Former President Mohamed Nasheed has expressed “deep concern” over leaked CCTV footage of a group of men vandalising archaeological evidence of the Maldives’ pre-Islamic civilisation in the national museum in Male’.
The incident took place amid the political turmoil of February 7 at around 11:30am in the morning, as police and military officers turned on the Nasheed administration in nearby Republic Square.
The extensive CCTV footage shows a group of eight men entering the building while a ninth appears to stand watch outside. A museum staff member sitting at the desk in the lobby stands up as the men enter, and is grabbed and shoved out of view. The group search the ground floor before running upstairs, knocking over display cases and smashing the museum’s collection of ancient Buddhist relics.
Around 35 exhibits were damaged or destroyed, including the museum’s most significant treasure – a carved ancient head of Gautama Buddha discovered in Alif Alif Atoll Thoddu, dating back to the 6th century.
Police in May 2012 forwarded cases against four suspects to the Prosecutor General’s office. According to the PG’s office, the case was initially returned to police for further clarification. The case has now been returned by police and the PG intends to make a decision by the end of next week, Minivan News understands.
“This misguided act of vandalism caused tremendous loss to our country, our culture and our history. A narrative based on hatred and extremism was deliberately whipped up by those currently in power in order to justify the coup in February last year. That same narrative, and the climate of intolerance and impunity it created, also led to the vandalism at the museum,” former President Nasheed stated.
“Extremist behaviour, and a hatred of other cultures and countries, is very real in the Maldives today. The continual denial of this sorry state of affairs by the current regime is deeply troubling,” he added.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Ahmed Didi alleged the government’s inaction on the matter amounted to “state-backed protection” of the perpetrators.
“I am very concerned by the failure of the authorities to take any action against the museum vandals. The Maldives Police Service and the prosecutor general have abdicated their responsibility to act,” she said.
The vandalism was widely reported by international media outlets, many of which were present in the country to cover the political turmoil at the time.
In September 2012, the United States government donated US$ 20,000 (MVR 308,400) to help restore and repair the damaged artefacts, as part of an effort to preserve Maldivian cultural heritage.
Leaked museum CCTV footage: