In a dramatic development, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed announced his resignation over television on Tuesday. Vice President Dr.Waheed will hold reigns till a new arrangement is made. A new arrangement is expected to be in place over the next few days.
In a message to the people, Dr.Waheed said: “During this dangerous situation facing the nation it is my duty to say a few words. I support the peaceful efforts of a large number of Maldivians trying to protect the Maldives constitution and religion. At this time I call upon all the institutions especially law enforcement agencies (the military) to uphold the constitution and the laws of the country. Refrain from obeying unconstitutional and illegal instructions. During this difficult time no chance should be given to anyone trying to hurt the people of our country or damage their property, especially no room should be afforded to those who would damage news agencies and media. I am saddened that VTV and other places in Male’ have been attacked. I call on those who are involved in this to immediately cease all such activities. As your Vice President I am prepared to do anything possible to overcome this situation.”
According to residents in Male, there have been pitched battles between police and the military for the past few days. The police were fewer in number, and the country was going nowhere, one of them, a professional resident in Male said. The situation is peaceful now with the Army patrolling the streets, he added.
Earlier in the day about 50 police personnel took control of the state broadcaster in the capital, Male. They had earlier refused to break up a demonstration of opposition supporters. The Army stepped in and reportedly used teargas to break up a demonstration by supporters of ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Tensions have been on the rise since last November since the SAARC summit where monuments of all participating nations were put up. The Opposition said this was an attempt to bring in other religions. The Pakistani monument, which had Buddhist drawings at its pedestal, was among the first ones to be vandalised.
The scene shifted to Male, with the Opposition accusing Mr.Nasheed of being a moderate islamist who wanted to allow entry of other religions. It did not help that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai, in her speech at The Majlis, referred to flogging ass barbaric and espoused the cause of women’s rights. Again, the opposition flocked to Male.
Male held on because Mr.Nasheed’s support base was mainly in the two cities – Male and Addu. Also, Mr.Nasheed and his team have been at pains to explain that the Opposition’s charges were baseless. Apart from speaking to people, the team went on a slander campaign against the Opposition. The better equipped Opposition was up to the challenge. It responded with a series of charges and behind the scenes moves, including re-activating its people within the government machinery.
Tensions again escalated after the Army arrested a criminal court judge last month. With this arrest, the Nasheed regime alienated the entire judiciary, and lawyers. They too joined in the protests.
There is also a sub-plot in the new drama unfolding in The Maldives. The new outfit floated by the former President Gayoom, PPM, is engaged in a bitter battle with the party he founded, DRP. PPM has been the most active in the recent months, and has been thinking of innovative ways of getting support from across the islands. PPM representatives also have fanned across to Colombo and New Delhi. In Colombo, President Mahinda Rajapaksa refused to grant an audience, according to PPM sources.
Mr.Nasheed has had a hard time since he came to power in 2008. He headed the first democratically-elected government, but did not have adequate support in The Majlis, leading to an impasse on most issues of governance. Mr.Nasheed had had the staunch support of both Colombo and New Delhi so far.
Mr. Gayoom’s supporters are sore that they have been given the cold shoulder by both India and Sri Lanka. They told The Hindu that it would a fallacy for both countries to keep putting all the eggs in the MDP basket.