Karela Fry

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Trouble in paradise

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TOI reported:

The Maldives’ first democratically elected president resigned Tuesday after a police mutiny described by his office as an attempted coup, capping three weeks of political upheaval in the holiday paradise.

“It will be better for the country in the current situation if I resign. I don’t want to run the country with an iron-fist. I am resigning,” President Mohamed Nasheed told a televised press conference.

A delegation from the UN Department of Political Affairs headed by Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco had been due to arrive on Thursday in a bid to broker a resolution to the political crisis.

Regional power India, which intervened to prevent a coup in the Maldives in 1988, said that the resignation was “an internal matter”, adding that it hoped “all issues will be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner”.

Nasheed, a father of two daughters, rose from grassroots political opposition to the autocratic regime of Gayoom.

He formed his Maldivian Democratic Party in exile but then returned home to a hero’s welcome, sweeping 54 percent of the vote in the 2008 elections whose results brought people out in into the street dancing and cheering.

Problems, including high youth unemployment, widespread illegal drug use, and an increasing rise in Islamic fundamentalism have fuelled discontent with his rule.

The immediate cause of the police mutiny was reported by SMH:

The move by the police marked an escalation in three weeks of street demonstrations by anti-government activists.

They had been demanding that Mr Nasheed step down after he ordered the arrest last month of the Chief Justice of the criminal court, Abdulla Mohamed, on charges of misconduct and favouring opposition figures.

The government alleged that the judge’s rulings – such as the release of an opposition activist detained without a warrant – were politically motivated.

The Maldives Supreme Court and prosecutor general called for Mr Mohamed’s release, but he remains in military custody.

More on the politics of the Maldives from BBC:

Mr Nasheed was elected on a wave of optimism in 2008, in the islands’ first multi-party election.

Mr Nasheed, a former human rights campaigner, beat long-time ruler Mr Gayoom, who had been in power for 30 years and was widely seen as autocratic.

Since then, correspondents say, the country has been gripped by constitutional gridlock – parties opposed to the president have dominated parliament since general elections the following year.

A one-time political prisoner, Mr Nasheed became a vocal figure in office on issues relating to the environment and climate change.

But he has faced constant opposition – from those loyal to former President Gayoom and from religious conservatives who accuse him of being anti-Islamic, says the BBC’s South Asia analyst Jill McGivering.

That pressure has intensified with the prospect of fresh presidential elections, scheduled for next year. Opposition parties are jockeying for power as they try to extend their influence.

9 Feb, 2012

Z News reports:

The ousted president of the Maldives, credited with bringing democracy to the Indian Ocean islands, said on Wednesday he had been forced out of power at gunpoint, prompting clashes between police and angry supporters.

Just a day after he stepped down, it was as if Nasheed had stepped back in time: riot police and soldiers launched tear gas grenades and beat him and other supporters, a scene played out scores of times under the 30-year rule of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom he succeeded.

Witnesses said around 40 or 50 people including Nasheed had been injured, some severely. Police and soldiers surrounded the main hospital and kept journalists out of Republic Square, the site of the protest on Male’s northern seafront.

Nasheed on January 16 ordered the military to arrest the criminal court chief justice, saying he was blocking multi-million dollar corruption and human rights cases against Gayoom allies. That set off the protests that led to his departure.

“Yes, I was forced to resign at gunpoint,” Nasheed told reporters after addressing a meeting of his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in his first public appearance since his ouster. “There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I didn’t resign.”

Earlier, a close aide told Reuters the military on Tuesday marched Nasheed into his own office to give his resignation on state TV, in the first eyewitness account.

“The gates of the president’s office swung open and in came these unmarked vehicles we’ve never seen before and Nasheed came out with around 50 soldiers around him, and senior military men we’d never seen before,” said Paul Roberts, Nasheed’s communications adviser.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

February 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

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