president faces new threat from unrest - 3 killed in rioting
The Daily Star,
September 22, 2003
The president of the tiny Indian Ocean atoll nation, the Maldives, has
survived three coup bids and huge waves, but faces a new threat from civil
unrest as he moves for a sixth five-year term in office.
Known abroad for his activism against global warming which threatens
to wipe his country off the map as sea levels rise, President Maumoon
Abdul Gayoom for the first time Saturday faced riots in the capital island,
The unprecedented violence erupted following the killing of a convict
in riots at the infamous Maafushi prison, located in another island some
45 minutes away from Male by speedboat.
Rampaging mobs set fire to vehicles, stoned public buildings and police
stations and smashed state property -- scenes never seen before in the
country of 250,000 Sunni Muslims, where there is simmering dissension
against Gayoom, despite his firm standing at the polls.
"People were waiting for a moment like this," a Maldivian resident
said by telephone, adding the violence had an undertone of displeasure
with the administration of Gayoom, who has ruled since 1978.
The unrest coincided with an announcement by elections chief Ibrahim
Rashad that Gayoom and four lesser-known candidates were in the fray for
the presidency in elections due in October.
AP adds: Tanks guarded the Maldivian President's house in the capital
of the Muslim island nation on Sunday, a day after demonstrators attacked
police vehicles and set fire to government buildings, residents and officials
At least three people were killed in the protest, which came on the same
day that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom filed for re-election. Mobs burned
the Election Commission's office and the High Court building in Male,
capital of the Maldives, a resident said on condition of anonymity.