Failed coup in Turkey reignites debate about Feb 7

Failed coup in Turkey reignites debate about Feb 7
July 17 15:50 2016

A failed coup attempt by a faction within the Turkish military Friday night has reignited debates among Maldivians on social media about the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

The resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed in the wake of a violent mutiny by Specialist Operations police officers and elements of the military remains a polarising subject more than fours years later.

Nasheed said he resigned under duress in order to protect his family and prevent bloodshed, but a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry later concluded that the transfer of power to his deputy was constitutional.

As the coup attempt in Turkey unfolded, Maldivians took to social media to reminisce and draw parallels between the events of February 7.

Early on Saturday morning, Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar stirred controversy with a tweet implying that Nasheed resigned in a coup d’etat.

“Cannot accept a coup from any group in anywhere. Turkey is suffering,” he tweeted, prompting a question about February 7.

Shareef’s response was widely reported in local media.

In a tweet last night, Nasheed meanwhile stood by his decision to not use lethal force against the mutinying police and soldiers. He expressed the same sentiment on Facebook, eliciting varied responses.

According to then-Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, Nasheed refused to consider his repeated advice to use gunfire to disperse the crowd gathered at the Republic Square.

The report by the Commission of National Inquiry also noted that Nasheed had the constitutional authority to order the use of force.

“He chose not to. That decision may be classified as praiseworthy, but he cannot now contend that because he made those choices, that he was ‘forced’ into resigning because of what others were doing around him,” the commission said.

Responding to Nasheed’s tweet, former Home Minister Umar Naseer insisted that “there was no coup” as the former president had resigned on live television.

Pro-government supporters meanwhile accused Nasheed of being “intoxicated” when he made the decision. Others repeated allegations of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party government’s “secularisation” agenda.

At a rally a few days after the transfer of power, Umar Naseer had claimed that he warned the president’s closest aides that Nasheed could “lose his life” if he did not comply with the ultimatum to resign.

Naseer said he told the president that he could “either surrender with bloodshed or surrender peacefully”.

Naseer also told Australia’s SBS Dateline programme that he was organising the protests from a “command centre” and that he feared for Nasheed’s life.

In January 2013, Naseer said the transfer of power was the result of “planning, propaganda and a lot of work.”

On the morning of February 7, Nasheed was trapped inside the headquarters of the Maldives National Defence Force.

After soldiers were pegged back and forced inside military headquarters following a confrontation with the mutinying police, the Republic Square – or the “green zone” where gatherings are prohibited – was overrun by opposition supporters and police officers.

Two hours before Nasheed’s resignation, soldiers and police took over the state broadcaster.

On the previous night, violence had broken out between opposition protesters and MDP activists at the artificial beach in Malé after both the riot police and soldiers were ordered to withdraw.

The SO officers then broke the chain of command, assaulted pro-government supporters, and ransacked the MDP meeting hall.

The mutiny by the SO officers followed three consecutive weeks of protests over the controversial military detention of the criminal court’s chief judge.

In March last year, Nasheed was found guilty of ordering the “abduction” of the judge and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

The opposition leader’s jailing drew widespread international condemnation and triggered a prolonged political crisis.

Nasheed has since been granted asylum in the UK after he was authorised to travel for medical treatment.

The circumstances of Nasheed’s resignation also divides opinion among MDP supporters, with some arguing that it could have been avoided and others lauding the decision.