India keeping a close watch as Maldives political crisis deepens
India had asked its neighbour to follow the top court’s order to release all political prisoners, including Yameen’s main rival and former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is in exile.Updated: Feb 05, 2018 08:33 IST
India is watching closely the turbulence in the Maldives where a political crisis deepened on Sunday as the government ordered soldiers to scuttle any move by the Supreme Court to arrest or impeach President Abdulla Yameen over his refusal to free imprisoned Opposition leaders.
New Delhi had asked its neighbour to follow the top court’s order on Thursday to release all political prisoners, including Yameen’s main rival and former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is in exile.
“In the spirit of democracy and rule of law, it is imperative for all organs of the government of Maldives to respect and abide by the order of the apex court,” the Indian foreign ministry said.
“We are keeping a close watch on the situation,” added an official, who doesn’t want to be named.
But as of Sunday, no prisoners had been released while the Indian Ocean archipelago nation’s attorney general Mohamed Anil said the government has information the Supreme Court is preparing to unseat Yameen but law-enforcement authorities will resist such a move.
“We have received information that things might happen that will lead to a national security crisis,” he warned.
Nasheed, the nation’s first democratically elected president, responded angrily on Twitter, saying that Anil’s comments were “tantamount to a coup”. “Security services must uphold the constitution and serve the Maldivian people,” he tweeted.
But the defiant government of the strategically located nation of about 400,000 people prepared for a crackdown and police detained two Opposition lawmakers on Sunday.
More than 100 riot police stood guard outside government offices in Male, including parliament, as well as at Republic Square, a site of protests by opposition activists, although the streets were quiet.
Soldiers guarded parliament and stopped an attempt by lawmakers of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to hold a meeting there. The authorities had shut parliament indefinitely on Saturday to prevent MDP members from gathering there.
President Yameen is facing the biggest threat since he wrested power in 2013 after the Supreme Court quashed charges against Nasheed and nine more political dissidents this week.
The court also ruled that 12 parliamentarians sacked for defecting from Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives should be reinstated. The return of the dozen lawmakers will put the Opposition in a majority in the 85-member parliament and have enough votes to remove the president. Under Maldivian law, a vote for impeachment removes a president from office.
Lawmakers loyal to former president Nasheed, whom Yameen had defeated in a controversy-marred election, feared a military takeover of the islands to preserve the president’s grip on power.
Yameen has stopped short of saying he will not obey the court order, but his government expressed concerns about releasing those convicted for “terrorism, corruption, embezzlement, and treason”. The president had been set to run for re-election this year virtually unopposed, but Nasheed said he would mount a fresh challenge for the presidency after the top court’s recent order.
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison after he was convicted of the abduction charge under the Maldives’ anti-terror laws in a trial that was widely condemned by international rights groups. The conviction barred him contesting elections in the nation, known for its atolls and luxury resorts.
(With agency inputs)