State funds for military and police, but not for Aasandha: Nasheed

Deposed President Mohamed Nasheed last night criticised the government’s attempts to introduce fees for free health insurance scheme Aasandha, saying the government had squandered funds marked for development on the police and military.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration has claimed the Aasandha scheme is no longer financially tenable due to unsustainable demand. Dr Waheed succeeded Nasheed on February 7 after Nasheed resigned following a police and military mutiny. Nasheed claims he was forced to resign at “gun-point.”

Shortly after taking office, Waheed’s administration halted Public Private Partnership schemes and allowed extended resort leases to be paid in installments rather than upfront at the end of the lease. Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the move will immediately take US$135 million of the country’s coffers.

Speaking to hundreds of MDP supporters at the party’s new protest camp following his return from his US tour promoting the Island President, Nasheed said the government’s claim of lack of funds for Aasandha was “unacceptable.”

“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. 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 Aasandha,” Nasheed said.

More than 1000 police officers were given promotions on March 31 – a third of the country’s police force – while police have revealed plans to recruit 200 new officers to the force this year.

Nasheed said Waheed’s policies, along with alleged increased expenses on presidential trips, means “there will be no money in the treasury to provide services for citizens.”

“Aasandha services were provided based on taxing the rich,” he said. “First they told us they will not pay taxes, and then after staging a coup and bringing down tourist arrivals exponentially to the point it affects our income, we cannot obtain the development we seek and the services we seek to provide.”

New Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb had previously called on Maldivian businesses not to pay Goods and Services Tax (GST) to Nasheed’s government.

Nasheed said Waheed was obliged to implement the MDP’s manifesto, saying the coalition of parties that backed him to defeat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the country’s first multi-party elections in 2008 had agreed to carry forward the MDP’s manifesto.

“Even in 2008 they wanted positions,” Nasheed said. “They did not have a plan in their hearts or party manifestos to deliver services to the people. Instead, they asked for seats in the cabinet. They said, ‘If you give me a cabinet position I will tell the people I know to vote for you.’”

The coalition of parties that supported Nasheed in 2008 include Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad (GI), the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and Jumhoree Party (JP). The coalition dissolved months after Nasheed took office, and the three parties are now allied with Waheed.

“They tried to kill me”

Nasheed’s address was his first since a 10 day trip to the United States of America last week. Speaking to US media, Nasheed alleged former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was behind his ousting, and insisted his life was under threat on February 7.

“I am certain investigations will reveal Maumoon was behind the coup,” Nasheed said. “Ask [the army] who was instructing the MNDF generals that day. Ask them on whose orders the generals decided to side with Nazim.”

Ahmed Nazim is the current Defense Minister, and acted as intermediary between mutinying police and military and Nasheed on February 7.

“God willing, I will submit these details to the relevant courts and investigation. Such an investigation must have international oversight and has to be independent and impartial. They tried to kill me. They tried to take my life in order to stage a coup. It is my duty to reveal what transpired on that day,” Nasheed said.

“We have to clarify this atrocity, this coup, for the generations to come. I will submit what I know, the extent to which I knew and experienced it, to a trusted investigation,” he said.

Following calls from the Commonwealth, European Union, India, America and UK for an independent investigation, Waheed instituted a three member Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) to look into the legitimacy and legality of the transfer of power. However, the CNI has come under fire from the MDP and local civil society groups for unilateralism and lack of independence. Further, the CNI has said it will not conduct a criminal investigation.

Nasheed promised supporters he would ensure an investigation through international processes if domestic bodies failed to conduct an independent and impartial inquiry.

“What we didn’t do was accumulate force”

Nasheed reiterated call for early presidential elections and highlighted the importance of an elected government. “You cannot sustain a government through force. The force behind any government is the people,” he said.

He could have stayed in power had he used force on February 7, Nasheed said, but choose not to: “The Maldivian Democratic Party has been working on development for the past three years and six months. We were not accumulating force.”

Nasheed said soldiers had asked him to open the armory to put down the police mutiny, but he had refused to let them.

“I came to power, and you voted for me, not to accumulate force. You wanted widespread transport networks, economic development, and to put an end to the drug plague and begging for healthcare, for. You voted for harbours, for sewerage systems, to build outer walls of football fields, to build roads, cemeteries and for holistic education,” Nasheed said, repeating the MDP’s election pledges in 2008.

“What we didn’t do was accumulate force. What we didn’t do was torture people,” he added.

“Be courageous,” he said. “We are only calling for an election, not for the sun, the stars and the moon.”

“We cannot leave the protest square”

The MDP must sustain its protests in order to press for early elections, Nasheed said. He called on all of his supporters to stay at the protest camp, dubbed Insaafuge Maidhan (‘Justice Square’) and to continue to raise their voices. The establishment of the camp follows the government’s removal of the MDP’s protest camp near the tsunami monument by the police and military last month.

“We will come out in large numbers for a massive protest. A long demonstration that will resolve our issues. A demonstration that will reveal to the world what Maldivians are fighting for,” he said.

Nasheed said he was “disappointed” with America and India’s prompt acceptance of Waheed’s administration.

But he appeared to accept the move as characteristic of international politics. “It will be very difficult for major powers not to accept whichever government is in place. Governments have to interact with each other. Hence, they have to, they must talk to whoever holds the key to the military headquarters.”

“But powerful democracies will also look into how this key can safely be handed over to the people. I trust the Indian government. I trust America, the Commonwealth and the EU.”

The Commonwealth, EU and foreign governments have supported Nasheed’s call for early elections despite their engagement with Waheed’s administration.

Nasheed also called on foreigners who wish Maldives well to join MDP’s protest. “Come to the Maldives to protest. Stay with us until we gain our government back. Citizens, humans are humans no matter where they are in the world. Whether you are English, French, American, Indian or Maldivian, we are all made of flesh, bones and blood. We all experience the same in life.”


Waheed says he would resign and reinstate Nasheed if inquiry establishes coup

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan told local television station Villa TV (VTV) he would resign and reinstate ousted President Mohamed Nasheed if an independent inquiry established the February 7 transfer of power was illegitimate.

Nasheed has claimed he resigned under duress and was deposed in a coup d’état. Since then, thousands of people have demonstrated throughout the Maldives questioning Dr Waheed’s legitimacy and have called for early elections.

Speaking on Dhivehi Sakhshiyyath’s (Maldivian Personality) debut program, Dr Waheed said, “If it wasn’t a legitimate transfer of power, if it was unlawful, what should happen is the former president should be reinstated. If that is established, I will resign. If not, then this is a legitimate transfer of power.”

Although Dr Waheed’s government seemed amenable to early polls upon taking office, it now appears to be increasingly resistant to the call. The government now claims constitutional amendments are necessary for an early general election.

“I have already said I am ready to hold an election within the law, within the constitution, only in the country’s interest, since a major political party is creating unrest in the city,” Dr Waheed said.

Dr Waheed has instituted a three member Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) to look into the legality and legitimacy of the transfer of presidential power. However, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has questioned the committee’s independence as the committee is chaired by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s defence minister Ismail Shafeeu.

The MDP, international bodies and NGOs have urged the inclusion of international experts in the CNI. Presidential Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said the government would seek UN assistance rather than that of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group had supported MDP’s call for early elections.

Like furniture

In his interview, Dr Waheed also aired grievances against Nasheed dating from the MDP’s founding.

“I left MDP because Nasheed’s influence in MDP was such that he refused to give responsibility to anyone who is elected within the party. It was like that from first day, and I think continues to be that way,” he said.

Dr Waheed had campaigned to be the MDP’s first president. He alleges Nasheed ran MDP as “his property” and said Nasheed’s approach “has always been to settle problems through street action, rather than political dialogue.”

As Nasheed’s vice-president, Waheed claimed he was “sidelined and isolated”.

“Nasheed decided the vice-presidency was a symbolic position,” he said.

When asked if Nasheed ever pressured for his resignation, Waheed said, “I do not think Nasheed thought it too important for me to resign. As long as I stood aside, quietly, like the furniture at President’s Office, he did not think it to be an issue.”

He called on all political parties to work together to resolve the current political crisis: “The current unrest is because we haven’t been able to work together,” he said.

Waheed also said he believed only a candidate fronted by a coalition of parties would win the next presidential election.

“I do not believe now that any one party can win a presidential election. I am almost certain that only a coalition of two or more parties will win the next election again,” he said.


MDP stages ‘simultaneous’ protests calling for early election

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters last night staged simultaneous protests around the capital of Male’ calling for early elections and the resignation of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

The protesters had at first gathered  by the Justice Rally held near the Tsunami monument area, before later moving to different locations including the front of the residences of Parliamentary Speaker Abdullah Shahid and current Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

The protesters also chose to gather near Male’ City Council hall, which is close by to a residence of a senior police official.  Demonstrations were also said to have taken place in front of the home of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM)’s Parliamentary Group Leader, Abdullah Yaameen Abdul Gayyoom.

Protesters who gathered up in front of Parliamentary Speaker Shahid’s residence claimed they were calling for him to not to let any “coup” leaders inside the parliament and not to corrupt the Majlis.

They also called the speaker not to obstruct a political solution and to find a way to hold an early election as soon as possible. There were reports of approximately 300 protesters gathering in front of the speaker’s home.

Meanwhile, protesters who gathered near the Male’ City Council hall called on the police to stop alleged brutality against ordinary people claiming the mandate of the police is to serve justly and not torture.

Protesters that gathered in front of Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim’s house, called for an impartial and independent investigation of the alleged “coup” that saw President Mohamed Nasheed “resign” from office.

Some of the protesters had also gathered in front of PPM’s parliamentary group leader Abdullah Yaameen’s residence calling for an investigation into an alleged US$800 million money laundering case in which Yaameen was implicated.

There were some verbal arguments between a group of around 10 to 15 people and protesters who had tried to obstruct the protests. However no violence reportedly took place.

Protesters travelling on motorbikes and about six pickups were witnessed riding around the city calling for early elections and the resignation of President Waheed.

Though there were no reports of serious violence or confrontations, PPM MP Dr Afrshim Ali’s car was allegedly attacked during the demonstrations.

Speaking to the local media, a police media official was quoted as saying that Afrashim reported a case to police stating that his car was attacked, an act he claimed was carried out by protesters during the course of last night’s protests.

According to local media, the unnamed police media official confirmed that the police was investigating the matter and so far nobody has been arrested.

Speaking to Minivan News, Police Media official Ahmed Shiyam said that there were complaints from the public that protests had caused some ‘disturbances’. He added that there had been reports of damage being done to both public and private property, including some police motorbikes.

Shiyam confirmed that the attack on Afrashim’s car was reported to police.

” We have got the report that MP Afrashim’s car was attacked. We will investigate all these reports and take the necessary action,” he said.

However,  MDP MP and spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy denied the allegations saying that individual involved in the protests did no such thing.

“We deny all those allegations. There are groups who commit such acts just to blame us. We have reason to believe these groups represent parties that support the Waheed government.” Fahmy claimed.


Gayoom: “I had no role in the change of government”, says no to early elections

Former President and Leader of Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has claimed “I had no role in the change of government”, while dismissing the accusations of his involvement in the ousting of his successor Mohamed Nasheed on February 7 as “baseless rumors”.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) alleges that Gayoom was at the centre organising what the party insists was a bloodless coup d’état in which elements of police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were bribed to align with then-opposition demonstrators led by Gayoom’s PPM party forcing Nasheed to resign on February 7.

However, after returning to Maldives on Monday night from an unofficial trip to Malaysia, Gayoom defended himself claiming that “I had never attempted to over throw Nasheed’s government illegally or outside legal bounds”.

“I had no role in the change of government and such rumours are baseless,” Gayoom further claimed.

However, he noted that his party had protested within the legal bounds to resist unlawful acts of the government.

Meanwhile, Gayoom – whose 30-year-old rule came to an end after he lost the country’s first multiparty elections to Nasheed in 2008 – objected to MDP’s calls for early elections citing that the constitution gives “no room” for it.

He quoted the constitution’s stipulations which state elections must be held once in every five years or it shall be called if both the President and the Vice-President resign simultaneously or their offices become vacant at the same time.

Furthermore, noting that if the President resigns for any reason the constitution allows the Vice President to assume office and continue the remainder of his predecessor’s term – Gayoom said, “Waheed has been sworn in constitutionally”.

“Therefore, there is no room for an [early] election according to the constitution and in my opinion neither does politically.” Gayoom concluded, pledging full support to Waheed’s administration which is now run by a cabinet stacked with majority Gayoom loyalists.

Thousand of supporters of Gayoom gathered at the Republican Square and on the streets to welcome Gayoom, while  Minivan News observed that security was elevated in the area and Gayoom was taken to his residence in a defence force car.