Former President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday spoke at the United State Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington DC.
Nasheed spoke on the current political situation in the Maldives as well as the importance of non-violent protest, before taking questions from the audience.
“People loyal to me in the military are talking to me about a counter-coup – I say, ‘Don’t be silly’. We must have early elections soon,” Nasheed said.
When asked about how, if elected, he would avoid problems similar to those that led to his resignation, Nasheed replied: “I will be naive again and will continue to be naive. A purge of police and military may bring some satisfaction but that won’t help us build a better society.”
In an interview given by Nasheed to Time magazine in April, Nasheed explained his commitment to national reconciliation following his 2008 election victory.
“We didn’t want to go on a witch hunt. We didn’t want to purge the military, we didn’t want to purge the police,” he said.
“The lesson is we didn’t deal with Gayoom. That’s the obvious lesson. And my romantic ideas of how to deal with a dictator were wrong. I will agree with that,” he continued, before arguing that the answer was greater international assistance in reforming vital state institutions.
He drew comparisons between former President Gayoom and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, saying that the pair schooled together and shared the same Baathist ideology.
The USIP is an independent conflict management centre created by the US Congress to study non-violent approaches to conflict resolution.
Before his speech, Nasheed was introduced by the USIP President Dr Richard Soloman, former member of the US National Security Council and former Ambassador to the Phillipines.
Dr Soloman revealed that, whilst in the US, Nasheed would be receiving a James Lawson Award for Nonviolent Achievement at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict.
The annual event, organised by the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), will be hosted by Tufts University in Massachusetts.
The James Lawson Award is named after a leading activist in the American civil rights movement who is best known for devising the Nashville lunch-counter sit ins of the 1960s.
The MDP today released further details of Nasheed’s US visit which has included 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 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 briefing the International Republic Institute on the political situation in the Maldives.
Nasheed’s speech, given after a short clip of The Island President film was shown, recounted his country’s path to democracy, his torture under the former president, and his efforts to convince Maldivians of the importance of basic freedoms as a way to a better life.
The documentary culminated in Nasheed’s negotiations at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit – negotiations which Nasheed felt were telling in the international community’s response to the new government.
“All those who did not like us in Copenhagen have recognised the regime in Male’. Those who liked us in Copenhagen have not. That’s a fact,” said Nasheed.
The summit resulted in an accord providing $30 billion in short term loans for climate change adaptation, ten percent of which was earmarked for small island and developing nations.
Six countries, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Tuvalu opposed the accord.
He spoke of early elections, expressing his bewilderment at the suggestions by certain governments that the Maldives is not ready for fresh presidential elections.
“It doesn’t matter who wins. We don’t want to topple a government, we want an election,” said Nasheed.
“Give us an election and let’s see who wins,” he continued.
Nasheed spoke about the danger of religious extremism under restrictive governments.
“When societies are suppressed, underground movements become far more common. Religious extremists are far more effective at organising themselves underground. The Quran is their manifesto so they are much stronger in suppressed societies,” he said.
Nasheed was also asked about the current President Waheed’s announcement that the Maldives was to become the world’s largest marine reserve.
Nasheed finished his speech with a resolute tone.
“We will give a good fight and hopefully we will win it again. The story is not over. This is a process and it will never end.”