President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih publicly rebuked Speaker Mohamed Nasheed for the first time on Monday, fuelling speculation of a portentous rift between the “childhood friends” and leaders of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party.
Divisions arose in the wake of a presidential commission’s revelations last week about the suspected murder of journalist Ahmed Rilwan by a local extremist group with links to al-Qaeda.
The findings prompted Nasheed to repeat his warnings of a “deep state” with terrorist sympathisers in strategic positions, and to persistently criticise the failure to arrest police intelligence officers who followed Rilwan and listened to his calls weeks before the abduction. Speaking at an MDP council meeting on Sunday night, Nasheed claimed to have been told by the Maldives National Defence Force that he himself was under surveillance by the police.
At a press conference the following day, a visibly vexed Solih backed the security service’s denial of spying on Nasheed and expressed displeasure with the speaker – without naming him – for sharing the commission’s draft report with opposition parliamentary group leaders and making a summary available to the public.
“I want to ask that the confidential information, the information that needs to be withheld, to be contained. What has happened has happened. We can’t say it did not happen. I can’t say that some people have not seen the report. They have. There is information in that report that if publicised could obstruct the investigation. My request is to contain that information,” Solih said.
Solih said he did not instruct the commission’s chair Husnu Suood to share the report with parliament, suggesting that he might have overstepped the bounds of the presidential commissions law.
He stressed that the report was incomplete as the inquiry was ongoing.
Last week, Nasheed insisted that the draft report did not include the identities of secret witnesses. Despite media reports to the contrary, the draft was not recalled from the parliamentary group leaders, he told reporters. He expressed confidence that lawmakers would protect sensitive information.
Solih also disputed Nasheed’s claim that the police were refusing to cooperate with the commission’s inquiry. The commission has never complained about lack of cooperation, he said.
Shortly before the press briefing, both the police and military released statements denying surveillance of Nasheed. There was no heightened risk to the former president, the MNDF said.
But supporters and lawmakers defended the former president on social media. Nasheed would not have made the claim if he was not informed by MNDF officers, MDP chairman Hassan Latheef tweeted, a view that was echoed by other ruling party lawmakers.
“Those two institutions also denied it when [Nasheed] said Maldivians were going to Syria,” tweeted MP Mohamed Waheed.