A UN special envoy arrived yesterday for talks with the new administration in the Maldives, as former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed demanded fresh elections after being ousted in what he called a coup d’etat.
US Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco reached the Indian Ocean nation’s capital, Male, early yesterday and held an hour-long meeting with new Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed, who has won crucial backing from the US.
Three weeks of opposition-led protests were capped on Tuesday by a police mutiny that led to Nasheed’s dramatic resignation, which he said was “forced” when armed rebel officers threatened him with violence unless he stepped down.
Waheed promised in a new statement that his “key priorities included the restoration of public confidence in democratic institutions by upholding the rule of law and uncompromising adherence to the Constitution.”
The legitimacy of the new administration hinges on whether Nasheed, who was to attend Friday prayers later, is seen as having resigned of his own will or having been ousted by force.
New video footage distributed by his office apparently shows him pleading with security forces in vain to help quell a police mutiny and violent demonstrations on the morning of his resignation.
There is growing evidence of police brutality since then, particularly against members of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), amid reports of a crackdown on islands outside the capital.
The tourism-dependent archipelago stretches over nearly 1,200 islands.
In Addu City, the country’s southernmost atoll and second-biggest urban area, police said they had arrested 75 people, including two local MDP councilors. The local mayor said by telephone that he was in hiding.
Violence flared on the island on Wednesday night during a pro-Nasheed demonstration in which three police offices, 35 police vehicles and a prosecutor’s office were torched, superintendent Yoonus Sobah said.
A local criminal court issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest on Thursday, but he escaped detention after external pressure from foreign diplomatic missions.
Police spokesman Abdul Mannan Yusuf said authorities would be “tactical” about when they would use the warrant.
“We can arrest him when we feel the need for it,” he said.
Nasheed, who became the Maldives’ first democratically elected president in 2008, signaled that he intended to continue fighting, telling a meeting of his senior party workers that Waheed should resign.
“He must step down and then the speaker of the Majlis [parliament] can hold elections within two months,” Nasheed told thousands of cheering supporters late on Thursday who then dispersed peacefully.
The 44-year-old former pro-democracy political activist received a blow from Washington on Thursday in his fight against Waheed, who he accuses of being party to the conspiracy to overthrow him.
When asked if the US recognized the new government, US Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland replied: “We do.”
Fernandez-Taranco had been invited by Nasheed when he was still in power to help end a standoff with opposition parties over the arrest and detention of a senior judge.
The envoy made it clear that he was not there to dictate how the political upheaval of recent days should be resolved.
“There can be no externally generated solution to something that can be solved by Maldivians themselves,” Fernandez-Taranco said as he arrived, adding that the UN was concerned for Nasheed’s safety.