If you follow climate change news, then you’re likely familiar with Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the small island nation. President of the lowest country in the world, with 80% of its land rising only a meter above sea level, President Nasheed has been a global voice for action to address the climate crisis. In 2009, he and Maldives government officials held an underwater cabinet meeting to make a statement about what will happen to the island by the year 2100 if the world does not act on climate change.
In September the Maldives pledged to go carbon neutral by 2020, which would make it the first nation to do so. On January 23, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke announced that the band’s music “was used to help tell the story” of President Nasheed in new documentary The Island President.
This week’s news on the Maldives hasn’t been quite as positive. A military coup in what seems to have been carried out by police forced President Nasheed from office on Tuesday morning, at gunpoint and with threats of violence. He was placed under house arrest, and Bill McKibben’s organization 350.org put out an alert stating that his life could be in danger. That same day, President Nasheed’s successor, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, the former vice president, was sworn in as the President of the Maldives.
The following day, police used tear gas and wooden batons on President Nasheed’s supporters who had gathered outside of the government buildings in the nation’s capital of Male. Several of the President’s aides and associates have been hospitalized after beatings. One official for the new government has promised that President Nasheed will spend the rest of his life in prison. The situation changes frequently, but on February 9, the New York Times reported that an arrest warrant has been filed for President Nasheed, and he is inside his residence. “We are waiting for the police to come arrest President Nasheed right now,” said the former foreign minister, Ahmed Naseem, speaking in a telephone interview in the early afternoon. “We have absolutely no idea of what the charges are,” he added.
350.org has been communicating with the US State Department and other diplomats in the United Kingdom, European Union, and India. The organization shared this note from Ayesha, a friend of 350.org, from the Maldives: “By helping us bring peace and justice to this nation, you will help strengthen our resilience to climate change which is crucial for our very existence.” I recommend following 350.org to stay current on developments in the Maldives.
Photo of the Maldives courtesy of ThinkStock.com.