Prominent Lawyer Shaaheen Hameed and Defence Minister Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim have dismissed social media speculation of an impending military takeover, should no president be elected by November 11 – the date on which the current five year presidential term expires.
Speculation began circulating on social media after former Minister of Environment and Housing Mohamed Aslam – who is himself an ex-serviceman – wrote on his Facebook status that he had received information of an impending military takeover by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
“The following I was informed just now: Reports from Supreme Court staff say they have seen notes written by judges saying that [the] military is studying how to take over the government and call for elections in 100-180 days. [Defence Minister] Nazim had asked Shaaheen Hameed and [Attorney General] Azima Shukoor to study similar takeovers in Thailand, Fiji and in Algeria,” wrote Aslam on his Facebook update.
“They are paid, I am told, 1.7 million rufiyaa for this study to be completed in 7-10 days. Under this, they will dissolve the [Parliament], Courts and appoint a military commission including [Yameen Abdul Gayoom] and [Gasim Ibrahim]. Supreme Court verdict stalled.”
Speaking to Minivan News on this Sunday, Defence Minister Nazim claimed that Aslam’s allegations were baseless and said such rumours were spread by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to tarnish his image and reputation.
“I have never spoken about such a thing. I believe governments should be changed through a vote of the people. I would never do such a thing. It is against all democratic principles,” Defence Minister Nazim told Minivan News.
Meanwhile in a statement released to local media last Saturday, Shaheen Hameed claimed that he had not taken part in any legal work relating to the Jumhoree Party (JP)’s Supreme Court petition against the Elections Commission (EC), in which the party requested the court to annul the first round of presidential election. Although local and international election observers praised the credibility of the polls, the third-placed JP alleged the vote was flawed due to electoral discrepancies and irregularities amounting to a “systematic failures”.
Shaheen in the statement added that he had not given any legal advice regarding the case to anybody including a political party or a state institution, let alone the Defence Minister.
“And, I shall not by any means take part in an attempt to undermine the constitution of the Republic of Maldives,” wrote Shaaheen Hameed.
Shaaheen furthermore claimed that such baseless allegations levied against were intended to tarnish his public image and incite hatred towards him.
Concerns within the military
The speculations began shortly after some 17 senior military officers sent a ‘letter of concern’ to MNDF Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam, in which the officers expressed concern over the recent Supreme Court injunction to indefinitely delay the second round of Presidential Election – which could possibly lead the country in to a state of constitutional limbo.
“We believe, given Article 8 of the Constitution states that the powers of the state shall be exercised in accordance with the constitution, and as 28 September 2013 is the last date on which the second round of the presidential elections can be held, the Supreme Court order to delay the election is one that creates dangers for the nation and its citizens and creates challenges from a national security point of view, and may impede the military from carrying out is constitutionally mandated duties,” wrote the officers
“Hence, we express grave concern, and appeal for this institution not to be propelled into a deep pit, and state that we will steadfastly remain with good military behavior and good order against any illegal order,” concluded the letter.
Shortly after the reception of the letter, MNDF introduced an amendment to its own regulations to include a chapter that imposed punishments and penalties against officers who incite ‘upheaval and chaos’ within the military ranks.
Three officers have been indefinitely suspended after the amendment came into force, while Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal – who appeared to be the first signatory to the letter – has been sidelined from his position as the Commandant of Training and Doctrine.
Three officers: First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef, Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed and Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid have all been suspended under the section 4(a) of the MNDF Employment Regulation.
First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef and Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed had been suspended for inciting “upheaval and discord” among the ranks of the military while Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid had been suspended for “disseminating confidential information to the public without authorisation”.
Meanwhile in another turn out of events, First Lieutenant Mohamed Haleem requested resignation from the defense force over “difficulties in executing his duties”.
“I do not believe the security services are currently adhering to the constitutional provisions stated in articles 237 and 238. Also, while the spirit of article 246 of the constitution is, to refrain from political affiliations and to treat equally among the people and different groups, respecting the principles of Islam and human dignity, I do not see this currently happening [within the security services],” First Lieutenant Haleem wrote on his resignation letter.
The alleged disgruntlement within the MNDF officers also coincided with a letter from Former Male Area Commander of MNDF Retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi published on social media, in which he advised military officers to uphold the law and constitution regardless of who attempted to undermine it.
“My advice to the military officers is: ‘Do not give the opportunity to anyone who plans to rule this country by taking the laws to their own hands and override the constitution and undermine the constitutional framework of this country’,” wrote the ex-Brigadier General.