Multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson, has written a second blog post on the political crisis in the Maldives, in which he says he now believes that President of the Maldives, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, “had nothing to do with [the coup]. He watched the situation unfolding on television.”
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has previously challenged Dr Waheed’s account that the events of the 7th were spontaneous, noting that the ‘December 23 alliance’ of eight political parties and a coalition of NGOs had met the then Vice President at his official residence, Hilaaleege, at 1:00am on January 31, and subsequently held a press conference pledging allegiance and urging him to assume control of the executive with the aid of the police and military.
Branson, Head of the Virgin business empire, said he had spoken on the phone to Dr Waheed, who told him he had appointed “a respected person” to examine the truth of what caused President Nasheed to “resign”.
Dr Waheed appointed former minister of defence and national security during President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s administration, Ismail Shafeeu, to head the inquiry commission, a move that led MDP to question its credibility.
“[Dr Waheed] also said that the police used excessive force on the demonstrators on February 8th and that needed examining. And he also said that demonstrators should not have burnt down buildings and that that also needed looking into,” Branson relayed.
“He says that he didn’t know who issued an arrest warrant for President Nasheed after he left office but that it had been rescinded within 48 hours. He is determined to be an honest broker, to be seen to be one, and to get everyone’s confidence. He said that he offered to bring in people from President Nasheed’s party but they refused to join.
“He also pointed out that President Nasheed’s party had been a minority party and had only been in power due to the support of others. It would be for those others, and the electorate to decide who rules in the future. He ended by pledging elections in July of next year – in line with the constitution – once confidence has been restored.”
“Based on his personal reputation I believe he’s sincere in wanting to do what’s right for the country and return it to a true and lasting democracy.
“He’s also right in examining very carefully the facts that lead to the “resignation” of President Nasheed. If they prove he was forced out – and if President Nasheed can still show he has the support from the majority of parliament – President Waheed should consider stepping down and letting him back in as President prior to the elections.”
In his open letter last week, Branson said called on President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to “do the right thing” and hold free and fair elections before the end of the year.
Addressing Dr Waheed as the “interim” President, Branson recollected his recent meeting with the former Vice President, who he said had told him about about the need for a truth and commission “to examine past misdeeds and the people who perpetuated them”
It was, Branson wrote to Dr Waheed, “completely astounding that you have been part of an overthrow of a democratically elected government that has effectively let the old regime back into power.”
“Knowing you, I would assume that you were given no choice and that it was through threats that you have ended up in this position,” Branson said. “I do very much hope that was the case rather than you doing it of your own free will.”
Branson attended the Slow Life Symposium at the upmarket Soneva Fushi resort in October 2011, a highly eco-conscious resort owned by Sonu and Eva Shivdesani.
Other attendees at the resort included actress Daryl Hannah, star of films including ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Kill Bill’ and ‘Splash’; Ed Norton, star of films including ‘Fight Club’ and ‘American History X’; Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project; Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed; and an array of climate experts and scientists including Mark Lynas and Mike Mason.