As tensions between the Maldives’ government and India continue to rise over allowing former President Mohamed Nasheed high commission refuge from his arrest warrant, conspiracies spread through social media networks are furthering uncertainty in the capital.
The rumours first came around 10:00pm – and social media was quick to respond.
Former President Nasheed was once again facing a warrant for his arrest, in what his party contend are a politically-motivated attempt by the country’s compromised courts to bar him from standing for election.
With both the government and Indian officials claiming yesterday evening they were unaware of any new arrest warrant, the real drama – it seemed – was happening on Twitter.
One prominent representative for the Nasheed-aligned opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) wrote on the social media site yesterday:
“Local media reports new Court order to Police to Present Prez Nasheed before court on Wednesday [February 20]. Will the police barge into the Indian HC?”
Other social media users were quick to respond in a manner critical of the former president’s actions:
“police might nt barge in.. but that doesn’t mean indian high commission is not hiding the suspected criminal@MohamedNasheed.”
Fanciful tales from either side of the Maldives political divide are nothing new. Yet it is a sign of either the impact of social media, or the diplomatic unease between Male’ and the Indian government, that the prospect of a police raid on diplomatic territory or a one-time head of state being smuggled out of the country can hold any credibility.
Nasheed has been in the chancery building since Wednesday (February 13), pulling India into domestic Maldivian politics.
How long he is able to remain there is uncertain, considering pressure from senior government figures that he be handed over to face trial.
The tweets hinted that a hugely significant event in an already turbulent period in Maldives history was on the verge of coming to pass. There was just one problem: neither the government or the High Commission of India were aware of any plot or conspiracy to remove the former president from his sanctuary.
Had India been made aware of attempts to re-issue an arrest warrant and possibly bring Mr Nasheed into custody? “Not yet,” said an Indian High Commission source.
Had the government heard of whether judicial authorities and police would be taking proceedings against the former president? “No, not heard of it before,” a government official responded off the record.
Rumour and uncertainty were once again the driving force of political discourse concerning the government, Nasheed and the Indian High Commission.
Outside the Indian High Commission building at 10:30pm last night, staff were servicing a sedan car and seemingly working to ensure nothing was visible through its back seat windows. Meanwhile, police officers at infrequent intervals would pass the commission building on their way to deal with a third consecutive night of demonstrations.
Most of the officers paid little attention to diplomatic building at the centre of the nation’s latest political turmoil. However by midnight, a handful of officers had set up temporary barricades outside the chancery.
At the same time, MDP protesters made their way to barriers set up around the corner on Sosun Magu.
Was this the beginning of an audacious attempt to retrieve the former president from his diplomatic confines? The relatively free passage of tourists, students and a small number of locals through the nearby barricades suggested not.
Half an hour later, a single figure finally appeared from the high commission building – surveying the scene up and down the street before entering the sedan and quickly reversing the vehicle into a concealed garage area. The vehicle’s lights remained visible for a few minutes behind the garage door – then they were switched off.
Things remained quiet until 1:30am, when two police officers guarding the temporary barricades outside the Indian High Commission building took notice of some discarded material staff had left behind after the servicing of the vehicle.
The material raised great interest from one of the officers as he lifted a thin piece of dark tape up to eye level for further inspection. He called over his fellow officer. Then for a brief moment, they engaged in what appeared to be a game of peek-a-boo before returning to manning their barricade.
The street, as for the last three hours, returned to relative silence.
By morning, Nasheed – as far as anyone knows – remained in the high commission. Meanwhile, diplomatic relations between India and Maldives, though reportedly strained, are still being observed.
Nasheed, it is confirmed, is to be summoned before the courts in 48 hours time. His immediate future remains unknown.
In the Maldives capital it seems, the only certainty remains uncertainty.