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Ministers and MPs step up nationalistic rhetoric over removal plot

The opposition is being slammed as traitors, and Maldivians are being urged to “close ranks against colonial powers” described by some as involved in an effort to destroy the Islamic faith



Ministers and MPs have launched a concerted defence of the Maldives’ embattled president, Abdulla Yameen, in response to an opposition claim of an imminent removal plot.

The rhetoric on social media and the national airwaves has been ultra-nationalistic; the opposition is being slammed as traitors, and Maldivians are being urged to “close ranks against colonial powers,” described by some as involved in an effort to destroy the Islamic faith here.

“Even if a gun is held to President Yameen’s head and he is ordered to sign a resignation letter, he will not sign it, even if he falls dead,” Ahmed Nihan, the majority leader, declared to pink-clad members of the Progressive Party of the Maldives on the southern island of Fuvahmulah on Friday.

Adam Shareef, the defence minister, said security forces were on alert to foil any attempt at a coup d’état. “We are keeping a close watch on the political landscape. The military and government offices are connected. The army will not allow a transfer of power,” he said in the meeting televised on TVM, the state broadcaster.

The minister, who had led a gathering to promote patriotism and love of nation among soldiers on Wednesday, said he must speak out against a coup “because we know the challenges faced in countries were governments were ousted through coups. It destroys the nation, sovereignty, economies and societies.”

Others ministers and MPs accused the opposition coalition, Maldives United Opposition, of fear mongering, driven by a jealousy of Yameen’s successful development agenda. A shirtless man meanwhile took his underage son on stage to praise Yameen for paying his son’s medical costs.

On Twitter, Yameen loyalists launched a campaign with the hashtag ‘Healing Paradise,’ a pun on an upcoming corruption expose of the Yameen administration by Al Jazeera, titled ‘Stealing Paradise.’

“Foreigners have always plotted to rob us of our beautiful country,” one supporter declared. “We must all roll up our sleeves against the coup,” another said.

Interviewed on Thursday on TVM, MP Ahmed Ilham of the Jumhooree Party, called on religious scholars to defend the government: “Do not let our country be turned into Syria or Palestine. We are a very small community, just 300,000 people. Why? What is it that major powers want here?”

Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, the newly appointed chancellor of the Islamic University of the Maldives, meanwhile wrote an impassioned plea on Facebook on Saturday, urging supporters to protect Maldives’ sovereignty.

“Colonial powers have never wanted peace and stability in any nation of the Islamic Ummah. They will always work in their interests. No self-respecting Muslim would work with them,” he said.

Foreign involvement, he said, was clear in the attempt to topple Yameen’s administration, one he had previously served as Islamic affairs minister.

Yameen’s spokesman has confirmed to the BBC that it was aware of a “formal attempt at ‘legally’ overthrowing the government.” Ibrahim Hussain Shihab called the pot “disingenuous to the people of the Maldives and in clear breach of international legal norms.”

The MUO, led by Yameen’s former deputy, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, has vowed to arrest the president on corruption charges and to establish an interim government.