Maldives

Questions over a dismissal

Print edition : February 20, 2015

Mohamed Nazim, sacked as Minister of Defence. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

President Abdulla Yameen. Photo: NAVESH CHITRAKAR/REUTERS

ON January 15, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim told a crowded press conference that reports that he had been dismissed as president of local Government Authority were “lies”. Even as Nazim, a former Colonel with the Maldivian National Defence Forces, battled “smaller” issues at the Authority and elsewhere, the police raided his house and, a day later, President Abdulla Yameen announced his dismissal from the post of Defence Minister.

A single line release from the President’s office, dated January 20, said: “President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has today dismissed Col (rtd) Mohamed Nazim from the post of Minister of Defence and National Security.” No reasons were given.

The President appointed Major General (rtd) Moosa Ali Jaleel as the new Defence Minister. Moosa Ali Jaleel and Maldivian First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim are cousins. Nazim, a key figure in the February 2012 “transfer of power” from President Mohamed Nasheed to his Vice President Mohamed Waheed, was livid. Addressing the press, he said he did not believe that the raid took place without the consent of the President.

The President distanced himself from the raid and reportedly told Nazim that he was not aware of the police raid. “There is absolutely no protection/security for the people in Maldives and it is something that the public and the politicians have to seriously think about.... In any country the Defence Minister is the closest to the President and what happened on Sunday morning [January 18, between 3-30 a.m. and 6-00 a.m.] is not something that should ever happen.... Despite what happened I will not quit politics. I will not back down,” he told presspersons.

The Maldivian Police claimed that “lethal weapons” were seized from the Minister’s residence. Nazim said he had no knowledge of any weapon in his residence. Strangely, though such a crime warrants immediate arrest, Nazim was not arrested. One official source said his passport was seized by the authorities on January 27. The government also effected some changes in the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and changed the Immigration Controller, who was close to Nazim.

Insiders give another version of the raid. Nazim was in possession of papers that pointed to the hand of some top ruling politicians in the bartering away of land to a foreign power. Nazim, who did his officer-and-mid-level command training in Pakistan and served the Army for 23 years until his retirement in 2011, had opposed the move in ways that he thought was in the best interests of the people of Maldives.

In response to suggestions that the power involved was China, the Chinese embassy took the unprecedented step of issuing a denial: “It is common knowledge that China pursues a national defence policy that is defensive in nature. China does not maintain any military in any foreign country. China always upholds the five principles of peaceful coexistence in its foreign relations, and believes in peace, development, and win-win cooperation. This is also the foundation for China-Maldives relations which are not only mutually beneficial but also transparent to the outside world,” Minivan news quoted the Chinese embassy as saying.

R.K. Radhakrishnan

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