Maldives

Former Minister faces coup charge, in custody

Print edition : March 06, 2015

Mohamed Nazim, when he visited New Delhi in April 2013 as Maldives' Defence Minister. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

AT 2-00 a.m. on February 10, former Maldivian Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim was arrested by the police on the charge of trying to engineer a coup. “Wish to inform all well wishers ive been taken to police custody tonight. Allah almighty will give me justice… Insha allah,” read Nazim’s tweet before he was taken away by the police. He was dismissed as Minister on January 20.

With the arrest, life has come a full circle for Colonel (Retd) Nazim, in three years. “Have u ever heard of the saying, ‘what goes around, surely comes around’. Remember the tears of the thousands,” one Maldivian tweeted soon after the arrest. Like him, most people who came forward to express support or condemn him restricted their rage to social media platforms. Maldives is a nearly fully literate country, and nasty battles and name calling are part of the daily routine on social media platforms.

Just three years ago, Nazim, a hard-working, people-friendly, honest and efficient officer, who was a natural fit in the Maldivian political space, was at the forefront of a struggle to unsettle the then President Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed, who became the first democratically elected President in 2008, had all the failings of a street fighter-turned-administrator: impatience, unwillingness to listen to sane advice, a short temper, arrogance, and speaking out well before he had thought through a situation. “Every time he opened his mouth, he alienated a bunch of people.... But those around him did not do enough to make him realise where he was headed,” says a former member of his inner circle.

Supporters and benefactors of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom saw a chance to unseat Nasheed. A series of protests from December 2011 and Nasheed’s own inability to read the situation and respond to the challenge resulted in a spiral of events that ultimately resulted in his resignation on February 7, 2012. Vice-President Mohamed Waheed was sworn in as President according to a provision in the Maldivian Constitution. Nazim, an architect of this “transfer of power” in February 2012, had been a part of the upper echelons of the power structure since then.

Nazim formally joined Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) on December 11, 2013, which he then termed “the most democratic party in the Maldives”. Nazim, who was named Defence Minister in the Waheed Cabinet that was installed after Nasheed stepped down in February 2012, was allocated the same portfolio after the 2013 presidential elections, in which Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen, was elected President.

Nazim was seen as an important part of the PPM-led government and he received accolades for his handling of the recent water crisis in the Maldivian capital, Male, soon after the lone desalination plant there became dysfunctional after a fire. But he was not comfortable with the administration’s blatant ways of preferring China over India. Nazim’s logic, as explained by one well-wisher, was that since there is a significant dependence on India for most essential items and since a large part of the Maldivian National Defence Forces is trained by India, it might not be prudent to alienate India.

His view did not have many takers within the government, which was more than willing to cast its lot with China. Nazim’s house was subsequently raided (Frontline, February 20, 2015), and he was dismissed on January 20. Since then, Nazim has tried to reach out and rebuild his relationship with those at the helm, but appears to have failed. Just before his arrest on February 10, he announced, on twitter, that he was parting ways with the PPM. “I would like to inform all my well wishers.i hv left #ppm today but will be committed to work with u for a better & secure #Maldives.”

Nazim’s dream run in Maldivian politics has ended, and a new, rough phase, which requires enormous will power, grit and determination, lies ahead of him. For starters, he can begin reading books on the life of Mohamed Nasheed, who was frequently jailed by Gayoom, and was once named Amnesty International’s Prisoner of Conscience. Maldives has surely begun the process of creating a second hero in a country that loves larger-than-life characters. It now depends on how much the former colonel can put up with.

R.K. Radhakrishnan

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