Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed and Mohamed Naahii
Senior officers in the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) have sent a “letter of concern” to Chief of Defence Force Major-General Ahmed Shiyam, following the failure of the country to hold scheduled elections on Saturday (September 28).
Police surrounded the Elections Commission (EC) on Friday with orders from Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz to storm the building and confiscate ballot papers should the EC continue to attempt to hold the election.
The Supreme Court had the previous evening opened at midnight to order security forces to physically obstruct the election in line with its earlier suspension, invoking article 237 of the Constitution, concerning the authority of the security services to “protect the nation’s sovereignty, maintain its territorial integrity, defend the constitution and democratic institutions, maintain and enforce law and order, and render assistance in emergencies.”
The MNDF’s letter to Major-General Shiyam was initially signed by four senior officers, but 16 officers across the top brass subsequently added their names to it.
MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem, himself a signatory, confirmed the letter’s existence to Minivan News.
“It was to inform the leadership of our concerns about political turbulence in the country right now and how the military should plan and prepare for it,” Colonel Raheem said, and implied that it was not unusual for senior officers to brief the Chief of Defence on such matters.
One signing officer told Minivan News on condition of anonymity: “This is not a petition. It is a letter of concern over the Supreme Court’s order to delay elections, the failure of state institutions, and the possible politicisation of the military, and asking that unconstitutional orders not be issued,”
The officer said the letter had been signed by ranks including Generals, Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, Captains, First Lieutenants, Sergeant Majors and Warrant Officers.
The 3000-strong MNDF is responsible not just for defence, but also the Coastguard and civil services such as firefighting and rescue operations.
The letter seems to have prompted an internal shuffle in the organisation, including a marine commander switched to another unit. One resignation letter obtained by Minivan News, of First Lieutenant Mohamed Haleem, was addressed to Defence Minister Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim.
“I do not believe the security services are currently adhering to the constitutional provisions stated in articles 237 and 238. Also, while the spirit of article 246 of the constitution is, to refrain from political affiliations and to treat equally among the people and different groups, respecting the principles of Islam and human dignity, I do not see this currently happening [within the security services],” First Lieutenant Haleem stated.
“For the last 23 years [of my military service]; I have served this country under a solemn oath taken in the name of Allah, I do not see any way that I can carry out my duties as prescribed in the constitution and the military act, while in this position, therefore I request you to relieve me from my duties,” he concluded.
Former Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, who as a junior soldier was instrumental in defending the Maldives from the coup attempt of 1988 which saw 80 mercenaries from the Tamil militant group the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) launch a frontal assault on the Maldives’ military headquarters, issued a letter today over social media.
“My advice to the military officers is: ‘Do not give the opportunity to anyone who plans to rule this country by taking the laws to their own hands and override the constitution and undermine the constitutional framework of this country’,” wrote Didi, who was the Male’ Area Commander during the 7 February 2012 controversial power transfer before resigning “prematurely” from his 32 year career on July 16, 2012.
“Given the sad state of affairs this country has fallen to, as a person who came out to sacrifice my life to protect holy Islam and this nation when required, as a person who would still take any action required in the best interest of this country, people and religion and as a person who has been trained and acquired military expertise at the expense of the public funds, I could not remain silent today. I believe it is a national and a religious duty to say something on the issue,” he wrote.
This country is in a state of chaos since February 7, 2012. The government elected by people of this country were not given the opportunity to breathe. Opposition politicians, businessmen and religious clerics who supported them were continuously seen calling for the ousting of the government.
The people within the government were claiming that the opposition was insincere and irresponsible. The opposition claimed that the government officials were insincere and irresponsible. In this situation, conflicts between three powers of the state led to the military being unduly influenced.
Also, it is shameful and unacceptable in such a highly polarised society to see the government which the military ought to legally defend, regardless for whatever reason, be thrown out to the street.
In that circumstance, the international community saw the best solution for the country was to find a peaceful solution. And in that discourse, they saw the need to facilitate a presidential election, in which the people would make the ultimate decision. [It had to be this way] because of the conflicts within the three powers of the state and between these powers.
With that, I must disappointingly highlight that I am seeing the country falling into a state of chaos. I have heard some businessmen claiming that the only solution left for the country is a military solution. I am ready to challenge those who say this. That is a theory based on lies, deception and greed which only serves them a temporary benefit. We have seen what happened to countries that followed this theory.
In this situation, my advice to the military officers is, do not give the opportunity to anyone who plan to rule this country by taking the laws to their own hands and override the constitution and undermine the constitutional framework of this country.
The reason is, if such a thing happens, it would be all of us, our children and our children’s children who would suffer the consequences.
What does the constitution say about this? Article 268 says that any act committed in contrast with the constitution is void and invalid.
Article 124 states that in case of incapacity of the President and Vice President, it must be the Speaker of Parliament who takes up the duties and responsibilities in running the state.
Article 107 states that the duration of a presidential term is five years.
Therefore after November 11, 2013, regardless of who gives the orders and regardless of the situation, I sincerely urge the military to not let anyone take over the country in contrast with the provisions in the constitution, as this would have dire consequences. I request all military officers to sincerely and peacefully protect the interests of this country in such a situation.
By any means, the head of state should not be someone who assumed powers in contrast to the constitution of this country.
Translated from Dhivehi – read original