New Delhi: Maldivian
President Mohamed Nasheed, elected only four years ago, quit under
pressure after weeks of protests triggered by a judge's arrest
escalated Tuesday with disgruntled policemen throwing their weight
behind opposition activists.
A former rights campaigner who had increasingly come under attack
for arbitrary rule, Nasheed, 44, announced that he was resigning
as he did not want to use force to curb escalating street
The resignation happened only after the army applied pressure on
the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader, leading him in the
morning to the television office to make his dramatic
announcement, media reports said.
"I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the
use of power. I believe that if the government were to remain in
power, it would require the use of force which would harm many
citizens," he said in a statement broadcast on state-run
television seized by rogue policemen.
"I resign because I believe that if the government continues to
stay in power, it is very likely that we may face foreign
influences," he said. "I have made this decision."
Maldivian authorities went out of their way to deny intense
speculation that a coup had taken place.
The Maldives High Commission in Colombo said that Vice President
Mohammad Waheed was now the acting president. But other reports
said he was yet to be sworn in.
Nasheed's whereabouts were not immediately known following his
exit. The Maldivian and foreign media reported jubilation on the
streets of capital Male as opposition activists celebrated.
Nasheed had run into widespread anger after a senior judge,
Abdulla Mohamed, was arrested by the Maldives National Defence
Force (MNDF) over a fortnight ago on corruption charges.
The judge was reportedly confined to one of the lesser inhabited
islands. The Maldives is made up of about 1,200 mostly small
islands, with only 200 inhabited.
Supporters of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whose three
decades long rule ended with Nasheed's 2008 election, control
parliament and have organised protests against the judge's
Tension and sporadic violence had been escalating, with the ruling
MDP alleging attacks on its supporters and offices by opposition
activists not happy with long-time ruler Gayoom's departure.
According to Maldivian media, there was intense speculation
Tuesday morning that Nasheed had been taken into custody. Shops
and businesses in Male quickly shut down.
In the meantime, officers of the Maldivian National Defence Force
(MNDF), the number ranging from 60 to 600, joined the
Events galloped rapidly thereafter. Opposition protesters and
rogue policemen then seized the Maldives National Broadcasting
Corp (MNBC) and quickly renamed it Television Maldives (TVM),
That led a government official to say a coup attempt was underway,
causing concern in many capitals, including New Delhi.
The presidency denied Nasheed had resigned, until the president
actually stepped down.
The opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) earlier told Sri Lanka's
Sunday Leader that most police and army personnel were backing
DQP spokesperson Mohamad Malech Jamal said there were now
celebrations in Male.
He said the Male airport and the state broadcaster were under the
control of the police and army.
Violence broke out Monday night as the army and police were
deployed to break up protesters, opposition figures said.
"About 800 police officers gathered at the Republic Square.
Several of them called for the president's resignation," Jamal was
quoted as saying.
The Maldivian government earlier appealed for calm.
"The government of Maldives together with all state institutions
will work to ensure peace and stability in Male," a statement
"Government calls to people to remain calm and support to
stabilize the situation," it added.
A tourist haven, the Maldives is made up of several atolls and
lies southwest of Sri Lanka. It has a population of about 400,000,
most of them Sunni Muslims. The main language is Dhivehi, a