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Army downgrades protection for Gayoom

The army removed an emergency response car from the former president’s motorcade, effective Thursday.



The Maldives National Defence Forces has downgraded protection for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his personal assistant has said.

Ahmed Sofwan said the Special Protection Group, the elite unit of military bodyguards, informed him Wednesday that the army will remove the emergency response car in Gayoom’s motorcade, effective Thursday.

The sudden change follows Gayoom’s withdrawal of support for his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen.

Expressing concern, Sofwan said: “When I asked for a reason, they said they do not know and that these were orders from their superiors.”

The two bodyguards in the backup car will continue to follow Gayoom’s state car on motor cycles. Gayoom is accompanied by a driver and a military bodyguard in his official car.

Major Adnan Mohamed, the army spokesman, declined to comment.

Sofwan said: “We are very concerned about this considering the current turbulent political atmosphere. It is disappointing that a ruling party government is treating the ruling party’s president in this manner.”

The Progressive Party of the Maldives is embroiled in a civil war, with the two brothers leading rival factions. Yameen’s supporters, with the police’s help, have since ransacked the party’s headquarters, moving computers, furniture and documents to a new office.

In mid-October, soon after a court stripped Gayoom of his powers as elected leader of the PPM and handed the party’s reigns to Yameen, the finance ministry set new rules scaling back financial perks for former presidents.

The regulation reduced public funding for housing, health insurance and expenses on former presidents’ secretariats, and authorised the army to designate the degree of protection provided to former presidents.

Both Gayoom and former President Mohamed Waheed Hassan receive the pension every month, but former President Mohamed Nasheed’s pension was cut after the PPM-dominated parliament amended the Former President’s Act to block privileges for presidents convicted of a criminal offence.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last year in a trial widely condemned as unfair and politically motivated.