- Nasheed, was serving a 13-year sentence for “terrorism” slapped in 2015, is currently a fugitive in self-exile in UK
- In other words Yameen is arming himself to face a big fight
- Ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, upped ante by asking India to send a “military-backed Special Envoy”
- Yameen regime is expected to sail through parliament with a vote to extend State of Emergency
The political conflict in the Maldives, which came to a head on February 1 with the Supreme Court passing two orders which upset President Abdullah Yameen and made him declare a 15-day State of Emergency on February 5, has only sharpened since then.
There is yet no light at the end of the tunnel with the situation getting deadlocked. Just a day ahead of a Special Session of parliament on Monday, February 19, to vote for the continuation or non-renewal of the State of emergency, the Yameen government got two orders from the Supreme Court which will enable it to consolidate its hold on power.
One stayed an earlier order to reinstate 12 MPs who had been unseated for crossing over to the opposition, and the other ratified the legality and constitutionality of the State of Emergency under which many fundamental rights were suspended and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Supreme Court Justices Abdullah Saeed and Ali Hameed were detained.
With these two orders in hand, the Yameen regime is expected to sail through parliament with a vote to extend the State of Emergency, which the government thinks is necessary to curb any tendency to stage violent demonstrations to continue the investigations into the alleged high level opposition efforts to buy up Supreme Court judges; to prevent foreign elements from helping the opposition; and to defend the country against any foreign political mediation and/or military intervention.
In other words Yameen is arming himself to face a big fight.
The government and the opposition have been at loggerheads since Abdulla Yameen was elected President in 2013. But what triggered the latest phase of the stand-off was a Supreme Court order of February 1, which stipulated the immediate release and re-trial of nine top opposition leaders including former President Mohamed Nasheed and Jumhoory Party leader Gasim Ibrahim and also the re-instatement of 12 ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs who had signed an opposition motion to remove the parliament Speaker.
If the top opposition leaders had been released, and the 12 MPs had gotten back to parliament, the political challenge to Yameen would have gone several notches up, both outside and inside parliament. Re-trials of the top leaders, if accepted,could have gone against Yameen. He therefore declared a State of Emergency, arrested the Chief Justice and one of his colleagues, Ali Hameed, and detained former President and opposition patriarch Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed, had upped the ante by asking India to send a “military-backed Special Envoy” to press Yameen to give into a whole range of the oppositions’ demands including his right to contest the September 2018 Presidential election from which he would be barred if he was still in jail.
Nasheed, who was serving a 13-year sentence for “terrorism”slapped in 2015, is currently a fugitive in self-exile in the UK. He had been allowed to go to the UK for treatment on the condition that he comes back to complete his jail term. But he has been dodging the law with the support of the West and campaigning for the ouster of Yameen.
In the context of the opposition’s appeal for external intervention; the condemnation of the State of Emergency by several Western countries; and adverse travel advisories from countries including China, Yameen sent Special Envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to explain his government’s case.
His attempt to send an envoy to India failed as New Delhi showed the cold shoulder.
However, the Maldives government publicized its version of the events which was that the Supreme Court had violated the law and the constitution by passing an order on the release of opposition leaders without hearing the Attorney General. Later, the court turned a deaf ear to the government’s law officers who explained why its order cannot be implemented given the gravity of the charges against the prisoners including murder, terrorism, fraud etc.
Also, the court had not annulled the orders issued earlier before issuing a new order. The government also pointed out that the court had invaded and arrogated to itself the role of the Executive in law and order and security matters thus violating the constitutional principle of Separation of Powers.
But apparently, these explanations have not washed abroad, in India and the UN.
India and the UN have expressed the need for outsider mediation. The Spokesman of the Indian External Affairs Ministry said that India differs from China’s view that foreign powers should keep off Maldives. The spokesman added that China’s view appeared to have been influenced by its good relations with the Yameen regime.
But while India is yet to make a diplomatic move to mediate or intervene, the UN Secretary General has made it known, albeit through his spokesperson, that the UN is ready to mediate.
But, backed by China, the Yameen government has indicated that it will not accept foreign mediation of any kind even as the street level opposition activity in the Maldives is increasing. As many as 25 persons including journalists have been arrested for “organizing” last Friday’s massive demonstration in Male.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party-backed Global Times had come out with a scathing attack on the call for an Indian military intervention warning that China would interdict Indian forces if they tried to enter the archipelago’s waters forcibly.
While not being against an international role in settling issues in the Maldives (provided the sovereignty of that country is not violated), China also made it clear that the conflict should be solved internally by discussions between the various Maldives parties. China added that the Maldives parties are perfectly capable of doing that.
In the meantime, to fortify himself against further trouble in and out of parliament, Yameen had on Sunday secured two favorable orders from the Supreme Court, one saying that the declaration of the State of Emergency was legal and constitutional, and the other stating that the earlier order re-instating the 12 ousted MPs is stayed.
The Supreme Court on Sunday stated that there are no constitutional grounds to deem that the Presidential decree was in violation of Articles 253 and 254 of the Maldives Constitution.
The court pointed out that the decree had stated that the National Security Committee had raised concerns of a possible threat to the country’s security, and advised the President to take immediate action by declaring a State of Emergency.
The verdict noted that Article 253 accords the President authority to announce a State of Emergency “in the event of natural disaster, dangerous epidemic disease, war, threat to national security, or threatened foreign aggression”. The decree was in line with the Constitution, the court ruled.
Stating that the measures specified in the article were not “restrictive”, the verdict said that the President is accorded the power to take whatever action necessary to protect and secure the functioning of the nation.
Meanwhile, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said that it will not take part in any multi-party discussions if releasing jailed political dissidents is a pre-condition.
The opposition had stated that jailed former president of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom along with Chief Justice Abdullah Saeed and top-court Judge Ali Hameed and nine top level political prisoners, should be released as per the February 1 order of the Supreme Court.
Additionally the multi-party opposition said that it would not hold talks without the presence of a United Nations representative. But the government has rejected foreign mediation in any form.