The comparison was made in an opinion piece by Mohamed Shainee, the Maldives minister of fisheries and agriculture.
“The reality on the ground during a state of emergency is often markedly different to that imagined,” he said in the Asia Times.
“Take France. Last November, an end was called to the two-year state of emergency that had been implemented after the tragic terrorist attack on the Bataclan theater in Paris. Yet in that interlude, day-to-day life went on as usual. France’s cherished liberté remained intact.”
Almost 100 people died in France after the state of emergency was first declared in November 2015. It was extended six times and human rights organisations warned that the measures taken undermined civil liberties and had a disproportionate effect on minorities, particularly Muslims.
Shainee said President Abdulla Yameen was compelled to announce a state of emergency in the Maldives to resolve the standoff between the government and the judiciary, as well as to clear the threat to national security.
“But just as in France, it does little to disturb our citizens’ daily business. In fact, it in no way affects the ordinary people of our island state. The scope is limited only to those under investigation in relation to the recent coup attempt.”
The government’s insistence that everything is normal has not stopped the international community and rights organisations from condemning the state of emergency, saying people are being arbitrarily detained and that constitutionally guaranteed freedoms are being eroded.
The tourism industry, which is vital to the economy, has taken a battering through cancellations and a slew of travel advisories and warnings about the Maldives.
There has also 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.
Photo: Munshid Mohamed