“It will be better for the country in the current situation if I resign,” Nasheed had told a televised news conference. “I don’t want to run the country with an iron fist. I am resigning.” With that statement, Nasheed stepped down from power making his Vice President Waheed the new boss of Maldives. A country best recognized for pristine sea shores, clear blue waters as an up market tourist destination would have deep power struggles involving national security forces is quite dramatic. What was the main reason for this coup?
Maldives is inhabited by 100% Dhivians who speak only one dialect Dhivehi (Dheep in bangla, meaning island). The Maldives is the lowest country in the world with only about 2.4 meters natural ground level above sea level. There is plenty of marine life, with over 2,000 specied of fish and abundant coral reef. It is also home to white shark, whate, green turtle and many other rare marine species. There are 1,200 islands of which only 94 islands house 300,000 citizens.
Maldhives became an Islamic Sultanate in 1153, said to be after a foreigner called Azeri from Tabrez defeated Budhist/Hindu strongman. It was ruled as a Sultanate until its colonization by the British Empire in 1887. It gained independence from British rule in 1965. Ibrahim Nasir was the first president of the new Republic, he lasted for 10 years.
Abdul Gayum had been the familiar face of Maldives for the past 30 years. The bespectacled senior leader embodied that soft, cultured and sophisticated nature of his people. Gayum was ousted in general elections by the youthful and flamboyant Nasheed. Initially people were glad to see a change, especially because a much younger leadership was taking over from a long time veteran. But things did not go down well.
At the heart of the matter, claims some media, is that Maldives agreed to establish ties with Israel, starting with air transportation to tourism. People rejected this decision of the government. Although tourism and international travel is of critical importance to Maldivians, yet they could not accept a fundamental change in their socio-political setup. Islam is the state and the only officially recognized religion of Maldives. Their constitution spells out the importance of shareeah:
Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution.
Article 2 of the revised constitution says that the republic “is based on the principles of Islam.”
Article nine says that “a non-Muslim may not become a citizen”; Article ten says that “no law contrary to any principle of Islam can be applied”. Article nineteen states that “citizens are free to participate in or carry out any activity that is not expressly prohibited by sharia [Islamic law] or by the law.” (Source: Wikipedia)
It is small country with only 300,000 people, but it has proved how powerful it may be when it comes to implementing the collective will of the people as per their faith. Maldivians are not known for rebellions and armed uprisings but their simple clinging to Islam was enough to unite them to push the Army and Police to chase a youngster out of power.