The Ministry of Defense and National Security has blasted certain media outlets in a statement released Tuesday (October 1) for “sowing discord and disorder in the military.”
Several media outlets carried reports this week on a “letter of concern” sent to Chief of Defence Force Major-General Ahmed Shiyam, in which the top brass of the military expressed concern over political turmoil in the country following the failure of the country to hold scheduled elections on Saturday (September 28).
“Some TV channels and media outlets are repeatedly attempting to sow discord and disorder in the military, against the constitution and laws of the Maldives,” read the statement from the Defence Ministry.
The Defence Ministry called the media reports “irresponsible” and “politically motivated.” The Ministry furthermore said it will file complaints with relevant authorities to halt such reports and said it believed the Maldives Broadcasting Commission and Maldives Media Council must take action.
The MNDF’s letter to Major-General Shiyam was initially signed by four senior officers, but 16 officers across the top brass subsequently added their names to it. The letter came after police forcibly brought runoff preparations to a halt following a Supreme Court order.
The Supreme Court had opened at midnight on Friday to order security forces to physically obstruct the election in line with its earlier suspension, invoking article 237 of the Constitution, concerning the authority of the security services to “protect the nation’s sovereignty, maintain its territorial integrity, defend the constitution and democratic institutions, maintain and enforce law and order, and render assistance in emergencies.”
One signing officer told Minivan News on condition of anonymity: “This is not a petition. It is a letter of concern over the Supreme Court’s order to delay elections, the failure of state institutions, and the possible politicisation of the military, and asking that unconstitutional orders not be issued.”
The officer said the letter had been signed by ranks including Generals, Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, Captains, First Lieutenants, Sergeant Majors and Warrant Officers.
MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem, himself a signatory, confirmed the letter’s existence to Minivan News.
“It was to inform the leadership of our concerns about political turbulence in the country right now and how the military should plan and prepare for it,” Colonel Raheem said, and implied that it was not unusual for senior officers to brief the Chief of Defence on such matters.
The 3000-strong MNDF is responsible not just for defence, but also the Coastguard and civil services such as firefighting and rescue operations.
The letter seems to have prompted an internal shuffle in the organisation, including a marine commander being switched to another unit. One resignation letter obtained by Minivan News, of First Lieutenant Mohamed Haleem, was addressed to Defence Minister Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim.
“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 stated.
“For the last 23 years [of my military service]; I have served this country under a solemn oath taken in the name of Allah, I do not see any way that I can carry out my duties as prescribed in the constitution and the military act, while in this position, therefore I request you to relieve me from my duties,” he concluded.
Former Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, who as a junior soldier was instrumental in defending the Maldives from the coup attempt of 1988 which saw 80 mercenaries from the Tamil militant group the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) launch a frontal assault on the Maldives’ military headquarters, issued a letter today over social media.
“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 Didi, who was the Male’ Area Commander during the 7 February 2012 controversial power transfer before resigning “prematurely” from his 32 year career on July 16, 2012.