Refused military offers of a counter-coup: Ex-Maldivian president

New Delhi, April 18: Former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed Wednesday claimed he had an opportunity to carry out “a counter-coup” against the present dispensation under Mohamed Waheed with the help from some military officers but rejected it due to his strong democratic roots.

Nasheed, who is also the first democratically elected president of Maldives, also pushed for support from the Indian government and its policy-makers for his party’s call for an early presidential polls to once again establish a popular government in Male.

He is in New Delhi on a four-day visit beginning Wednesday, leading an eight-member delegation from his party. He is scheduled to hold meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai during the stay.

“A few days after the coup of Feb. 7, I was approached by some Maldivian military officials wanting to carry out a counter-coup and install me as president again. I refused and asked them not to waste my time,” Nasheed, who is fondly called ‘Anni’ by his supporters, said at an interactive session at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

“Brute force is wrong, even if it is me who does it or others,” he said.

Nasheed has always maintained that some military and police officials had “forced” him to resign and that the events of Feb. 7 this year were the “first-ever televised coup” in his country.

Soon after he resigned, Waheed, then vice president, was installed as the new president. But since then, Nasheed’s Maldvian Democratic Party (MDP) has been seeking an early polls to elect a new president instead of waiting till 2013 when the next elections are scheduled.

Other political parties of Maldives are not in favour of an early polls and are citing constitutional constraints of holding the next polls only in 2013. But Nasheed has been claiming that constitutional amendment was not required, and only a resignation from the present president was necessary to hold the polls.

MDP supporters have been holding protest marches and demonstrations all over Maldives demanding early elections.

“We are asking the people and the government of India to impress upon the present dispensation to hold an early election in Maldives,” Nasheed, who is leading a delegation comprising three of his former ministers and three members of parliament from his party.

The 2008 elections had brought to an end the three-decade dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The MDP leader, who claims to enjoy popular support among voters, also flagged fears of Islamic radicals taking control of his sparsely populated archipelago nation, one of the issues that is being view with concern by India.

“We have to have the elections soon, because in the absence of an elected government in Maldives, the Islamic radicals are gaining ground,” he said.

“If Maldives gets into the hands of Islamic radicals, it will not only pose a threat to Maldivians, but also to other nations of the region and to the enormous maritime trade that passes through the shipping lanes close to Maldives,” he said.

Nasheed also said it was “shocking” to him that India rushed to recognise Wahid’s regime. “I am not the least worried about losing presidency. But democracy is necessary for Maldives. The people must decide who should rule the country, not the military or the religious leaders or even Gayoom,” he said.

He also alleged that Gayoom was now ruling Maldives by proxy, as most of his “cronies” now controlled the government. Gayoom’s daughter Dhunya Maumoon is now junior foreign minister in the Waheed government.

The leader also reiterated his claim that he had rejected a $1.4-billion Chinese infrastructure project in 17 islands of Maldives, but claimed he did not believe in pitting one nation against another as a foreign policy tool.

Asked if his decision to arrest the chief judge was wise, Nasheed agreed though it “was not nice”, he had no alternative due to several complaints of corruption and irregularities against the judge.

IANS