“Not afraid to die from the first bullet shot” – Nasheed calls to topple government from the streets

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has said his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was now preparing to topple the current government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan in a street rebellion.

Nasheed made the remarks in a rally held Sunday (December 9) on Ihavandhoo in Haa Alif Atoll during the MDP’s campaign trip ‘Vaudhuge Dhathuru’ (Journey of pledges).

The government has meanwhile dismissed the former president’s comments, accusing him of trying to generate media attention for himself, rather than mounting a serious threat to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration.

Speaking to his supporters yesterday, Nasheed declared that he was “not afraid to die from the first bullet shot” by forces defending President Waheed’s government in the event of any proposed rebellion.

The former president claimed he had attempted diplomacy, while also being very patient since February’s controversial transfer of power.

However, he contended that all efforts undertaken by the party to help the country in its commitments to becoming a democracy were going astray.

Nasheed claimed that the MDP had previously avoided raising the idea of toppling the government from the streets, not because it was impossible, but rather that the party was waiting to do so with the spirit of the people.

“We waited till today not because it is not possible [to topple the government from the street].  [The MDP] wanted this to be a people’s movement that is built upon the views of the people,” he said.

Nasheed also expressed scepticism towards the current government’s commitment to hold free and fair elections and added that his party is not in the mood to hold “discussions” or “please” anyone.

He alleged the current government was not willing to hold a free and fair presidential election next year, adding that the majority of the Maldivian people now believed that the government was desperate to find a way to bar him from contesting the elections.

“There are no courts we could go to seek free and fair elections and justice. There is nobody we could go to and hold discussions on the matter. What is left with us is the people who are determined to not to give up,” he said.

Nasheed repeated his claim that the current government was illegitimate and had taken power through a “coup d’eat”.  Such a government, he said, would not be very committed to serving justice to the people.

Nasheed also challenged the military to load their arms if they have the courage to do so when he and “the people” take the matter to the street.

“MDP have gone beyond fear and [President] Waheed and Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz would know how the MDP have evolved,” he said.

The MDP presidential candidate also claimed that he would bring the matter to the attention of the world and said that neighbouring Sri Lanka and India would also be observing the issue.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said “it is not surprising to see MDP taking such a stand”.

“You would know, on February 8 – just a day after the coup – the MDP National Council declared that what happened on February 7 was coup, and the current government took power illegitimately. We have never changed that stand,” he said.

Hamid said the MDP had tried very hard to find a solution from the negotiation table but all its attempts had so far ended fruitlessly. Therefore, Hamid claimed the party had decided it was high time that the people of this state resort to “direct action” to seek a solution.

Minivan News understands that an urgent National Council meeting was scheduled right after president Nasheed made the remarks during the rally.

Media attention

However, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad has claimed that Nasheed’s speech was merely an attempt to garner media attention rather than credibly challenge the government.

“Seriously, I don’t think it’s a matter of concern, I would rather not comment on the matter,” he told Minivan News.  “This guy is going around saying these things trying to get media attention.”

When asked about Nasheed’s allegations that the government was also attempting to stymie his attempts to run for re-election in 2013 by making him face a criminal trial, Masood added that the government was “committed to working within the framework of the law.”

“We have never once stepped outside of the law in the last seven months,” he said. “The road was tiring and long, but we walked it anyway and this should be reason enough both nationally and internationally to make people believe that we will walk that extra mile.”

Nasheed is currently facing trial over his role in the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

The government has previously distanced itself from any decision to arrest former President Nasheed, maintaining that any legal action taken against him would be done so by the country’s police and judicial authorities.

The Maldives judiciary is one of the areas highlighted as being in need of institutional reform, according to the the findings of the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).  The CNI report, released earlier this year, concluded that the Waheed administration had come to power legitimately during February’s controversial transfer of power.

The MDP has previously said it holds severe structural concerns about the CNI’s conclusions, but accepted the report had provided a “way forward” to push for institutional reform in areas such as defence and the judiciary.


Government has “no choice” but to hold early elections this year: MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has claimed that the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan will have no choice but concede to holding early elections this year amidst what it sees as “intense” domestic and international pressure to do so.

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor made the claims amidst what he alleged was a background of “intense diplomatic activity” currently taking place in the country on the back of the ongoing protests and political deadlock that have followed February’s controversial power transfer.

The MDP has alleged that former President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign under “duress” on February 7 in a “coup d’etat”, leading to calls from the party for early elections this year over concerns about the present government’s legitimacy.

However, President Waheed, who contends he came to power legitimately after Nasheed’s resignation from office, has said the earliest fresh polls can be held under the constitution is July 2013.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza were not responding to calls at the time concerning the comments.

As state and private celebrations took place this weekend across the country to mark 47 years of the Maldives becoming an independent nation, President Waheed used a national address to call for citizens to maintain a “high regard” for the country’s laws and legislation.

MDP supporters have themselves continued nightly demonstrations in the capital.  Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef has said the protests were conducted without serious incident and have resulted in no arrests over the last two days.

The MDP anticipates that thousands of its supporters took to the streets on Thursday evening during a march in the capital to call for early elections and an end to alleged arbitrary arrests of demonstrators.

International concern at “political tension”

The demonstrations, which have been held consecutively over the last month, have led to international bodies such as the Commonwealth and EU raising concerns over what they claim has been as an “escalation of political tension and violent protests” in the nation of late.

These statements were followed this week by calls from British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt for “high level talks” between the country’s opposing political factions. The minister said such discussions were needed to find a more peaceful political resolution to the violent clashes between protesters and police.

Burt said that while welcoming the formation of a reconstituted Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) – established initially by President Waheed to investigate the transfer of power that saw his administration inaugurated on February 7 – the UK wished for a quick and fair conclusion to the body’s work.

“I encourage all relevant actors in Maldives to refrain from any actions that could jeopardise the stable environment necessary to allow the Commission of National Inquiry to complete its work and for free and fair elections to take place,” he said.

“I call on all sides to show restraint in the interest of achieving a sustainable political solution to Maldives’ recent problems. Protests must be peaceful and the security response professional and proportionate. Violence and any cases of excessive use of force should be investigated and those responsible held to account,” the statement continued.

“Very successful” protests

MDP MP Ghafoor claimed the month’s ongoing demonstrations had been “very successful” in galvanising support for early elections to be held this year – an aim he believed that would “soon” be realised.

The protests have continued amidst allegations of protesters inciting violence against reporters and security forces, as well as counter claims of unchecked police brutality.

“Many people were there for the Independence Day protests regardless of how the current administration wants to make it appear otherwise,” Ghafoor alleged. “This coup administration is now very shaky, they are unable to run the country, of which they have made a complete mess. I cannot see how they can hold on [to power].”

The MDP spokesperson said that despite the international community prioritising ongoing violent clashes in Syria at present, concern was increasing among foreign diplomats over the rhetoric and demands of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who currently serves as leader for the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Ghafoor added that Gayoom has, on separate occasions, called for an apology from, and the arrest of former President Nasheed over insinuations he was directly involved in organising the alleged “coup d’etat” on February 7.   The MDP meanwhile has alleged that the PPM leader was refusing to sit down to talks between the country’s various political heads.

After Nasheed appeared to offer a conditional apology to his predecessor, Ghafoor added that Gayoom’s continued refusal to engage in dialogue with opposition figures in the country threatened to make him an “irrelevant” figure in the current political process.

“When Gayoom refuses to engage in dialogue and has his tantrums, he is showing the international community that he is not a 21st century politician,” he claimed. “When these people are against dialogue they show there is no interest in moving ahead peacefully.”

PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf and the party’s Deputy Leader Umar Naseer were not responding to calls at the time of press regarding the MDP’s claims.

With the holy month of Ramazan commencing last week, the MDP contended that the mindset of its supporters had not changed in regards to its so-called “direct action” demonstrations – with the recent nightly protests expected to continue indefinitely.

Ghafoor claimed that he expected tensions could rise further with PPM-backed protests also potentially taking place in and around the capital during the next few weeks.

The party’s demonstrations have in part been linked in local media to concerns over the high-profile murder this week of policeman Lance Corporal Adam Haleem whilst he was on duty on the island of Kaashidhoo.

The officer’s death saw figures on both sides of the country’s political divide accusing their opponents of using the death to forward their own respective agendas, particularly in relation to the legality and conduct of ongoing opposition protests in the capital.

Ghafoor has alleged that in the current environment, and with opposition allegations of arbitrary arrests and violence against civilians, a growing number of police and military personnel were not wanting to be identified with the current government.

He also alleged that while a number of officers had acted in a mature manner with their approach to trying to control crowds, a number of “thugs” working within police ranks had continued to incite violence against demonstrators, while targeting specific opposition individuals and media personnel.

The Maldives Police Service has maintained that its officers have continued to exercise minimum force against protesters despite a handful of serious injuries sustained within its ranks during the sporadic eruption of violent clashes during the last month.

During the month’s protests, Minivan News has at times witnessed a general atmosphere that has verged between noisy and almost playful to sudden bouts of cat and mouse baiting of police by anti-government figures in the crowd.

The MDP has maintained that its protests are “largely peaceful” and that it was police who were responsible for instigating violence and making arbitrary arrest of senior figures. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also this month expressed concern over violent protests and use of “excessive force” against demonstrators.

In this volatile climate, the Police Family Association yesterday released a statement calling for the public to consider that police officers were human beings who have “rights like others, and their persons and dignity must be held in due regard by everybody”.

According to local media, the statement also raised concerns over the death of Lance Corporal Haleem, stating that lessons should be taken from his “sacrifice” in order to motivate offcers to peacefully restore law and order.

“The Statement of PFA also said that it was ‘proud of the exemplary service rendered by the Police and for the great sacrifices by police officers without a step backward, in order to protect this nation from the challenges posed by social changes today,’” reported the Sun Online news service.

“At times of sadness, hatred and anger, everyone must accept that police officers are also human beings, and that they are also entitled to human rights just as others are, and the dignity of their lives must be respected. Especially, this Association believe that everyone must respect the rights of police officers serving this nation if we wish to strengthen and prolong democracy and human rights in this country”, the statement continued.

CNI extension

Aside from protesting, Ghafoor also pointed to the CNI’s ongoing work on the country as being another key focus for the MDP during the next month, despite raising concerns about who exactly had given permission for an extension to the body’s deadline until the end of next month.

“Who has allowed for the extended deadline to go ahead? The CNI was scheduled to conclude by July 30, but now this Judge Selvam has said there will be one more month for its work,” Ghafoor claimed. “We also see that there is a two month process involved here, yet the judge has at times taken a four-day weekend off from CNI. Similarly there is just one media briefing a fortnight. Considering this is just a two-month process, there should be at least one a week.”


MDP vows to continue street protests until “coup-government topples”

Members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have taken to the streets in Malé for a third consecutive day as they vow to continue demonstrating until President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration is overthrown.

A few hundred protesters continue to gather at the junction of Orchid Magu and Chaandhanee Magu despite overcast skies and frequent rain showers.  Police have set up barricades to block access to the Republican Square, the area encompassing the President’s Office, and police and military headquarters.

The MDP alleges President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in a “coup d’état” on February 7, and has held regular marches throughout the Maldives calling for early elections.

Meanwhile, the final report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) set up to probe the circumstances of the controversial transfer of power  is not expected to be complete until the end of August.  The composition of the CNI was recently revised over international concerns about the impartiality of the body.


The MDP protests today remained so far peaceful at the time of press, but Minivan News again observed protesters heckling police, in some instances mobbing law enforcement officers as they travelled on their motorcycles.

Police clashed violently with protesters on Monday night. Photos posted on social media shows police using pepper spray and batons as they attempted to disperse the protests. According to Sun Online, police attacked protesters without warning after former President Nasheed arrived at the area.

Police Spokesperson Hassan Haneef said 27 people continue to remain in police custody. The detainees are charged with obstruction of police duty and breaking through police barricades. Two journalists were arrested, but released after a few hours in detention.

Haneef also said that a policeman was injured in last night’s clashes after a protester threw a pavement brick at the officer’s face. Local tourist souvenir shops in the area have also filed complaints regarding the protests, Haneef added.

Speaking to local media yesterday (July 10), MDP Spokesperson and Malé MP Imthiaz Fahmy said the MDP will end street protests only when President Waheed’s administration is overthrown or when the government announces a date for an early election.

The EU and Commonwealth have called for early elections in 2012. However, President Waheed has said the earliest date allowed for elections under the constitution is July 2013.  The MDP, have previously claimed that early elections could be held within two months of the president resigning.

The MDP also today called for the immediate release of protesters, claiming arrests illustrated President Waheed’s “flagrant disregard for the constitutionally given rights to freedom of assembly and expression.”  MDP MP  Fahmy appealed to the public “to participate in MDP’s direct action to protest against and bring an end to this unelected government.”

Over 650 people have been arrested since President Waheed took office, the MDP claims.

“Five months on from the coup d’etat that overthrew the Maldives’ first democratic government, Dr. Waheed continues to violate the fundamental rights of his citizens through illegitimate means. Maldivian citizens have and will continue to exercise their constitutional rights to express their disapproval of the regime and call for immediate elections to restore democracy in the Maldives,” Malé MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor said in the MDP statement.

Amnesty International has issued multiple statements since the transfer of power condemning police’s use of excessive force against protesters. Police have denied Amnesty’s allegations.