President thanks soldiers who fought for Maldives’ sovereignty on Victory Day

President Abdulla Yameen has extended his gratitude to soldiers and members of the public who have fought for the sovereignty of the country on the occasion of Victory Day.

The holiday is celebrated annually on November 3 to commemorate the failed coup by Maldivian political dissidents and Tamil mercenaries in 1988.

“The President said that the key to victory in the November 3rd terrorist attack was unity and harmony among the Maldivian people,” read a statement from the President’s Office.

President Yameen urged Maldivians to foster the spirit of cooperation and to defend the nation’s independence and sovereignty against enemies within who would seek to allow outside forces to influence the nation.

He also called upon Maldivians to stay away from irreligious activities and “disruptive” influences.

The attempted ousting of then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – President Yameen’ half brother – 26 years ago was repelled with a combined effort from the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and Indian troops.

November 3, 1988

The attempt to overthrow Gayoom’s then-ten year regime was formulated in Sri Lanka by two Maldivians – Abdulla Luthfee and Sikka Ahmed Ismail Manik – who requested assistance from Tamil secessionist organisation the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE).

PLOTE reportedly provided the Maldivians with a raiding team of 80 mercenaries with which they sailed to the Maldives in sea trawlers, arriving in the capital Malé in the early morning hours of November 3, 1998.

After securing Hulhulé airport with little to no opposition, the rebels landed in Malé in front of MNDF headquarters where they met heavy resistance from Corporal Hussain Adam, a young officer who was guarding the main gate that morning.

Corporal Hussain Adam died from multiple gunshot wounds in a small guard post on the side of the gate from where he laid defensive fire, weakening the offensive until he ran out bullets. Corporal Adam died after calling out for more bullets so he could lay covering fire in order to enter the safety of the headquarters.

Meanwhile, President Maumoon requested assistance from numerous countries – including India, the UK and the USA – after having himself escaped a group of rebels sent to capture him. India was the quickest to respond to the distress call, deploying 1500 paratroopers to the Maldives.

The rebels quickly fell into disarray after the resistance from the MNDF gate and began looking for ways to escape the island. They eventually seized the vessel, MV Progress Light and started sailing towards Java before changing course towards Sri Lanka. They took with them a group of hostages, including the transport minister and his wife.

Progress Light was soon intercepted by Indian Navy vessels INS Godhavari and INS Betwa. After some resistance – including the murder of 5 hostages to discourage the strong offensive from the Indian Navy vessels – the rebels surrendered after their vessel sustained irreversible damage.

Prosecution and disappearance of Luthfee

Luthfee, along with the other Maldivians involved, was captured by the Indian Navy and handed over to the Maldivian Government who charged them with terrorism and sentenced them to death. The sentence was later amended after pressure from the Indian Government, with those charged receiving life imprisonment instead.

In 2010, however, Luthfee disappeared while in India for medical reasons. The home minister at the time, Mohamed Fayaz, told Minivan News that Luthfee was authorised to go to India in 2009 and was supposed to return by January 2010.

The Progressive Party of the Maldives, headed by former President Gayoom, accused then President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration of setting Luthfee free.

Current Home Minister Umar Naseer today expressed his confidence in finding Luthfee, suggesting that he was currently residing in Sri Lanka under a false identity.

“What happens is it’s different to hunt him down because it’s a foreign country. Our police officers have to go there and work. As far as I know, Luthfy was last seen in Lanka,” said Umar.

The Maldives Police Service has previously placed a bounty of MVR75,000 (US$4,870) on Luthfee’s head – to be given to anyone who aids the police in finding him.

In a testimony made public today by Haveeru, Luthfee accused the Senior Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry at the time of the 1988 coup attempt, Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, of having prior knowledge of the attacks and of providing information of Gayoom’s travel schedule.

Zaki – also special envoy to President Nasheed – has denied the allegations, stating that he did not have any prior knowledge of the attacks and that he would hand himself to authorities for imprisonment if proven otherwise.