Power In Paradise

The tug-of-war between dictatorship and democracy in the Maldives

01 August 2017

IT WAS TO START OFF as a people’s protest. Hundreds, if not thousands, would take to the streets of the capital, Malé. “Vettinee,” they would roar—rebellion. The police were to join them, and, after a point, so was the army. Together, they were to storm the residence of Abdulla Yameen, the president of the Maldives, and take him hostage. Then they were to march him to the country’s supreme court and legitimise his custody with an arrest warrant. The court could pick which of Yameen’s alleged offences to charge him for—abuse of power, persecution of his political opponents, involvement in the country’s biggest ever corruption scandal, and more.

All through August last year, the Maldives teemed with rumours of the impending ouster. For weeks, demonstrators defied new laws banning street protests to hold nightly gatherings demanding Yameen’s resignation. As the end of the month approached, the BBC cited “credible sources” to declare that the president of the Maldives faced a “removal plot.” “He’s lost all support from within his own political party,” an unnamed opposition MP was quoted as saying. “He doesn’t have any kind of support from the independent institutions, he doesn’t have support from the security forces.” Yameen’s opponents, the report said, were “looking to move against him within weeks.”

In the Malé office of the Maldives Independent, a news website where I worked at the time, we braced ourselves for it. Our only dilemma was the nomenclature: should we call it a coup or a revolution?

Omkar Khandekar is a journalist from Mumbai, and an alumnus of Cardiff University. His reporting from India, the Maldives and the United Kingdom has appeared in numerous publications, including The CaravanOpen and Scroll.

Keywords: politics The Maldives Maldives United Opposition Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla Yameen Maumoon Abdul Gayoom Maldivian Democratic Party Progressive Party of Maldives