Top government officials Thursday moved quickly to downplay media reports of an imminent opposition move to oust incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom from office.
Hours after BBC reported on the imminent plot, fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee insisted that the government is strongly backed by Maldivians who have experienced unparalleled development in Yameen’s tenure.
“It can’t be toppled by [a] bunch of clowns,” Shainee who serves as the co-chair of the economic council said.
The British public service broadcaster quoted sources saying the opposition plans to move against the president “within weeks.”
According to the BBC report, details of what is being planned remain obscure but the government has described it as a “formal attempt at ‘legally’ overthrowing the government”.
The report comes in the wake of an imminent opposition led sit-down in neighbouring Sri Lanka.
Jailed former president Mohamed Nasheed currently living in exile in Britain has reportedly flown in for the meeting.
According to reliable sources, Nasheed has flown to Sri Lanka to take part in ‘an important sit-down over the present crisis in the Maldives.’
Details of the meeting remain sketchy as neither the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) nor the recently formed opposition alliance are yet confirm Nasheed’s visit to Sri Lanka.
However, reports indicate that former vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed who heads the Maldives United Opposition (MUO) would also join the talks in Sri Lanka.
In another Tweet, Shainee lambasted the opposition by stressing that the people’s power is stronger than a few “traitors” who seek foreign help for self benefit.
“Cannot topple this government,” the senior minister reiterated.
Shainee’s comment was backed by newly appointed home minister Azleen Ahmed who said the security forces were ready to face any unlawful attempt to overthrow a democratic government.
Azleen told Mihaaru that overthrowing an elected government was illegal and was something that cannot be accepted anywhere in the world.
“The rumours are designed to scare the people. The opposition don’t have it in them to pull off something of such magnitude,” he added.
The Indian Ocean archipelago adopted multi-party democracy in 2008 after three decades of rule by Yameen’s half brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
But it has been gripped by turmoil since its first democratically-elected leader Nasheed was toppled in 2012 in what he claims was a coup.
Nasheed, whose jailing last year on terror charges has been widely criticised by the West, has since secured political asylum in Britain after travelling there for medical treatment while on prison leave.
Opposition parties, some of which had opposed Nasheed earlier, have united in their campaign against Yameen.
The newly formed MUO had vowed to oust Yameen and form an interim government to ensure free and fair elections scheduled in 2018.
The MUO has brought together the MDP, the Adhaalath Party, two of Yameen’s former deputies and his former defence minister.
In a bid to thwart the opposition efforts, Yameen has looked to tighten his grip on power by introducing a series of controversial legislation pushed through the government controlled parliament.
A strict defamation law has come in to force, with stiff punishments for comments or actions considered insulting to Islam or which “contradict general social norms”, which was quickly followed by tighter restrictions on demonstrations in the capital Male.
The death penalty is also being reintroduced, after a 60-year unofficial moratorium. The moves have drawn criticism from the UN, the UK, the EU and the US.
Yameen who has been repeatedly linked to the biggest corruption scandal in the history of the archipelago has also instigated a series of purges of the security forces in his three-year tenure.
Most recently, several soldiers were detained inside the military headquarters before being released last week.
Sources within the military say that four soldiers have been detained inside the military headquarters including a soldier named Fathah who was in security detail of Nasheed’s spouse, Laila Ali.
Police launched a criminal investigation into some of the soldiers, shortly after they were released.
The arrests come in the wake of the defence ministry barred soldiers from meeting politicians and foreign diplomats.
MNDF had said soldiers are barred from meeting ministers, lawmakers, political appointees, candidates seeking public office, political party leaders and political activists without prior permission from a senior military official.
The ban also extends to foreign diplomats, officers of foreign armies and other foreign representatives
Soldiers have also been barred from social gatherings attended by politicians and foreigners.
Al Jazeera meanwhile is set to release a documentary which it claims would uncover new evidence of mass corruption in the Maldives.
Created by the Emmy and BAFTA winning Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the documentary would be aired on September 9.
The invitation for the release of the documentary, titled ‘Stealing Paradise’ has been opened publicly.
The invitation card claims that “Al Jazeera has uncovered new evidence of corruption, theft and abuse of power. The award winning investigative team reveals how a president hijacked a nation and millions of dollars were stolen”.
The hugely anticipated documentary is believed to have been made on the largest embezzlement of state funds in the history of the tiny island nation which has been heavily linked to president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
An official audit report had revealed that over USD79 million had been embezzled through the state tourism promotion company.
President Yameen had been questioned by the corruption watchdog over a transaction that a company involved in the scandal had made to his personal account in the Islamic Bank.