Parties to leaked “coup agreement” dismiss document’s authenticity

Read an English translation of the document

Download the original document in Dhivehi

Vice President of the Civil Alliance coalition of NGOs, Abdulla Mohamed, has claimed that a leaked document allegedly signed by all then-opposition political parties to commit to toppling former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government is not authentic, and that the signatures of party representatives are forged.

The document, apparently signed and sealed by the parties and the Civil Alliance, purports to be  blueprint of a plot to overthrow the government, forcing former President Nasheed to resign, and have the Supreme Court order him to remain away from politics for the rest of his life.

The document is dated December 29, 2011 and features the signatures and seals resembling those of the then-opposition parties Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayythunge Party (DRP), People’s Alliance (PA) and the Civil Alliance.

The unauthenticated signatures appear to include those of PPM Vice President Umar Naseer, Islamic Minister Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed (on behalf of the AP), Leader of the DQP Dr Hassan Saeed, Leader of the JP Gasim Ibrahim, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim on behalf of the PA.

“This agreement, is an agreement agreed by friendly political groups, after having come to the belief that current President Mohamed Nasheed of Galolhu Kenereege should no longer be allowed to remain as the president of this country, to completely bar Nasheed from politics and to eradicate the existence of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who are being influenced by Christianity for the sake of the country’s future, for reasons that include: dishonoring the religion Islam and the laws of this country, openly promoting anti-Islamic mottos, refusing to enforce Islamic Sharia’, indulging in anti-Islamic activities, arbitrarily arresting political opponents, acting contempt of the courts of the law,” states the document’s introduction.

Abdulla Mohamed dismissed the document: “I swear by Allah, that I have never signed an agreement with any political parties both in my personal capacity and in my capacity as the Vice President of the Civil Alliance. Any agreement, had we made one, would have been live on television. I even have the minutes of meetings held with political parties and I will reveal them soon.”

Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, Gasim Ibrahim, Sheik Shaheem and Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim have all denied the validity of the document to local media.

“I helped Waheed out of the mess”: Ahmed Faiz

Former Deputy CEO of Maldives Ports Limited Ahmed Faiz – who recently defected to the MDP following his arrest for allegedly attempting to blackmail Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed in a sex-tape scandal – told Minivan News that it would have been “really odd” for the parties to enter into such an agreement without his being a party to it.

Faiz did not dismiss the authenticity of the document, but suggested that GIP may have been deliberately sidelined from the agreement.

“When I looked into the document, one party was missing. President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s party Gaumee Ithithaadh Party (GIP) is missing in the document. I was the one representing the party at those meetings aimed at toppling Nasheed,” said Faiz.

Faiz said he presumed that omitting the GIP from the agreement was possibly due to tensions between Waheed – who was then Vice President – and the group of opposition political parties.

“Their spirit was quite odd. They were talking during the meetings too. Firstly, they planned to oust both Nasheed and Waheed. They had grudges against Waheed after he gave a press conference as Vice President calling for the suspension of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed. However I talked to the opposition parties and persuaded them to exclude Waheed from the plan,” Faiz explained.

Faiz also implied that Waheed had little role during the initial stages of ousting of Nasheed’s government, and contended that a televised press conference and early morning meeting between Waheed and opposition parties a week prior to Nasheed’s ousting had just been “showing off”.

During the press conference, DRP Vice President Ibrahim Shareef “asked the Vice President to save this nation. I would like to call upon the security forces [to accept that] since the Vice President is a person elected by Maldivians, and should the President be incapacitated to perform his legal duties, the Vice President must assume the duties of the President.”

Waheed was not present at the press conference. Faiz told Minivan News, “When the idea of ousting Waheed and Nasheed began floating, I went onto VTV and invited Waheed to join the anti-government protest that had been going on against Nasheed. He got really upset and we both even had a falling out.”

‘Plot’ to oust Nasheed

According to the document, the plot to topple Nasheed’s government was to start on February 24, 2012 – 17 days earlier than the day Nasheed was toppled – following a nation-wide Islamic symposium.

It proposed that Nasheed’s presidency be ended within 24 hours from commencement of the symposium, after giving the president a five hour ultimatum to resign unconditionally.

In late January 2012, 22 days of continuous anti-government protests led by then opposition figures and religious scholars following the controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed escalated into a mutiny by certain elements within the police and the military.

By midday of February 7, 2012, then-President Nasheed had exhausted all his options to establish a chain of command within the ranks of police and military, and was left trapped inside the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) barracks surrounded by rebelling police and military forces along with an angry mob of demonstrators, who had been armed by the rebelling security services.

Within a short span of time, the current Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim – who had been a civilian at the time – entered the military barracks and gave Nasheed an ultimatum to “resign or face the dire repercussions”. At the same time another group of demonstrators and rebelling security forces stormed and took control of the state broadcaster. Nasheed’s subsequent resignation at the President’s Office was aired on the swiftly re-branded Television Maldives.

Vice President Mohamed Waheed then ascended to power.

Mutiny and Vice President’s endorsement

The symposium, the document claimed, would escalate into a violent demonstration on the outskirts of Republic Square with three groups stationed at different locations.

Religious sheikhs affiliated with the movement would address the police barricading the area, and were to convince them that it was haram under Islam to obey the orders of President Nasheed in a bid to appeal for their support. Following the speeches of the religious sheikhs, politicians would take over the stage and then PPM Vice President Umar Naseer was to give the final speech.

By the end of his speech, a lieutenant colonel and a brigadier general from the MNDF would step aside from their duties and would appeal to the remaining military officers to disobey the orders of the president.

By this time, a platoon of Police’s Special Operations (SO) department would rebel against the police leadership and begin protests within Republic Square, creating a distraction that would allow more demonstrators to enter Republic Square and join the rebel police.

According to the document, by this time then Nasheed’s Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu – who according to the document had pledged supported to the movement – would go on to order the MNDF to arrest the protesting police live on state broadcaster MNBC One.

Using this opportunity, the organizers of the movement, by using opposition-aligned TV station DhiTV, would propagate rumors across the country that MNDF had begun brutalising the protesting police and appeal the other police officers to join the protests to help their colleagues.

The document claimed that Nasheed’s Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan – the current president – had pledged his support for the movement and would take over the presidency as soon as the Supreme Court ruled that Nasheed had been incapacitated.

It also claimed that Waheed had agreed to form a national unity government with “friendly political groups”, and had agreed not to seek re-election at the conclusion of the presidential term.

Arrest of Nasheed and declaration of incapacity

By the time the demonstrations had escalated into a violent mob backed by police and military, the Special Protection Group (SPG) of the MNDF – tasked with protecting the president – would escort Nasheed to the presidential retreat of Aarah, in the name of giving him protection and security.

Shortly after Nasheed had been escorted to the island, an emergency court case would be filed at the Supreme Court requesting it to rule that Nasheed was incapable of remaining as the President, due to fear of violence and loss of the social harmony of the state as police and military were reluctant to follow his orders.

Then Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan would immediately take oath as the President as soon as the ruling was issued.  In an another ruling after Waheed assumed power, the Supreme Court would order the imprisonment of Nasheed and bar him from involvement in politics for the rest of his life.

According to the document, leader of the DQP and running mate of resort tycoon and JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim, Dr Hassan Saeed, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim were lobbying the Supreme Court bench to get its support.

The document also alleged that the PPM has had agreed to have current Attorney General Aishath Azima Shukoor try to convince Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain to support the petition.

After intense negotiations, the document claimed, a green signal had been given to the movement that the Supreme Court would issue the orders as requested by them.

New government

The document claimed that shortly after Waheed Hassan assumed power, the cabinet of President Nasheed would immediately be dismissed and a new cabinet would consisting of 10 members would be appointed including PPM Vice President Umar Naseer as the Home Minister and Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu reappointed as the Defense Minister.

Similarly, retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim was to be appointed as the Chief of Defence Force and Abdulla Riyaz appointed as the Commissioner of Police.

However, when the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan assumed power in February 7, 2012, the position of Home Minister was given to Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and the Defense Minister position was given to retired Colonel Nazim. Brigadier General Ahmed Shiyam was appointed Chief of Defence Force while Abdulla Riyaz was appointed as the Commissioner of Police.

Dismantling and factionalising MDP

Following the change of government, the document claimed that it was highly important to divide, dismantle and factionalise the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), in a bid to weaken opposition to government.

“It has been agreed among all friendly political groups, that it is very important to influence and overtake the control of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the following actions have been commonly agreed to be carried out in order to dismantle the MDP’s leadership,” read the document.

The schemes to divide the MDP included backing then President of the Party, Dr Ibrahim Didi – whom the document described was politically weak and easily manipulated – while also supporting current Chairperson of MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, whom the document described as susceptible to blackmailed and threats against his business interests.

The document noted that Vice President of MDP MP Alhan Fahmy was the second biggest threat in the MDP as he had the potential to reorganise it in the absence of Nasheed.

The document claimed that the movement would work on promoting Dr Didi as party’s official presidential candidate, financed by JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim.

In a bid to verify the authenticity of the document Minivan News tried contacting all parties mentioned in the document, but with the exception of Abdulla Mohamed from the Civil Alliance, no others were responding to calls at time of press.

Read an English translation of the document

Download the original document in Dhivehi


Govt will not sign current draft of SOFA, Defence Minister tells parliament

Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim has informed parliament’s opposition-dominated Executive Oversight Committee that the government will not sign the current draft of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States.

Nazim alleged that a leaked draft of the agreement had been “doctored”, according to local media, however he refused to share the current draft with the committee.

The government would only share the draft with the National Security Committee, Attorney General Aisthath Bisham told the oversight committee.

“It’s just a draft, and is at a very infant stage,” Nazim was reported to have told the committee. “We discussed it with relevant government authorities. I myself don’t believe that the draft can be finalised without making the necessary amendments.”

Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has also opposed the signing of the SOFA agreement.

“There is no way that the SOFA agreement can be signed, allowing foreign forces to stay on our land. Nor can we allow them to make the Maldives a destination in which to refuel their ships,” Shaheem stated previously on social media.

“The reason is, the US might attempt to use the Maldives as a centre when they are attacking another Muslim state. There is no way we will let that happen,” he said, asserting that he “will not compromise on the matter at all”.

The agreement

The leaked draft of the proposed SOFA with between the Maldives and the US “incorporates the principal provisions and necessary authorisations for the temporary presence and activities of United States forces in the Republic of Maldives and, in the specific situations indicated herein, the presence and activities of United States contractors in the Republic of Maldives.”

Under the proposed 10 year agreement outlined in the draft, the Maldives would “furnish, without charge” to the United States unspecified “Agreed Facilities and Areas”, and “such other facilities and areas in the territory and territorial seas of the Republic of Maldives as may be provided by the Republic of Maldives in the future.”

“The Republic of the Maldives authorizes United States forces to exercise all rights and authorities with Agreed Facilities and Areas that are necessary for their use, operation, defense or control, including the right to undertake new construction works and make alterations and improvements,” the document states.

The US would be authorised to “control entry” to areas provided for its “exclusive use”, and would be permitted to operate its own telecommunications system and use the radio spectrum “free of cost to the United States”.

The US would also be granted access to and use of “aerial ports, sea ports and agreed facilities for transit, support and related activities; bunkering of ships, refueling of aircraft, maintenance of vessels, aircraft, vehicles and equipment, accommodation of personnel, communications, ship visits, training, exercises, humanitarian activities.”

US position

US authorities have reiterated they have no intention to establish a base in the Maldives, and emphasised that the SOFA is a standard agreement used for conducting joint military exercises.

Former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, now Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake, told the Press Trust of India in May that the agreement referred to joint military exercises and not a future base-building endeavor.

“We do not have any plans to have a military presence in Maldives,” Blake said, echoing an earlier statement from the US Embassy in Colombo.

“As I said, we have exercise programs very frequently and we anticipate that those would continue. But we do not anticipate any permanent military presence. Absolutely no bases of any kind,” Blake said.

“I want to reassure everybody that this SOFA does not imply some new uptick in military co-operation or certainly does not apply any new military presence. It would just be to support our ongoing activities,” he said.


India backs early elections

India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has said the country will back early elections in the Maldives, and pushing for cross-party cooperation and any “necessary constitutional amendments”.

Statements from Mathai were sent to media attached to a document entitled ‘Maldives Elements of a Possible Way Forward’.

“The President [Dr Mohamed Waheed] has come out with a roadmap for an inclusive political process which provides a very good basis for the parties to resolve their differences,” Mathai said.

“Consequent to my discussions, the following formulation was agreed upon by all the parties concerned: ‘In the interests of national reconciliation and to encourage harmony between our citizens, the Government of National Unity will hold discussions with all relevant parties to conduct elections by an early date’,” he said.

“The MDP, on its part, committed itself to encouraging an atmosphere appropriate to the holding of elections. In this context, we understand that their decision to hold a rally tomorrow is being reconsidered,” he added.

“The Government of National Unity will work towards the conditions that will permit such elections to take place including the necessary constitutional amendments. Our understanding is that elections would be held as early as considered feasible by all concerned. This is to be discussed by the parties.”

Mathai said that he had met the leaders of all the main political parties, “including Mohamed Nasheed of the MDP, Abdulla Yameen of the PPM and Thasmeen Ali of the DRP. I also met the Chief Justice and the Speaker of Parliament.

“I reiterated our belief that there is need for a Maldivian-led process for reconciliation and resolving political differences through constitutional means,” he said.

The reaction to the statement from both sides was initially unclear – India’s press conference was to have been held earlier on Thursday afternoon, but was reported delayed due to “new developments”, according to one official. It was later held at 7:00pm.

Meanwhile a press conference due to be held by the MDP this evening was cancelled, while during an earlier meeting with foreign media, Dr Waheed and his newly-appointed political advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed, refrained from committing to early elections and instead reiterated the need for the “right conditions”.

However in a statement on the President’s Office website, linking to the document, Dr Waheed said the roadmap was a “victory” for Maldivians.

“I have an unswerving commitment to the principles of our constitution and a clear vision of how our country can move forward. I am by nature a man who prefers to lead by consensus. This is an opportunity for us to regain the respect of the international community but most importantly continue to build a safe, democratic and prosperous Maldives for all our people,” Dr Waheed said.

“I wish to personally thank the Indian Foreign Secretary for his good offices in facilitating this agreement which has needed all sides to put aside partisan interest for the sake of the country”.

The version of the document on the President’s Office website contained additional paragraphs, including one stating that “the Government of National Unity will ensure the creation of conditions for genuine, free and fair multi-party elections, providing the opportunity for all candidates to compete equally in the elections in 2013. It will strengthen the capacity of the Electoral Commission. It will ensure access of all registered parties and candidates to the media and other means of transmitting positions and platforms and will ensure the political neutrality of the public media. Moreover, it will invite international monitoring of the electoral preparations and the elections.”

Mathai is the second top Indian diplomat dispatched to the Maldives this week, following an earlier visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Special Envoy M Ganapathi.


Independent MP contests government agreement with GMR over ADC

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed has said the government is circumventing the Civil Court’s ruling against a US$25 Airport Development Charge (ADC) by agreeing to deduct the anticipated revenue of US$25 million from GMR’s concession fee.

Nasheed also contends that the government has not breached its contract with GMR, but rather that the contract was breached by outside forces.

The minority Opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) has also announced that it will investigate the recent amendment to the government’s contract.

GMR was set to collect US$25 from all passengers departing on international flights starting January 1, 2012. The expected revenue was to cover certain costs for the development of Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

According to Nasheed, any agreement between the government and GMR will not undo the Civil Court’s ruling against the ADC. He argued that the court ruling rendered the clause allowing for an ADC null and void.

“That’s the only decision that interprets or explains the local law at the moment, and it has not been overturned, it has not been struck down by a superior court, therefore that is the position. You can’t circumvent it by deducting receivables from GMR,” said Nasheed.

“Now, the only viable option for the government would be to amend the legislation, allow for the GMR or any other party to collect ADCs or these kind of taxes in future, and then bring the GMR issue within the legislation as an amendment,” he said, adding that an amendment to the law would protect the government from incurring losses to ensure a base line of revenue for GMR.

A related bill is currently awaiting Parliamentary review in March. Nasheed understood that the ADC would be collected by the government only three times per year, yet “it is only January 10 and already the government is trying to make this agreement and circumvent the court decision.”

Meanwhile, the government is also awaiting the High Court’s verdict on the Civil Court case, which was appealed in December. Nasheed said a contract cannot be revised while it is before a court.

Previously, members of the government including President Mohamed Nasheed have expressed firm support for the contract with GMR. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of a new terminal construction project at INIA, the President said the Maldives was “200 percent” behind the contract, while Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair yesterday stated, “it should be a matter of pride and joy for any Maldivian to help with the development of their airport.”

DQP previously voiced strong opposition to the deal with GMR, filing a case at the Civil Court and releasing a booklet entitled “Handing the Airport to GMR: The beginning of slavery.”

In MP Nasheed’s opinion, however, the government has allowed itself to be bullied into a compromise of terms.

The agreement implies that the government has taken responsibility for the ADC as stipulated in the original contract with GMR. If the ADC is charged for the duration of the 25-year contract, the government could potentially be facing a total payment of US$625 million for GMR’s investment of US$400 million in the airport project.

“The government gets peanuts at the end of the day,” Nasheed said.

“My argument to the government would be, Maldives government too must have gotten into this relationship based on certain calculations. Why should the Maldivian government suffer their calculations to keep GMR’s calculation unaffected by the court decision, over which the government has no control?”

Addressing the matter in a press statement yesterday, the Ministry of Finance claimed that the contract between GMR and the government would be violated in the event that GMR could not collect a stated fee. Therefore, the government had breached its contract.

The ministry did express support for the government’s recent agreement, however, stating that any damages should be deducted from GMR’s concession fee due the government.

Expressing shock at the Ministry of Finance’s statement, Nasheed clarified his intent to defend the government from the ministry’s first point.

“I would like to defend my government and say that the government did nothing on its own or within its control to breach an agreement. They have allowed certain charges to be made based on an opinin of the Attorney General that that charge was permissible under Maldivian law. Now, the Civil Court has said otherwise, and the government has not done anything to breach the contract. It’s a frustrating event that’s happened outside the contract and the government won’t take any responsibility for that.”

Nasheed today said he understood that a only small fraction (12 to 15 percent) of internationally-bound travelers leaving INIA are Maldivians.

“If the ADC was allowed, the burden of payment would have been born by international passengers, and only 12 percent Maldivians. And the government won’t have to bear any burden because the fee would be collected directly from passengers by GMR,” he said, reiterating that under the current arrangement the government would be paying revenue to GMR.

Minivan News asked whether exempting Maldivians from the ADC could put the matter to rest.

Nasheed believed exemption could improve the situation, and added that parliamentarians have discussed exemptions for Maldivians traveling to SAARC countries.


Hudhufushi lease renewed

The Tourism Ministry has renewed the lease for Hudhufushi in Lhaviyani Atoll despite the resort island’s owner owing more than US$85 million in unpaid rent.

According to a 2009 audit report, Hudhufushi’s leasee Abdul Rauf owed US$57.7 million in unpaid rent to the government going back to 2002, the majority of the amount accumulated fines from years of non-payment.

The lease rent owned by the Hudhufushi resort is one of the government’s largest debtors in the tourism sector, and was noted in both the tourism ministry and trade ministry’s audit reports for 2007.

Under the original 35 year lease agreement signed between Rauf and the government in 2000, the resort was to open on June 30, 2002.

Former Auditor General Ibrahim Naseem, dismissed by parliament last year days after ordering past and present government ministers to submit to an audit of their assets, had recommended repossessing the island and establishing a mechanism to take legal action against tax evasion.

His audit suggested that at least Rf117 million (US$910,000) of the amount was recoverable.

Local media this week reported that the debt had climbed to US$85 million, and that the government had renewed the lease under a new agreement stating that the amount would be paid back starting from the 11th year of the agreement.

In addition, the agreement requires two payments of US$750,000 before June 1 and December 1 of this year, local newspaper Haveeru reported, or it will be terminated.

Cofounder of local environmental NGO Bluepeace, Ali Rilwan, has meanwhile claimed that the island forms a natural bay that is home to rays and baby sharks, and was “a very important ecological site.”

“The development will cause a lot of disturbance – there was a lot of controversy even at the beginning on the process,” he said. “There were no studies before the island was awarded and it has not been subject to an environmental impact assessment.”

Rilwan suggested that in such instances the government should have provision to exchange an island for another, to allow the preservation of ecological sites such as Hudhufushi.

“There are only three islands in the Maldives that are listed as protected, at least on paper,” he said. “Hudhufushi has a mangrove area, which is a carbon sink – these are mentioned in the government’s carbon report. Half the mangroves in the Maldives have been reclaimed in the last 30-40 years.”

“Ecotourism sites such as these are rare in the Maldives and can generate an income as they make for wonderful photographs,” he said.

Minivan News contacted the tourism ministry for comment and was referred to Deputy Minister Ismail Yasir, but he was not responding at time of press.