Nasheed quits as Maldives President after protests

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has resigned following weeks of public protests over his controversial order to arrest a senior judge.

Zeenews Bureau

Male: After three weeks of opposition-led protests boiled over into a police mutiny, President Mohamed Nasheed announced his resignation on Tuesday,handing over power to Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

The protests were being staged over the arrest of a top judge.

Nasheed, the Sunni Muslim nations` first democratically elected president said that continuing in office would result in his having to use force against the people.

In a televised address to the nation, Nasheed said he helped Maldives achieve a lot of benefits during his three-year rule.

"I don`t want to hurt any Maldivian. I feel my staying on in power will only increase the problems, and it will hurt our citizens," Nasheed said. "So the best option available to me is to step down."

"I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power," he said in the televised address.

"I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force which would harm many citizens," added Nasheed.

Flash polls are likely to be announced soon.

In a press release, the Maldivian Press Office said, “The government of Maldives together with all state institutions will work to ensure peace and stability in Male”.

“Government of Maldives calls to people to remain calm and support to stabilise the situation.”
`Indians safe`

Expressing concern over the violence taking place in neighbouring Maldives, the Ministry of External Affairs said that all Indian diplomats and their families are safe.

Stating that the decision of President Mohamed Nasheed to resign in favour of Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed is an internal matter of Maldives, the MEA said New Delhi hopes that all issues will be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner.

"We have noted the decision of President Mohamed Nasheed to resign in favour of Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed. This is an internal matter of the Maldives, to be resolved by Maldivians. We hope that all issues will be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner," said MEA official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.

"India has traditionally enjoyed close ties of friendship and cooperation with the Maldives. We remain committed to extending the fullest support and cooperation to the Government of Maldives in its endeavour to promote peace and progress in the Maldives and the prosperity and well being of its people," he added.

Indians are the largest expatriates in the picturesque island nation, with a population of over 19,000. India was among the first countries to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with this country.

Why did Nasheed resign?

The President of the island nation of Maldives, who became the country`s first democratically elected leader in three decades, was facing the wrath of Maldivians for ordering the arrest of a senior judge three weeks ago.

The chief judge of the country`s criminal court, Abdulla Mohamed, was taken into custody after ruling a government critic`s arrest was illegal and ordering him freed. Nasheed accused the judge of being in the pocket of his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years. The government said that the country`s judicial system had failed and called on the UN to help solve the crisis.

After weeks of protests, the crisis came to a head on Tuesday when hundreds of police started demonstrating in the capital, Male, after officials ordered them to withdraw protection for government and opposition supporters protesting close to each other. The withdrawal resulted in a clash that injured at least three people.

Later, troops fired rubber bullets and clashed with the police. When Nasheed visited the police and urged them to end the protest, they refused and instead chanted for his resignation.

Mutinying Maldives police also took over the state broadcaster and began broadcasting an opposition-linked television station`s calls for people to come on the streets to overthrow President Mohamed Nasheed, witnesses said.

A handful of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) soldiers was taking part in the demonstration of several hundred people outside the headquarters, along with police officers who defied orders to break up opposition protests early today. But the reports of a coup in Maldives were denied later.

The Maldives, an archipelago nation of 300,000 people, is a fresh democracy, with 30 years of autocratic rule ending when Nasheed was elected in 2008. Nasheed is a former pro-democracy political prisoner.

Hassan, the vice president, has previously worked for the United Nations, including as the head of its children`s fund in Afghanistan.

The new President and the Rule of Law

Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who was sworn in as the new President quickly after Nasheed`s resignation announcement, today vowed to "uphold the rule of law".

In a public statement posted on the presidential website, Waheed said, "The nation witnessed difficult times in the recent past, but today the Maldivian people have made a momentous decision.”

"Following that decision ... at any cost, the rule of law must be upheld," he added.

However, with Nasheed`s aides and supporters alleging that
the president had been ousted in what amounted to a coup,
Waheed gave assurances that "no unlawful order" would be
issued to the police or the military.

Stressing the need for political differences to be put
aside, Waheed also warned that "no law must be violated in any revenge against the past political leaders," the statement said.

Waheed is an educationist who has served in the UN and is the country`s first TV anchor. He is also the first doctorate in Maldives.