“Democracy must be restored in the Maldives,” Nasheed tells US media

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s promotional tour of the US media for the Island President continued over the weekend, including interviews with the Washington Post, Salon, and the Huffington Post, among others.

The interviews follow Nasheed’s appearance last week on the Late Show with David Letterman, and address to Colombia University. The recent political instability in the Maldives has been as much a topic in many of the interviews as the wider environmental threat highlighted in the Island President, and the media has been quick to draw parallels.

The first half of the film gives a political backdrop to Nasheed’s own political rise – and imprisonment.

“It is very important that democracy be restored in the Maldives, and we hope that friendly governments understand the necessity and the need for it,” Nasheed said, in a Q&A with Salon. “As we see it now, I’m afraid the government there is going to all sorts of places. Certainly it’s not going democratically, and we need to bring it back.”

Asked by Salon if he believed Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government would pursue tackling climate change to the same degree, Nasheed said “They can’t. You must have a high moral authority to address climate change. Every time you start speaking, you know, you can’t be answering back to the skeletons in your own closet. So it’s not going to be possible for them to articulate in the same manner as a democratic government. I don’t see it happening.”

There was, Nasheed told the magazine, no policies or political ideology behind Gayoom and the former opposition coalition.

“[The] ideology is xenophobia and racism. All the rhetoric against Israel and the West, calling everyone a heathen. It’s really narrow-minded and intolerant and nationalistic. This is an island mentality as well, but it’s possible to change that. It’s not the people who have that mentality but the ruling elite, who want to suppress the people through that narrative, that rhetoric,” Nasheed explained.

Nasheed also met with the US State Department. Recounting the meeting to the Washington Post, Nasheed said: “the whole issue centred around the restoration of democracy in the Maldives, and how it was very important to get the country back on track, and how the US government may assist in doing that.”

“We were encouraged that the US government willing to listen and see how they may be of assistance to democratic progress in the Maldives,” Nasheed said, adding that the State Department had shown a willingness to reassess the situation as new information emerged.

“The US government was of the view that elections were necessary – they had reservations in the past, but main focus of conversation was that whatever their viewpoint in the past, they were willing to assess situation on the ground as it is now.”

Gayoom denies allegations

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom has meanwhile brushed off the allegations made by his successor regarding his involvement in the coup.

Gayyoom in a press statement released yesterday after Nasheed had made remarks to the US media, stated that he had not attempted nor took part in any type of attempts to unlawfully topple the government of Nasheed.

However he acknowledged that his party, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), had participated with thousands of people who raised concerns over Nasheed’s unlawful and unconstitutional actions and his efforts to distance the Maldivian people from their Islamic faith.

“For that purpose, PPM had participated in the protests that were organised by several political parties and NGOs. That [protesting] is a legal and a democratic right for the people to ensure accountability of the president and senior officials of his government. It is also an obligation on the citizens as well,” Gayoom claimed..

Gayoom also expressed his confidence that the events that unfolded on February 7 was not a coup d’état: “Therefore I can confidently say that the allegations that Nasheed is making, regarding the transfer of power that took place on February 7 was a coup d’état or a revolution, and that I was involved in it, are completely absurd.”

Gayoom issued the press statement in particular response to Nasheed’s appearance on Letterman.

During the show, Nasheed said Dr Waheed’s regime, is the “old dictatorship that we voted out of office”.

“Gayyoom is back in the country, his children are in cabinet, he is in power. Dr Waheed is just a facade.” Nasheed said.