To some, what happened in Maldives on 7th February 2012 is bigger than the mystery of Kennedy assassination or Loch Ness monster.
For some the reality is as easy as telling blind folded whether the zebra is black with white stripes or white with black stripes -definitely a Coup d’état.
The political quarrels led to the formulation of a Commission of National Inquiry (CONI) with the supervision and backing of United Nations and Commonwealth, which revealed that Mr. Mohamed Nasheed resigned on his own free will.
Rather than dwelling on these contradicting details, following is a time line of what unfolded leading to the power change.
To understand 7th February one has to step back at least a day to walk through the events which led to the demise of Nasheed.
Continuous 22 days of protesting by the opposition had started against the unconstitutional detention of Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdullah Mohamed (Abdullah Ghazee) at Henveiru district, Artificial Beach area of Male’, on the night of 6th February 2012. Also, members of the democratic political party of Maldives MDP had gathered to protest against the protest. Luckily there was no group protesting against the protesters who were protesting the protest. If there were it would have made a great tongue twister.
A blue line of police separated the verbally volatile crowd of demonstrators throwing verbal obscenities at each other. One side the opposition and on the other side the governing party members, which the opposition claimed were more comfortable to demonstrate then run the government.
The circumstances that made this night extraordinary began when the sandwiched police force suddenly started to leave the scene. As expected both the crowds advanced towards each other and the situation escalated dangerously towards a fight. Immediately the police made a detour of their departure and intervened, both parties were pushed back without any bloodshed.
Most people in the crowd were unaware that this was just the “starters” and “main course” was on its way.
The night turned more dramatic when around more than 5 military trucks plus a huge force of military personnel carrying shields and in riot gear marched into the scene. It was unbelievable that the Commander in Chief has sent a small army to control a crowd being handled by a handful of police officers.
Hesitantly the small police force left, escorted by loud cheers from the MDP protesters, while the bewildered opposition protesters were mainly silenced by the new eerie development.
What followed left most opposition supporters in disbelief and disheartened but gave MDP supporters plenty of fuel to jeer at their rivals. The Maldivian army deserted the place, leaving a rattled angry mob of about thousand Maldivian citizens to settle their disputes by their knuckles.
As soon as the dust from the departing army settled, the now loudly cheering MDP protesters, a much younger masculine force, started slowly advancing to face their inferior foe.
Before the battle, the crowds moved as close as five feet apart and without much fanfare fighting ignited suddenly with stones being thrown at each other. To everyone’s surprise, literally every stone thrown by MDP was met by a hail storm of stones by the opposition crowd. This was due to the lucky advantage of an unlimited supply of stones from a demolished house adjacent to Artificial Beach, right next to the side of the opposition demonstrators.
MDP’s strong muscular force was kept at bay, and can be seen painstakingly going to the beach area in search of stones but literally the only ones they could find were the ones thrown at them by their enemy. Surely if the fight had started with bare fists, opposition crowd would have received a bloody defeat with the possibility of a couple of deaths. The tides had turned and it was just a hail storm of stones that neither was winning.
The same week after his debatable resignation cum coup, Nasheed confessed in an interview aired by pro MDP channel RajjeTV, that it was under his orders that the police were removed from the scene and he also directly ordered the military to retreat from Artificial Beach.
Not sure how many minutes passed in these barbaric stone transactions – maybe 10 or 20 minutes.
Unexpectedly the strained chain of command snapped, the removed police force, disobeying their orders, rushed back to the scene to stop the fighting. Rushed back to their sworn duty, to protect and serve the people. This was the catalyst required for the retreated armed forces to stop watching the fighting from afar and intervene to end it.
Due to this event Nasheed ordered the police force to remain in the Republic Square (Jumhooreemaidhaan), right next to their headquarters. MNDF was ordered to cordon the area around this. It was a volatile cocktail for disaster that Nasheed was preparing for himself.
Other events unfolding concurrently includes, infuriated MDP supporters attacking and torching VTV (Villa T V station). After this opposition supporters threw a petrol bomb at Megachip (a business associated with a MDP MP). It was Tom and Jerry warfare, in the capital city, while Nasheed kept deadlocked the country’s security forces in an awkward stalemate.
Inevitably things calmed to a less volatile atmosphere near early morning by the time for the call of morning prayers. Most opposition demonstrators left the scene to pray at the mosque. There was hope dawning on a new day for Nasheed.
When the crowd thinned, Nasheed ordered the military to pull back to the gate area, in front of MNDF headquarters. What followed was a group of armed MDP supporters, with sticks and iron pipes attacking the thinned crowd of opposition protesters now stationed near Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), near Republic Square.
The soldiers were shackled by Nasheed’s orders and the police force was detained in the middle of Republic Square, when the fight unfolded.
The fight was short, with a few casualties from both sides and none was life threatening.
However, this must have been an epic movement in demoralizing the MNDF as the attack could be clearly perceived as one orchestrated by Nasheed, as this came right after MNDF was unnecessarily ordered back from cordoning the area.
After this the opposition was seen arming themselves with pipes and rocks taken by damaging a nearby fence, temporary erected by the city council controlled by MDP. This fence was widely believed to be erected by city council to stop opposition from protesting in that area, as previous protest had taken place in this area and only after the fence was build, they were forced to protest in artificial beach area.
By morning the atmosphere can be best described as calm. Both the crowds, opposition and MDP were protesting less than hundred feet apart, only hurling verbal obscenities at each other. Opposition near MMA and almost in the next block near Reefside shop, MDP protesters were gathered. It was comical that both groups were seen enjoying morning tea in a café (Metro Café’), right in the middle.
It was during this time period that Nasheed had marched into Republic Square and met the detained and now protesting police force. He demanded that the police force hand themselves up to MNDF. The meeting did not go well and the police force clearly did not want to heed to his demands.
After this an enraged Nasheed was seen in videos leaving and entering MNDF headquarters. A while later, MP Mariya Didi leading the MDP crowd marched into Republic Square, demanding to arrest the police. This was immediately followed by a stronger opposition crowd, now armed with pipes and rocks, which quickly escalated into a fight, also some police officers joined, eventually chasing the MDP crowd from the area.
From a leaked video Nasheed can be seen ordering MNDF officers to immediately go out and arrest the police force as they had attacked Mariya.
What followed next must have been the tipping point of no return for Nasheed’s term in office. Armed forces immediately started shooting tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at the police forces and opposition crowd. The ferocity of the attack was so high that one standing near MMA could not see the multi-story police building (Shaheed Hussain Adam Building) due to the heavy extent of tear gas.
Unluckily for Nasheed, the winds on that day blew most of the gas back onto MNDF headquarters and also schools in the center of Male were effected.
The attack only rattled the opposition and police forces, who were now throwing stones at MNDF headquarters. MNDF forces were forced to retreated back into their headquarters.
Calls for the release of Judge Abdullah Ghazee changed to louds roars for Nasheed’s resignation.
The mess Nasheed had created resembled a drunk out on a limb with a chainsaw.
Later rumors of his resignation flooded the crowd and that afternoon Nasheed met his cabinet in the President’s office and gave his resignation speech in front of the media.
And the very next day – you know what unfolded.
“There are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power. Once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others.” President Obama