Founder of the Virgin empire, multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson, has again delved into Maldivian politics with a third blog post on the subject, declaring his support for early elections “as soon as feasibly possible”.
Branson first wrote an open letter calling on “interim” President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to “do the right thing” and hold free and fair elections before the end of the year, describing it as “completely astounding that you have been part of an overthrow of a democratically elected government that has effectively let the old regime back into power.”
Several days later he had a phone call with Dr Waheed, and subsequently said he believed the new president was “determined to be an honest broker” who “had nothing to do with [the coup]. He watched the situation unfolding on television.”
Branson’s third and most recent post came after “a lengthy conversation with former President Mohamed Nasheed”, who “wanted to be sure that it was completely clear what had happened in the Maldives.”
“Mr Nasheed said that he had been overthrown by a coup. He said that the confusion about what happened in the first two days came about because he was forced to remain in the Presidential Palace in order to keep him away from the press, was therefore incommunicado, and only managed to escape after a couple of days,” Branson wrote.
“He said that he was very concerned the Maldives could become another Afghanistan. He believes that the way to resolve this is for interim President Waheed to step down and for The Speaker to hold court for two months.
He said he sees no reason why there shouldn’t be early elections during this calendar year, preferably within two-to-three months. The people of this country, he said, need to be asked as soon as possible who they want to rule them. The Maldives and the Maldivians urgently need to get back on track.
“He believed that there was is Islamic element of the military and mentioned that some of them chanted on the street “God is great”. He said that the new government had thrown out all human rights cases and corruption cases, which he felt was wrong. He said that some of his MPs had been removed, others had court cases brought against them.
“He ended by saying: ‘Governments should only be changed through the ballot box and not by any other means. No military in the world should be allowed to take over a Government and hold on to it.’
“We now have both sides of the story,” Branson declared.
“Having listened to both sides, it does seem wise for an election to take place as soon as is feasibly possible so that the people of the Maldives can begin to put this ugly chapter behind them.”
Branson attended the Slow Life Symposium at the upmarket Soneva Fushi resort in October 2011, a highly eco-conscious resort owned by Sonu and Eva Shivdesani.
Other attendees at the resort included actress Daryl Hannah, star of films including ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Kill Bill’ and ‘Splash’; Ed Norton, star of films including ‘Fight Club’ and ‘American History X’; Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project; Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed; and an array of climate experts and scientists including Mark Lynas and Mike Mason.