Protests in the Maldives have prevented the country's new president from addressing Parliament, as demonstrators loyal to his ousted predecessor blocked roads and faced off with police to express their anger over recent political developments.
Mohammed Waheed Hassan was held in a Parliamentary waiting room for nine hours while protests raged outside and opposition politicians inside the legislature removed the seats reserved for the president and the speaker to prevent Hassan from making his speech. There have also been reports of physical fights between MPs as members of opposing factions wrestled one another to the floor.
The upheaval comes three weeks after former president Mohamed Nasheed resigned from office, a move he characterized immediately afterward as having been forced upon him by political rivals as part of a coup. Nasheed, a one-time democracy activist who had been imprisoned by the regime of long-time Maldivian strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, became his country's first democratically elected president in 2008. An outspoken advocate for action on climate change, Nasheed has been frequently opposed by conservative forces in the Maldives, including hardline Islamists and those loyal to the Gayoom regime.
His supporters, however, filled the streets of the capital Malé yesterday to protest his removal from power. Representatives of his Maldivian Democratic Party refused to recognize the legitimacy of Hassan, a Gayoom loyalist, as Nasheed's permanent replacement, telling the BBC that the MDP would not let him address Parliament until new elections were announced.
The situation in the Maldives has been a cause of concern to governments around the world, many of which are worried about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country. With his messages of moderation and environmental awareness, Nasheed is popular with many Western leaders - and maybe even Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The Maldives also hosts close to one million foreign tourists every year.
February 22, 2012 A three-member Commonwealth investigative team visited the Maldives this past weekend to investigate the circumstances surrounding the fall of Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the island nation who says he was forced to resign in a military coup backed by Islamic extremists. Although the team did not suspend the Maldives' membership in the Commonwealth, they did urge the country to hold democratic elections this year.
Two days ago, President Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ruled out any participation in the new government, which is headed by Nasheed's former Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan. The MDP did suggest that they would join reconciliation talks to end the political crisis, on the condition that six members of the new government - who allegedly participated in Mr. Nasheed's ouster on February 7 - are dropped from Mr. Hassan's government.
Meanwhile, 'The Island President', a documentary about president Nasheed's quest to bring international attention to the effects of climate change on his country, will air at two upcoming film festivals in Canada. The first is the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Toronto. The film will close out the festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday, March 9th at 8:00 pm. (Link 1) 'The Island President' is also playing the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver at 7 pm on Monday, March 12th, at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts. (Link 2)
February 9, 2012 - A warrant has been issued for the arrest of ousted Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, although the charges are not clear, and the new president of the country says he has ordered no arrest be carried out unless Nasheed's safety is at risk.
Both Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party and local police have confirmed that the country's top criminal court issued a warrant today for the arrest of Nasheed, who resigned from office on Tuesday, and his former chief of defence, but the charges were not specified.
Supporters and police have gathered outside Nasheed's home in the capital of Male, where he gave another interview today in which he repeated earlier statements that he had been forced from office at gunpoint and that Tuesday's transfer of power was a coup.
Rioting and violence has spread from the capital to many of the outlying islands in the tiny Indian Ocean nation. Nasheed told reporters from the BBC that he fears for his safety; there are reports that his family has already fled to Sri Lanka.
Nasheed was in the red chair last November, when he talked to George about the challenges facing his country. Here is his interview from the show:
February 8, 2012 A day after Mohamed Nasheed resigned as president of the Maldives, the Indian Ocean nation has been rocked by violence as supporters of Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party have clashed riot police. The ousted president himself was apparently attacked and beaten when police used teargas and batons to disperse MDP supporters gathered in Republic Square in the capital city of Male.
These events followed Nasheed's declaration that he had been forced out of office yesterday at gunpoint: "There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn't hesitate to use them if I didn't resign," he told reporters, saying he and his supporters would try "to bring back the lawful government" and said his country's chief justice should "look into the matter of who was behind this coup".
Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, the former vice-president who replaced Nasheed yesterday, denied the suggestion that anything other than a constitutional transfer of power had taken place: "Do I look like someone who will bring about a coup d'etat?" he asked. "There was no plan. I was not prepared at all."
A military spokesman confirmed that Nasheed had received "some small injuries" in today's clashes, and both his party and his family reported that the former president had returned safely home.
February 7, 2012 Today's announcement by Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed that he is resigning and leaving his vice-president, Waheed Hassan, in charge has prompted much speculation over what this means for the island-chain nation in the Indian Ocean.
Nasheed made the announcement on state television, declaring his departure would be "better for the country in the current situation."
That "current situation" is a complicated one: Nasheed's resignation comes amid turmoil over the army's arrest of a senior judge last month and a mutiny by police officers against the government. The president's brother told the BBC today that Nasheed was being held against his will at the presidential palace in Male, while other sources from the president's circle have said his departure was a "coup by the former regime." Both the vice-president and the army deny those claims.
Nasheed is the Maldives' first democratically elected president. A former human rights campaigner, he was a one-time political prisoner whose election ended 30 years of rule by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Nasheed has been outspoken about environmental issues such as climate change, which he considers a particularly serious danger for his island nation, but he has run afoul of religious conservatives, who accused him of being anti-Islam, and has faced constant opposition from elements loyal to the Gayoom regime.
For a short summary of the situation in Maldives today, check out the following report by Al-Jazeera:
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