News24

Gillard takeover likened to Maldives 'coup'

2012-02-14 14:02

Sydney - Australia's parliament erupted in laughter on Tuesday when discussing a "coup" in the Maldives, as the opposition attempted to compare the situation to how Prime Minister Julia Gillard seized power.

Gillard's government has been rocked by rumblings that the man she deposed in a Labour Party room coup in 2010 to become leader, Kevin Rudd, may challenge her for the leadership to salvage the party's hopes of staying in office.

The issue flared after claims were aired overnight that Gillard's office prepared an acceptance speech two weeks before Rudd was deposed, and the opposition seized on the Maldives situation to bring it up in parliament.

"While the new leader of the Maldives says he did not bring about the coup, reports have surfaced that he was involved in coup preparations that began weeks earlier," said opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Julie Bishop.

"Does the foreign minister agree that the new leader should tell the full truth about his involvement in the coup?"

The pointed question drew roars of laughter from the opposition benches, but a stony-faced Rudd stood his ground, reminding lawmakers who were enjoying the comparison that much was at stake in the Maldives.

Trivialising

"Those opposite seem to think that this is a trivial matter, when hundreds of people are being beaten in the streets," the foreign minister said.

"Those opposite trivialise the fact that hundreds of people have been arrested, that hundreds of people have been subjected to violence in the streets of the capital city of Male and on top of that, that we are likely to have seen the forced removal - under threat of armed violence with guns - of a democratically elected head of state."

Rudd said he had spoken to the former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, three nights ago and had been involved in moves to send a Commonwealth mission to Male to establish whether the coup occurred through violent means.

"If so, the necessary course of action would be suspension from the Commonwealth. We take these matters seriously," Rudd said.

"As foreign minister of Australia I do not regard them as trivial."

Australia, as chair of the Commonwealth bloc of nations, had been involved in a weekend teleconference to discuss the situation which saw new Maldives president Mohamed Waheed oust Nasheed.

The Muslim nation has been hit by violence since Nasheed was deposed. The ex-president insists he was removed in a military-backed coup following weeks of opposition protests.