Former President Nasheed meets Indian politicians, journalists

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has met with journalists, think tanks and political and industry leaders during a visit to India to build support for early presidential polls in the Maldives.

Nasheed alleges that he and his party were ousted in a bloodless coup following a police mutiny on February 7.

The Washington Post carried Nasheed’s warning that in the absence of early elections, “Islamic radicals are gaining strength in the Maldives.”

The Adhaalath Party – a former coalition partner of Nasheed’s party – won no parliamentary seats and performed poorly in the presidential elections, “but after the coup, they have three portfolios in the cabinet, they are calling the shots in the military, and they are consolidating their position,” the Washington Post reported Nasheed as saying.

Given his government’s liberal approach to government, Nasheed expressed disappointment at the reaction of powers such as the United States to his ousting.

“We did so much to make the Maldives more liberal,” Nasheed said. “The United States could have held onto their horses for a few minutes and just asked me. To so quickly recognise the status quo, that was very sad and shocking.”

According to the Hindu, Nasheed claimed to have received a seven-page document from military intelligence services a week before the coup, warning of a plot by the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to overthrow his government, “However, the officer concerned was promptly replaced [by the Army],” the paper reported.

“When I went to the military’s headquarters [on February 7], it turned out everyone was on leave; there were only about 200 people there. The 200 people there were not willing to defend the elected government; the generals, bar two, were supportive of Mr Gayoom,” Nasheed told the paper.

Nasheed said he had rejected the use of firearms by a group of loyal supporters: “I knew that was going to end either with many deaths or with my being lynched,” he said. “So I agreed to resign.”

Nasheed suggested that the international community could influence the new regime by implementing travel sanctions against senior figures, reported AFP, as “many of them have second homes in Europe.”

During his visit to India, Nasheed called on the Indian private sector to continue to invest in the Maldives, but emphasised that a stable democracy was in the interest of foreign investors.

“We want to be responsible. Even though we have been ousted in a coup, [the MDP] want to encourage businesses to continue to invest in the Maldives,” Nasheed said.

Nasheed will be meeting Indian political leadership, including Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, on April 23, and potentially Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, according to Indian media reports.

“We want more Indian assistance in bringing democracy back,” Nasheed told the Times of India. ”I think [elections in] August is reasonable. The more time you give the present dictatorship, the more entrenched they will get; and hence early elections are very important. The dictatorial and military regime, backed by Gayoom, should end at the earliest and should be replaced by a government elected by the people,” he said.