The President of the Maldives declared a state of emergency on February 5, 2018 for 15 days during an escalating battle against the country’s Supreme Court, which his allies accuse of trying to bring down the government
The President of the Maldives declared a state of emergency on February 5, 2018 for 15 days during an escalating battle against the country’s Supreme Court, which his allies accuse of trying to bring down the government.
President Abdulla Yameen had earlier defied a ruling by the Supreme Court to release nine opposition leaders from jail, whose criminal convictions were overturned.
The state of emergency was announced in a televised address by Legal Affairs Minister Azima Shakoor, who stated that under its terms judges would no longer be granted special privileges if facing arrest.
It also grants law enforcement sweeping powers and suspends part of the constitution.
In a statement, the President’s office said that general movements, services and business would not be affected, though certain rights would be restricted.
It also said it wished to assure all Maldivians and the international community that their safety was assured within the country.
The Ministry of Tourism has declared the country, a former member state of the Commonwealth, remains safe for tourists.
Military troops in riot gear were posted to surround the Supreme Court in the capital Malé on Monday evening as security forces arrested a former President and two justices.
Local news sites reported that the soldiers then entered the halls of justice in an “attack” on the outlet.
The Maldives is a chain of atolls in the Indian Ocean that is widely considered a tourist’s paradise, but that has been beset by a deepening political crisis.
The archipelago southwest of Sri Lanka has seen centuries of dictatorship and political oppression.
The isolated nature of its tourism industry means that foreign visitors, who contribute to more than a quarter of the Maldives’ GDP, rarely see this instability, with visitor numbers of 1.2 million annually seeing little impact from a wave of Islamic radicalism hitting the country.
More people are aware of the existential threat climate change poses to the collection of islands, thanks to the country’s first democratically elected leader, President Mohamad Nasheed, who staged an underwater cabinet meeting in 2009 to bring the world’s attention to the fact that capital city Malé is just 2.4 metres above sea level.
Around a third of the Maldivian population live on this small island capital.
Former President Nasheed is one of the nine opponents of the President who the Supreme Court ruled had been unfairly convicted.
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison following a trial in 2015 that was broadly perceived as being politically motivated, with former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim widely believed to have been framed.
As the President continues to refuse the court’s order to release the political prisoners, opposition protests have gathered in size and pace.
The ruling precedes a highly-contested presidential election to be held later in 2018, in which Nasheed was believed to have been planning to run in.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described the President’s actions as “deeply worrying” and called on him to lift the state of emergency and restore democratic procedure.
The US State Department said that Yameen had “systematically alienated his coalition, jailed or exiled every major opposition political figure, deprived elected Members of Parliament of their right to represent their voters in the legislature, revised laws to erode human rights, especially freedom of expression, and weakened the institutions of government by firing any officials who refuse orders that run contrary to Maldivian law and its Constitution.”
Former President Nasheed accused the government’s actions of being “brazenly illegal” and amounting to a coup, and called for the President to resign from his criminal regime.
Eva Abdulla, an opposition legislator, said that the latest declaration of a state of emergency indicated the President’s desperation.
She added: “It only serves to show an isolated man who no longer has the confidence of the Maldivian people and independent institutions.”