by Azra Naseem
Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, who took oath of office as President of the Maldives on 7 February, gave an interview to the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) on 8 May 2012. Dhivehi Sitee has seen a copy of the English translation of the interview. Shared here is Dhivehi Sitee’s reading of the document. Some of the questions and responses have been summarised for brevity. Where I have been unable to decipher a coherent meaning from the translation, I have left the text and words as is, marked [sic].
Could you tell us details of how your meeting with the Coalition on 30 January 2012?
Leaders of the Civil Alliance first asked me to meet them on 20 January. By then they had been protesting for several days and nights. It was Adhaalath Party President Imran who called and requested the meeting. I think it was a Friday. I said I could meet him at 4:00 p.m. I informed President Nasheed via an SMS. If you wish, you can send someone from the President’s Office to participate, I told him. There was no response. Circumstances prevented them from coming, so the meeting did not happen.
A few days passed, and he called me again. I think it was the night of 30 January. They would come to meet me after the protests ended for the night.
Usually, the protests ended late. Some nights they went on until 2:00. Some people stayed up watching the protests on television till about 1:00. Me too. I usually stayed up until the end. They did not come at 12:00 as agreed. I received information they were coming to see me after a meeting elsewhere. When they came, there were about fifteen or twelve of them.
There were some leaders, leaders of protests too. This included Imran, Umar Naseer…I can’t recall their names right now…they came. As it was, before this meeting, I happened to have said something about Abdulla Ghaazee’s arrest. First I wrote a blog post saying I did not agree with the decision, and that I wasn’t happy about it.
Later, at a press conference I gave at the President’s Office, I said,
“I still believe he [Abdulla Ghaazee] should be released. But he mustn’t return to the bench until all issues surrounding him were addressed.”
From then on, everyone was ‘indignant’ [sic] with me. At the same time, I was becoming more popular among the protesters. Others, however, were not happy with me for saying that Abdulla Ghaazee should be released though not allowed on the bench.
I thought this was the reason they wanted to meet me. To ask me about what I had said. Considering how they do things, I assumed they were putting it on. It had been a long time since the protests started and, at the time, they were losing momentum. I thought it was just a PR stunt.
I believed, and still do, that Abdulla Ghaazee should have been released.
When they did turn up, I told them why I thought Abdulla Ghaazee should be released.
“He was arrested extra-legally. But, with the problems surrounding him, a judge of a court, he shouldn’t be on the bench,” these were my thoughts.
Even if requested by the judiciary, or acting on his own volition, Abdulla Ghaaze must not return to the bench until all investigations pending against him were completed. That would have been the best for peace and harmony.
“If there is a change in leadership, given how the protests are going, are you ready to take on the responsibilities of the government?” they responded.
“There is no need for a question like that. If, for any reason, the President steps aside, I should take his place. That’s my legal responsibility”, I told them.
“Say you had to carry out the responsibility. What would you do then?” one of them, I don’t know who, asked me.
“I am a member of a small party. This government came to power in a coalition,” I responded. If I were to take on the responsibility, I said, “I will work with everyone.”
“If that’s how you stand, we are with you,” they responded.
“We have a pact now,” one of them said to me as they left.
That was how the meeting went.
There was a cabinet meeting the next morning. The moment I walked in, before I was able to say a word, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed jumped up.
“That was some meeting last night! I will not sit at the same table with someone who’s been in such a meeting!” Sheikh Hussein Rasheed walked out.
Other Ministers wanted to know what I had discussed at the meeting. I got a little upset.
“None of your business. I don’t have to answer to Ministers,” I said. I was really very displeased with them.
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” I said. “It’s not that I am going to keep it from you, it’s just that there’s no need for such questioning.”
The questions came mostly from people like Shifa, Zulfa, Hassan Latheef. The rest had none to ask.
I told them what I have just told you, what happened [at the meeting], what we talked about.
They began asking more questions. The President interrupted.
“The Vice President has explained what happened. That’s the end of it,” he said.
There were no more questions; it was the last time we talked about it. That was during a working meeting. Later that day, in the afternoon, there was an official meeting. No questions were asked.
Did anyone in the Civil Alliance ask you not to resign under any circumstances?
Yes, that’s possible. I am not someone who has ever thought of resigning. I had been given a post…it is possible that if someone had asked me if I planned on resigning, I would have said ‘No, I have no such plan.’
Why should anyone even ask me such a question? I don’t know why I should resign at all.
Why did you make a statement at around 2:30-3:00 on the morning of 7 February asking everyone to act within the law. You also warned the military and police. Why?
Yes. As usual, we were watching the protest. What we saw that night was unusual. We saw the police leaving the place [Artificial Beach] and a fight breaking out. As far as I remember, I do make such statements on occasion. So I gave a statement that night, too, asking everyone to act according to the law.
“If things carry on like this, it may get out of control,” I thought.
No one was asking me anything, no one sought my counsel. As Vice President, I was very concerned with what was happening. That’s why I gave the statement, so everyone could hear.
How much truth is in the statement that President Nasheed called you on the 7th and received no response?
The last time President Nasheed spoke to me was at tea, after the cabinet meeting. I haven’t spoken to him since. If he had called me, there would be a call log, right? His number is still in my phone as HEP. If he had called me, my phone would register a missed call, right? He did not call me. Had he wanted to, there were plenty of options. We are both under the protection of the SPG [security detail]. If he had asked one of the officers to call me, or fetch me, they would have done so. I don’t believe he called me at all.
Did you contact any political leaders of the Civil Alliance during the events of 7 February?
Not even slightly do I recall talking to any political leaders that night.
Is there any truth to President Nasheed’s various, and changing, statements that you were a leader in this mutiny, that deals had been made and other such stories?
I have no such information.
President Maumoon made a statement that night. Did you have any role in that?
I did not talk to President Maumoon. I first talked to Maumoon only after this change was brought.
Why did you not attend the cabinet working session on the morning of 7 February?
As you know, so much was happening in Male’ that day. Huge events. On TV I saw President Nasheed go out to the Republic Square. I saw fighting. I forgot it was a working day, that a cabinet meeting was scheduled for the day. The whole day was so chaotic, I completely forgot about the cabinet meeting. I didn’t think anyone would be going to work that day so I stayed home. We hadn’t slept that night.
In the afternoon, Abdulla Shahid called to say the President was about to resign. This, too, made me sure there wouldn’t be a cabinet meeting that day. Isn’t this to be expected in a situation like this?
The way things were going, it just didn’t occur to me there would be a cabinet meeting that day. I would have been really anxious when I heard the President was to resign. I didn’t hear it from the President, he did not talk to me or call me. Abdulla Shahid did.
“It will only be official when I receive the letter. I haven’t got it yet. I’ll call you when I have it,” Shahid said.
One and a half hours later he rang me again. He had received the letter. Would I come to the People’s Majlis and take the oath?
So, actually, I didn’t know there was a cabinet meeting that day. No one from the President’s Office called to say a Cabinet meeting was on, no one called to invite me.
I forgot. But, surely someone from the President’s Office could have phoned and asked if I were coming? Nobody did. There were cabinet ministers around him when he resigned, I saw it on TV. I only learned later that his resignation had been preceded by a cabinet meeting.
It has been alleged that, during a time of such crisis, you failed to perform your responsibilities as Vice President. How do you respond?
To fulfil my responsibilities, I made a statement. I believed I had to say something, so I made a statement urging obedience to the law. I said I was willing to help in anyway I can with everything. I made the statement because no one in the government was in touch with me.
President Nasheed didn’t call me. He made no attempt to discuss things with me. And, given our relationship at the time, I didn’t want to take the initiative and get involved in things he hadn’t invited me to. He hadn’t called me, so I didn’t know how things were going. But I did call [retired Major General] Moosa Jaleel sometime in the morning, when the police-military confrontation began. He did not answer.
Did President Nasheed ask you then, or at any time, to finish up and go? To ‘retreat’ [sic] or resign?
No. Never. But, back when the whole cabinet resigned, he discussed the possibility of mid-term elections with a lot of people. Mid-term elections could only be held if both of us resigned together. But, even then, he did not ask me to resign. I learned indirectly that he, or others, wanted me to resign.
The British High Commissioner, in a meeting about a year and a half ago, asked me what my plan was.
“How will I know what to do? It’s not been discussed with me. When the time comes, I will do the best for my country,” I replied.
**Dhivehi Sitee Note: What the transcript says next is below in quotation marks. I am not sure of the meaning of the paragraph, so I have left it as it is. **End of Note
Then he asked me what was Plan B, I told him that Plan B was to go according to this within this unrests, then the High Commissioner asked me if so what was Plan C. Nobody replied to that, then the Commissioner told that it is talking to each other. Plan C was not followed later.
How much truth is in the statement that you sent some people to take over TVM before President Nasheed resigned?
My younger brother called me to tell me he was there. But it was after I took my oath. He worked in TVM for a long time, and would go there on other people’s request. I don’t know the details. I told him to remain there until we knew what was going on. He did. I began working on handing over TVM to MBC the next day. Within two days of me becoming President—in less than 48 hours—the board of MBC came to meet me.
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said. I handed over the responsibility of handing over TVM and Radio Maldives to MBC to the Attorney General. It took several days—around two weeks, I think, to make the required changes to the board, transferring assets and such like. As soon as the changes were completed he [brother] left TVM.
Do you believe that the situation got to a level where President Nasheed had to resign?
No, I don’t believe that. Not at all. I was surprised. President Nasheed is not someone who does things that easily. From what I have seen, he never did anything he did not want to do. I believe that things could have been resolved through talking. Why that didn’t happen, I don’t know.
How come people who led things that day have been given such high posts?
‘We all expected it to turn like this’ [sic]. When things changed, and I came to be in charge, my first priority was to maintain law and order. The Attorney General advised me, too, that I should first secure the Police, Home Affairs, and Defence.
So I gathered members of all political parties and continued to do things according to their advice. They suggested those names. They are not people I know.
But then again, I don’t know a lot of people.