“Nasheed’s ouster Maldives’ historical equivalent of Tiananmen Square”: US Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies

One of the world’s leading scholars on non-violent conflict, Dr Mary King, has compared the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed with the ruthless crushing of democratic movements in Communist China and Soviet Russia.

“For 300,000 Maldivians, President Nasheed’s ouster was the historical equivalent of Tiananmen Square in 1989 or the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968: the sensation of new freedom one day, its threatened disappearance the next,” said Dr King.

Dr King’s comments were included in a statement from the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), which will today award Nasheed with the James Lawson Award for Achievement in the Practice of Nonviolent Action. The ceremony will take place at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

The press release stated that the award is in recognition of Nasheed’s “leadership during many years of the nonviolent opposition to dictatorship in his country, his courage in the face of an armed coup earlier this year which forced him from power, and his renewed nonviolent action on behalf of restoring genuine democracy in his country.”

Dr King, a professor of Peace and Conflict studies at the UN-affiliated University for Peace in Costa Rica, is a former recipient of the James Lawson award herself.

The award is to be presented by Dr James Lawson himself, a leading activist in the American civil rights movement who is best known for devising the Nashville lunch-counter sit ins of the 1960s.

President and founder of the ICNC, Jack Du Vall, said that nonviolent action can be the only basis for a ruler’s legitimacy.

“The question for the Maldives is whether it will have a real democracy or not, and whether it will be led by a person who was elected to that office by the people and whose elevation to power was based solely on nonviolent action,” he added.

President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza said that he was not aware of the statements, saying that the ICNC was “free to say whatever it wished.”

Asked for a government response to such opinions, Abbas said: “The Maldives is a free society and has a free media. Only the courts will decide if it was a legal change of government.”

The Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) mandated to investigate the circumstances surrounding the February transfer of power was recently reformed in order to enhance its credibility.

The group began its investigations on June 21 and is scheduled to have completed its work by July 31.

The CNI is not a criminal investigation and will hand its findings over to the President, the Attorney General (AG) and the Prosecutor General (PG).

Nasheed’s US visit has included a speech at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a briefing given to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a follow up meeting with the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia Committee on Foreign Affairs after it had sent a team to the Maldives earlier in the year.

Nasheed is also said to have met with State Department Assistant Secretary Robert Blake as well as having briefed the International Republic Institute on the political situation in the Maldives.