Don’t elect President who will “run after you with batons”, Defence Minister advises MNDF officers

Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim has strongly advised officers of the Maldives National Defence Force as to how they should vote, suggesting they should not elect a candidate who would “run after them with batons”.

Nazim made the remarks while addressing military officers during the ceremony held to mark the 121st anniversary of the Maldivian army on Wednesday.

Nazim – who was a central figure behind the ousting of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 2012, which the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintains to be a coup d’etat – stressed that though the military were not allowed to partake in political activities, the right to cast their ballot in the presidential elections like any other citizen, “must be exercised with due care”.

He also urged the officers to questions their own conscience before casting their ballot that would elect the President – who by virtue is their highest authority as Commander in Chief.

Attempting to draw a line between former President Nasheed and President Mohamed Waheed Hassan – who was present at the ceremony – Nazim said that “it is important to see whether the commander in chief is a person who would run after [you] with a baton or whether he is a person who takes a great deal of patience in resolving complicated matters”.

Nazim who appeared keen to advise the military on what type of a candidate they should vote for in the elections, said the military had a proud history and that the person who assumes the role of their commander in chief should possess certain features.

“That is why we must see who we are voting in the next elections,” the retired colonel said.

Nazim also spoke about his “experience” of February 7, 2012 when former President Nasheed’s government was toppled.

Nazim who was a civilian at the time, took over the command of the military and was seen leading the military side while Nasheed was still legally the commander-in-chief.

Nazim entered military headquarters as a civilian and gave Nasheed an ultimatum to unconditionally resign within one and a half hours time, or face consequences.

Nasheed, who had by then lost control of both the army and police and was surrounded by angry protesters including mutinying security forces, bowed to the demands and submitted his resignation. The protesters, including military and police officers, promptly stormed the state broadcaster, and Nasheed’s resignation was broadcast live on the re-appropriated network.

Nazim, explaining his view of the controversial events, said he went near the MNDF barracks after he lost his patience with the chaos that had built in the area. Another reason, he said, was to lend any sort of assistance he could provide to help the country at the time since he was an ex-serviceman.

“If the events that took place on that day had taken a different turn, instead of being in this position I would have ended up behind bars in jail. I might not even be alive,” he admitted.

Nazim claimed that the events witnessed on February 7 would continue to remain an unforgettable event and said that the country’s political leadership had severely failed.

“I saw the MNDF officers totally confused. They did not know what was happening. I am sure no soldier of this great nation would want such a day to repeat again,” he said.

Nazim also praised President Waheed claiming that it was the president’s immense patience and foresight that helped resolve the political chaos that followed after the change of regime.

The Defence Minister also claimed that President Waheed put a great deal of trust in the senior leadership of the military and has given the military the space and freedom to organise the institution on its own.

He also assured that MNDF officers would not be used by President Waheed to gain any political upper hand.

Nazim trying to politicise MNDF, claims MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned Nazim’s remarks to the military, claiming that the minister was attempting to influence officers’ right to freely cast their vote.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said the day Nasheed was toppled was the day Nazim gave up his self-respect and dignity, by orchestrating a “coup d’état”.

“After committing the highest treason against this state and being at the forefront of a coup that toppled the country’s first democratically elected president, who is Nazim to talk about pride in the MNDF in the first place?” Fahmy asked.

Fahmy described Nazim’s speech as a “cheap” political gimmick and claimed it showed how desperate the government was given  poor public support for President Waheed.

“It is hilarious that Nazim is speaking about running after people with batons. This same person was among those who ran with batons and beat ordinary people of this country. But yet, without even a single hint of shame, he is now telling MNDF officers to look out for those with batons,” Fahmy said.

Fahmy reiterated that despite how much Nazim tries to convince that he is not a “coup leader” the majority of the officers in MNDF knew who Nazim was and that they knew what happened on February 7 was wrong.

“I am certain that despite all of this, the MDP will get the majority votes even from the MNDF,” Fahmy added.


Gasim’s Royal Island Resort sues government

Villa Hotels’ Royal Island Resort and Spa, owned by Jumhoory Party (JP) Leader and MP ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim has sued the government and requested the Civil Court to cancel an order by the Tourism Ministry to close the resort’s Spa over allegations of prostitution operations.

Today the Civil Court issued a warrant to cancel the Tourism Ministry’s order and permit spa operations until the suit against the government is concluded.

Speaking for the government at this morning’s hearing, Attorney General Office’s lawyer Maryam Shunana told the Judge that issuing the warrant was equivalent to closing the entire suit, Haveeru reports.

Former Attorney General Azima Shukoor spoke on behalf of the resort.

Shukoor argued that according to the agreement made between the resort and the government, the resort has 30 days to correct any issue found by the government. If the resort fails to correct the issue within that time frame, the government may fine the resort US$10,000 (Rf154,200), reports Haveeru.

Shukoor claimed that the government’s order was given prior to any investigation and was based on allegations alone. She requested that the ministry’s order be cancelled.

She further requested for the warrant to keep the Spa open until the suit reaches a verdict, adding that if the warrant was not issued the resort risked a great loss.

Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham asked whether the Spa was still open–Shukoor replied that it was functioning. Usham responded that losses to the resort should not be raised in court if the Spa was not closed according to the Ministry’s order.

Yesterday, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the government has decided to shut down all the massage parlors in the Maldives and is considering banning the trade of alcohol and pork throughout the Maldives in response to demands made by protestors on December 23.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Spokesperson and MP Ahmed Mahlouf called on the coalition of religious NGOs and opposition parties to take actions against the government’s decision to disrupt Gasim’s business operations.

He warned that the government will continue to disrupt other businesses run by opposition supporters.

Gasim has filed cases regarding the other four Villa resorts which were requested to close their spa operations. However, no hearings have yet been conducted.

Press Secretary Zuhair yesterday informed Minivan News that Gasim was pretending to be a victim only for political gain, and that the government’s decision was not intended to harm any individual.

He also said that spas Gasim’s resort were not the only ones asked to close operations, but that some spas and massage parlors in Male’ have also been asked to shut down business on similar charges.


Parliament accepts drug bill

Parliament yesterday accepted a drug bill that will lead to greater sophistication in the country’s treatment of drug crimes.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair explained the bill would dramatically affect many drug cases, distinguishing between ‘soft drugs’ and ‘hard drugs’. and detailing punishments for dealers and users.

“[It proposes] a special court for drug cases,” he said, noting that the government discussed the bill with the Islamic Ministry before presenting to the parliament.

Maldivian Democratic Party MDP MP Ahmed Easa said the bill was “remarkable” and that the government deserved to be praised.

”The bill was designed based on the experience the country has had during the past years, after discussion with concerned departments and NGOs,” Easa said.

One of the most significant points in the bill, Easa said, was the protection for witnesses to drug cases.

Easa also said that while the bill included rehabilitation for drug abusers, “the punishment for dealers is very strict.”

”There would be a Rf50000 (US$3850) to Rf5000000 (US$385,000) fine and a prison sentence of 5-15 years, as well as confiscation of the offender’s properties by the government.”

He said according to the bill a drug court would be built where all the drug cases would be heard, “with a special team appointed to identify drugs and their level.”

He said if the bill was approved, “all the doors for drugs would be closed.”

DRP MP Waheed said there were amendments to be made to the drug bill, but said would not like to go into details at this time.