Former SAARC Secretary-General Beaten for Criticizing Government over Mounting Tensions with India

Reference No: 114/11/2012
19 November 2012

Former SAARC Secretary-General Beaten for Criticizing Government
over Mounting Tensions with India

“Attack against Zaki is an attack against democracy and an attack against India” – MDP

Mr. Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, a close political ally of the ousted President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, and a former Secretary-General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was severely beaten by police over the weekend, after he publicly criticized the Government for its mishandling of relations with India – the Maldives’ most important friend and regional partner; and criticized the role of the army in the 7th February coup d’etat.

Mr.Zaki was speaking against the backdrop of growing nationalist and anti-Indian rhetoric by senior members of the Waheed Administration, including President Waheed himself; rhetoric which has seen Maldives-India relations plunge to their lowest-level since Independence. The growing diplomatic crisis is over the Male’ International Airport, which was leased to the Indian infrastructure company, GMR, for redevelopment by the Nasheed Administration following an open public tender.

Key members of the Maldives’ political and economic elite (including former President Gayoom and his associates) have long opposed this move toward privatization which they fear will reduce their hold over the country. Thereafter, after orchestrating the removal of President Nasheed, they and their political ally, Mohamed Waheed, have stirred up nationalist and Islamic extremist sentiment as a tool to force GMR to forego its lease.

As a former SAARC Secretary-General, former Cabinet Minister, and respected regional statesman and diplomat, Mr. Zaki has repeatedly warned against these tactics which threaten the Maldives’ crucial bilateral relationship with India. He has also spoken to other governments in the region about the growing influence of the army and police in the Maldives since the February coup d’etat. Mr. Zaki have also criticized the role of the army in toppling the country’s first democratic Government.

Mr. Zaki is a veteran Foreign Service professional who rose through the ranks to the position of the first Maldivian to hold the post of the SAARC Secretary General. He also held the Planning and Tourism portfolios in the Gayoom administration. He left the Government of President Gayoom citing the lack of democratic reforms, and became one of the first to sign-on as a member of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) – the Maldives’ first Democratic Party. Later he was the MDP’s first vice-president and then, as acting president, formed MDP’s first shadow Cabinet to hold the thirty-year autocratic government of President Gayoom accountable. He also played a leading role in the country’s constitutional and democratic reform process. Most recently he has remained a close advisor of President Nasheed acting as Special Envoy to the President. Throughout, he has remained a firm friend of India and a strong advocate of close Maldives-Indian relations.

Recently, Mr. Zaki also spoke in detail to the media about the attempted coup d’etat of November 3, 1988, when a group of Tamil Tiger mercenaries invaded the Maldives and were swiftly thwarted through timely Indian Army intervention. Zaki recently alluded to the event as organised and that the few Maldivians who were charged of treason were actually hired to do what they did. The rest were innocent.

At that time, Mr. Zaki was the key government representative in negotiation with India to send a Peacekeeping Force (IPKF), a step widely credited with saving the then Government. His recent comments included criticism of the actions of army generals at the time. With today’s Maldivian government heavily dependent on the armed forces, criticism of the police or army is considered almost sacrilegious and Mr. Zaki’s comments are known to have angered the security forces – which provided another pretext for this weekend’s attack.
Reacting to the criticism, this weekend the Government dispatched boatloads of police on a ‘special operation’ to arrest Mr. Zaki on a small island where he and family, colleagues, including Members of Parliament, were staying. Guests at the retreat were pulled from their beds in the early hours of the morning, severely beaten with batons. Mr. Zaki was beaten on his thighs, back and face, handcuffed and dragged away to a neighbouring island. One of the MPs present, Mr. Jabir, who was also beaten, claimed the police were acting “as if they wanted to kill Zaki and myself”. Another person present saw Zaki was attacked by two people and heard him scream in pain pleading them to stop. The police also delayed in providing Zaki his medication.

Mr. Zaki was hospitalized following the attack, which is part of a pattern which has seen opponents of Mohamed Waheed regularly imprisoned and/or beaten by police. These attacks, especially against Members of Parliament, have escalated as Parliament moves to impeachment proceedings against the illegitimate President, Mohamed Waheed.

Speaking about the latest cases of police brutality, MDP’s international spokesperson Mr Hamid Abdul Ghafoor who was also severely beaten and arrested alongside Mr. Zaki, said: “The attack against Zaki is an attack against democracy and against India. It is a further example, if one were needed, of the Maldives’ descent into a police state – where the security forces are beyond criticism, and can act with complete impunity”.


Hamid Abdul Ghafoor
Spokesperson, International Affairs