News24

Maldives ex-ruler hails new government

2012-02-10 20:00

Kuala Lumpur - The Maldives' former strongman ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on Friday hailed the island nation's new government as legitimate and denied charges he was involved in engineering a coup.

Gayoom, who governed with an iron grip for three decades, also would not rule out a bid to return to power following Tuesday's resignation of elected leader Mohamed Nasheed, who quit in a move he said was forced by a police and army mutiny.

The Indian Ocean island nation has been rocked by weeks of opposition-led protests capped by the resignation of Nasheed, who has alleged a conspiracy with the involvement of Gayoom and former Vice President Mohamed Waheed.

Waheed has since been sworn in as president.

"Mr Waheed is the democratically elected president of the Maldives, according to our constitution. I called him and congratulated him," Gayoom, who is currently on a visit to Malaysia, said by phone.

Nasheed, who was imprisoned on several occasions during Gayoom's 30-year autocratic reign, defeated him in 2008 elections hailed as heralding a new era of democracy and progressive politics.

Elections

Gayoom, who had taken over leadership of the opposition, rejected Nasheed's allegations he was involved in orchestrating a coup.

"No, I had no involvement at all. I had no personal involvement in anything like a coup organised by myself," he said.

"He [Nasheed] resigned on his own."

Nasheed has demanded that Waheed step down and fresh elections be held, but Gayoom said there should be no elections until the next polls are due in 2013.

Gayoom, who said he would return home within days, also would not rule out a future bid to reclaim the presidency.

"I haven't decided yet. You can say I am keeping my options open. I don't think I will but I cannot rule it out. It depends on the circumstances," he said.

Lasting impact

Violence gripped the holiday paradise archipelago on Wednesday and Thursday, with pro-Nasheed demonstrators overrunning at least 18 police stations on outlying islands and torching government buildings.

Gayoom said there should be no lasting impact on a country that depends on foreign tourists drawn to its turquoise waters, coral-fringed beaches and luxury resorts, saying Waheed's ascension to the presidency was "legal".

But he hit out at international media, calling them "biased for depicting this as a coup or something illegal".