It is difficult to see how the Chinese could do anything other than control the Maldives: Ex-Maldives president – WION

WION  spoke with the former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, in London. He spoke of the influence Saudi Arabia has had on the Maldives, the one China is trying to exert on it, and that it is imperative that the Maldives be a stable, democratic nation – for there has never been a stable Indian Ocean region without a stable Maldives.

Here is a full transcript of the interview.

Q: Thank you President Nasheed. Now you were the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives in 2008 supported by a coalition of opposition to President Gayoom. Why did you get into politics?

A: My joining politics was an accident of history. I started as a journalist. But every time I wrote, they arrested me. So I lost my twenties to jail. As an attempt to not be arrested, I became a member of Parliament. They arrested me. The arrests kept coming and finally we left the Maldives and formed a political party-in-exile in Sri Lanka and later in England. Through that, we were able to galvanise our people to political activism, amend the constitution and have our first multi-party election. So, because I was involved in all of this all throughout, right from ’89 up to 2005-2006, I had been working very hard. I was only writing, but I worked hard to defend human rights and freedom of expression. And I was fortunate to win that election in 2008.

Q: But by 2012 you were forced to resign and then later you had to go into exile a lot of pro-democracy supporters felt abandoned, why did you have to leave?

A: I was arrested after the election. After the coup, we went into another election in 2013. That was rigged. They kept nullifying the election results and going for another round, for as many rounds till they won it. Then we decided to be a loyal opposition and remain one. But in 6-7 months, President Yameen decided to arrest me. And then as a former President, I was in prison for one year. But I was able to leave on medical grounds with help from the UK, the US, India and Sri Lanka. I came to England and sought refuge here. I will go back. I intend to go back to the Maldives, hopefully soon. Yes it’s sad I am not there. I miss the Maldives a lot. But unfortunately I have very little option.

Q: Now President Gayoom ruled the country for 30 years with an iron fist. He has been accused of being a despot and accused of torture but now you joining forces with him to try and oust the current president. Aren’t you going to lose a lot of support from your backers?

A: I think there is a far greater need to get democracy back on track than me being popular. The issue is that the country must get back on a more democratic track. For that, everyone must join hands and try to find common ground. I am very happy that we’ve managed to structure that coalition.

Q: Even though President Gayoom for many of your countrymen wouldn’t represent democrarcy?

A: All of us, President Gayoom, myself, all other political leaders and the people of the Maldives, we’ve learned a lot over the last 15 years. We’ve experienced probably what other countries have gone through in 50 years. We went through the same in a period of 8-9 years. We’ve all learned a lot and we must see that country is back on a proper democratic course. To do that, we must bring everyone together and isolate the President. Again, I am happy to be able to do that.

Q: Now there are rumours that President Gayoom asked for 100 thousand dollars from you to show your honesty and integrity and commitment to this and you have paid half of that sum. what do you say to that?

A: Anyone who knows me would know that I wouldn’t have 50,000 dollars in my bank account. Right now, I have 6,000 pounds. And for me, 50,000 dollars is a lot of money. And I don’t think President Gayoom, or anyone in the Maldives actually, would believe that. These are rumours and we must understand that. There are no facts whatsoever to this rumour. It would be silly wouldn’t it? President Gayoom asking me for money! I don’t think that would every happen and no, it did not happen.

Q: So who is benefiting from spreading these rumours?

A: It is President Yameen who is benefitting from spreading these rumours.

Q: This is all coming from President Yameen?

A: He has a rumour-mongering mill that produces all these false allegations. Then he even brings them up in courts through trumped-up charges – kangaroo courts I would argue – and then sentences people with no facts on hand whatsoever. I am afraid that even today as we speak, one of the bigger businessmen in the Maldives has been charged for bribing MPs. When President Gayoom left the government, there were about 17 MPs who crossed sides. That’s all that happened. People who supported President Gayoom crossed over to the Opposition.

Q: You have previously said that the vice president is a victim rather than an accomplice to president Yameen. How so?

A: When I started getting to know former vice president Ahmed Adeeb, he was very young. He still is,  about 32 I think. Then he came into politics, into a big job, and was given tasks by the President. You would know from the television documentary how President Yameen had tasked him to do all these things. I am not suggesting that he is innocent. But we must look into all the connections and the bigger picture of what was happening. So I think Adeeb was a victim.

Q: Well in the documentary there is certainly a lot of proof on his phone that he is connected.

A: Of course he is connected. I am not arguing that he isn’t. But we must go through a proper investigation, a proper trial to finally say that. What I am saying is that he came into this because of President Yameen. Yameen inducted him into these wrongdoings.

Q: So he is a victim of persuasion?

A: Yes, a victim of persuasion. Power is a rather odd thing. You can get all sorts of people to do anything. When you are the President. And I am telling you after having been one. And I am telling you that President Yameen is in the business of bringing in young people to task them with things that he wants done.

Q: So as a President do you think you have overstepped the mark with power then?

A: I would agree.

Q: How so?

A: After 30 years of single-party rule autocracy, it is possible to topple a dictator. But it is not so easy to uproot a dictatorship. We have never had multi-party governance or multi-party politics in the Maldives. We are still very feudal and therefore to move from feudalism to pluralism overnight is not possible. So there have been instances. I am sure if you go into my government and analyse it you would see instances of the President – me – doing doing or envisaging things that he shouldn’t have.

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