Protests have been taking place across Maldives today in support of ousted former President Mohamed Nasheed. Dissident journalist and long term opponent of the authoritarian government which ruled the Pacific island nation, Nasheed was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges.
He swept to victory in Maldives first democratic election back in 2008 as leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) promising a libertarian agenda. One year later he announced his internationalist ideals with a famous dip into the Pacific where he conducted a cabinet meeting, signing a document stressing the need to cut global emissions. It earned him fame worldwide and his story was immortalised in a documentary The Island President. Many Maldivians viewed this manoeuvre sceptically however, mistrusting his intentions and seeing only individual gain for the youthful President who was suddenly shaking hands with global heavyweights.
Suspicion and mistrust has split a chasm through Maldivian political society. Story and counter-story can be heard depending on which side of the Progressive Party (PP)/MDP divide a person hails from.
In 2012 Nasheed was forced to step down from the Presidency, allegedly at gunpoint.
Three years later he is in prison and Maldives is a hot bed of protest.
An opposition alliance of parties calling itself the ‘Maldivians against brutality’ have organised a ‘May Day’ protest converging on the island capital Male. It is estimated that some 25,000 Maldivians, around 3000 making the lengthy trip from the outlying Atolls, will march through the streets seeking to secure Nasheed’s release.
Accusations have been made by the government that the coalition is seeking to ferment a coup after rejecting the opportunity of opening negotiations. “We will only sit down to negotiate with the president of this country,” president of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla told the Minivan News. Coalition members have stressed that if the protest fails to bring both sides to the table the government will install another dictatorship, abolishing political parties and setting Maldivian political progress back a decade.
Maldivian society now stands upon a knife edge. For many weeks tensions have been rising with the opposition continually ramping up protests through weekly protests. With the sides reaching an impasse and the May Day protest set to go ahead the potential for violence is high. Tourism minister Ahmed Ameed stated unequivocally “our security forces are ready,”