Good morning everybody.

It’s a pleasure to meet you again. I think I have met many of you before. So I just wanted to make sure that you have a chance to talk to me a little bit.

I am not going to make an opening statement. I’ll just be open to your questions and then try to respond to your concerns.

My colleague here will moderate this meeting. If you could kindly introduce yourself and then ask one or two questions, because I’m getting a little bit old now and may not be able to remember a series of questions if you continue with too many questions. Just please limit yourself to one or two questions.

Susumu Arai – The Yomiuri Shimbun:

I understand there is an arrest warrant for Mr Nasheed, what will you do with it?


President Dr Waheed:

It’s not what I will do with it. It’s a police process. I just hope that they will not be too enthusiastic about restraining him because I really want everybody in this country to offer former President Nasheed the respect and the safety that he requires. Government is committed to his personal protection. It also requires a little bit of cooperation from his side because it will be very difficult for the government – for his bodyguards and security – to ensure his personal protection, if he keeps on sneaking out and joining demonstrations, then it will be very difficult for us to do the job of giving him that security. So I just hope that he will also provide some cooperation.

Our objective is not to inflate what is going on but to help calm down and get into a dialogue where we can come to an understanding on how we move forward towards the next election.

Susumu Arai – The Yomiuri Shimbun:

So you mean that so far you have not arrested him?

President Dr Waheed:

No, he is free. He is moving around and I understand he was about to travel today to the islands. But he is completely free. I am sure you are free to meet him anytime you want if he is available. He is able to participate at meetings and speak to anybody, meet anybody he wants.

Shanghai Morning Post:

I have two questions; number one is, Mr Nasheed said that he needs a snap election, but you said that the current environment was not conducted to hold a free and fair election. I don’t know why.

Second question is about the many travelers worried about the security in the Maldives, especially in Male’. What do you think about it?


President Dr Waheed:

Thank you. With regards to the demand for an election, the constitution has a solution into the problem. And that solution is, when the President resigns or is unable to perform his duties, then the Vice President has to step in. So what has happened is that the constitutional process has been followed.

You will also know that the next election is not very far away. In fact, there is just about year and a half before the next election. People have already started announcing their intention to run and so preparing for a next election is already underway. But I don’t agree that there is a need to go for a snap election at the moment and we are not ready for it. The country is deeply divided and the political landscape has many potholes and deep crypts so these things have to be healed before we can actually have a meaningful free and fair election. And my job, I believe very strongly, is to create that kind of environment, a political environment in which we could have a truly free and fair election.

I also think that if we try to force the election now, we might even get into more conflict in the country. And this is not in the interest of anyone. So I will try to be as fair and possible, as impartial as possible, and try to ensure that while we follow the good programs that we have in the government, we also establish some kind of rapport among the various political actors and then move towards, to stabilize and to consolidate our commitment to constitutional government, to respect of separation of powers and also very importantly to uphold the rule of law in the country.

We will not do the kinds of things we have seen in the past two or three years where they have been blatant and criminal violation of rights of people – basic rights of people. I think it really deserves patience and moving forward in a responsible manner.

Vikas Bajaj from New York Times:

I will ask you two questions but I’ll give you a chance to answer the first one.

Yesterday we heard from Mr Nasheed and others that there has been significant amount of violence in Addu and other far flung islands in the country. Your police spokesmen said there hasn’t been, the situation is calm. Can sort of give a status update as to what is happening in Addu whether people or the elected council leaders have been arrested or deposed, the mayor has been deposed, this is what Mr Nasheed said. What is the situation in Addu and the other islands?

President Dr Waheed:

First of all would like to call all parties to restrain themselves and not to fuel currently explosive situation. It is not a responsible form of leadership when you go around calling for violence. I am adamant about it. I really insist that no political leaders should call for violence in the country.

In Addu so much damage has been caused to public buildings but even more importantly, the public records in the judiciary, the entire judiciary has been affected there. The police centers and the police training center have been torched. But this has come following a call by MDP, President Nasheed's supporters for violence in a recent demonstration. The situation is calm now and I have been out here extending my hands and hoping that there will be more response.

I have talked to colleagues in MDP. I am going to form a government, hopefully with in the next day to two but I will still remain open to any overtures, any response from MDP. So yes, in short, the answer to your question is there has been extensive damage there. It will take millions and millions of dollars of investments to recover that.

On safety of visitors and so on, that was also raised, you have been here for a while, I think for a couple of days and you can compare. I am sure you have also been to other countries with these kinds of conflicts. We have had all government offices open, all schools open, hospitals working and resorts functioning and so on. So despite the fact that we have had deep differences and conflicts, the country continues to function, everything continues to functions here. I am greatly thankful that no foreign national has been to any harm, as far as I know and all the tourist who are coming to Maldives are completely safe and it is for you to judge, although there is tension underlying, the situation has been remained relatively calm.

Vikas Bajaj from New York Times:

My second question sir is, there has been a lot of criticism about the Judicial Services Commission and the process through which the judges has been appointed and disciplined or not. When you were Vice President, a lot of these things were going on. Do you feel like Maldives has made significant improvements in its justice system since becoming a democracy three years ago in 2008? Or do you feel like that a largely unaccomplished part of the democratization of the country, how comfortable do you feel that judiciary is independent and impartial?

President Dr Waheed:

You see no institutions of government today are perfect. Our democracy is very young and so there are improvements that have to be made in the executive branch. The presidency wasn’t functioning as it should be functioning. There were problems in the executive branch as well and there are also similar problems in the legislative branch! But under the Constitution that we have today, we are required to respect the independence of the judiciary.

The former president was involved in the appointment of the Supreme Court and even then he exercised, extraordinary interventions to force the kind of Supreme Court that he wanted.

The Judicial Service Commission has a number of very prominent people in it – some of the most educated, the most talented people in this country. That includes the Speaker of the Parliament, who was the former foreign minister; it includes the head of the Civil Service Commission, the Attorney General and many educated people in there. Why do we think that one person who is heading the executive branch knows much better than all these other people who are already there in the judiciary, who has the functional and legal responsibility to take action? It is very difficult to justify interventions but the head of the executive branch, in the judiciary and threaten the judiciary of its abolition. Threats were made to abolish the lower courts entirely and to reconfigure High Court and the Supreme Court, which he himself established. By doing that you create the fear and instability and insecurity that goes with their jobs. And this was a huge threat to the Judiciary. I don’t say that judiciary is perfect there are things that have to be improved but there is a process, there is a mechanism for that. I advised the president that we have to be patient, not to engage in extra constitutional activities.

None of your countries will tolerate, a head of state ordering the military to snatch a court judge, chief judge and take him off to an undisclosed location without access to lawyers. In a democracy this is unheard of. Nobody thinks about these things anymore. So it’s really unacceptable. There have been a series of actions by the President that undermined the Constitution and that tantamount to go against the Supreme Court Chief Justices verdicts and so on and so on. So this is not a single event and what broke the camels back, was the snatching of a judge and keeping him in detention by the military and the military was not happy with it either because they were being issued unlawful orders. So there is a pattern to this. Although we are talking about democracy and justice and independence of the judiciary, upholding the rule of law, it is those of who are in the leadership positions who have to demonstrate our commitment to democracy though our behaviors, though the actions and orders we issued.

I can assure you that my government will never go against the Constitution. It will uphold the Constitution. It will uphold the rule of law and respect the separation of powers that is built into our Constitution. We are committed to democracy. Democracy did not start three years ago. The struggle for democracy started long ago. We have all been part of that process. Mr Nasheed is not the only one who brought democracy to this country.
Of course he was the only militant one, the most famous one. But there were many people in this country who struggled for democracy and when
Mr Nasheed wanted to get elected he didn’t have support he needed. So he came to all of us for support. He came to me. I come from a different political party and I supported him. We didn’t win the first round. Second round we went and asked all the other political parties, and then we won. As soon as we won, he decided to chase out everybody and go by himself. That was the beginning of a political situation that have grown and deepened in the country. We need some healing here and to do that we need a bit of calm and quiet.

I am committed to this process. I know I have the capacity. I know I will be fair and allow this situation to improve. As an indication of my commitment I have said that no one from my party will get a cabinet post. I will open all possibilities to all the other political parties including MDP and when I fill most of the positions, I will leave substantial positions for MDP hoping they will still some though. My hands are open. My hands are reached and I hope that they will step down from the very confrontational, conflictual positions that they are taking. Of course former President Nasheed is an important leader of MDP. He is not the only leader of MDP. There are constitutionally elected leaders in that party who are silent at the moment. I have had discussions with some of them. I know there are intelligent people in MDP who are willing to work to work together for the interest of this country. It is irresponsible at this point to begin to escalate the situation and to create conflict.

This country is so vulnerable, geographically, economically and socially. We are such a small society. We cannot allow conflict to exacerbate. I also know that there is a role for the law enforcement agencies to ease the situation. I don’t approve of the kind of confrontation that went on the other day. It was regrettable, but still when you have a crowd of people coming out chanting public places to be burnt down and then you see so much damage caused, the law enforcement agencies will have to take action to stop it. Our priority is to establish law an order and security for everyone. And I am happy that we haven’t had any serious, more serious incidences in the country. I can assure you we will do everything possible to keep the situation under control to maintain a law an order situation.

Che Hongliang from Xinhua Agency

How do you think the current political situation will end? And what’s do you think the solution will be to the current deadlock since you came to power?

President Dr Waheed:

Yes, I think we will move forward. We will have dialogue. I think we will come up with a roadmap towards the next election, which will be held in 2013 as scheduled. I assure you that. I am optimistic that by working together we will create an environment that is free of deep crypts and anger and we will remove the hurt that is involved now and try to come up with a united approach to do go to this election.

This is my vision. But while we do that, we have a lot of other things that we need to do. We also have to stabilize our economy and we also have to continue our social development programs, like housing and insurances, social safety net programs and all those things have to continue. These things will not go on, these things will collapse if we engage in further conflict. This is why the only way to go forward is through dialogue, through consultation and through working together. We cannot look back now. We have to start moving forward.

Amal Jayasinghe from AFP

Just to check with you, you met Ambassador Blake this morning and the international community has been calling for some kind of investigation into the events of Tuesday. They are calling for an independent investigation. Are you agreeable to this? What are the assurances that you have given the international community through people like Ambassador Blake to reassure them that you are committed to what you’ve said?

President Dr Waheed:

I am fully committed to an independent investigation. I don’t want to setup a presidential commission to do that and to influence the process. There are constitutional mechanisms for doing that. I will discuss with all parties on how best we can achieve that. That includes MDP.

Amal Jayasinghe from AFP

There have been reports that there has been lot of arrests in the south as well as in other parts of the country. Mr Nasheed was telling me yesterday unless the crack down stops within 24hrs, he would take to the streets and escalate his demonstrations and protests. He was saying medicine in male’ is the strength on the street. So how do you respond to that? Can you give us a sense of the arrests? How many have been taken in? And do you really plan to release them quickly or what’s your take on that?

President Dr Waheed:

I know there have been some arrests. There have also been damages caused to public property. Criminal activities have gone on we cannot shut our eyes to it. So those who are perpetrators and where there is substantial evidence to support it, I cannot interfere in law enforcement agencies doing their job. I can assure you that there will be no political detainees in this country. There are no political detainees in this country now and it will not happen. We will not keep people beyond the statutory limit of detention for investigation, without the proper procedures. We will not hold people unduly. We will always charge if we have to. So I can assure you that rule of law will be followed.

I have had some conflicting figures I don’t have the latest with me now. We can check that out and give you in a minute.

I am fully committed to an independent investigation.

Krishan Francis from Associated Press:

Just an extension to what Amal Jayasinghe asked. Are you concerned that your government is not fully recognized even though people are working with you, there seems to be some question mark as to how power transfer took place?

President Dr Waheed:

Let me correct you there. Nobody has questioned the legality of my assumption of office. It was done according to the Constitution by the people who are supposed to perform it. There are some questions about what preceded my assumption of office and this is where we are saying, I am completely open to an independent investigation of what went beyond that. So I want the record to be straight that there is no question from anybody who I have met about the legality of my assuming office and so on because that followed the Constitution.

Krishan Francis from Associated Press:

Mr. Nasheed was of the opinion that you do not have public support and you struggled to form a government even though it’s been a few days since you took office. Do you think you are fully in control of the country and that you are not being a puppet of anybody?

President Dr Waheed:

I can assure you that the law and order situation will continue to be under control and we will have smooth environment here, if former President Nasheed cooperates with us. If he doesn’t provoke people and incite violence, we will have peace and security here. You don’t have to worry about anything.

I have full support of all the active political parties. I have full support of the military and also full support of the police. So there is no question about it. As of forming a government, true I'm taking time. But there is a very important reason why I'm taking time and that is because I want people to come together and I want to form a national government. I want to keep the door open for MDP to join this dialogue and join this team. I have said nobody from my political party will be given any posts in the cabinet. So I'm really committed to being fair and to be impartial and to engage with all including colleagues in MDP.

As for support for me, I have not asked for demonstration of my support. I don’t think that is a priority at the moment. The priority right now is to remain calm, to try to find solution to this problem, not to show my strength. I’m telling you if I have to show it I’ll show it, if people have doubts about it. I don’t know why he has raised this issue in the first place but you will see.

Susitha Fernando – Xinhua:

Are you going to contest against Nasheed if the election was held at any time?

My second question is if the demonstrations are continued like this, what are you going to do?

President Dr Waheed:

I can’t say yes or no to the first question because I haven’t really given thought to it. My priority is to respond to call of duty for my country and to be as fair as I can, and to be as proactive and bring everything that I have, all experience and education that I have to bear upon the situation so that we can actually find a way forward.

So this is really the priority and the moment. As for more violence and so on, I told you there will be no violence and there will be no conflict here, if President Nasheed cooperates and if President Nasheed stops calling for violence in this country. I’m expecting responsible leadership from Mr Nasheed. I know he is a celebrity in some ways, and he likes to be on the streets. But we have to take national interest first, not his personal popularity or his personal desire to become famous on the street. If you’re responsible you have to begin to put national interest first. And here, we have our hands open. I have reached out to the party to work with us.

Nils Horner – National Swedish radio

What was your reaction to the attack on the national museum? And secondly are you concerned about the spread extremism in this country?

President Dr Waheed:

This is totally unacceptable. The museum is our heritage, that’s where we have our history. And I will not tolerate that. It is not acceptable at all. We need to protect that.

Of course when something like that happens automatically it is used as a case of extremism. I can assure you that there are no extremists’ violent activities in this country. And in a Muslim society, you have to expect parties that are representing religious perspectives. This is natural. This also happens in advanced developed countries. So in that sense even in President Nasheed’s cabinet he always had a minister representing Islamic Ministry. And in my cabinet also we will have somebody representing that.

But the majority of the intellectuals in this country will also be reflected in the cabinet, where you will have mostly highly educated, mostly western educated people in that cabinet, who will have to engage with each other to find a way forward that is acceptable to majority of the population here.

So these are fears that are being played on for political reasons and I urge you not to pay too much attention to that. I’m optimistic that our leadership, that my leadership and the colleagues I have in the cabinet, are reasonable people who understand what development means- what is good socially and culturally for our people.

Raimondo Bultrin – La Repubblica

What was the reason why it was necessary to get rid of former president by the country which is such a strategic country in this area? So what was so serious in his behavior? I can give a few points: the judge who was arrested. But the judge was arrested for corruption allegations. You and others in the government agreed that there was some problem with this judge. So who was making more problems, the judge or the former President?

And then the behaviour of the former President faced many allegations, like he was having alcohol in his house that is forbidden here, that he is anti Islamic sort of way. So the people here have fear of what he putting in the capital town mainly…who were before closed inside the resorts. So the population doesn’t like this. So which one of these allegations, the judge, the anti-Islamic was the stronger one? Which one? The motivation really lead the police or army to a rebellion against him and put you in his place?

President Dr Waheed:

I don’t know exactly what inspired, what happened. In the sense that, with the information I have now, I categorically deny that there was an over throw. It’s not the case. There’s not only one incident. There has been a series of violations and contempt of court, criminal contempt of the court by the President over a period of time, which included among other things locking down the Supreme Court, arresting leaders of two political parties and detaining them arbitrarily without charging them and international community had to intervene to have them released. And suddenly very erratically asking his entire cabinet to resign one day and all of them to go to the parliament to demonstrate outside, putting locks on parliament gates.

This kind of erratic and irresponsible and sometimes unconstitutional actions had gone on over the last two, three years. People have been very patient with him and then what brought the … back, as I said, was this particular incidence. When, you know, you have a country where you have reasonable, well educated people, highest appreciated in the whole region, many of us educated in the west, who want a society in which we are free from fear. And for the first time, after many years of struggle, we have a constitution that guarantees bill of rights, individual freedoms, and safety, individual safety, a separation of powers and the rule of law, all of these things.

And suddenly you find out that, suddenly in the middle of the night, it’s not Mr Ghazi himself that we are worried about, but suddenly you have a President who has ordered his military to go and snatch a judge from his bed. And take him to an undisclosed location, and keep him there indefinitely without any access to legal assistance. If he had charges against him, you should bring charges against him.

This is the issue. It’s not about the judge it’s about a serious criminal violation of the constitution and the judiciary and civil rights. A champion of democracy cannot do something like this. You cannot infringe on the personal liberty of somebody irrespective of who it is. Today it is a judge. Tomorrow it is the head of another political party and then another day it’s an Islamic scholar or somebody else.

So this is something that people will not tolerate in this country and it is an affirmation of our belief in democracy and democratic values for which we are not ready to compromise. And when he starts issuing unlawful and unconstitutional demands, people sometimes stand up and say “enough is enough”.

So he realized he did not have the support of his own military, support of his own police force, and support of a large population of this country. And now he is behaving like he’s somebody who has been overthrown and victimized. If ever there is a cause of what happened, he is largely responsible for it, nobody else.

There was no plan, there was no thought, if we all had a plan to do this we would be much better prepared. Where are we? You know our story hasn’t gone out. We don’t have a media strategy. We don’t have people to work with us. Because all the important positions in the government and private sector were taken by MDP, of the President’s party because he didn’t want any other people in every single job.

So this is the situation. There was something wrong with it so the people said “enough is enough”.

Raimondo Bultrin – La Repubblica

Can you compare him to the former President Gayyoom?

President Dr Waheed:

You see, I don’t want to judge. It’s not my role to judge.

Raimondo Bultrin – La Repubblica

The last 15 minutes…

President Dr Waheed:

I don’t want to compare. There were abuses earlier, and there were abuses. That’s where we decided we wanted a new constitution. We struggled for it and then we got a constitution. And then we expect things to change.

Raimondo Bultrin – La Repubblica

So you don’t consider yourself close to the former President Nasheed?


President Dr Waheed:

I am close to President Nasheed. I have not seen former President Maumoon for a very very long time. And he spends a lot of his time abroad. I have not spoken to him until after I assumed my position now. I never talked to him.

And so it is unfair to find a bogey man and say that guy is responsible for all of this, which is not the case. And if it was the case I would be forced to take only his people into my cabinet, don’t you think?

Raimondo Bultrin – La Repubblica

Minister Qasim, he is going to join your cabinet?

President Dr Waheed:

Minister Qasim is not joining my cabinet I can tell you that. In fact, I’m saying that anybody who has presidential aims should not actually come. Let it be a team that is mostly technocracy, and that is mostly young people who will come in and manage this for the next few months.

So it’s really, I also see this as a great opportunity now. I know they have been heard on all sides, but let us move forward. And here I’m open to assist in that process. I don’t think there is anybody in this country more qualified to assist in this process than I am. I have served three years as the head of UN in Afghanistan. I have worked in Yemen. I have spent 5 years in Lebanon during the civil war.

So I have extensive experience and I know, I have always been saying that conflicts have to be resolved peacefully. There are people who are capable to assist us in doing these things, and we need to follow a peaceful approach. This is very irresponsible to be on the street and destroying things. Please don’t approve this kind of approach. I hope the international community will support a peaceful approach through dialogue to move forward toward a peaceful, free and fair election.


Karishma Vyas - AFP TV:

So yesterday Mr. Nasheed said that he would support a transition where the speaker of the house assumes the highest role for a few months, for two or three months until elections can be drawn up would it not be best for the country’s stability, economy all the kind of issues that you mentioned for a new government to be formed with the support of the public so nobody could say that it was a coup or that you were not elected.

President Dr Waheed:

The answer is simple. There is a constitutional solution for that problem and that is for the sitting Vice President to take office. I will challenge anybody to prove that I had anything to do with the change that has happened. I am only responding to a constitutional duty and I am sure that the speaker of the parliament who used to be my student will agree with me that I am well qualified to assist my country in this time of need.

Karishma Vyas - AFP TV:

So would it not be better for the people of this country if this was all laid to rest through their votes in a ballot box?

President Dr Waheed:

Yes definitely the ballot box is coming and not very far. but the ballot box itself cannot be done peacefully unless we actually build the ground and get it ready for that. So it’s not in the cards. I cannot accept a rushed election at the moment. We have an opportunity to seize, to rebuild this country. And this is what I am determined to do.

President Nasheed wants something you know we cannot be decided unilaterally. You know we have other political parties in this country. MDP is not the only one. And besides what right does he have, as head of his party, he doesn’t even hold an office of position in that party. If he thinks that we don’t have support, of course we’ll show him that we have people’s support, people’s backings. I have proud political parties in this country who are backing me. And then I have the law enforcement agencies, all the law enforcement agencies’ fully backing me so this is not acceptable.

Rishi Lekhi - Associated Press Television:

So there have been reports that Nasheed has been offered asylum by the Indian government. Are these reports true? And what do you think about the Indian government’s action?

President Dr Waheed:

Ok, I’m not aware of this, I cannot respond to it since I am totally unaware of this, if there is an offer like that. But if it comes up of course if it’s raised we are open to dialogue. I believe that really I am the constitutional head of state in the Maldives and I will, I have a moral, legal responsibility to engage with anybody who wants to discuss these things with me.


Sir is there a need for Mr Nasheed to seek political asylum?

President Dr Waheed:

No, absolutely not. If he wants to engage in a political process in a dialogue, he is free to work with us. There is no compulsion from anybody for him to leave this country. I have assured you even earlier, that he will be given full protection and respect that a former president deserves.


The investigation that you talked about, are you open to any kind of external involvement?

President Dr Waheed:

We have a Constitution, we have independent institutions here now and I believe that we should discuss how this can be done with our local partners, not only the political parties but also the human rights commission and other bodies, the parliament and let them decide.

I don’t want to preempt the discussions by suggesting it should be done in a certain way. All I can promise you is, I will not form a presidential commission of investigation on this I don’t want to have a hand in this process.

So I really appreciate you being here with me and clarifying some of your concerns this morning and I will assure you that I will do everything possible to have a peaceful Maldives and to guarantee the safety and security to all of our visitors to Maldives. And Please continue to come and enjoy in the Maldives, you are witness to the situation here in spite of the tension that is going on, it is peaceful on the whole.

Thank you very much. I look forward to meeting you again at some other time.