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#Maldives #Liberation Day Feb 7: Nasheed's changing version of events: Interview on BBC #HardTalk, Feb 16 2012

#Maldives Liberation Day Feb 7: As Maldives today celebrates its Liberation from the dictatorship of Mohamed Nasheed, it is noteworthy that his allegations of a military are still unproven. This, with revelations of mass corruption and graft during his reign, plus the association to the brutal murder of MP and moderate Muslim scholar Dr. Afraasheem Ali in October 2012, have seen significant loss in grass roots support for Nasheed. Nasheed can no longer muster street riots of significance in his previous stronghold of Male'. Insiders report attendance at Male' party rallies are made mandatory. Nasheed's trips to the islands have been marred by lacklustre reception, requiring huge expenses by MDP to transport followers from Male' each time to make up the numbers.

However, a cult like blind followership still behind Nasheed, mainly the top elite of MDP who received numerous benefits from the state treasury during his short reign. The MDP front ranks lost their political posts en masse, including access to public assets, leaving behind a bitterness that still permeates the social networks, MDP Party rallies and even the previously revered halls of the Parliament. However, public trust in Nasheed and MDP leadership, including MDP MPs, has fully been lost, a case in point being the lack of public interest in current MDP MP machinations to re-open the CoNI investigation into Nasheed's wild claims of a military coup.

Meanwhile, one year past, 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. Yet, Nasheed shows no sign of taking his claim to a court of law in or out of Maldives, surely a point of significance to consider.

Should the Maldives 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 some 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 even 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 months leading to his fall and on the 6th and 7th of February, his allegations still retain support amongst those who lost their well paid political jobs when he resigned. However, grass roots support has waned, as calls for reform within the MDP have been denied in the past 12 months. The root of the mobocracy rule led by Nasheed is a blind cult-like belief in his allegations held by his close family and cronies, fuelled by the hard cash stolen from state coffers during his rule. Still a political figure to contend with, one year since he resigned, Nasheed has lost his tarnish so much so that his political future is very much in doubt as Presidential Elections 2013 draw near.

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