The Maldives capital is bracing itself for unrest, as a key political anniversary coincides with a state of emergency.
Mohamed Nasheed resigned as president on February 7, 2012. The Maldivian Democratic Party alleged it was a coup and he said he stepped down under duress, but a Commonwealth-backed panel later concluded the transfer of power to his deputy was constitutional.
Six years later the Maldives, in particular the capital, is in turmoil again after a state of emergency was declared on Monday night.
A shock Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of nine prisoners, including Nasheed who was jailed on controversial terror charges, was followed by a series of brutal moves to crush dissent and further decimate the opposition.
Opinion was divided on social media about Nasheed and President Abdulla Yameen, as people reflected on the anniversary and the state of emergency.
“Today on 7th February we celebrate the failure of shortsighted, power-hungry, incapable people … 2012 when Nasheed failed as president of Maldives and resigned and 2018 when Nasheed failed to bring about a judicial coup to Maldives,” said Anthu Shareef.
“On 7th February 2012, we got rid of an evil ruler! All praise be to Allah! Today he is trying to return to power with the assistance of a foreign army,” said @rumaalu2, referring to Nasheed’s recent plea to India for military intervention.
The current crisis has not been as prolonged or violent as six years ago, when weeks of opposition-led protests culminated not only in Nasheed’s departure but riots and police using rubber bullets.
While thousands filled the capital’s streets last Thursday to celebrate last week’s landmark ruling, crowd numbers have dwindled as police use increasingly heavy-handed tactics on protesters.
A Tuesday announcement revoking the release of the nine prisoners dealt another blow to the public show of opposition to President Abdulla Yameen’s government. But the ‘coup day’ anniversary could boost crowd numbers.
Freedom of assembly is restricted under the state of emergency but Yameen has been attending rallies, with police protection provided to government supporters.
Malé has given repeated assurances that its vital tourism industry is unaffected and that foreigners are safe, even describing the state of emergency as “an unusual period.”
On Wednesday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said no curfew had been imposed and that the general movement of people, services and businesses would be unaffected.
“Life in the Maldives continues as normal with all places of work, businesses, schools, government and social services, travel, including all domestic and international airports, and leisure facilities all remaining fully open and operational,” it said.
It’s 7th February 2018 – six years since the first democratically elected president of the #Maldives was toppled in a coup.
— Mickail Naseem 🎈 (@MickailNaseem) February 7, 2018
Photos from February 7, 2012 military coup in the Maldives, which was legitimised by the international community. MPs & citizens brutalised, President Nasheed held incommunicado. Can you imagine this being considered a legitimate “transfer of power” in any open democracy? pic.twitter.com/Rr6hAMzuDK
— MushfiqMohamed (@MushfiqMohamed) February 7, 2018
I weep for my beloved country. 7th February 2012 can be identified as the regressive day that sent this country into political turmoil that has sunk it's claws, sucking the wealth and hope of the average man in the guise of democracy and development. pic.twitter.com/aAKTj4cQJ6
— Navaim🎈 (@Navaim) February 4, 2018
On this very same day, the february 7th of 2012, a president who loved his country and it's people chose to take a step back. We're really proud of you @MohamedNasheed !!! 💛 pic.twitter.com/3CcVLj629V
— Safaath Ahmed (@safaathahmed) February 7, 2018
— Ahmed Nihan (@ahmed_nihan) February 6, 2018