All hell was breaking loose down the street at the army headquarters, former advisor to ousted President Mohamed Nasheed, Paul Roberts, told MSN, recounting the last moments of Nasheed’s government.
“A couple of hundred supporters of former president Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives between 1978 and 2008, accompanied by a hundred or so police officers in full riot gear, were fighting with troops and trying to break into the HQ.
“I stood transfixed at the ongoing bedlam. A tear gas canister bounced past me down the street and dozens of young people started running towards me. I bolted into the President’s Office, behind the relative security of blast walls and armed guards.
“My colleagues who had made it into work were wandering around in a state of shock. I asked what was going on and people said there had been a police mutiny and hundreds of officers were no longer under state control. As the morning wore on, the situation became grimmer.
‘My colleague in army intelligence was looking increasingly worried. He reported that “all of the military police” and around 70 other soldiers had “switched sides” and joined the demonstrators. Most of the cabinet ministers were assembled in a second floor meeting room. There was no sign of President Nasheed.
‘The ministers were in disarray. Nobody knew what to do. My phone was going crazy, with calls from journalists and diplomats hungry for information.
“At around 11:30am, a friend at the state TV and radio broadcaster called and said police and protesters had raided the building. The journalists were locked in a room and the TV station had been taken off air. I went to the office balcony.
“A few of the President’s senior security advisers were making frantic calls to New Delhi, requesting Indian military intervention. I went up to my office and telephoned the British High Commission in Colombo, which handles Maldives’ affairs. I told them some of my colleagues were reporting that we were losing control of the country, and they were requesting foreign military intervention.”
“My phone kept ringing non-stop. One of the bodyguards was staring at me fiercely. I could see the bulge under his shirt by his hip, where I knew he kept his firearm. I slinked off to the toilet to answer my phone. It was a reporter from the New York Times. I told him the military had taken control of the President’s Office and I thought a coup was taking place. I came out of the loo and stood at the second floor balcony, near the President’s room.
“On the ground floor, the press office people were hurriedly taking a video camera into the press conference room. I saw Nasheed walking towards me, surrounded by a couple of aides and around seven people in combat fatigues.
“His eyes were bloodshot. He looked at me and smiled, as he always does. “So, Paul?” he said. I replied: “So this doesn’t look very good Mr President.”
“He slapped me on the back as he walked past into a meeting room. Within minutes, he hurriedly scribbled out a resignation letter and announced his decision on live TV. Two security people loyal to former president Gayoom, who had no role in the military or police at the time, flanked him.”