The European Union warned the Maldives it would impose sanctions this month, President Abdulla Yameen said Tuesday.
Brussels and Malé have been at loggerheads over the gradual erosion of rights in the country and a crackdown on the opposition. The EU has also expressed concern that this September’s elections will be neither free nor fair.
It has previously spoken of “targeted measures” and the president’s remarks – if true – would see Brussels making good on that threat.
“It is possible that the EU will impose sanctions some time in the middle of this month. Our government has been warned,” Yameen told Dhiggaru islanders while on a campaign trip to Meemu atoll.
“We are discussing with EU officials to solve this. But it is not easy to convince people who have already made up their minds.”
Yameen said he received the warning from the EU last week.
The Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives has been contacted for comment.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed warned Yameen supporters about what would happen if sanctions came to pass.
“If EU takes action, it’s the Maldivian people who will suffer. Maldives will be bankrupt if (the government) does not give into EU. I say this to the police, army, judges and businessman working to keep Yameen in power: if you stay with him, you and the entire country will become poor,” he tweeted.
– ‘A prayer to God’ –
“MDP members are talking about this joyfully,” Yameen said. “I don’t see this as joyful at all. I see it with concern.
“But there are things my government will not compromise on. There are principles my government will not let go of. There are values that my government will uphold. If the EU will impose sanctions because we won’t let go of these values, then we will say a prayer to God and find a way out of it.
“But I don’t believe the EU can ask me to stop openly saying that a religion other than Islam will not be allowed in Maldives,” he said, referring to calls to remove a constitutional requirement for all Maldivian citizens to be Muslims.
“I don’t believe it’s right for the European Union to say that all these prisoners should be freed, and that ‘we’ won’t accept the election as free and fair unless they are freed and allowed to contest.
“No matter how much the union asks of me, I can’t forgive all these criminals and free them. And I can’t declare that the members who have lost their (parliament) seats have not lost it. The judicial system has to rule on that.”
“I won’t accept that. The Maldivian people will not accept it, even if it is put to a vote today. These are not just political prisoners in jail. There are people who’ve done different types of crimes.
“Who would believe Ahmed Adeeb is not a criminal?” he asked, referring to his jailed former vice president. “It’s not a small thing he did. We still don’t know where hundreds of millions of dollars from the treasury are. And he tried to blow up the speedboat of the president of the Maldives and kill the president of Maldives.”
The ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled since Yameen took office now include two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, leaders of opposition parties, several lawmakers and the country’s chief prosecutor.
But the government insists there are no political prisoners in the country and it has dismissed the consensus among the international community about the “serious deterioration of human rights and the extremely limited space” for civil society in the country.
Yameen has previously claimed that the EU revoked duty-free status for Maldives tuna for refusing to implement freedom of religion and gay rights. EU officials denied the claim.
This article has been updated.