of the constitution.

What remains for the military top brass is to either proceed forward hand in hand with President Nasheed and Tholhath Ibrahim, or to take matters into their own hands. The latter is an option that several other military leaders in the Asian region have taken, a fact that President Nasheed and even his political opponents would be cognizant of.

The Maldivian military in past history have hatched up such plots, witness the plot hatched by Ameen Faisal (then QRF Leader) and his compatriots in 1988. Although Moosa Jaleel stood on the legal side in that military battle, today he may not be.

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