Former Secretary General of SAARC Ibrahim Hussein Zaki has announced that he will be remain in India in self -imposed exile until President Mohamed Waheed’s government is brought to an end and a new “democratic government” installed.
“I will go back to the Maldives to participate in the oath taking ceremony of a democratic president who gets elected through a free and fair election,” he said.
Zaki made the remarks in an interview with the opposition-aligned Raajje Television on Friday Night.
“How [police] attacked me while I was on Hodaidhoo island is a clear notion that I will be destroyed should I continue staying in Maldivian territory,” he said referring to his arrest while in the island of Hodaidhoo.
He claimed that the current government is a dictatorship that was severely failing in respecting the rights of the people, and therefore should be toppled. Zaki added that he was willing to sacrifice anything to see the installation of a democratic government.
The former SAARC Secretary General also criticised current Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed claiming that the minister was behind the government-led intimidation and harassment of opposition politicians.
“I am challenging him; [Jameel] should not be that stupid. I will go to any country except the Maldives. If you really can bring me back to the Maldives by force, then try it. I would salute you if you succeed. But I tell you, we will bring Jameel to justice for what he is being doing; he will be put to trial,” he said.
Zaki further said that he did not flee the country to escape punishment for criminal activities.
Attempt to escape from criminal prosecution – Home Minister
Meanwhile, Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed on Saturday told the media that Zaki fled the country to escape the impending criminal charges that he was likely to face.
“We have found liquor and drugs where Zaki was arrested. He had to face criminal allegations. We have also collected enough evidence to prosecute him,” Jameel said.
Jameel added that Zaki had been involved in criminal activities including consumption of alcohol and drugs. He added that more criminal allegations may follow based on the recent statements he had been making.
Responding to Zaki’s challenge that he would go to any country he wished, Jameel claimed that criminal prosecution did not actually require the suspect to be present in the country, and if investigation gives grounds for prosecution, the Prosecutor General would press charges.
Jameel added that if a suspect flees the country to escape from criminal prosecutions, the government could always bring the person back home with the assistance of Interpol.
“I just want to say is, that if you think you can escape criminal charges by fleeing the country, this is a very wrong idea. It cannot be done like that anywhere in the world. You cannot be on the run. There is a mechanism to summon those who are abroad just like those residing in the country,” said Jameel.
He also highlighted that it was not only Zaki, but several key figures within opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) including its presidential candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed could face “long term jail sentences”.
“When all these prosecution cases begin, a lot of key people in MDP leadership will face criminal prosecutions. There are cases of severe embezzlement of state funds. If these prosecutions succeed they may face long term jail sentences,” he explained. “So, in an attempt to overturn those criminal prosecutions, Nasheed has been speaking of a revolution and Zaki is talking about democracy,”
Jameel also reiterated that it is not the weakest among the society that should be brought in front of the law but that all must be equal in front of the law.
Zaki – who was also the Special Envoy during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government and a senior figure in opposition MDP – was arrested along with MP Abdulla Jabir and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and several other senior opposition figures on the night of November 15, while on the uninhabited island.
Police said they found large amounts of “suspected” drugs and alcohol upon searching the island with a court warrant.
The arrests were made “based on information received by police intelligence,” police said. Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Haveeru that the suspects were arrested with alcohol and “hash oil”.
Following the arrests around midnight, the suspects were taken to Kulhudhufushi on Haa Dhaal Atoll, and Zaki was hospitalised.
Zaki’s party MDP alleged the arrests were a politically-motivated attempt to disrupt parliament ahead of a no confidence motion against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, and an amendment to voting procedure to make such votes secret.
However, despite the attempts, the vote was passed by the parliament 41 – 34 majority despite the initial attempt failed by a narrow margin of 39 – 34 votes.
The vote succeeded after MPs of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – including respective leaders MPs Gasim Ibrahim and Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – joined MDP MPs to vote in favour of the amendments.
Following release, Zaki left for India to seek medical treatment for injuries which he claimed were inflicted during the raid.
During his stay in India, Zaki has giving several interviews to Indian media, highlighting growing Islamic fundamentalism.
On one such occasion, he reportedly warned India that rising fundamentalism in the Maldives threatened the country’s economic interests.
“If we were in the government, definitely we would have done it by now… definitely [asked for] their [Indian forces] to be on the ground,” Zaki was quoted as saying.
“Zaki, 67, a former minister in successive Maldivian governments headed by former presidents Maumoon Gayoom and [Mohamed] Nasheed, said he would have called for Indian forces to protect the multi-million-dollar investment by Indian infrastructure firm GMR Group,” read the Indian media report.
Zaki explained that “many top figures in the Adhaalath Party are educated in Pakistan and draw their philosophy from the hardline Salafist form of Islam.”
“When Islamic fundamentalism takes over the country, if the Lashkar-e-Taiba can take over the country, then I have no choice [but to call in forces from India],” Zaki was quoted as saying, “referring to the Pakistan-based militant group that India blames for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack.”
Meanwhile, according to the Indian Express, Zaki’s meetings with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai were “a clear signal from New Delhi of its unhappiness with Male’ over its handling of the opposition in that country to the GMR agreement for airport development.”
The Indian Express reported that Zaki received treatment at the Indian Army’s Research and Referral Hospital for injuries sustained during his arrest.
“Threat to national security”
Following the remarks, Maldives’ Ministry of Defence issued a statement condemning the remarks and contended that “such actions are very dangerous [threats] to national security and encourage activities that would harm the country’s independence and sovereignty.”
The press release from the Ministry referred to article 67(d) of the constitution, which states that every citizen has a responsibility “to promote the sovereignty, unity, security, integrity and dignity of the Maldives.”
The Defence Ministry appealed to politicians against making remarks that could undermine “national independence and sovereignty” and “issuing threats of confrontation and the use of force.”
The statement also warned that the Defence Ministry would take “necessary legal action against anyone who commits an act that harms the independence and sovereignty of the nation.”
Media Secretary of Presidents Office Masood Imad when contacted said that he was out of the country therefore said that he “did not want to talk”.