Director Jon Shenk and producers Bonni Cohen and Richard Berge offered a response to the ongoing political crisis in the Maldives and this week’s unexpected resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed. Their documentary The Island President will air next season on Independent Lens.
Yesterday morning we woke up to the shocking news that President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives had resigned his office under duress. According to news reports and local sources, Nasheed faced the choice of using the military to quell a violent demonstration or stepping down to avoid bloodshed. In line with his long history of peaceful activism, he chose the latter.
We have heard from eyewitnesses that Nasheed was initially being held under military arrest at the Presidential residence in Malé, the capital. We were told that before Nasheed stepped down, demonstrators loyal to former dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, stood outside the President’s office shouting “Gayoom! Gayoom!”
In addition to forcing his ouster, demonstrators stormed the national television station, detained journalists and replaced independent programming with that of the station run by Gayoom’s allies. It was reported to us, that last night the streets of Malé were eerily quiet with a military curfew imposed on the capital.
Today, Nasheed spoke at a rally for the Maldivian Democratic Party and then led a peaceful march on the streets of the capital. The protesters were met by police in camouflage, with helmets, truncheons and tear gas. Many injuries are being reported.
As filmmakers who spent two years off and on with President Nasheed while making The Island President, we witnessed a leader committed to transparent governance, multi-party democracy, and the struggle for human rights. This struggle includes his leadership in the fight against climate change that so threatens the Maldives and the rest of us.
This is not the first time that Nasheed has suffered a political setback in his fight for justice in the Maldives. We expect this is just the next chapter. We are deeply concerned for Nasheed’s safety, we stand in solidarity with him and hope others will join us.