Nasheed calls for Dr Waheed to step down, hold elections in two months

Political unrest continues in the Maldives following the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed by the Criminal Court on Thursday morning.

The unrest was sparked three weeks ago after the military took Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, into custody on the military training island of Girifushi – the same island used to hold Nasheed’s underwater cabinet meeting.

Nasheed’s government had accused the Chief Judge of political bias, among other allegations going back to 2005 under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration. The judicial watchdog body – the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – had concluded an investigation into allegations of political bias, however the judge sought an injunction from the Civil Court against his investigation. The JSC complied with the Civil Court order.

A warrant was also issued for the arrest of former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim.

Minivan News is currently attempting to confirm the charges against the pair with the Criminal Court.

Nasheed resigned in dramatic circumstances on Tuesday, handing power to Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, after elements of the police sided with opposition protesters. The group had attacked the main military base in Male’, and then took over the state broadcaster, rebranding it ‘Television Maldives’ (TVM), its name under Gayoom’s government.

President Dr Waheed then held a press conference on Wednesday morning in which he pledged to create a “national unity government”, and praised the police defectors for their “great sacrifices in upholding the constitution”. He denied there had been a coup when challenged by reporters: “Do I look like someone who is attempting a coup?” Dr Waheed replied.

That afternoon former President Nasheed rallied Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters in Male’, announcing to his party and foreign media that he had been forced to resign under duress, declaring Dr Waheed’s government illegitimate and calling for elections.

Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) last night denied using force against Nasheed prior to his resignation.

Thousands of MDP supporters, including many women, took to the streets for what the party claimed was a “peaceful” protest walk around Male’. A brutal police crackdown, in which Nasheed was beaten and 50 people were hospitalised, including MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa, sparked a wave of violence and vandalism across the country’s islands directed at police buildings, courts and other public buildings. Dramatic footage of the protests and the injured was shared on social media networks.

Protests spread, police and courts damaged

At 11:00pm last night police released details of the damage caused to police property during public protests on the islands.

  • Protestors on Gaaf Dhaalu Atoll Thinadhoo set fire to the police station, magistrate court, atoll council office, and all police vehicles. Nine policeman were attacked and subsequently treated at the Thinadhoo Regional Hospital. Police officials have declared the area unsafe for local policemen as “MDP supporters have threatened to attack the residences of policemen.”
  • Similarly, on Faresmaathodaa island of the same atoll, protesters close down the police station and forced those officers on duty to return home.
  • In Addu City, which is synonymous with Addu Atoll and which hosted the 2011 SAARC Summit, protesters torched police stations in Hithadhoo and Gan islands, as well as the Addu Police Training School and all police vehicles. The buildings have been destroyed beyond repair, and criminals held in those police stations have been released by protesters.
  • In Raa Atoll Dhuveaafaru and Alifushi islands, MDP supporters marched into police stations, halted police operations and closed down the building with police officers inside.
  • In Shaviyani Atoll Milandhoo island, protesters forced themselves into the police station where they set two police motorbikes and a vehicle on fire. Following threats, all island police officers have been transferred to Funadhoo island in the same atoll.
  • On Gnaviyani Atoll Fuvahmulah island, protestors threw stones at police after they were prevented from closing down the station. Some police officers have been injured, and station windows have been smashed.
  • In Haa Alifu Atoll Dhidhoo island MDP supporters walked into the local police stations, halted operations and closed down the building, forcing the policemen off the island. Criminals held in the station were released.

Several governments have issued travel advisories urging tourists to avoid travel to the capital city of Male. Resorts and the airport island remain calm.

Controversial appointments

Meanwhile, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has made appointed several members of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government to key posts.

Last night Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed of minority opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) was appointed Minister of Home Affairs.

Dr Jameel previously served as Minister of Justice under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and briefly as Minister of Civil Aviation and Communication former President Mohamed Nasheed. Dr Jameel was also involved in a controversial pamphlet published by his party, the DQP, accusing the Nasheed government of conspiring with Jewish and Christian figures to “spread vice” among the Maldivan public.

The President also appointed Mohamed Nazim as Minister of Defence and National Security. Nazim previously served in the National Security Service under Gayoom, and in the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) under Nasheed.

Ilyas Hussein Ibrahim has been appointed as Immigration Controller, a position he held under Gayoom. He served as Director of the Center for Disaster Management under Nasheed.

Today, the President appointed Masood Imad as President’s Office Media Secretary. Imad previously worked as Gayoom’s presidential campaign manager in 2008, and has served as director of Maldives Airports Company Ltd. (MACL).

Foreign media informed Minivan News that Gayoom’s spokesman Mohamed ‘Mundhu’ Shareef was serving as acting spokesman for Dr Waheed’s government.

LIVE FEED – Refresh for updates

12:15pm – MDP Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik is being examined by doctors. He remains in a serious condition, a party spokesperson has said.

12:30pm – The Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for former President Mohammed Nasheed, as well as former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim. Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed was released from military detention after Nasheed resigned at 1:00pm on Tuesday, February 7, and following the swearing-in of then Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

12:35pm – Security forces were reported as on their way to Nasheed’s home at Keneryge to arrest him.

1:49pm – Nasheed is reportedly giving a press conference inside his home of Keneryge, to both local and foreign media. He has reportedly claimed that the current government is illegitimate.

2:10pm – Nasheed’s wife Laila and his two daughters are currently in Sri Lanka, Solih has said. At Nasheed’s Male home Keneryge, the party says it is still unaware of the charges against Nasheed.

2:11pm – Minivan News has been informed by the UN in Male’ that UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, will arrive in Male’ this evening.

2:26pm – President Nasheed addressed reporters in Keneryge, his family home in Male’:

“200 or so police and 80 military officers helped the opposition change the government. Police and military were very brutal; they beat me very badly. We all fear for our safety.

“The Maldives is in a very serious situation. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) said the judge [Abdulla Mohamed] is not fit to sit on the bench. All we wanted to do by arresting the judge was to implement the JSC’s ruling that he was not fit to sit on the bench.

“I never fought and I don’t want a war. When police come with a warrant we will go with them.

“I cannot believe that the Vice President hasn’t participated in the whole thing. Military officers very clearly told me that if I did not resign in an hour they would use arms.

“We went to [Republic Square?] at 5:00am [on Tuesday]. Police officers sitting there defied my orders. MNDF (military) officer told me that they wanted to have me gone. MNDF officers on my side then begged me to open the weapons vault. I refused.

“I went to the President’s office and wrote the resignation letter as I was instructed by the MNDF. I tried to hand the letter to my secretary but the MNDF grabbed the letter and took it to parliament.

“My advice to MDP and to citizens is not to do anything unwise. And keep all actions within the laws. I regret that I have heard nothing from the Prosecutor General about all this.”

“I have a team of lawyers and I think they will consider filing a case in the Supreme Court.”

2:55pm – Nasheed has gone upstairs into the building with former Special Envoy Ibrahim Zaki.

3:02pm – Laamu Atoll Gan island was without Dhiraagu internet services as of 8:00 this morning, following a public demonstration last night. Sources report that several have been arrested in the atoll.

Dhiraagu has said the outage, which had affected islands in Laamu Atoll, Gaaf Dhaal Atoll, Gaaf Alif Atoll, Thaa Atoll and Naviyani Atoll, was due to a likely lightning strike on the northern side of Meemu Atoll on Kolhufushi Island. Company Manager of Marketing Communications and Public Relations Mohamed Mirshan Hassan said the outage was not related to the social unrest.

As of 11:00am today, services had been restored to islands including Fares in Gaaf Dhaal, Herethere, South Feydhoo, Kolamaafushi and parts of South Hithadhoo, Hassan said.

3:07pm – A petition calling for the security of Mohamed Nasheed, his staff and the Maldivian people organised by environmental NGO has received 30,000 signatures.

“President Nasheed has been one of the strongest, most outspoken leaders on climate change willing to both state the truth and lead with action commensurate with his words. We need more leaders like him around the world, and for now we are doing what we can to assist in ensuring his safety and the restoration of peace and democracy in the Maldives,” writes founding member William Bates. He adds that the organisation hopes to convey their message to US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake before his upcoming visit to the Maldives, as well as other diplomatic envoys.

3:15pm – Major General Ahmed Shiyam has been appointed as Chief of Defence Force, after Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel respectfully retired from the position today.

4:10pm – Local newspaper Haveeru has reported newly appointed Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz as saying that he does not consider the court order to detain former President Nasheed and former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim as an arrest warrant, and that he will only implement the order after looking into the legal bounds for making such an arrest. “However I never said I will not make the arrest,” he told Haveeru.

Riyaz would not give a comment on his intentions to follow or dismiss the court order.

4:30pm – There are several hundred MDP supporters outside Mohamed Nasheed’s house. Police were earlier seen in the area, but left. The atmosphere is one of a stalemate. Storms and bad weather have kept many people indoors today.

7:00pm – Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig has confirmed reports that members of various opposition parties are leading the police to MDP members and supporters in Addu and beating them before the police arrest them. Approximately 100 individuals including minors have been beaten and arrested, and arrest warrants are said to have been issued for members of the city council.

Sodig sustained injuries during a targeted attack at the City Council yesterday, including a wrist fracture and head injuries; he said he is unsure if there has been damage to his brain as he is still in need of a CAT scan. He is currently “hiding in a safe place”. His family is also hiding in different places, he said.

8:11pm – UK Conservative Party MP and Chairman of the party’s Human Rights Commission expressed “deep concern” for the “severe setback for democracy and human rights in the past three days.”

“We understand that President Nasheed was forced to resign at gunpoint, was subsequently detained, and that when he addressed supporters of his party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), he was beaten and gassed by police, along with other MDP members.

“Today, we have learned that a warrant has been issued for his arrest. We condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms, and urge the Maldivian Government to return to the path of democracy and human rights, to guarantee the safety, security and freedom of Mohamed Nasheed and his supporters. We also urge the Government to ensure that the MDP and other political parties and activists can engage in the political process free from fear and repression, and to hold new free and fair elections as soon as possible, which Mohamed Nasheed and his party can contest.

“We encourage the British Government, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the international community to do everything possible to support the protection and promotion of democracy and human rights in the Maldives, and to seek guarantees for the freedom and security of Mohamed Nasheed.”

8:18pm – UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has “registered our concern about developments in particular the reports of attacks on members and supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party.”

“It is for the new leadership to establish its legitimacy with its own people and with the international community with an independent review of the circumstances leading to what has happened earlier this week, and we hope that the new leadership will demonstrate its respect for the rule of law, including peaceful demonstrations.  I welcome the call for calm and order from the former President Nasheed to all his supporters,” Hague said.

9:30pm – MDP members and supporters have gathered at Dharubaruge for a meeting.

10:55pm – British MPs John Glen (Salisbury) and Karen Lumley (Redditch) have called for an end to the “coup d’etat” in the Maldives, saying “the international community needs to condemn the violence and recognise the truth behind what has happened.”

“It now seems very likely that the new ‘President’ – Nasheed’s former deputy Mohamed Waheed – was working quietly behind the scenes with the military and police to orchestrate an apparent legitimate handover of power for the world’s media, when the truth is that it is a coup d’etat by those who were beginning to have their interests threatened,” they jointly wrote on a political blog today.

11:01pm – A man has been brutally beaten in Addu Gan by police forces, who have reportedly been beating and arresting MDP supporters since this morning. An islander said the man’s son, a police officer, was in the police-occupied van at the time. “He was beaten over and over, he couldn’t stand up or sit down. He is a supporter of Nasheed,” said the islander, who requested anonymity.

11:05pm – Independent daily global news hour Democracy Now! has today aired a conversation with US-based environmental NGO founder Bill McKibben, “The Island President” director Jon Shenk, and former advisor to Nasheed Paul Roberts.

Calling Nasheed the ‘Mandela of the Indian Ocean,’ McKibben said Nasheed, “was a thorn in the side [of the U.S.] because he kept bringing up the topic of climate change, a topic they’re not that keen on. On the other hand, he — almost to a fault — was cooperative with U.S. efforts about climate change. The State Department owes him and I hope that they take this seriously.”

11:10pm – MDP meeting at Dharubaruge has concluded and people have left the area.

11:21pm – “MDP is a boat fit for every ocean. The boat won’t sink. The party will not fade away,” said Nasheed during tonight’s rally, which filled Dharubaruge as well as the road outside of the convention building. “I don’t believe that my strength has been weakened. We get strength from one another,” he told the crowd.

11:27pm – “We want to serve the people with kindness, and also a clean living. MDP has not come to power to enjoy the luxury and respect of a ruler. MDP has come to power to serve the Maldivians,” said Nasheed.

11:30pm – Citing MDP’s five key pledges (affordable living costs, housing and quality health care,  nationwide transport, and prevention of narcotics and drug trafficking) Nasheed said, “Maldivians would not believe that their countrymen were tortured or assaulted and left in pain. The Maldivian Democratic Party came with their activities after [the former regime] killed Evan Naseem, and the party’s main purpose is to bring proper justice to the Maldivians.”

11:40pm – “It wasn’t 24 hours since our government was toppled before [the new government] had put 500 people in prison without justice. There are almost 30 people now in the hospital for intensive care. Many Maldivian citizens have been disturbed and many are suffering pain and great loss,” said Nasheed. “I am out here again to bring back kind leadership to the Maldivians. I am not going home unless we achieve that for the Maldivians.”

11:45pm – “My main purpose is to bring democracy,” Nasheed told those gathered, reiterating that the party’s main target is a proper justice system.

11:46pm – He said the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has evidence against Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, who was released from military detention following Nasheed’s resignation on Tuesday. Nasheed called on the body to take action against the judge.

11:48pm – “Abdulla Mohamed is a person against whom the JSC has filed several cases regarding his disciplinary actions. He is not capable as a chief judge. If he is the chief judge, then the whole Maldives’ justice system would be ruined, I have observed.”

11:50 – Nasheed maintained his request that the JSC take action against Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and reform the courts to align with the Maldives’ constitution, adding that the methods used to appoint the judges to the lower courts were against the constitution. “I have requested to re-order the court’s again according to the constitution,” he said.

11:52pm – Judges in the Maldivian court system must be educated to modern standards, Nasheed explained. He added that the constitution was drafted to ensure “a proper, lawful leadership.”

11:54pm – “Without proper justice, it is not possible to have a lawful government. And as we have seen in the last few days, that is not an easy thing to achieve.”

11:56pm – “As a president of Maldives, I do not regret any step I have taken. Whatever step I have taken, I have taken to benefit Maldivians and according to the constitution,” Nasheed continued.”I repeat: I will take those steps necessary to reform the Maldives’ justice system.”

12:02am – Stating that the Maldives’ justice system was for 30 years designed for people to hide their behavior, Nasheed described the Maldives courts as an arena maintained by businessmen to serve their own needs. “For the past 3 years, we [MDP] have been ashamed that the Maldives businessmen have taken advantage of the courts for their own purposes. ‘My resort, my island, my building, my land, my factory’-they’ve been using the courts to follow their own needs.”

12:05am –“The 30 year-old regime has been changed. The pain they gave to the people, we have stood and protested against it. The pain the Maldivians have seen during those days by the police and the army- those forces are not independent. Many Maldivians are angry because of the way police mistreat people.

“The police station has been co-opted by the businessmen to bring a coup to fulfill their needs. If that happens, we cannot bring the changes and development we want,” Nasheed said, stating that the police had to be friendly with the Maldivians to enact positive change. He further stated that the police had to be loved by the people as well.

“The Police is not a department of which people have to be afraid,” he said.

12:20am – Nasheed has said those who orchestrated the coup must be investigated and punished, however MDP does not seek control per se. “From what I know, the coup that has taken place in the Maldives has to be properly investigated. And the people who have been ruling the government unlawfully will know it. The international community will only accept the government after the government investigates the coup,” he said, adding that it was important for Dr Waheed to step down from his post. “I repeat, we are not looking to be the rulers of the country. What we need is the development of Maldives.”

12:25am – Observing that the constitution only offers two means  of changing the presidency (short of death)- by completion of the term or parliamentary vote- Nasheed insisted that a vice president could not take office by any other means.

12:38am – President Dr Waheed’s press secretary Ibrahim Hood has announced his resignation. He has worked for Dr Waheed since he first became Vice President in 2008.

12:46am – Saying he is not sad to have been ousted from the presidency, Nasheed said “when I go home tonight and sit on my swing, I will still be very happy. Being president of Maldives is not the only reason I ran for the presidency.”

He added that it is important for Dr Waheed to step down, but before that, “please free those who have been arrested.”

“Until those prisoners are free, we will not come to any discussion table,” he stated.

12:57am – Nasheed noted that if Dr Waheed steps down from the presidency, the Speaker of the Parliament must hold elections within two months, during which time the Parliamentary leader serve as national leader. “We request to have that election within two months,” he declared, adding that the party had been discussing holding mid-term elections before he resigned on Tuesday due to the difficulty of completing a five year term.

However, he continued that mid-term elections would disturb the political and social stability of the country. “But now, we are looking for an election.”

1:01am – During the two months prior to an election, Nasheed said the Parliament Speaker would be tasked with investigating the police actions of the last few days and reforming the courts. “These two months would be the most important days of the  Maldivian history.”

Nasheed said the party would support and respect the Speaker’s leadership in the event that Dr Waheed stepped down from office.

2:00am – UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, met journalists at the airport earlier this evening after he arrived in the capital. His purpose, he said, was to meet everyone, “not to investigate”.

“The investigation or clarification of what took place is primarily the responsibility of the judiciary and the parliament,” he said.

“We are concerned about the safety of the former President [Nasheed],” he added, stating that it was important he be treated with due respect to human rights and due process “like all Maldivians”.
“I would personally urge all actors to end the resorting to violence,” Fernandez-Taranco said.

“It should be clear that any solution to this crisis must be generated by national actors. There can be no externally generated solution to something that can be solved by Maldivians themselves.”

2:05am – Minivan News has been informed that arrest warrants have been issued by Meedhoo Court for the arrest of all Addu City Councilors. Two councilors are already in police custody, a source claimed. As in Male’, 100 percent of Addu City councillors were elected during the most recent local council elections on MDP tickets.


Governments issue travel warnings for Male; resorts unaffected

A number of governments have issued travel warnings for Male’ amid spiraling political chaos across the country.

No tourist resorts have been reported affected, and airport island remains calm – few tourists to the country even set foot on the capital island of Male’.

However Minivan News has received reports – confirmed during a press conference held on Wednesday night by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) – of people seizing courts and police stations on a number of inhabited islands, particularly in the country’s south. In some cases the buildings have been reported burned to the ground.

The UK High Commission from Colombo arrived in numbers on Wednesday morning to assist British nationals in the country. High Commissioner John Rankin called a meeting of UK nationals in Male’, who included teachers, doctors and resort representatives, and asked them to register their presence in the Maldives.

Rankin, speaking prior to the dramatic protests and crackdown late this afternoon, said that the High Commission had advised against non-essential travel to Male’. He expressed concern about a reported ‘travel ban’ list that was circulating, which he said was believed to include several non-Maldivians and at least one UK national. Rankin said President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan had informed him that he had issued no such list and had no intention to do so, but that he would respect the right of the courts to do so.

Meanwhile the MDP on Wednesday night expressed concern that it was unable to send its seriously injured chairperson and MP, ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, overseas for medical treatment because his name was on a travel blacklist issued by the courts. Moosa was injured during a brutal police crackdown on MDP protesters on Wednesday afternoon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine issued a warning recommending that Ukrainians avoid travels to the Maldives at the present time.

“In view of the unstable situation in the Maldives the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine advises the citizens of Ukraine to postpone visits to that country, if possible, and closely monitor the official information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the world media about the political situation there,” the statement said. Eastern Europe, particularly Russia, is an increasingly lucrative market for the Maldives’ luxury tourism industry.

The Australian government also advised its nationals to reconsider travel to Male’, but noted that the rest of the Maldives was safe for visitors.

“Further protests, political unrest and violence could occur in coming days. You should avoid public gatherings and protest, particularly in Male, as they may turn violent,” today’s update read.

AFP has meanwhile cited several travel agencies reporting cancellations.

“We had four to five honeymoon couples who made bookings for Maldives and were due to travel in the coming week to be there around Valentine’s Day but they called to cancel their trips,” AFP quoted one operator, Flexi Tours travel agency in New Delhi, as saying.

Another tour operator told AFP that all hotels in the Maldives “are booked up until February 14. The unrest is restricted to a few islands. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.


Hong Kong issues travel advisory for the Maldives

Hong Kong has issued a travel advisory for the Maldives, raising the country to ‘amber’, following several nights of violent protests in the capital Male’.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported a government spokesperson as saying that “Those who plan to visit the Maldives or are already there should monitor the situation and exercise caution.”

The threat indicator now ranks the Maldives alongside Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Russia and Pakistan.

Chinese visitors to the Maldives now constitute the greatest number of tourism arrivals, and are a major emerging market. A sharp increase in recent years offset a decline in European arrivals caused by the global recession in 2008.


Australia issues travel warning for the Maldives

The Australian government has issued a travel warning to Australians travelling to the Maldives, reports Miadhu.

The warning was first classified as level 3, meaning “high degree of caution.” It has now been downgraded to level 4, “exercise caution.”

Australia has warned its citizens to be careful of crime and civil unrest in the Maldives, and has suggested travellers to keep informed of the news about possible safety risks.

Australian citizens have also been warned to avoid public gatherings and demonstrations as they could turn violent.

Although the United States has not advised its citizens not to travel to the Maldives, the US embassy to the Maldives does warn its nationals not to engage in political activities in the Maldives.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Naseem, told Miadhu that such travel advisories will affect the tourism industry in the Maldives and added the Australian government had not consulted with the Maldivian government before issuing the warning.