Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahee and Kylie Broomhall
“I beg the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) not to deliberate on how power was transferred in the Maldives,” former President Mohamed Nasheed told the Royal Commonwealth Society yesterday.
“I will be party to the cover up because we want a better life. Because we want to move forward. Because we want development,” he said.
Nasheed addressed an audience at the Commonwealth Club in central London during his visit to the United Kingdom.
Despite his reservations regarding the decision of Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), whose report ruled the transfer of power to have been in line with the constitution, Nasheed said that he no longer expected the international community to say it was a coup or to attempt his reinstatement.
“I will not rely anymore upon international engagement in consolidating democracy. I have no antagonism or outrage towards the international community – nothing like that – it’s practically not possible for them to do it,” he said.
He told the audience that he had sent a letter to the Secretary General before the coup, asking for assistance in consolidating a democracy which he felt was “under stress”.
“I am not for one second suggesting the transfer was legal…but we don’t have to go there to keep us on the CMAG agenda,” he argued. “I am willing to cover up the coup with the CMAG, I am willing to be party to it. But I’m not willing to be a party to doing the same thing to another country.”
The former president expressed his view that the revised mandate of CMAG allowed it to work more pro-actively, and that the Maldives case represented a “golden opportunity” to deal with issues other than merely violent overthrows of governments.
He argued that the new mandate, agreed upon in Perth in 2011, gives the body scope to keep countries on the agenda if there are persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s core values or severe deficiencies in democratic institutions.
Nasheed, therefore, stated his belief that it was “rather silly that we are talking about being removed from agenda”.
He also pointed out to the UK government that there was nothing in the Commonwealth’s regulations that requires a nation to be a member CMAG in order to lobby for keeping others on the CMAG agenda.
“I believe most of you pay your taxes believing your governments will do something about these things,” he told the audience.
“Unfortunately, after the coup, the Commonwealth appears to have forgotten that it is a new Commonwealth, that it is a new CMAG.”
Speaking at a press conference this morning, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon expressed her confidence that the Maldives would be removed from the CMAG agenda at the group’s next meeting on September 28th.
Climate change, the judge, and Islamic radicalism
Before taking questions from the floor, Nasheed took some time to discuss the issue that brought him to the world’s attention before his ousting – climate change.
“Coup or no coup – I hope to continue talking on these subjects,” he said. “Small countries must focus again and again on climate change – that is the principle issue of the 21st century.”
Nasheed stated his belief that development could be achieved without increasing carbon emissions, arguing that advances in technology meant that it was still be possible for the Maldives to reach carbon neutrality by 2020.
The Maldives’ most ambitious renewable energy project, the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) was due to be finalised on the day Nasheed resigned. The ensuing political instability in the country deterred potential investors, causing the deal to fall through.
The new government has continued to pledge its commitment to the environmental projects and yesterday received contributions from its international partners for three new schemes under the Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF)
Pre-empting anticipated questions about the arrest of Judge Abdullah Mohamed, Nasheed expressed his regret but argued that he had no other options.
“[In response to questions] I would say it’s complicated – we’ve done it. This was the only gentleman that I ever arrested,” he said.
“That’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to do as a president and that’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to do in consolidated democracy but I thought that people would also try to understand what happened there,” he continued.
When asked about potential action against those implicated in a coup, should he return to power, Nasheed reiterated his commitment to searching for amicable ways of “settling scores”.
“We are not going to go for a witch hunt. If you want that, the people of Maldives must find someone else to do that,” he said.
One member of the audience asked Nasheed when he felt his former Vice President, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, turned against him.
Nasheed responded that he felt Waheed had switched sides very early on in his presidency: “It’s a beautiful way of becoming president and you must give credit to that”.
When the same person asked about Islamic fundamentalism in the Maldives, Nasheed expressed his fears that the country was becoming more radicalised every day.
“When you have weak government, they are having to rely on any bit of support they can get from any quarters. So, unlike us, this government seems to entertain the radicals,” he said.
“In fact,” continued Nasheed, “the core of the renegade soldiers in the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were radicals. They came and joined the mutinying police, chanting ‘God is great’.”
“They are requesting for the military to grow their beards – I hope our military isn’t the biggest Al Qaeda cell in the Indian Ocean.”
Concluding his speech, Nasheed said that he expected he would be arrested in the near future.
“I don’t want to be there but we have to face reality of consequences and I don’t see the international community as robust enough to stop that happening – this is very sad… I might not be with you for the next few years but, rest assured, we will come back and democracy will reign in the Maldives again.”