Jailed former president Mohamed Nasheed for the first time publicly admitted that his arch nemesis and predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has joined the opposition led push to oust incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
“We have always understood democracy to be the best path of development and a better life. We’ve always advocated that, and when we see Gayoom on the same page as us, it would be very foolhardy of us to turn around and go," Nasheed told The India Express on Sunday from Colombo just before he left to Britain where he has been living in exile.
The former president had arrived in Sri Lanka in what has reportedly been to attend a series of sit-downs over an imminent move to oust Yameen from office.
Nasheed who has been granted asylum in the UK after he was allowed to leave for medical treatment in an internationally brokered deal in January has united the main opposition parties and stepped up efforts to remove Yameen from office.
Nasheed had been sentenced last March on a terrorism charge over the arrest and subsequent detention of a sitting Judge during his presidency, in a trial widely criticized for lack of due process.
Nasheed, a climate change activist who was also imprisoned during the three-decade rule of former strongman Gayoom, was elected president in 2008.
But he was forced to resign in February 2012 after a mutiny by police and troops, which followed protests over the arrest of the top judge for alleged corruption as well as for politically motivated rulings.
Yameen, a half-brother of former strongman Gayoom, won a presidential election run-off against Nasheed in late 2013.
According to Nasheed, president Yameen’s position had become "untenable" and “there’s every reason to believe a transitional arrangement can be made that will have a unity government” until elections in 2018.
Such an arrangement would comprise the Maldivian Democratic Party and other opposition parties, now banded together as the Maldivian United Opposition, along with ruling party dissidents led by Gayoom, half-brother of president Yameen, Nasheed added.
The two brothers have been locked in an ugly power struggle for ruling party control which has split the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in two.
“How exactly this will be triggered, the modalities of how exactly we will migrate to a transitional government, are under discussion, but we will not want to depart from peaceful politics, Nasheed said without revealing details of the opposition plans.
"We don’t have violent political coups in the Maldives,” he said, but he also pointed out that “it has not always been through the ballot either”, as had happened with his removal in 2012.
“But what we want to see is a democratic arrangement, a democratic government in the Maldives.”
Yameen has since intensified crackdown on dissidents as he looked to tighten his grip on power which has also included a series of controversial laws pushed through the government controlled parliament.
A Maldives court on Tuesday issued a formal warrant for the arrest of Nasheed to coincide with his visit to Sri Lanka.
According to the police, the arrest warrant was issued in conjunction with investigations, pursuant to a 2011 Audit Report.
Nasheed and six senior officials of his administration have been ordered to repay government funds they had allegedly misused or face lawsuits.
The Maldives Correctional Service is also seeking to have Nasheed brought back to serve a remainder of his 13 year sentence from which he was initially granted extraordinary medical leave.
In addition to Nasheed, an arrest warrant has also been issued against former vice president and leader of the new opposition coalition Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.
The arrest warrant was issued against Dr Jameel who now heads the opposition coalition over the forged warrant to arrest the president.