Feature & Comment
Maldives State of Emergency: FAQ
President Abdulla Yameen claims the Supreme Court is at the centre of what his supporters have called a “judicial coup” to overthrow the government.
It has been a week since President Abdulla Yameen announced a state of emergency. His office has been publishing regular updates about what has been happening and why. Here is a Maldives Independent FAQ. We have a timeline of key events here.
Why is there a state of emergency?
President Abdulla Yameen claims the Supreme Court is at the centre of what his supporters have called a “judicial coup” to overthrow the government. He said there was no way for him to investigate the attempted coup without declaring a state of emergency.
“I wanted to know how well planned this coup and how far it is connected to (other countries). I was forced into this situation. It really became difficult to run the state,” he said.
Days earlier the Supreme Court had issued a landmark ruling that, among other things, ordered the release of prisoners who are also his opponents including former president Mohamed Nasheed, former vice president Ahmed Adeeb and opposition leader and Maldives industry magnate Gasim Ibrahim. The ruling paved the way for these people to either emerge from exile, leave prison or run for president in this year’s elections.
What does the state of emergency mean for governance?
More than 20 articles of the constitution, including the right to privacy and assembly, have been suspended. The Criminal Procedures Act has also been suspended. A lot of the “coup perpetrators” that police have arrested remain in detention without being formally charged.
Where is the opposition?
All opposition leaders are behind bars or in exile. The only opposition leader that remained free before the state of emergency was Yameen’s half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was the first person Yameen arrested after declaring the state of emergency. The rest of the opposition are holding nightly protests outside the Maldivian Democratic Party campaign centre in Malé.
What is the ruling party doing?
The ruling party has been holding “victory” rallies. When asked why the Progressive Party of the Maldives was being allowed to host these while the state of emergency suspended the right to assembly, MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla said the ruling party events were being held under the legal counsel of the attorney general.
Are tourists safe?
Yes. There is no physical danger to tourists and resort islands are disconnected from the capital Malé, as the government has tried hard to impress upon visitors. However all major tourist markets for the Maldives, including China and the UK, have issued advisories asking them to be careful or not to travel unless absolutely necessary. If the crisis continues it could affect tourist numbers and, in turn, the country’s economic growth.
What is the impact on daily life?
Just as the president emphasizes in every speech he has made since the state of emergency was declared, daily life in the country has not been affected. But there has been a crackdown on press freedom. Independent broadcaster RaajjeTV was forced to shut for three days after threats of violence and punitive action. Other media have also reported threats of violence.
What can be done?
Nothing. The government is refusing to heed international condemnation and envoys who allegedly sought backing for the state of emergency from ‘friendly nations’ were politely rebuffed. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have followed China’s lead on non-interference and public opinion is opposed to Indian military intervention.
What happens next?
The state of emergency is due to end February 20. Parliament, which remains in recess after indefinitely postponing its opening session for security reasons, has to approve the state of emergency within 48 hours of it being declared. The extended recess means Yameen has 14 days to submit the declaration to parliament for approval, which has to happen on February 19.