“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.