Denounces Maldives coup, says he was forced to resign to avoid bloodshed
The Indian Ocean island nation’s first democratically elected leader, Nasheed stepped down on Tuesday in the wake of a police mutiny and clashes on the streets after weeks of anti-government protests.
“This is definitely a coup. By any definition anywhere, this was a coup. This was a bloodless coup because I did not take part in it. I did not want to defend [my position]; that is why there was no blood,” Nasheed, speaking at his family home, thought to belong to his father, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
While held under military custody on Tuesday, Nasheed’s home is still being guarded by the military, which the newly sworn in president says is for his and his family’s protection.
Asked why he had resigned, Nasheed said: “Because I didn’t want them to go shooting our people. They were threatening me and they were threatening the people. I didn’t want that.“
But Nasheed said he believed he still had the backing of the Maldivian people and hinted he would seek office in new elections, currently scheduled for next year.
“We are certain that the people of this country are with us,” Al Jazeera further quotes Nasheed as saying.
Members of Nasheed’s Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) had already denounced Tuesday’s events, with a former aide to the president, speaking anonymously, telling Al Jazeera that he had been “profoundly shocked” by what he had witnessed.
“You call it what you want,” he said. “But when someone metaphorically and physically puts a gun at your head and tells you to resign, that’s a coup in my mind.”
Ahmed Naseem, Nasheed’s former foreign minister, said Islamists were behind the takeover in the mostly Sunni Muslim nation of 330,000 people that is best known as a luxury holiday destination.
“I was with the president throughout and I knew what was going on on Tuesday. It was nothing but a coup by Islamists,” Naseem told AFP news agency.
‘Cabinet of national unity’
Mohammed Waheed Hassan, Nasheed’s vice president who was subsequently sworn in as president, was expected to appoint a cabinet of “national unity” on Wednesday, which his aides said would include members of the MDP.
Denying claims by ex-president Nasheed that his then “vice president was in on it”, Hassan told a news conference earlier on Wednesday that he had not prepared to take over the country and he called for the creation of a unity coalition.
“Together, I am confident, we’ll be able to build a stable and democratic country,” he said, adding that his government intended to respect the rule of law.
“Even the former president’s party will be invited to join the cabinet of national unity,” Mohamed Shareef, a presidential aide and spokesman for the Progressive Party, a key ally of the new regime said on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, Maldives police confirmed a travel ban on members of Nasheed’s administration, pending investigations into possible abuses of power.
Al Jazeera’s Steve Chao, reporting from Male, said the streets of the capital island were calm but that tensions were still high.
Describing Tuesday’s events, Nasheed’s aide said a group of up to 500 protesters, including several hundred police officers had gathered outside the president’s office at 7am local time.
T he aide said that there was then a “full scale battle” between police and soldiers.
“About an hour or two later we heard that members of the military had started to defect towards the protesters,” he said.
Police subsequently took control of the state television station and broadcast calls for Nasheed to step down.
At 11:45am, several military vehicles arrived at the president’s office, the aide said.
“There were about 60 to 70 soldiers, some with guns and some without, surrounding him. He had a brief meeting with his aides and then went into a press conference at which he announced his resignation.
“Then the military escorted him immediately to his residence and placed him under military custody.”
Nasheed replaced Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives’ leader for 30 years, in elections in 2008 and quickly gained international prominence as his country’s first democratically elected leader and a campaigner for action against climate change.
But Gayoom and his supporters remained influential figures in Maldivian affairs, and Nasheed ran into protests after he ordered the arrest of a senior judge whom he accused of being in the pocket of the former president.
Opposition parties accused Nasheed of trampling over the constitution, and the demonstrations were swelled by religious conservatives critical of his government.