Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Maldives new President Hassan calls for calm

The Maldives new president promised to protect his predecessor from retribution after he stepped down amid protests and clashes between the army and police over his decision to arrest a top judge.

President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who was sworn in Tuesday, called for chaos on the streets to stop and for citizens of this Indian Ocean island nation to work together after months of political turmoil. "I urge everyone to make this a peaceful country," he said.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party insisted his ouster was a "coup" engineered by rogue elements of the police and supporters of the country's former autocratic leader.
However, a Nasheed adviser denied the resignation came under duress from the military.
Hassan's office also denied the military pressured Nasheed to quit in the wake of Tuesday's street clashes. "It was not a coup at all. It was the wish of the people," said Ahmed Thoufeeg, Hassan's secretary.
"Mr. Nasheed is protected by the current government because there might be some people wanting to harm him," said police spokesman Ahmed Shyam. "He's in a safe place now, but any other action will be decided by the government."
Nasheed's resignation marked a stunning fall for the former human rights campaigner who defeated the nation's longtime ruler to become its first democratically elected president.
Nasheed was also an environmental celebrity, traveling the world to persuade governments to combat the climate change that could raise sea levels and inundate his archipelago nation.
Nasheed presented his resignation in a nationally televised address after police joined the protesters and then clashed with soldiers in the streets. Some of the soldiers then defected to the police side.
"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."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Hassan had informed the U.S. that the security situation in the Maldives was now under control and generally peaceful.
Hassan expressed his strong commitment to a peaceful transition of power and the preservation of democracy.
According to Nuland, the new Maldivian leader expressed his intent to form a national unity government with opposition participation in the lead-up to a presidential election scheduled for November 2013.
Hassan Saeed, a former attorney general, said, "I am happy that the rule of law and justice prevailed. Nasheed's government accused the judge of political bias and corruption.The crisis came to a head Tuesday when hundreds of police demonstrated 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. Mohamed was released after Hassan took power.
Nasheed began his term with great hopes, ending Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's 30-year-reign by winning the country's first democratic elections in 2008.
But over the past year, Nasheed was battered by protests. Police routinely cracked down on opposition protests, while letting government supporters gather freely. For many, the judge's arrest three weeks ago was the final straw.
PM reaches out to new Maldives Prez, assures India's support
A day after the sudden change of regime in Maldives following turmoil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday reached out to new President Mohamed Waheed expressing India's "continued support" to him.
Dr. Singh wrote a letter to Waheed, who took over after Mohamed Nashed stepped down in the face of widespread protests.
"I take this opportunity to extend my warm felicitations to you on your assumption of office as President of the Maldives," he said in the letter.
The Prime Minister said that as a "close and friendly neighbour" India will, "as always, continue to support the Maldivian people`s efforts to build a stable, peaceful and prosperous country."
Noting that the two countries share a common destiny and have common security interests, he told Waheed that "India is committed to working with you and the Government in Maldives to further enhance our close, bilateral cooperation to mutual benefit and for the continued security, progress and prosperity of our two countries."
Nasheed announced his resignation after weeks of public protests over his order to arrest a senior judge, who had ordered release of a government critic, and handed over the power to his Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan.
India had on Tuesday described the change of regime in Maldives due to protests as an internal matter of the country.

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