President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has pledged to improve the welfare of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel and their families as part of commitments to strengthen the nation’s security forces.
Sections of the country’s police and defence forces have come under criticism during the last few months from opposition politicians and their supporters over the alleged role both institutions played in bringing the new government to power.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claims that Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected president, was removed under “duress” on February 7 by mutinous elements within the police and MNDF following weeks of protests across the capital of Male’ over the detention of a chief judge accused of corruption.
Despite the allegations, local media reported yesterday that President Waheed praised the ongoing role of the military in protecting the nation by land, sea and air. His government was also said to have committed to “strengthen and develop” the role of security forces across the nation, claiming that a “large majority” of the public supported the military’s work on the transfer of power on February 7.
“MNDF is our country’s protective shield. They are the symbol of holiness of our nation. So every child who loves God and this country should be proud of the valuable services of MNDF,” Sun Online reported President Waheed as saying.
Aside from national defence, the MNDF is also charged with overseeing the nation’s fire-fighters and coastguard.
Last week, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig said the MNDF’s southern command had been “very supportive” during the last few years in helping to maintain water supplies to the region amidst concerns over shortages.
The President’s Office told Minivan News today that government commitments to strengthen the MNDF were actually an ongoing process put in place in 2008 to decentralise the military into four regional command structures.
The government also claimed that scrutiny of the role played by the military during February’s controversial transfer of power represented a “minority view” of the public at large.
President Waheed’s latest commitments to bolster the military were made during a speech delivered to graduates of the MNDF’s 57th basic training course.
The speech discussed the expansion of the military throughout the country with the establishment of four area commands designed to try and bring its services “closer to the people.”
Dr Waheed also talked of the three major principles he believed were the foundation of a “true soldier”: staying firm to Islamic principles, providing selfless national service and maintaining the rule of law, according to the President’s Office. To this end, the president urged soldiers during the graduation ceremony to stand by their oaths, “loyally and unwaveringly”.
President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that the president’s comments were made in relation to an “ongoing process” of reforming the military started back in 2008.
“Under the constitution we have been implementing a process of decentralisation with these four commands, such as with the northern command and southern command. The president’s comments were based on these same commitments,” he said.
Last month however, former President Mohamed Nasheed criticised the present government of having “squandered” funds assigned for development and healthcare on direct payments to police and military officers.
“More than Rf 150 million (US$10 million) has been spent on police promotions. Another Rf 150 million (US$10 million) has been spent giving MNDF [Maldives National Defense Force] officers two years of allowances in a lump sum,” he said at the time.
“Another Rf 50 million (US$3.3 million) has been spent repairing the damage to police headquarters. It was the police officers who staged the coup who vandalised the place and threw chairs and computers from the building’s windows. When this money has been wasted, we cannot accept it when they say there is no money for [the Aasandha health scheme].”
However, Abbas rejected accusations that sections of the MNDF had helped overthrow the Nasheed government, claiming that soldiers acted as was required of them under the constitution.
“A minority may hold a particular view about the security forces, but the majority of the pubic maintain the belief that the MNDF are the defenders of our nation. There is not division within the public concerning the military’s role” he claimed. “President Waheed has yesterday continued to state that he will not be asking the MNDF to follow an unconstitutional orders.”