Speaking at an International Labor Day rally, ousted President Mohamed Nasheed raised fears over a military dictatorship emerging in the Maldives and vowed to see Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz arrested.
Nasheed resigned from office on February 7, but later claimed he left office “under duress” in a coup d’état orchestrated by remnants of the former dictatorship, funded by several resort interests and carried out by mutinous police and military units.
Nasheed gave his speech in front of the historic shrine to Abu al-Barakath-ul Yoosuf al-Barbari on Medhuziyaaraiy Magu. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had gathered on Medhuziyaarai Magu after police and military blocked an MDP rally from marching towards the area encompassing the President’s Office, Republican Square and the police and military headquarters.
Dozens of police and military in riot gear watched Nasheed speak from behind barricades. Minivan News observed water cannons on standby.
“Do not worry. We will arrest traitor Nazim and Abdulla Riyaz. We will do it. Do not worry. It will be the Maldivian police and the military that will do it for us,” Nasheed told hundreds of supporters.
Video footage on February 7 show Nazim addressing mutinous police and military units gathered in Republican Square, saying he had delivered an ultimatum on their behalf demanding Nasheed’s resignation. Another clip shows Riyaz meeting senior politicians inside police headquarters to brief them on Nasheed’s resignation.
Former VP Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s first appointments as president included employing Nazim as Minister of Defense and Abdulla Riyaz as Commissioner of Police.
In his speech, Nasheed laid blame for the change of government on senior police and military officials, claiming they had accepted bribes from business tycoons and distributed bribes among the lower ranks.
“Even though senior police and military officials, specifically Abdulla Riyaz, Nazim and the Chief of Defense Forces Shiyam took bribes and sold their institutions, we, as citizens or as a responsible political party cannot declare the two institutions to hold no value,” he said.
The military as a 117 year old institution had not seen an internal attack on its leaders and barracks in all of its history until February 7, Nasheed claimed.
“We are in this situation today because very few senior military and police officers took bribes from the wealthy and distributed the money within the two institutions,” he alleged.
“They [security forces] will now have to sustain the coup. Because their leaders, in fear of what may happen to them if the coup ends, will until their dying breath force the lower ranks to maintain military rule,” Nasheed said.
Nasheed was summoned to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) today to be interviewed about his treatment by police on February 8, during the police crackdown on MDP supporters that followed his resignation.
International partners have privately expressed concern over how a re-elected Nasheed administration would handle the police and armed forces, given their role in his ousting.
Nasheed raised concern over military rule in the Maldives and said “I call for an election in 2012 because I fear we may never hold an election again.”
“We learn from other countries’ experiences. When a middle-ranking military officer overthrows a civilian government, he will have to complete the revolution, the coup. The last colonel we saw was Colonel Gaddafi. Now we are seeing Colonel Nazim,” he continued.
“I note with concern that Nazim will try to complete his coup. Then, all political leaders including Abdulla Yameen, myself, and Thasmeen Ali will try to arrest him. Because [Nazim] will try to establish a military dictatorship. This is what we must be most concerned about. As long as our hearts continue to beat, we must not allow a military takeover of the Maldives. The police and military must not become political. They are technical staff,” he said.
Nasheed pledged to continue the MDP’s campaign for early elections in 2012. The Commonwealth and EU have supported the call.
“I feel pain when I get hit. I get scared when people come at me with anger. I get melancholic when I have to sit in a cell for long. I get sad when I have to leave my wife and children. But I will not give up. I will not step back,” Nasheed said.
Nazim today responded to Nasheed’s statements, claiming that the military was not empowered to arrest people.
“I always operate within the constitutional laws of this nation. I will not do anything that violates the laws governing this country. If and when an order to arrest political figures is issued, I will no longer remain in this position,” local media reported Nazim as saying.
Nazim and Riyaz had served in the security forces under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, but resigned after Nasheed took office in 2008.