Ex President Nasheed survives Assassination bid – Sri Lanka’s PLOTE in coup against Gayoom By KKS Perera

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Mohamed Nasheed born on May 17, 1967 to a middle-class family is the fourth and the first democratically elected President of the Maldives [2008 – 2012] and current Speaker of the People’s Majlis since May 2019.  Nasheed, an old boy of an Overseas School Colombo, founded the Maldivian Democratic Party and defeated President  Abdul Gayoom, an old Royalist who had governed the archipelago as president for 30 years. Nasheed was instrumental in defeating President Yameen in the 2018 election.

Weeks of protests by the opposition joined by a majority of military and police, compelled Nasheed to resign as president. Nasheed was convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act In March 2015, for arresting Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed  and sentenced to 13 years. Being arrested prosecuted and jailed a couple of times he sought and was given asylum in the United Kingdom in 2016, where he had gone for medical treatment. After his friend, relative, and party’s candidate, Ibrahim Solih, won presidential elections in  2018, Nasheed returned to the Maldives, where he won the seat for Machangolhi Medhu constituency in parliamentary elections  and  took office as Speaker of parliament.

“President Nasheed who created the first ever Islamic Ministry in the Maldives, with a cabinet post representing it had sustained injuries in the blast occurred outside his family home in the night which left him in a critical condition and was receiving treatment in the capital Male”

President Nasheed who created the first ever Islamic Ministry in the Maldives, with a cabinet post representing it

Abdul Gayoom

had sustained injuries in the blast occurred outside his family home in the night which left him in a critical condition and was receiving treatment in the capital Male. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack. Nasheed, 53, known famously as a champion in the battle against climate change and a critic of religious extremism in the largely Sunni Muslim nation had sustained several wounds. Within a week Police arrested the ‘key suspect’ in the attack and blamed it on Islamic extremists. Our neighboring archipelago of 343,000 people has a number of extremists militant groups who fought in Iraq and Syria alongside the IS armed group.

There were three attempts to overthrow Abdul Gayoom’s government during the 1980s. The first one was in 1980 and second attempt was in 1983. The third attempt, which was in 1988, succeeded in controlling the capital city and many government offices when Uma Maheswaran’s [a Sri Lankan terrorist and leader of People’s Liberation of Tamil Eelam -PLOTE] 70 well-trained militants armed with AK-47s, grenades, machine guns and mortars sailed off the Mullaithivu shores of Sri Lanka on October 30, 1988 in four stolen fishing boats. They headed to a destination 735 km South-west of the island in the Indian Ocean being assigned the task of invading Male, the capital of Maldives. Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives, were the nations that got involved in that unique event in the history of Coup d’e ‘Tats; but was generally considered a minor occurrence considering conspiracies that were so common in the history of the archipelago.

The popular tourist destination is a glamorous sequence of islands numbering over 1100—The Sri Lankan Tamil terrorist group led by ‘Vasanthi’ ran out of food and water in mid-sea as a result of the delay in spotting the 26 main Atolls, arranged in two ‘chains’ called the Maldives. Around midnight of November 2, 1988, the sailors, hungry and thirsty, were delighted with the sight of lights, ending the four-day ordeal in aggressive seas. The Northern militants landed in the capital on November 3, around 4.00 am and checked their arms and ammunition. The terrorist outfit carried out the assault in the wee hours of November 3, 1988. A Maldivian businessman hired the outfit converting it to a mercenary army. The intention was to invade Male in a brutal attack and topple Gayoom’s government. [President Gayoom now 82 and was in power for three decades, ruling it with an iron fist until 2008, when the Maldives became a multi-party democracy]. However, some political analysts believe, it was Uma himself, who instigated the move.

“Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives, were the nations that got involved in that unique event in the history of Coup d’e ‘Tats; but was generally considered a minor occurrence considering conspiracies that were so common in the history of the archipelago”

Mohamed Nasheed

The PLOTE attack went smoothly on November 3, 1988, as the Maldives didn’t possess an army but a 1,400-strong National Security Contingent trained in and responsible for policing, firefighting and various minor security assignments. Counteracting the NSC was the major task assigned to PLOTE cadres, which they accomplished within a short time by killing a few guards and taking over the complex. They captured the harbour, power supply units, TV and radio stations—within a few hours. They took control of the one and a half square km-Male, with its 35,000 people, perhaps the smallest capital in the world was held by noon. President, Abdul Gayoom escaped unhurt.

Abdullah Luthufi ran a poultry farm in Sri Lanka. He met Uma Maheshwaran, who is trained in Guerilla warfare under PLO in Lebanon. The conspiracy was hatched in Colombo. What motivated the businessman though not clear many believed he wanted former President Ibrahim Nasir back as head of state. Maheshwaran the former head of LTTE, was chased away by Prabhakaran in 1980, formed the new group PLOTE and was on the lookout for a base.  Maheshwaran wanted Luthufi to accompany his men to the islands on October 30, 1988.
The assigned task was satisfactorily fulfilled; the PLOTE men went on rampage looting shops for valuables. However, they made two major mistakes by not taking over International Telecommunication facility and not capturing Gayoom. The plan was only partly successful.

Gayoom tactfully contacted a few heads of state including UK, USA, and India at dawn on November 4, and pleaded for help. While Reagan and Thatcher ignored, Rajiv Gandhi wanted to intervene. The operation ‘Cactus’—a parachute brigade and a commando unit of 1,600 were dispatched in a massive IL-76 aircraft. A naval craft with men, jeeps, helicopters, and field guns displayed regional military power. BBC announced in their afternoon news, a rescue operation in Male` by Indian Para-troopers and a military contingent. The fighter jets whizzed past over the islands, the helpless invaders minus their leader Vasanthi, heard the deafening noise. Paratroopers had begun landing on the airstrip in Hulule. The men began to panic as Indians commenced their counter-attack:

“PLOTE got away grabbing 26 Maldivian hostages with Maldivian  Minister, Ahmed Mujutuba and his wife among them, they hijacked a ship named ‘Progress Light,’ and sailed away leaving behind the bodies of 18 colleagues”

PLOTE got away grabbing 26 Maldivian hostages with Maldivian  Minister, Ahmed Mujutuba and his wife among them, they hijacked a ship named ‘Progress Light,’ and sailed away leaving behind the bodies of 18 colleagues. The beleaguered leader’s plea for refuge for his men was rudely turned down by Tamil Nadu. Indian navy was hunting for the boat, while the Sri Lanka Navy had been ordered to destroy it if it approached territorial waters.
Indians had found it two days later—order to surrender was rejected, creating a mid-sea hostage drama until Indian Navy demonstrated their firepower. Invaders warned Indians to maintain a distance of six knots to avert the murder of Minister.  Endurance on both parties began to exhaust by midnight on November 5. The terrorists responded vengefully as Indians reached one knot of the 26 hostages by a ghastly act of blowing-off the heads of two hostages. An Indian helicopter pilot flew above and dropped a ‘depth charge’ on the engine room destroying it. Panicked invaders jumped into the water. Commandos boarded the ship ending the high sea drama.
Luthufi told an Indian journalist that conspiracy could have succeeded, not for Rajiv Gandhi, creating a dictatorship in the Maldives under Uma Maheshwaran?

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Disclaimer: Ex President Nasheed survives Assassination bid - Sri Lanka’s PLOTE in coup against Gayoom By KKS Perera - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view

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