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Maldives leader seeks 30-day extension of emergency, opposition stalls moves

Under the emergency law, President Yameen had two Supreme Court judges arrested on charges of corruption. Later, the three remaining judges annulled the order to release Yameen’s opponents.

world Updated: Feb 19, 2018 23:25 IST
HT Correspondent and Agencies
HT Correspondent and Agencies
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Male
Maldives,Maldives crisis,Maldives emergency
Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen (centre) surrounded by his bodyguards in Male on February 3.(AP File Photo)

Embattled President Abdulla Yameen on Monday sought parliamentary approval for extending the emergency in the Maldives by 30 days but the move stalled after opposition lawmakers boycotted a planned vote.

Yameen imposed the emergency on February 5 for 15 days to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, and ordered the release of those held in prison. The state of emergency was to end on Tuesday.

Parliament was initially told on Monday that the extension was for 15 days but the president’s office later announced that a 30-day extension had been sought.

Thirty-nine MPs from the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) attended a session to debate Yameen’s proposal but all opposition lawmakers boycotted it. The MPs sent the proposal to Parliament’s national security committee, which met behind closed doors and approved the move.

The opposition pointed out that the move needed a quorum of 43 MPs in the 85-member Parliament. With only the 39 PPM lawmakers present, the proposal was not put to a vote on Monday. AFP reported the MPs would vote on Tuesday on rubber stamping the emergency.

In New Delhi, there was no official reaction from the external affairs ministry to Yameen’s move to extend the emergency. “We will not respond to it unless we know whether the emergency is extended or not,” an official said.

Another official said the move went against an understanding between the two sides. “When the Indian envoy to the Maldives, Akhilesh Mishra, met Maldivian foreign secretary Ahmed Sareer on February 15, we were given to understand the emergency would not be extended and the government would reach out to all opposition parties,” the official said.

A statement from the president’s office said Yameen had sought the extension of the emergency “as the threat to national security has not diminished, and the constitutional crisis has not been resolved”. It said the extension was also advised by the National Security Council.

The statement expressed the government’s disappointment at opposition MPs boycotting a vote on the move and said the disengagement of the opposition “will cripple the Parliament’s ability to decide this issue”. It added that “these actions will further deepen the current constitutional crisis”.

Ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan told the local media that irrespective of “whether the Parliament approves it or not, the situation does not change”. He added, “The state of emergency does not become void because the Parliament does not approve it.”

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the opposition parliamentary group leader, told Reuters the Constitution “clearly states” Parliament’s indispensable role in extending an emergency.

“If this is not approved (by Parliament), it is going to be invalid. Once the emergency becomes void everything done under that state of emergency also will be void and invalid,” he said.

In its ruling late last month, the Supreme Court had also ordered the reinstatement of 12 MPs stripped of their seats by Yameen’s party for defecting last year. Without the 12 MPs, the government retains a majority in Parliament.

Under the emergency, Yameen’s regime has arrested the chief justice, another apex court judge and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on allegations of attempting to overthrow the government. Yameen also fired two police chiefs who said they would uphold the court verdict.

China, India, the US and Britain issued travel warnings after Yameen imposed the emergency. The UN has urged Male to lift the emergency.

First Published: Feb 19, 2018 20:50 IST