THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE
The sun rose on Monday morning in Maldives heralding a clear day with a cool breeze from the West.
A man stood on the Izzudden Jetty in the capital Male, expecting a colleague who was supposed to join him.
To his consternation did not turn up. When the time came to leave, he left.
On the airport island, Emirates flight from Dubai had just landed and come to a halt in front of the VVIP terminal. The president and his entourage disembarked to the warm smiles from all gathered. The President was his usual cool self.
Smiling. Confident. Beaming.
A man, happy in the knowledge that all his past sins have been expunged with the visit to the Kaaba. His wife was radiant, but tired, and looking forward to another busy day meeting people and helping out with the work of her beloved husband.
After an uneventful disembarkation the team left to Male, a short boat ride away.
There was a slight drizzle as the boat approached the capital island and the new landmark on the waterfront.
Reporters from various news organizations thronged the jetty area. There was minimal police presence and there were well wishers from the public waiting for a glimpse of the first family.
The Presidential Boat made its usual carefully rehearsed approach to the jetty. Before it could berth, there was a loud bang and all hell broke loose.
What a moment ago was a smooth arrival function turned into scenes of chaotic shouting with people running towards and onto the jetty looking to see what was happening.
One could see the distraught faces of the people on board clamoring among the smoke which was bellowing out from inside the passenger seating area of the boat.
SPG, the Special Protection Group of the Maldives National Defense Force was on board. They were calm, cool and collected. One could see the crew of the boat equally calm. The clamor was among the president’s men.
The only member of cabinet, who minutes earlier had departed from this very jetty to the airport to receive the president had the first lady in his clasp. The president was seen being shielded and held by another of his colleagues.
Minutes passed. The SPG did not react, as it should. Neither did the boat crew.
The duty of the SPG is to protect and if need be, die in the defense of their charge, in this case the first couple of the nation.
Shortly thereafter, an ambulance arrived. A gurney was seen being eased into the ambulance from a police boat onto which most of the presidential entourage had been moved, including the first couple.
The only other person who had an official invite to receive the president at the airport was his Vice President. He was nowhere to be seen.
The capital was abuzz with the news of the brazen attack on the president and his wife. No one denied that it was uncalled for. Everyone agreed that it was a callous attempt to cut short which otherwise is an eventful presidency. And all asked, who could be behind this.
Natural behavioral law states that actions are initiated and promulgated by the immediate beneficiary to such actions.
The theorizing started. People started pointing fingers. Who was there? Who wasnt, and why?
The night before the president’s arrival, his official boat, Finifenma, named after the national flower, was anchored in Feydhoo Finolhu island, a short distance from the capital.
It was the dead of night.
Calm. Serene. And with all the attributes of paradise people all over the world associate the Maldives with.
But what was going on inside the boat was nothing short of hellish and outright dangerous.
There were few hands working.
Hours ago, the same hands had quietly opened the armory in the National Defense Force head quarters and taken out plastic explosives and detonation devices and hid them in tool boxes. They were now being taken out and assembled inside of the air-conditioning duct of the boat.
They knew that the president mostly sat in a particular spot on the boat. They also knew that the duct they were fixing the devices leads up to where in the boat the president usually sits. They knew how much it takes for the short ride from INIA to Male.
The amateurish attempt of the people working on board did not factor in too many variables.
It resulted in the detonation happening not mid way between INIA and Male as they had wanted, but near the jetty itself at Male. And as luck would have it the president was seated not where he usually sits. Unfortunately his wife was.
The person who did not go to receive the president and claimed to have overslept, was in fact waiting for that one phone call, which he hoped would change his life. A phone call, which would propel him to the heights of power. Or so he thought.
Fate had other plans. Now it was his turn to scrounge around for a Plan B.
Do I quickly go to the jetty area? No. That would be too obvious. And in any case the criminal almost always visit the crime scene for a second look, people say. Going there would be suicidal.
Do I call the president? But what do I tell him? Do I go to the hospital?
A million thoughts raced through his mind. The shock of the failure of his plan, combined with the insecurity of not knowing what would happen next, swept across him.
Slowly he got up and began dressing.
A neatly pressed bespoke suit that was brought in three days ago from Mr Bulli and Sons located at Millenia Walk in Singapore hanged on a clothes line. Instead he chose a simpler mellow outfit.
He arrived at IGMH panting and sweating profusely, to the surprise of many. The president asked him, where had he been while all the mayhem was going on.
A sheepish grin and a quiet apology. I had overslept.
Eyebrows were raised for what everyone had heard from the Bro. No one said anything. People looked at each other and then at the President. His thoughts were elsewhere.
A whirlwind of activity was happening all around the president at IGMH.
People were coming in. Orders were being issued. A committee to look into the event was hastily assembled. The VP was not included. The Defense Minister was not included.
That same night a meeting of the National Security Council was held. The VP was nowhere to be seen. He had not been invited.
For the man who wasn’t there, it sure looks a downhill ride.
…….when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'