Refusing to give up his political ambitions,ousted Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed,facing an arrest warrant,today demanded fresh polls,as India stepped in to help the country defuse the situation.
As 44-year-old Nasheed kept the heat on new President Mohamed Waheed Hassan,who was his deputy just three days ago,a top Indian Foreign Ministry official met them separately,shortly after his arrival here to assess the situation in the picturesque archipelago.
M Ganapathi,Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry,conveyed India’s willingness to assist in early installation of a national unity government in the Indian Ocean atoll during his meetings with Nasheed and his successor Hassan.
59-year-old Hassan is understood to have assured India that he would not indulge in a witch-hunt while dealing with Nasheed.
In New Delhi,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was his sincere hope that the matter can be resolved through peaceful dialogue.
“It will be our effort to use our influence in that direction,” he said.
Three days after he stepped down,in what he termed a coup d’etat,a defiant Nasheed again led a massive rally of supporters in the capital after Friday prayers,where he demanded that Hassan step down to pave the way for fresh polls.
A large crowd of supporters gave the ousted President a rousing welcome and shouted ‘Long live Nasheed!’ as he led them in a peaceful march.
As concerns mounted over Nasheed’s impending fate and a possible arrest,UN Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco arrived here for talks with the new government.
Late last night,Nasheed had addressed thousands of peaceful supporters and sought a fresh election to settle the political upheaval.
“He (Hassan) must step down and then the Speaker of the Majlis (Parliament) can hold elections within two months,” he said.
Earlier in the day,the US said it recognised the government of Nasheed’s successor Hassan,dealing a major blow to the toppled President who has been questioning the legitimacy of the new regime.
The US sought clarification on the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power in the country,though it said it would work with the new government.
When asked if the US recognised the new government,State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We do”.
A disappointed Nasheed said he was “very unhappy” over Washington’s move to legitimise his successor.
“This is not being helpful. They should really look at what has happened,” said Nasheed who has insisted that his former vice president was complicit in the conspiracy to topple him.
Maldives’ first democratically-elected president had said that he was forced to resign as gun-wielding military men threatened that they would resort to using arms if he did not.
The major developments in the tourist hotspot came after three weeks of protests that escalated over an order to arrest a Criminal Court judge on charges of misconduct for favouring opposition figures.
The protests came to a boil after police joined a mutiny and refused to take action against opposition protesters.
Fernandez-Taranco,who is expected to meet both sides,had asked everyone to “remain calm and prevent any type of violence”.
On Wednesday night,a pro-Nasheed rally had turned violent and police vehicles and police offices were reportedly torched. The opposition figures had also complained of a violent crackdown against them.
At today’s rally,a large number of soldiers and police personnel in riot gear were deployed near the mosque where Nasheed and his supporters offered prayers before marching out.
Nasheed said that several members of his party had been arrested on the island of Addhu.
While an arrest warrant was issued yesterday against Nasheed,the government has so far not moved to implement it.
“There are 14 charges being brought against the (toppled) President. God knows what the charges are,” said Ahmed Naseem,who was also ousted as foreign minister.
Both the new President Hassan and the army have refuted Nasheed’s claims of a coup.
Nasheed,a former political prisoner,came to power in 2008 after successfully challenging the 30-year-old autocratic regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.