Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said that he will not accept that the toppling of former President Nasheed’s government on February 7 was a coup d’état, even if the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI)’s report came to such a conclusion.
After giving a statement to the CNI, Gayoom in a press conference held at the office of his Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), stated that he had seen the recording of the video in which ousted President Nasheed publicly resigned, and said that it was not made “under duress” and that therefore it was very clear that it “was not a coup”
“Even though I was in Malaysia, I saw the video recording of how he resigned and what he said – such as that he is now resigning, and that if he continued to remain as the president the country may face further grief and pain,” Gayoom said.
“Also, it was he himself who wrote the letter of resignation and it is he who sent the letter to the parliament,” Gayoom claimed added.
Gayoom said that there was no point in Nasheed claiming that it is “a coup” after he had resigned in accordance with the constitution.
“I told this to the members of the CNI, and I think they seem to believe it too. I also said that Mohamed Nasheed after [his resignation] went home to sleep, he slept that afternoon, that night, the following morning and then he changed his mind [after waking up], then in the evening said he did not resign, or that his resignation was not permanent but a coup d’état. Then who is going to believe that?” Gayoom questioned.
“Something must have happened after 24 hours, some people must have talked to him and ‘got into his head’ to make him change his statement. Before that he was under the belief that he resigned,” the former president contended.
In the press conference, Gayoom stated that during the session with the CNI, he also highlighted two things that “frustrated” him about the commission.
One reason for the frustrations was, he explained, the inclusion o a representative of ousted President Nasheed in the commission, following “foreign” influence.
“The reason that frustrates me is that if this commission has a representative of Nasheed there should be a representative of mine too. That is because on many previous occasions Nasheed has repeatedly made false accusations towards me, both in the Maldives and outside, that the change [of power] was a revolution that I brought in,” Gayoom said.
“Where is justice when there is someone in this commission who supports Nasheed’s claims?” the ex-president questioned.
Gayoom claimed that it would only be fair that he have his “own representative if Nasheed gets to have one”.
His second cause of frustration, Gayoom said, was that the CNI was mandated to look into the events that took place from January 14 to February 8.
He stated that the “change” that took place on February 7 was the result of Nasheed’s “unlawful” and “un-Islamic” actions carried out, that had “angered a lot of citizens”, and contended that this would be clear if the CNI looked into what Nasheed had done after assuming presidency in 2008.
Gayoom during the press conference also shared some of the questions that the CNI posed to him during the session, and the responses he offered.
He said that the CNI questioned as to whether he had provided any financial benefit to the key actors of the change in February 7, to which he replied saying that he “did not spend a single cent on them”.
“Nasheed told the commission that when he entered the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) headquarters, I had told someone that now the ‘fish has gone into the net’ and to better to hold it there,” he explained. “I said that was an outright lie.”’
Gayoom maintained his earlier stand that he had no part to play in the transfer of power, and that “now even Nasheed should believe it because he said that he would believe it if I went to the CNI and told them that I did not play a part in the ‘coup’.”
Ending political instablity
When the CNI had asked him what he thought would bring an end to the ongoing political instability in the country, Gayoom said told the commission the solution was for Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to stop their “extremist” actions and pave the way for negotiations.
Despite Gayoom expressing his openness to negotiate, last month in a rally held by the PPM in Addu City he vigorously condemned his successor, claiming that Nasheed had a habit of defaming him to both the local and international community.
Gayoom at the time said that he “humbly refused” a request from United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Patricia Butenis, to take part in the All Party Talks along with Nasheed.
He dismissed Nasheed’s claims that the controversial transfer of power was a coup d’état, and commended the acts of the mutinying police and military officials.
Following the remarks, the opposition MDP expressed its disappointment to see Gayyoom refusing to take part in the All Party Talks.
“With the country fallen into this grave state, it is saddening to see Gayoom refusing to take part in the All Party Talks, a negotiation that is highly related to the public interest of the country,” MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said, and called on the former President to prioritise the country before his own personal interest.
Fahmy said the MDP was ready to come to the negotiation table, a sentiment matched by former MP and MDP Legal affairs committee member Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail.
“I was once the President of the MDP. Nasheed was the Chairperson then. We both were harassed and tortured during Gayoom’s regime because we were opposed to his rule,” Ibra said. “But even then we were both prepared to talk to Gayoom and his government on issues that concerned the national interest,” he recalled.
Gayoom showing “symptoms of dementia”
Speaking to Minivan News, Ibra described Gayoom’s comments as “desperate” and in “self-denial”, knowing that CNI report would unveil the “dirty truth” behind the toppling of the country’s first democratically elected government.
He further suggested that the recent remarks that Gayoom had been making in the local media exhibited symptoms of dementia, a loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person beyond what might be expected from normal aging.
“Perhaps a person may make contrasting statements rarely. But we are speaking of several and repeated statements, which may suggest that [Gayoom] maybe exhibiting symptoms of dementia. People of that age face dementia, due to old age,” he alleged.
In response to Gayoom’s frustrations on the CNI, Ibra questioned why Gayoom should have his own representation when allegations were levied against several others, and stated that it was impossible to include the representatives to CNI.
“Allegations were levied against the current Commissioner of Police, Defence Minister, the President and several politicians. Can we include each of their representatives in the commission?” he questioned.
Ibra stated that the focus and the mandate of the CNI was to find out whether Nasheed resigned under duress or not, and added that it was not the CNI’s mandate to see how Nasheed ran the country, or reflect on frustrations expressed by Gayoom.
Ibra further alleged that Gayoom was trying to discredit the members of CNI, knowing that the CNI report would not come out in his favor.
“I think he clearly knows from what the CNI knows and the evidences they collected, and from the facts surrounding the event, that it is highly unlikely the report will not come out in his favour. So he has already begun his work to discredit the CNI stating that it is not impartial and lacks credibility,” Ibra claimed.
Concern and condemnation
Following Gayoom’s remarks, in a media statement the opposition MDP expressed concerns and condemned the remarks, citing that it reflected Gayoom’s lack of concern on the interests of the country.
“When a lot of people are alleging that the transfer of power that took place on February 7 was a coup d’etat, and while many question the events that unfolded on that day as well as the legitimacy of the current government, it is very concerning to see former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom publicly stating that he would not believe that former government of the Maldives was toppled by a coup, even if the CNI established to look into the issue decides so,” read the statement.
The MDP in the statement said that the democratic achievements the people of the country had achieved in the last three years were diminishing, and claimed that police brutality and human rights abuses had become abundant following the coup.
“The grave situation that the Maldives lies today is that the economic growth of the country has severely slowed down, efforts of social protection of the people are at a halt, unemployment rates are rapidly rising and people’s income has come down significantly,” read the statement.
The MDP in the statement alleged that despite the country being in such a grave situation, Gayoom’s remarks reflect his insincerity and lack of concern towards the general well being of the country and its people.