The parliament today approved President Abdulla Yameen’s declaration of a 30-day state of emergency in the face of criticism from opposition MPs.
The unprecedented nationwide state of emergency was approved with 58 votes in favour, 14 votes against, and three abstentions. The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) control 49 seats in the 85-member house.
Seven of the Jumhooree Party’s (JP) 11 MPs also voted in favour of the declaration.
Citing threats to national security posed by plots to use weapons and explosives, Yameen issued an executive decree yesterday granting sweeping powers to the security forces to arrest suspects and conduct raids without warrants.
The decree also reduced a 14-day period required by the constitution before voting on an impeachment motion.
The ruling party had submitted a motion to impeach Vice President Ahmed Adeeb in late October shortly after his arrest on suspicion of links to a blast on the president’s speedboat. The government says a bomb targeting the president caused the explosion on September 28.
During the debate at today’s sitting, MPs of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) contended that the president does not have the power to amend the constitution by imposing a state of emergency.
The constitution allows for the suspension or restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in chapter two of the constitution. The opposition MPs noted that Article 100(d), which deals with the impeachment process, is not in the bill of rights chapter and cannot be changed by a presidential decree.
The MDP said yesterday that the state of emergency is “a direct response to the government’s insecurity in assuring the upcoming no-confidence vote against VP Adeeb”.
A second sitting of parliament has meanwhile been scheduled for 2:30pm this afternoon to debate and vote on the impeachment motion.
Adeeb denies any links to the alleged assassination attempt.
The PPM submitted the motion with 52 signatures, five short of the two-thirds majority needed to remove Adeeb from the post.
The MDP decided yesterday that its 21 MPs will not participate in the vote.
Five PPM MPs and four JP MPs did not sign the motion, but MP Ahmed Nihan, the PPM’s parliamentary group leader, told The Maldives Independent that the lawmakers were out of the country at the time.
The majority leader expressed confidence of passing the motion with “an overwhelming majority” without the MDP’s backing.
Meanwhile, during today’s debate, pro-government MPs insisted that a state of emergency was necessary after the security forces seized weapons and explosives from two areas in the Maldives.
The security forces says it defused a bomb found in Malé on Monday and seized a large cache of weapons on Friday from an uninhabited island leased to a businessman linked to Adeeb.
The government says the security forces believe that some weapons from the arms cache are missing.
“The security forces have information that some individuals are planning to use these weapons and ammunition, which poses a serious threat to the people and to national security,” reads the president’s decree.
MP Nihan said the threat to national security was “clear as daylight”.