NEW DELHI: In his trademark black suit and yellow tie, Mohammed Nasheed warms up to his favourite topic almost instantly.
The former president of Maldives is on a visit to India to apprise the country of the events of February 7 – when he was ousted by a section of the military and police believed to be loyal to former ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Looking out of the window of his hotel in New Delhi, the 45-year old is reflective . “I find it so frustrating and at the same time, so shocking that a democratically elected government was brought down in a coup and there was hardly a strong reaction in the neighbourhood . Frankly, I was disappointed by the Indian reaction . The whole thing could have been nipped in the bud, if New Delhi’s reaction was strong,” says the pro-democracy activist, who came to power in 2008, in the country’s first ever multi-party presidential elections held by popular vote.
During his term as president , Nasheed is credited with introducing a number of reforms in Maldives and being the face of moderate Islam – which are the reasons he says radical elements within the country turned against him.
“The strength of radical Islamists within Maldives is rising. In fact, the country has become another Pakistan right now. Look at the way the coup against me happened. There is a strong similarity with the way Nawaz Sharif, another democratically-elected leader was ousted. He sacked general Musharraf and Musharraf plotted against him. I asked a colonel and deputy chief of police to go and they staged a coup and removed me.”
Now on a mission to sensitize the international community , Nasheed says the only way things can improve in his country is to have free and fair elections as early as possible.” The more it is delayed, the more the grip of the radical forces will increase,” he says. “I have hopes that India will take a strong stand on this -and send out the message that such assaults on democracy will not be tolerated in its neighbourhood.”
Incidentally, ‘The Island President’ – a film based on Nasheed’s campaign against global warming and the threat it poses to the fragile ecosystem in Maldives – has also been released recently. Among the issues that it raises are rising sea levels, which, if they continue, might just wash out the island nation in the next few decades. “Yes, the challenges faced by my country are many,” says Nasheed, wryly. “The odds are stacked against us, but I just refuse to give up hope.”Source: The Indian Times