Vice President of the Maldives Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has been sworn in as President of the Maldives following the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed in dramatic circumstances at 1:00pm today (February 7).
President Mohamed Nasheed appeared on ‘Television Maldives’ (TVM), and issued a brief statement this afternoon:
“I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power. I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use force which would harm many citizens. I resign because I believe that if the government continues to stay in power, it is very likely that we may face foreign influences.
“I have always wished the citizens of this country well, now and into the future. I have made this decision and I wish for your prosperity in this life and the life after.”
The President’s resignation comes after elements of the police and 60-70 officers from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) sided with opposition protesters and attacked the MNDF headquarters early this morning.
Minivan News at 8:00am on February 7 observed a group of 400-500 opposition protesters, interspersed with blue-shirted police officers, assaulting the MNDF building in Republic Square.
At the height of the violence there appeared to be no police riot control presence in the square. Military forces with riot shields held back the crowd at while soldiers in gas masks used grenade launchers to fire tear gas canisters from the turrets of base into the crowd.
“This government is over!” yelled a middle-aged man in a shirt and tie, dodging a tear gas canister. Several confronted Minivan News.
Younger rioters threw water bottles and rocks at the building, breaking windows. Another picked up a tear canister and attempted to hurl it back into the compound.
There were mixed reports that the military used rubber bullets to control the demonstrators. Minivan News only observed tear gas canisters being fired as of this morning, and the government at the time denied using rubber bullets.
The wind quickly dispersed the tear gas in the large open area, blowing south through the city.
Outside the main square the streets were as calm and quiet as a typical Male’ morning, as the school run began. Students walked through the hazy streets south of the square holding their clothes to their faces, and were handed water and paper towels by teachers at school gates.
At 10am this morning Minivan News observed military units protecting the President’s residence, and sirens as police units from other parts of the city converged on the square.
A government spokesperson this morning confirmed that “some elements within the police have not obeyed orders, and military and police are working to restore order.”
“The opposition has been calling for the police and military to mutiny and join the mob in bringing down the country’s first democratically elected government,” he said.
Opposition protesters and police supporters subsequently took over the Maldives National Broadcasting Commission (MNBC) and began streaming VTV over the station. The channel was later rebadged ‘TVM’, its name under Gayoom’s government. Opposition party leaders and MPs are giving interviews on TVM, interspersed with patriotic songs, news reports and live footage of Nasheed’s resignation and the Vice President’s appointment.
Subsequent to the rebranding of TVM, a government spokesperson told Minivan News the Maldives was in the throes “of an attempted coup”.
President Nasheed subsequently gave a press conference and announced his resignation.
Vice President takes over from Nasheed
Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan was sworn in as President this afternoon. Following his appointment Dr Waheed addressed the nation on TVM, and said he was grateful to the police and MNDF who had made “great sacrifices” to defend constitution.
“Today is the day the rule of law has been established in the country perfectly,” Dr Waheed said.
“I will not order the police, military or any person to do anything against the law – I promise it to the public. Everyone will have the protection of constitution and laws.”
Dr Waheed also said the President and has family would receive protection under the law.
“I call upon all political parties, the Maldives National Defense Force, and the public that this is the time to put aside personal hatreds and jealousies, and prioritise to work for the interests of our nation. And I ensure that we will work to restore peace and prosperity of the nation, to deliver a harmonious and peaceful living to the people.”
Police attack MDP headquarters
A group of police, believed to be affiliated with a ‘starforce’ unit under the former government, reportedly refused to obey an order after dispersing a crowd of opposition protesters at the artificial beach last night.
Minivan News observed a group of protesters and police with batons running south towards the tsunami monument just after midnight, before returning to the artificial beach.
Shortly afterwards, a group of up to 10 people in police clothing attacked the MDP ‘Haruge’, headquarters, smashing some glass.
Following incident at the Haruge, a rogue police unit reportedly arrived in Republic Square and was monitored by MNDF officers. The police were reportedly joined by further officers.
Minivan News is currently seeking confirmation that the home minister was attacked in the violence last night. Former MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi and senior MDP figures are reportedly being treated in hospital after a stab wound, and there were reports of both police and MNDF officers being treated for head injuries in hospital.
TIMELINE February 7:
10:40 – Minivan News has observed that a large group of MNDF officers have joined opposition demonstrators in Republic Square. The President was reported to be still in Male and under military protection. The opposition is claiming he has been arrested, but the government has disputed this.
10:45 – Many shops and businesses, including the Bank of Maldives, have temporarily closed branches in Male’.
11:01 – A government source confirmed that they were aware that a number of MNDF personnel had joined the demonstrators. Minivan News observed 60-70 uniformed officers.
11:12 – Opposition protesters and rogue police have taken over the Maldives National Broadcasting Commission (MNBC) and are streaming VTV over the station. The occupiers have reportedly renamed it TVM.
11:22 – The headquarters of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has been set on fire.
11:36 – The MNDF personnel who joined the protesters were reportedly given the opportunity to leave if they wished, but were forbidden from taking weapons.
11:41 – The opposition aligned protesters have been issuing President Mohamed Nasheed ultimatums to resign – Minivan News was told 11:30am and 2:30pm by different sources.
11:47 – Government spokesperson confirms country is undergoing attempted coup, after state broadcaster hijacked.
12:13 – President’s office denies widespread reports that Nasheed has resigned. There is a press conference scheduled imminently at the President’s office.
12:32 – Minivan News observed no situation at the airport, contrary to earlier rumours circulating around Male.
12:54 – President’s Press conference is yet to start.
12:56 – MNBC is now showing as TVM, the name of the state broadcaster under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
12:58 – Press conference has started.
1:19 – President Nasheed announces resignation, stating that his remaining in power would require the use of force against his own population, and he was not willing to do this “foreign influences”. Minivan News is currently clarifying his statements in English.
2:55 – Another press conference has been announced and is expected to start shortly.
3:00 – Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan is due to be sworn in as the 5th President of the Maldives, according to the rebranded Television Maldives (TVM).
4:38 – Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan is addressing the nation on TVM, praising efforts “police sacrifices” to protect the constitution and law.
5:00 – Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, has been reported released.
6:31 – The mood in Male’ remains tense. Maldivian Democratic Party supporters have been thin on the ground today.