Maldives declares state of emergency
MALE, Maldives (UPDATED) – Maldives President Abdulla Yameen invoked draconian emergency laws Wednesday, November 4, heightening political tensions amid a purge of his lieutenants and sweeping crackdown on dissent, after alleged attempts on his life.
The declaration of a state of emergency effectively outlaws a rally by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) planned for Friday and gives sweeping powers to police and troops to arrest anti-government activists.
"President Yameen has declared state of emergency to ensure the safety and security of every citizen," his spokesman Muaz Ali tweeted.
Official sources said the declaration, initially for a period of 30 days, would lead to the automatic suspension of several constitutional provisions including the right of association.
Tensions are high in the honeymoon island nation following an explosion aboard the president's speedboat on September 28 and this week's alleged discovery of a remote-controlled bomb near his official residence.
Yameen was unharmed in the boat explosion, although his wife and two others were slightly injured, and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation have said there was no evidence it was caused by a bomb.
But authorities in the Maldives have called it an attempt on his life. On October 24, Yameen arrested his deputy Ahmed Adeeb, accusing him of "high treason" and linking him to the blast.
The state of emergency order fast-tracked the impeachment of Adeeb, who could be sacked within days.
Several ministers, a police chief and key security personnel have also been sacked following the explosion.
The main opposition MDP said the emergency order was aimed at cracking down on anti-government activists.
"The discovery of a 'bomb' [on Monday] was the lead up to today's emergency," MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told AFP.
"Yameen has jailed or threatened every opposition leader, placed criminal charges against 1,700 opposition activists, and is now turning on his own by jailing the vice president.
"For the good of the nation, it is time for Yameen to resign."
The announcement of a state of emergency comes two days before a planned protest by the MDP, whose leader Mohamed Nasheed is in jail after a widely criticised conviction under anti-terror laws in March.
There was no immediate word on whether the MDP would go ahead with the rally.
Colombo-based Western diplomats, who are also accredited to the Maldives, had decided to tell their nationals to exercise caution when visiting the capital island Male, a diplomatic source in Colombo said.
Australia had already asked its citizens to exercise "a high degree" of caution when travelling to the congested capital island, warning of the possibility of terror attacks.
Despite the political unrest, tourism – the archipelago's mainstay – is booming with more than one million visitors a year.
Holidaymakers pay top dollar to relax on one of the atolls are usually whisked away by seaplane or boat, bypassing the restive capital Male where extra police have been deployed in recent months.
Yameen's former vice president and running mate in 2013 elections, Mohamed Jameel, was impeached in July while he was abroad and has not returned to the country.
On Wednesday, Jameel accused Yameen of using emergency laws to try to crack down on the opposition.
"Emergency is a ploy to halt planned opposition rally. Nothing to justify this measure," he tweeted.
The Maldives president faces international censure over his crackdown on opponents of his regime.
They include opposition leader Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, who was jailed in March after a rushed trial which the UN said was seriously flawed.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in May of "troubling signs" for democracy in the Maldives, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this year shelved plans to visit the islands, a move seen as a rebuke to Yameen. – Rappler.com