Senior figures of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government have accused Indian High Commissioner Dnyaneshwar M Mulay of failing to pass critical information to the Indian government on February 7, as mutinying police and army officers joined opposition demonstrators to overthrow Nasheed’s presidency.
The allegations were published in India’s weekly current affairs and features magazine, Open, following Nasheed’s recent visit to India.
Former National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal told the magazine that he was “surprised” that Mulay was in the company of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen, during the upheaval, and made no attempt to contact the elected government.
“I believe that proper information was not passed on to Indian authorities,” Faisal alleged, to Open.
“I was surprised that instead of contacting us, the government [of the Maldives], Mulay was having a discussion with opposition party leaders like Yameen in the Indian High Commission, when the coup was happening. In a situation like this, why call the opposition and not establish contact with the government? Before this happened, I never suspected [any conspiracy]. We were very close,” he said.
“I maintained a close relationship with Mulay. I called him three or four times while the coup was underway. I could not contact President Nasheed. At that point, he was inside the army headquarters and his phone was jammed. I spoke to Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem, instead, for his advice on seeking Indian intervention to control the situation. He told me that President Nasheed did not want any military intervention as it was an ‘internal matter’,” Faisal recalled.
“Later, Naseem called me to request some assistance from India. As the national security advisor, I called up Mulay and sought Indian assistance… He asked me to ask the foreign minister to send a note. I told Mulay that this was no time to be sending notes or love letters.”
Mulay, Faisal contended, “could see what was happening from his window. The whole coup was being telecast live. As a diplomat, he should’ve known that the whole country was in chaos.”
Faisal further claimed that Mulay had earlier informed him that the Indian Navy vessel INS Suvarna was in Maldivian waters three days before the events of February 7, and departed that morning. Open independently confirmed the presence of the vessel in Maldivian waters on that date.
“If the Indian Naval ship was just an hour away, it was in our territorial waters, why was the [Maldives] government not informed of it? What was the Indian naval ship doing there?” Faisal alleged.
Open observed that former President Nasheed appeared careful not to go on record with any allegations himself – and instead deferred to Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) interim Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, “to speak on my behalf”.
“[Mulay] became so powerful that he started behaving like the prime minister and not a high commissioner. In early 2011, we felt that Mulay was drifting away from the MDP. He wanted to meet leaders of opposition parties. He wanted to be invited to all official functions that took place in Maldives. He was invited to many government functions, but not all. We found that a lot of companies were coming [to the country] for business through Mulay. We were floating tenders for big projects. He would act like a middleman,” Manik alleged to Open.
“Mulay would visit various [Maldivian] islands with his Indian friends, many of them businessmen. The government did not know who they were. Mulay has good connections with opposition parties, particularly Gayoom’s party,” he further claimed.
Manik also alleged that Yameen was present in Mulay’s office on the morning of February 7, while outside, a group of opposition supporters had joined police in an all-out assault on the country’s main military base in Republic Square. A second group broke down the gates of the state broadcaster, and took over the station. President Nasheed subsequently resigned, later alleging this was under duress.
“How many times did Mulay try to talk to somebody in the Government of India when all this was going on? How many times did Mulay call the Indian Government to ask them to intervene? There are 30,000 Indians living here and Indian business interests are at stake. He should have informed the Indian authorities. There is something fishy about Mulay’s response,” Manik told Open.
Open sought response from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, which did not address the allegations, but instead expressed “full confidence” in Mulay.
“The alleged references to the High Commissioner’s conduct in some media interactions by former President Nasheed were raised during his discussions with Indian officials,” noted MEA Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
“Former President [Nasheed] had clarified that he had not said the things attributed to him in the media. He said that he had known the High Commissioner for three years. The High Commissioner was a poet and he liked him. There were never any issues with the High Commissioner and he would clarify this to the media appropriately,” Akbaruddin claimed.
“We do not think it is appropriate to bring our High Commissioner into the discourse. He enjoys our full confidence.”
Speaking to Minivan News, Mulay declined to comment on the specific allegations, “as my government has already responded”, but described them as “completely baseless, a flight of fancy.”
Yameen confirmed to Minivan News that he had met with Mulay on the morning of February 7.
“It was Mulay who SMSed me and asked me to come and discuss the national crisis,” he said. “Mulay asked me to get a checklist of demands [from the protesters] and try to see if there could be a three-day respite.”
Asked why he believed Mulay had contacted him, Yameen said he believed it was “because PPM was the largest opposition party [at the time].”
Additional allegations made by Manik and published in Open, that Yameen had “ transferred several thousand US dollars from Colombo to some army and police officials by way of travellers’ cheques”. However Yameen dismissed the allegations as “absolute gibberish.”