The longest-serving leader in Asia fights for a seventh term

The President of the Maldives is facing a mutiny, with the resignation of three key cabinet ministers in protest at his "autocratic" behaviour. One of them is preparing to stand against him in forthcoming elections.

The beautiful Indian Ocean islands, a luxury holiday destination for Britons and many other wealthy Westerners, has a less-publicised dark side with claims of repression, torture, censorship and, recently, terrorist bombing.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the longest-serving leader in Asia, deflected international criticism of his human rights record by agreeing to sweeping reforms, a new constitution and saying he would step down after 29 years in power.

The cabinet resignations came after the President, who is 76, changed his mind and said he would carry on in office for another five years.

The Justice minister, Hassan Saeed, the attorney general Mohammed Jameel and the Foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed, all in their late thirties and early forties, said other members of the government were likely to follow them by resigning before the election scheduled for next year.

The defection of the three ministers is a serious blow for Mr Gayoom as they have widespread contacts among politicians and the media in the West as well as neighbouring Sri Lanka and India. The President had brought them into the government proclaiming that this was concrete evidence that he was preparing to move forward and hand over power to a younger generation.

Mr Saeed has promised to stand against Mr Gayoom for the presidency and the three former ministers have established contact with other parties, including the main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party, with the aim of presenting an united front.

The three ministers are currently in London meeting parliamentarians and members of the small Maldivian community. They are due to meet Foreign Office officials today.

The Maldives was hit by a bomb attack last September which injured 12 tourists, including a British couple. The blast is thought to have been the work of a growing Islamist movement but President Gayoom also blamed reformists and pro-democracy activists for creating "instability".

Mr Saeed said yesterday: "The fact is it is in the repressive nature of this government that they are trying to use the attack to blame the pro-democratic forces. I know for a fact that the government was warned about the dangers of rising Islamic fundamentalism and we put together an action plan to combat it. This was presented to the President seven months before the attack and they failed to act on it."

The former ministers claimed they had been subjected to intimidation and threats since they announced their resignation. Mr Saeed said: "Our offices were broken into and documents removed. Our houses have had paint thrown at them and we have received threats."

There are said to be widespread feelings in the Maldives that the " Islamist" attack was not as straightforward as the government had painted it. Critics claim that the security service may have had a part in organising the bombing.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
football
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
Louis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
people
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Order Processor

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Graphic Designer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot