Maldives' Climate Champion President Forced To Resign At Gunpoint

Mat McDermott/CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

It's not often that there's a place for genuine straight geopolitical news on TreeHugger, but this is unfortunately one of those times. Details are still coming in, hours after the fact, but the picture that's emerging is that President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives was forced to resign at gunpoint in a military coup yesterday.

Nasheed has said that the coup was done with knowledge of Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who has now replaced him as leader of the low-lying, climate-vulnerable Indian Ocean nation.

In a televised news conference, Al Jazeera notes Nasheed said, "It will be better for the country in the current situation if I resign. I don't want to run the country with an iron fist. I am resigning."

Al Jazeera also says that the ousting began earlier in the day, after policemen refused orders to break up an anti-government rally in the Maldivian capital, Male. Nasheed's political party, the Maldives Democratic Party, said that members of the armed forces joined the protesters at the behest of leaders loyal to former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who Nasheed bettered in the nation's first democratic election in 30 years, back in 2008.

Of all the sources covering this news, Al Jazeera has the best coverage so far. Check out that to get up to speed on the political situation and history of the nation.

Here's why TreeHugger is reporting this: Since Mohamed Nasheed's election, the Maldives has been one of the loudest international voices for action on climate change. Under Nasheed's leadership it has pledged to be the world's first carbon neutral nation and taken many concrete steps to doing so. Nasheed has enthusiastically worked with activists groups such as 350.org in urging international climate action—including, perhaps most dramatically, in the run-up to the COP15 climate talks in 2009, holding a cabinet meeting underwater to symbolize his country's plight. At the COP15 conference itself, Nasheed was one of the most articulate international leaders.

Strictly from an environmental perspective, former Vice President, now, apparently, President Hassan has himself spoken forcefully for climate action as well. This past September he participated in 350.org's Moving Planet event in New York, taking the stage after Dr James Hansen.

350.org has established a petition you can sign to urge diplomatic pressure be put on leaders "to avoid violence and to work for a peaceful, democratic solution to their conflict."

Tags: Environmental Justice | Global Climate Change