Ousted President Mohamed Nasheed last night claimed that only 300 police and military officials were keeping the “coup government” of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan from falling apart.
Nasheed made the remarks during a ceremony held last night on Male’ City Council hall to release a report on the findings of the controversial transfer of power on February 7, produced by a team of Danish legal experts from University of Copenhagen, and a book about the event written in Dhivehi by Ali Moosa Didi.
Nasheed stated that there were “lots of measures” taken to ensure that the “illegitimate” government remained in power, and that the 300 officers were playing a pivotal role in the process.
“300 police and military officers are responsible for undermining the public interest of the entire country, and following that coup, a lot of measures and efforts are being carried out to ensure the survival of the coup regime, and these 300 officers are playing a pivotal role in it,” he said.
He also claimed that in the course of these efforts, police brutality and state sponsored torture had shown an “alarming” increase.
Nasheed also reiterated that his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had “not run out of options”, adding that its core identity was built on “not backing down”.
Nasheed said the party could “advocate and negotiate”, but said the most effective way to bring about early elections and restore the country’s democratic legitimacy was through continued “direct action”.
During the last two weeks, the MDP has been carrying out what it has called “direct action” protests.
While the opposition party contends that its protests have been “largely peaceful”, the ongoing demonstrations have at times turned into violent clashes with police. This violence has led to allegations of police brutality against demonstrators, and counter claims of protesters attacking reporters and security forces.
The MDP stated that it expected its protests, stated to continue until the present government of President Waheed “topples” would continue indefinitely. The MDP alleged that the Waheed administration came to power in February 7, through a “coup d’etat” and therefore had no legitimacy.
Party MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor who is currently under arrest following the protests at the time claimed that the MDP was committed to managing “peaceful, disciplined” protests, though he accepted that violent confrontations appeared to be increasing between police and protesters.
He alleged that this violence was a result of law enforcement officials increasingly showing a “lack of discipline” on their part.
The Maldives Police Service has contended that it continues to use “minimum force” to protect its officers during the demonstrations.
Conversely, while police have said that none of its officers were hurt in the last 24 hours, there have been serious and minor injuries sustained by police during attacks by individuals suspected of being affiliated with anti-government demonstrators.
On July 12, an attack near Dhilbahaaru Magu in Male’ required one officer to fly to Sri Lanka for treatment for head injuries received from an assault with a pavement brick.
Minivan News has observed protests in recent weeks switching from heckling and mocking of officers at police barricades to violent confrontations as police have charged through protest lines, while demonstrators themselves have broken through barricades to confront police.
Police have come under particular criticism by the MDP for using pepper spray directly in the faces of protesters – an accusation denied by law enforcement authorities.
“Maldives Police did not use any excessive force nor was pepper spray directed to anyone’s face,” police said in a statement at the time.
However a video released of the incident showed a riot police officer reaching over a crowd of people surrounding Nasheed and spraying him in the face. Nasheed turns away as the spray hits him, and is taken away by his supporters, but later returned to the protest.
In this environment, the government has itself called for “calm”, urging all political leaders to abandon the street protests, which have attracted international attention over the last few weeks, and sit down for “sincere dialogue”.
Minivan News tried contacting Presidents Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, but did not respond at time of press.
Meanwhile the EU has slammed an “escalation of political tension and violent protests” in the Maldives as police confirmed that 50 people – including a former cabinet minister – were arrested during the last two days during anti-government demonstrations.
However, with the arrest of 32 demonstrators in the last 24 hours, as well as a government decision to clear the MDP’s Usfasgandu protest site by July 30, some opposition figures have claimed the tension will likely intensify further.
Spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said there remained “deep concern” in Europe over the political unrest in the Maldives.
“The High Representative is convinced that continued political unrest, heavy-handed responses by security forces, and charges filed against political leaders will only lead to further deterioration of the political climate in the country and will adversely affect the lives of all Maldivian citizens,” stated the EU.
“The High Representative acknowledges the efforts of the Commonwealth Special Envoy, Sir Don McKinnon, to strengthen the Maldives Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) whose purpose it is to establish an objective account of the events which led to the resignation of President Nasheed and the transfer of power to the present Government on 7 February 2012. She appeals to all parties to refrain from any actions that could jeopardise completion of the Commission of National Inquiry’s work, including legal action against political leaders”.
The calls followed a statement released by the Commonwealth this week urging all parties to show “restraint and restore calm” as initiatives like the reconstituted Commission of National Inquiry (CNI). The CNI, expected to be completed by next month, was established to ascertain the truth between February’s controversial transfer of power.
In a statement released Tuesday (July 17), Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon called for dialogue among political leaders, urging all parties to show “restraint and restore calm.”