Freshly-appointed President of the Maldives Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan held a press conference this morning for foreign and local journalists, in which he said he was in consultation with the leaders of opposition political parties to form a “national unity government.”
Former President Mohamed Nasheed stepped down yesterday, under what he today described as “duress”, after elements of the police and military joined opposition protesters, assaulted the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) headquarters and took over and rebranded the state broadcaster.
Nasheed’s cabinet ministers have been asked to resign. Minivan News understands that Sports and Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef, Health Minister Aminath Najeel and Economic Minister Mahmoud Razee have tended their resignations.
“My plan is to continue consultations with political leaders and come up with nominations for appointments to be approved by parliament,” Dr Waheed said this morning. “It will take a few days.”
Foreign journalists challenged Dr Waheed over Nasheed’s claim that he had been ousted in a coup d’état coup de tat.
“Do I look like someone who is attempting a coup?” Dr Waheed replied.
“President Nasheed resigned, and I was invited to take the oath of office by Speaker of Parliament [DRP MP Abdulla Shahid].
“I don’t want to comment on how Nasheed conducted the affairs of government. You can follow for yourselves the situation in the Maldives and how the political climate has evolved, and form your own opinion on the situation,” he said.
“The people of the Maldives made a huge transition to democracy [in 2008]. It has been a long journey,” he added.
President Nasheed was “in good health” and had been asked to stay in the Presidential residence until the situation has “settled down”, Dr Waheed said, but he had elected to move to his own residence.
Asked by an Al Jazeera journalist whether he was “in the pocket” of the opposition, Dr Waheed replied that such an allegation was “unfair”.
“I come from a different party, and the [former] president knew very well that I was not from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) when he asked me to be his running mate to win the election. That was an effort by people who wanted freedom, who came together to bring about a change in 2008,” Dr Waheed said.
“MDP alone cannot take full credit and responsibility for the transformation that took place – that is totally unfair,” Dr Waheed maintained.
“When the [former] President decided that the MDP did not need anyone else and proceeded unilaterally, it undermined its own legitimacy and power base. Events progressed.
“What happened was the culmination of a long process of political conflict and undermining of the judiciary. I think it is unfair for anyone to accuse me of joining the opposition. I will continue this government in the spirit of coalition. Together I am confident that we will be able to build stable democratic country that respects individual freedom, and respects and upholds the constitution.”
Dr Waheed said he was “shocked” to hear of a travel black list prohibiting the departure of prominent MDP figures.
“I assure you that since I have become President no list has been issued,” he said.
“President Nasheed is free to leave the country, there is no court order. But I guarantee I will not interfere in proceedings of juidicary.”
Minivan News understands that such a list was issued by the courts, and reportedly includes the names of several non-Maldivians and at least one UK national, according to UK High Commissioner John Rankin.
The government would continue to function as normal, Dr Waheed said.
“We have an independent civil service independent, and every government ministry will be handled responsibility by the civil servants. Some political appointees will be changed for obvious reasons. It will be a few days before things are fully in place.”
Dr Waheed said he would continue the governments projects “as much as I could”, but would review certain projects and corporations.
The state broadcaster would be handed to parliament’s National Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), he said.
Asked whether police had mutinied against the government, Dr Waheed said that yesterday’s event’s “must be seen in continum.”
“If you followed what has happened, you have seen peaceful demonstrations for three weeks,” he said. “We are not proud of what has happened in the last few weeks. The President has resigned and the Speaker invited me to parliament to be appointed.”
Dr Waheed told media that he had “not had good communication” with Nasheed.
“He did not involve me in major decisions, particularly with regard to the judiciary. As a member of cabinet I provided my advice, but that doesn’t mean I was a close confidant,” he said.
Asked about the ramifications of the change of government on Indian infrastructure giant GMR, which was given a 25 year commission to upgrade and manage Male’s airport amid opposition protests, Dr Waheed said “ we will discuss with GMR and try to resolve those issues.”
Journalists also asked about the ramifications of the days events on rising Islamic fundamentalism in the Maldives.
In response, Dr Waheed said Islamic parties were represented under Nasheed’s government.
“They are a part of our society and we cannot remove them. We have a fairly wide range of people and views and philosophies and politics,” Dr Waheed said. “I will try to create a multi-party government that bring in all these.”
He pledged to uphold the rule of law and strengthen governance, and assured the reporters that the Maldives was “completely peaceful” for visitors.
“I’m glad you asked that question,” he said. “We want to assure visitors that the Maldives is completely peaceful, and that male and the rest of the country is a peaceful place. I would like to reassure the tourism industry have full support of this government.”
David Amess, the Chairman of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group to the Maldives, said he was “shocked and saddened to learn of the coup d’état in the Maldives resulting in the removal of President Nasheed.”
“When he took office in November 2008, it was as the first democratically elected President of the Maldives ever. He faced enormous challenges in underpinning democratic rule in the Maldives. There can be little doubt that, during his time in office, he worked tirelessly to improve the living conditions and general welfare of the Maldivian people,” Amess said.
“It is tragic that, 20 months before the next Presidential elections were due; he has been forced from office under duress.”
“There is now concern for his safety and that of his family. I very much hope that the British Government will do all in its power to ensure that he is not harmed in any way.”
The Commonwealth said today that was “gravely concerned about the political and constitutional developments in Maldives. At the request of the Chief Justice and Government, a Commonwealth Secretariat team of five officials arrived in Maldives on 6 February, to explore how the Commonwealth can respond to the country’s urgent priorities, including strengthening the judiciary and the separation of powers. The Secretariat team includes political, legal and human rights officers.
“The Commonwealth team is consulting with the full spectrum of stakeholders to assess the current situation and the Commonwealth’s possible contributions in the short, medium and long-term,” the body said.
The Indian Prime Minister said it spoke to Dr Mohamed Waheed after he took office, “reaffirming the special and close ties that the Maldives has with India and said that he was committed to upholding the Constitution of that country and the rule of law. The Prime Minister conveyed his best wishes to the President and said that India as always stood ready to provide any support or assistance that the people of the Maldives might require.”
The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement, said the EU was “deeply concerned about developments in the Maldives yesterday. She has noted the reasons stated by President Nasheed for his decision to resign.”
“The High Representative stresses the importance of respect for the constitution, the rule of law and human rights, which are central to the process of democratic transition in the Maldives. She calls
on the authorities to guarantee the physical safety and the democratic rights of the people. The High Representative calls on all parties in the Maldives to act in accordance with these principles
and to engage in an inclusive dialogue. She is willing to support this dialogue in any way that the Maldivian authorities consider useful, in close cooperation with the international community.”