President quits after mutiny

  • Reuters, Male
  • |
  • Updated: Feb 08, 2012 02:09 IST

Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan has taken an oath to be Maldives President as his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed resigned after weeks of protests. AFP/Emmanuel Dunand/FILES

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives resigned on Tuesday after weeks of protests erupted into a police mutiny, leaving the man widely credited with bringing democracy to the paradise islands accused of being as dictatorial as his predecessor.

Nasheed handed over power to Vice-President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, explaining that continuing in office would result in his having to use force against the people.

"I resign because I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power," he said in a televised address. "I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force which would harm many citizens."

A Maldives opposition leader said on Tuesday he had asked the military to detain Mohamed Nasheed following his resignation as President in the face of popular protests and a police mutiny.

In the morning, soldiers fired teargas at police and demonstrators who besieged the Maldives National Defence Force headquarters in Republic Square.

Later in the day, scores of demonstrators stood outside the President's Office chanting "Gayoom! Gayoom!", referring to Nasheed's predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Nasheed swept to victory in 2008, pledging to bring full democracy to the luxury holiday resort nation and speaking out passionately on the dangers of climate change to the low-lying islands.

But he drew opposition fire for his arrest of a judge he accused of being in the pocket of Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years. Protests at the arrest set off a constitutional crisis that had Nasheed in the unaccustomed position of defending himself against accusations of acting like a dictator.

Overnight, vandals attacked the lobby of the opposition-linked VTV TV station, witnesses said, while mutinying police attacked and burnt the main rallying point of Nasheed's Maldives Democratic Party before taking over the state broadcaster MNBC and renaming it TV Maldives.

Gayoom's opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives accused the military of firing rubber bullets at protesters and a party spokesman, Mohamed Hussain "Mundhu" Shareef, said "loads of people" were injured. He gave no specifics. Other opposition groups, including Islamist groups, asked the military to detain Nasheed.

An official close to the President denied the government had used rubber bullets, but confirmed that about three dozen police officers defied orders overnight and attacked a ruling party facility.

"This follows Gayoom's party calling for the overthrow of the Maldives' first democratically elected government and for citizens to launch jihad against the President," said the official who declined to be identified.


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