Issue of arrest warrant against former President stirs up supporters

A weak President, a belligerent set of officials who have re-discovered power, and a defiant former President are together pushing Maldives deeper into crisis, with each player trying to outdo the other since late Wednesday.

Similarly-worded appeals from major donors and well-wishers of The Maldives — India, U.K., U.S., U.N. and European Union — asking all parties to the conflict to take a step back, had an effect for a few hours. Protesters in small groups took to the streets again and rumours began to make headlines in the media. With heavy rains lashing Male, the confrontation that has pitted ex-President Mohamed Nasheed and his supporters against the rest of Maldives shifted from the streets to cyberspace and into mind games.

But that was after some more sparring. “I never fought and I don't want a war. When police come with a warrant we will go with them,” Mr. Nasheed said on Thursday. “I cannot believe that the Vice-President hasn't participated in the whole thing. Military officers very clearly told me that if I did not resign in an hour they would use arms… My advice to MDP and to citizens is not to do anything unwise. And keep all actions within the laws. I regret that I have heard nothing from the Prosecutor General about all this,” he added.

Speaking to the international media, Mr. Nasheed, who unsuccessfully appealed to India to help him out, made a similar plea to the global community. He wanted them to intervene before it was “too late”.

The drama

The drama began with the “arrest” of Moosa Manik, a prominent Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) politician, at the Ibrahim Nasir International airport on Wednesday night as he tried to go abroad. When the issue came to President Waheed Hassan's notice, he ordered the immediate release of the politician, who proceeded to fly abroad for treatment. Mr. Nasheed's wife, Laila, was allowed to leave for Sri Lanka, without any hassle.

In another instance, a criminal court reportedly issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Nasheed. The criminal court's Chief Judge, Abdulla Mohamed, was held by the military for close to a month on charges of corruption. He was released the day Mr. Nasheed resigned. While court officials said they were not in the know on such an order, sources close to Mr. Nasheed insisted that there had been such an order. The police, too, confirmed the presence of a warrant but said they had not acted on it. Mr. Nasheed refused to go into hiding; stayed put at his residence, daring the government to arrest him.

Indian High Commissioner to The Maldives, Dnyaneshwar Mulay, met both Mr. Nasheed and Dr. Waheed yet again on Thursday to defuse the crisis. It appears that both leaders agreed not to incite their cadre, but this time the trigger was the issue of the warrant. Asked about his meetings, he said both leaders were aware of the situation and also the need not to precipitate it. “India is prepared to handle any eventuality,” he said in response to a question from The Hindu. He assured that all Indians were safe.

Gayoom's return

Meanwhile, the former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, told a few diplomats that he did not want to come back from Malaysia at this stage as his wife was still undergoing treatment. His daughter, Dunya Maumoon, deputy spokesperson of the party Mr. Gayoom recently founded, the PPM, told The Hindu that he was planning to come back next week.

Mr. Nasheed's wife, Laila, arrived in Sri Lanka on Wednesday night and spoke to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa over the telephone. She has been provided security, Presidential Spokesperson Bandula Jayasekara said.

On Thursday Mr. Rajapaksa, telephoned Mr. Nasheed and inquired about his safety. Later, speaking to the Dr. Waheed, Mr. Rajapaksa wanted him to ensure Mr. Nasheed's safety.