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#Maldives: Military coup, unique coup or self coup? When will there be an investigation?

Male', Maldives.
Almost a month after the transfer of power between Mohamed Nasheed and his Vice President Mohamed Waheed, there is still no investigation of Nasheed's allegations of a coup and Waheed's denial of it. Maldivian doubts increase as various versions of Nasheed's coup are aired on international press, while the military and police deny it in the local press. In the meantime, Parliament and peace talks remain suspended due to the rule of mobocracy by the Maldives Democratic Party in blind support of their Supreme Leader for Life, Mohamed Nasheed. This status quo, while beneficial to Nasheed and his opponents, is clearly not conducive to the normal life of the average Maldivian nor for their major income earner, the tourism industry.

Nasheed resigned on February 7th after weeks of civic riots against his unconstitutional arrest of a senior judge, protests which saw police brutality, and violations of fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly and the muzzling of independent media.

Within hours of his resignation, Nasheed had told international press that he had been forced to resign at gunpoint by 18 military officers, a charge categorically denied by the military and the new Government. Nasheed says he resigned by a letter that he was forced to write, with three military officers standing in front of him and about 18 others behind him. According to Nasheed, the defense forces joined mutinying police officers, and demanded at gun point, that he resign within one hour.

"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", Nasheed told Stephen Sackur on BBC Hard Talk program aired on 16th February.

Nasheed contends that the police and military were acting out of loyalty to former President Gayoom, though he has yet to provide evidence of any of his allegations.

Unfortunately for Nasheed, his "testimony" to various foreign media are being disputed on several sides. Military and police commanders on the ground have given "testimony" in which they testify that there was no demand for resignation, while on ther other hand Nasheed issued several illegal orders which, if they had obeyed, would have thrown the country into chaos. The core justification given by police and military for disobeying Nasheed's orders is that, if they had obeyed, national security of the country would have been compromised, leading to bloodshed.

At the same time, the public question why current Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, both career officers who had been sacked by Nasheed when he came to power, had been inside military headquarters on February 7th, prior to Nasheed's resignation. Nazim is also on video record informing police assembled in front of military headquarters that he had spoken to President Nasheed, and on their behalf, demanded that Nasheed resign, without any conditions.

Public doubts were increased when Interim Deputy Leader of Gayoom's Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer boasted publicly that he had led the whole transfer of power from a command center from which he had personally told Nasheed to resign or his life may be in danger.

A slew of audio and video leaks being shared widely on social media are also either supporting or detracting from the allegations of a military coup. One such leak is of President Waheed's Advisor Dr. Hassan Saeed, a leading member of the opposition coalition which had been agitating for Nasheed's resignation, informing a group of people that what happened in the Maldives was a "unique coup". Dr. Saeed's use of the word "coup" repeatedly to refer to the transfer of power is not helping to settle any doubts within Maldivian minds about the legitimacy of the new government.

Current President Waheed succeeded to power after Nasheed's resignation through the due constitutional process, promising restoration of the primacy of the constitution and rule of law. However, almost one whole month later, while Nasheed's allegations are repeatedly daily and changed almost daily, and while evidence is emerging to the contrary, the events leading to and during the transfer of power still remain to be investigated.

An independent National Enquiry Commission created by President Waheed for this purpose is apparently still ruminating on the procedures for investigation. Media report that the three member commission is working on these procedural guideline, while Waheed's Attorney General Azima Shakoor admits that the commission has littel experience in such as investigation. The longer the delay in the investigation, the greater the doubts in Maldivian minds about the transfer of power.

Leaving aside the Government's lack luster attempt at an investigation, there are no reports of even an investigation by the Police Integrity Commission on police actions that day, or an internal military investigation of military actions and Nasheed's allegations against military officers. The Prosecutor General, formerly Nasheed's lawyer, has elected to remain silent on the issue.

Meanwhile, 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.

Should the 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 over 18 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 evenn 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 past few months and on the 6th and 7th of February, his allegations have mustered some support for him and his party in some areas. The root of the mobocracy rule led by Nasheed is a belief in his allegations, something which the National Unity Government will have to address sooner than later, whether it likes it or not.

If the rights of the Maldivian people to a legitimate democratic government are to be held, the investigation must be now, and a clear ruling must be made by the Supreme Council on the allegations and counter allegations with regard to the transfer of power between Nasheed and Waheed.

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