The battle for power in the Maldives between the incumbent government led by President Abdulla Yameen and the opposition led by a galaxy of leaders headed by former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed, is now being fought overseas, with major Western powers and India on one side supporting Nasheed, and China and Russia backing Yameen.
Through a series of arrests of top leaders and judges under a draconian State of Emergency law, President Yameen has been able to silence the opposition leaders and other outfits.
As yet, there is no sign of civil unrest. This is partly because the Emergency Laws have been applied in such as a way that normal life is not affected. There is no curfew because there is no need for it. And the press is free. The public appear to be by-standers watching what looks like a political game played by competing politicians, sordid though the game may be.
Western envoys accredited to the Maldives have tried to meet Yameen and reason with him to lift the State of Emergency, release Supreme Court judges and implement the order the Supreme Court had passed earlier
Having nipped an outwardly constitutional but very insidious bid to overthrow him, President Yameen has gone on to fight the battle overseas, where his main rivals are ensconced. They are directing operations in the Maldives through remote control with the blessings and backing of the host governments.
Yameen’s drastic initial actions were roundly condemned by the US, UN, and the UK. India was non-committal in its official statement but showed its displeasure by refusing to meet a Special Envoy Yameen wanted to send.
The excuse New Delhi trotted out was that the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister would be otherwise engaged. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is still to visit the Maldives despite his “Neighbourhood First” policy, did not show enthusiasm when the Maldives Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim personally invited him to pay a visit to his country.
While Yameen sent Special Envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to explain his actions to them and seek their support in international forums, he did not send any to the US, UK or the EU, perhaps knowing that he will get a shelling , not a hearing there.
The West , like India, is very concerned that the Yameen regime has lurched towards China which ,according to them, is using economic aid to buy up properties which could be used for military purposes.
Nasheed has alleged that Yameen has planned to sell 17 islands to the Chinese for US$ 40 million. The West has also raised the bogey of radical Islamization and Saudi Wahabi influence on Maldivian society and government institutions.
The West talks about the existence of a Deep State of Islamic radicals. The Yameen government would like the opposition and their Western backed to give evidence of all these. But the opposition is yet to come up with any.
Western envoys accredited to the Maldives have tried to meet Yameen and reason with him to lift the State of Emergency, release Supreme Court judges and implement the order the Supreme Court had passed earlier.
These were to release nine top opposition leaders and hold retrials; and reinstate 12 lawmakers who had been expelled earlier for floor crossing.
But Yameen would not meet the envoys.
Yameen is counting on China to support him because China has been given all the plum projects in the Maldives since he came to power in 2013. China has wangled a Free Trade Agreement which is very favourable to it.
But the dependence is mutual. China accounts for a good chunk of the tourist arrivals in the Maldives. In 2017, the Chinese were the single largest group among tourist arrivals, more than 340,000 having come. The Maldives tourist industry was able to survive the European economic downturn because of Chinese arrivals.
Russia and China are the ‘Bulwark’
According to President Yameen, China and Russia stopped the West from getting the US Security Council to debate the situation Maldives. China is the only country which has said that the present crisis in the Indian Ocean archipelago is an internal matter to be sorted out by the various parties involved.
China has also hinted that it is ready to mediate. It said that the international community can play a “constructive role” provided it respects Maldives’ sovereignty. China also said that it is in touch with India as part of its plan to play a “constructive role.”
The Maldives’ case is that the opposition parties had bribed the Chief Justice and others with “millions of dollars” to use the legal route to overthrow the government. But in the process of taking this route, the court itself had committed a plethora of illegalities and unconstitutional acts which the world must see and recognize.
While Yameen sent Special Envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to explain his actions to them and seek their support in international forums, but he did not send any to the US, UK or the EU