Police with the Maldives’ Drug Enforcement Department (DED) this evening removed alcohol bottles and what they claimed was evidence of other illicit substances from the home of former President Mohamed Nasheed, shortly after his resignation in dramatic circumstances today.
Elements of the police joined opposition protests last night and this morning attacked the headquarters of the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) this morning in Republic Square. A further 60-70 MNDF soldiers joined the protesters. Shortly afterwards, the state broadcaster MNBC was taken over by police and opposition protesters, and rebranded Television Maldives (TVM), the name of the institution under Gayoom’s government.
A spokesperson for Nasheed said earlier this evening that the former President is currently being detained against his will, and dismissed the discovery of the bottles and illicit substances as an attempt to discredit Nasheed and gain popular support for what he described as “a coup d’etat”.
As of 11:00pm, the spokesperson said Nasheed has been allowed to return home.
“Gayoom controls the judiciary, now the executive, the media, and in couple of weeks probably the parliament. One thing he cannot control is popular support for President Nasheed, so he needs to find a way to jail or discredit him ahead of the 2013 election,” the spokesperson said.
Several individuals connected with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were seriously injured during the unrest, while two sources told Minivan News that a party activist was killed today after a metal pole rammed upwards through his jaw. Minivan News is seeking confirmation.
At 3:00pm Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan was sworn in as President. As per the constitution, Dr Waheed must now appoint a vice president to be approved by the Parliament. He may also reform the Cabinet.
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.”
According to Police Media Official Ahmed Shiyam, the DED investigation of the historical President’s Residence was prompted when a lorry emerged from the residence with “bags of trash”.
“Security stopped the vehicle and found a number of alcohol bottles in the bags. The police were notified of the situation and an investigation is underway,” Shiyam said.
While “there were many bottles,” Shiyam said the “investigation is ongoing.”
At 6:00pm this evening Minivan News observed Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) and police forces jointly guarding the left entrance to the residence from a crowd of approximately 500 members of the public, most of whom are affiliated with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), according to onlookers. A police van was parked near the official entrance around the corner amidst throngs of people standing on the low walls to observe the event.
Minority opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed and PPM MP Ilham Ahmed were also present at the scene, speaking with security forces and directing the crowds to clear the road and stay on the sidewalks.
From the upper level of a nearby building bags and boxes could be seen moved into a security van parked within the residence. While bottles were not clearly visible, the scent of alcohol could be detected when the lorry was moved closer to the residence gate.
When asked whether further demonstrations were planned for this evening, onlookers said they believed the biggest ordeal was over.
“It’s done now, tonight we are celebrating,” one of the people outside the President’s residence claimed.
When asked whether Nasheed had been arrested, Shiyam reported that he has been taken to a secure location by security services.
“[Nasheed] is being kept for his own safety now under the surveillance of Maldives National Security Forces, which includes police and MNDF,” Shiyam said. “He is the main concern, as is anything that might happen to his family. Police will take anything related to the family seriously.”
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which was brought to power in the country’s first democratic elections in 2008, appeared subdued today following clashes with police last night, injuries to key members, and the torching of the party’s headquarters this afternoon.
The party issued the following statement this evening:
“We strongly condemn the coup d’etat that has been brought against the constitutionally elected government of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. Last night rogue elements from the Maldives Police Service in conjunction with the supporters of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom overthrew the democratically elected government of President Nasheed.
“The overthrow occurred after small numbers of police and army personal, in response to a call from leading opposition figures, Abdulla Yameen (former President Gayoom’s half brother) and Umar Naseer (former security officer in the regime of President Gayoom), joined with a group of protesters in the centre of Male, protesting against the arrest and detention of a judge accused of corruption.
“President Nasheed was taken to the President’s Office under the custody of the security forces and subsequently resigned.
“We also condemn the violent attacks carried out against our members by the Maldives Police Service including Member of Parliament and our former chairperson Mariya Didi and other MPs from the party.
“We call upon the international community to assist us in establishing democracy in the Maldives and protect the officials of the government of President Nasheed. We fear for the safety of President Nasheed and senior members of his government.”