The Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) ‘Journey of Pledges’ has today reached Nilandhoo in Ghaafu Alif Atoll with no sign of the security forces.
Local media yesterday reported that boats had been sent to return former President Mohamed Nasheed to Male’ to face trial .
Party spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor said that the five boat flotilla had received a warm welcome from the island’s 1000-strong population as well as the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) dominated council.
“We don’t see the [political] tension here,” said Ghafoor. “Everyone is in high spirits.”
When asked about the reports in local media that the coastguard had been deployed from Male’ yesterday, Ghafoor said that the party had not received any official word from the authorities.
“As far as we had heard, boats left from Male’ at 4:00pm and should have arrived in Villingili by midnight,” he said.
“There were also rumours that a platoon was leaving from Addu but we haven’t heard anything from the police yet,” he added.
Yesterday the police declined to comment and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) denied that any officials had been sent to retrieve Nasheed.
The day after Nasheed left for the Southern atolls, in contravention of a travel ban, the courts instructed police to produce Nasheed at a rescheduled hearing in the Abdulla Mohamed detention case this coming Sunday.
Security forces made no attempt to prevent Nasheed from leaving Male’ on Monday.
Judicial Administration Department Director Ahmed Maajid told Minivan News yesterday that, despite the order, the former president was “not to be detained”.
In the event of Nasheed being taken back to the capital, Ghafoor was uncertain as to whether the trip, scheduled to visit over 30 islands in 14 days, would continue.
“The trip is very much driven by a charismatic leader. It may fizzle out if the government acted aggressively like that,” said Ghafoor.
“We are not fighters – it would be silly to have a fighting force confront us on the high seas. But you can’t put anything past them,” he continued.
Maldivian law does include provision for trial in absentia if the defendant in a criminal case is not produced by the police.
However, MDP lawyer Hassan Latheef said that this would be very unusual and, to his knowledge, does not have any precedence in Maldivian case law.
Nasheed has requested in writing that his MNDF security detail – provided under the Former President’s Act – not accompany him on the tour.
The MNDF released a statement today detailing this, saying that it could not take any responsibility for harm that might befall the former president whilst not under its protection.
It was also stated that the defence ministry had asked the Majlis for advice on how it should act in such circumstances.
Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has been summoned to the Majlis’ 241 security committee to discuss the protection provided to politicians following the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali on Monday evening.