President Abdulla Yameen has declared a nationwide state of emergency for 30 days effective 12:00pm today, citing threats to national security and public safety.
Announcing the unprecedented move, Attorney General Mohamed Anil said Yameen has issued an executive decree based on advice from the national security council, following the recent discovery of firearms and explosives.
The declaration comes two days ahead of a mass protest planned by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Yameen has banned protests and given the security forces sweeping powers to arrest suspects and conduct raids without warrants.
The constitutionally mandated 14-day notice before voting on a motion to impeach the president or vice president has also been shortened to seven days. The ruling party had submitted a motion to impeach Vice President Ahmed Adeeb on October 28.
He is under arrest on suspicion of links to an explosion on the president’s speedboat on September 28. The government says a bomb targeting the president caused the explosion.
Live blog ended at 7pm
6:18pm: The MDP has called the declaration of a state of emergency “disproportionate” and “a desperate attempt, by a President who is losing his grip, to cling onto power.”
The MDP said the primary reason for the move is to impeach the vice president, “who has been detained under questionable circumstances.”
“The MDP believes that declaration of emergency is a direct response to the government’s insecurity in assuring the upcoming no-confidence vote against VP Adeeb, and to disrupt the MDP’s large protest due to take place on 6 November,” the party said in a statement.
A 14-day period required by the constitution before tabling an impeachment motion was shortened to seven days.
Echoing criticism from a number of legal experts today, the MDP also said that the president does not have the power to amend the constitution after imposing a state of emergency.
MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said: “President Yameen has lost control of the country. He has openly admitted having no proper control over the police or the military and for the past four months, hasn’t been receiving any police intelligence reports.
“His paranoid regime lurches from crisis to crisis. 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.”
6:05pm: Human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has urged the government to “operate the state of emergency procedures with the legal ambit of the constitution.”
The MDN noted in a statement that that according to Article 255 of the constitution, “measures adopted in an emergency shall be consistent with the obligations of the Maldives under international law applicable during a state of emergency and that fundamental rights can only be restricted to the extent required by an such emergency”.
Announcing the state of emergency earlier today, Attorney General Mohamed Anil had said that a curfew will not be imposed.
The security forces will ensure that the day-to-day affairs of the public will not be unduly disrupted, he said.
Anil also assured that the constitutional rights of suspects arrested during the state of emergency will not be withheld or restricted.
5:35pm: Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s office has issued a statement condemning the government’s “political drama, which is taking place against artificial backdrop of fear and uncertainty.”
Adeeb’s office expressed concern over the impact of political turmoil on tourism and democracy.
Adeeb urged his colleagues “to show restraint in the exercise of their powers. The responsibilities of office are a heavy burden on any shoulders. When these powers and responsibilities are in the clumsy hands of those who would attempt to use them for personal gain, the damage that is caused takes skill and patience to repair.”
5:20pm: A special sitting of parliament has been scheduled for tomorrow. According to Article 257 of the constitution, the declaration of a state of emergency must be submitted for parliamentary approval within 48 hours. The declaration was published in the government gazette and submitted to the People’s Majlis today.
The issue of the declaration is the only item on the agenda for tomorrow’s sitting.
5:12pm: At a press conference this afternoon, the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) warned private television stations that broadcasting licenses will be suspended if it airs content deemed to pose a threat to national security.
Mohamed Shakeeb, the independent commission’s president, urged broadcasters to ensure that reports are accurate and do not encourage unrest.
“Broadcasters must only report any information related to the reasons for declaring state of emergency after confirmation from a relevant official authority,” Shakeeb said.
Senior staff of private broadcaster Sangu TV have since been summoned to the MBC for a meeting over its content.
4:58pm: Ihusan said the security forces launched an operation in the area based on reports of a bomb in a car parked near the State Electricity Company (STECLO) building.
4:50pm: MNDF Captain Ihusan has told the press that the suspicious device found near the Sinamalé flat is not a bomb.
4:45pm: James Dauris, British High Commissioner to the Maldives, has expressed concern with the restriction of fundamental rights with the state of emergency.
Most concerned by restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms in the #Maldives from today, including to privacy, assembly and movement.
— James Dauris (@JamesDauris) November 4, 2015
4:40pm: The MDP’s national executive committee has decided that the party’s 21 MPs will not participate in the vote to impeach Vice President Adeeb. MP Nihan told The Maldives Independent yesterday that the PPM is confident of passing the motion without the MDP’s backing.
4:28pm: The police and military are conducting an operation following “reports of an IED near Sinamalé flat,” a police spokesperson has confirmed.
A long stretch of Ameenee Magu in the southeast of the capital have been cordoned off.
4:20pm: MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed, living in exile in the UK, has called on President Yameen to resign and pave the way for “a new national reconciliation government.”
The MDP national executive committee convened for an emergency meeting at 3:30pm.
Declaring state of emergency is not the solution for Maldives. President Yamin must resign. We need a new national reconciliation government — Ali Waheed (@ali20waheed) November 4, 2015
3:25pm: The foreign ministry says the state of emergency was declared because the security forces believe “some individuals possess dangerous arms and explosives; that’s a threat to people and to national security.”
However, the situation in the country “remains calm and normal,” the foreign ministry tweeted.
Despite State of Emergency, situation in Maldives remains calm and normal. There are no restrictions for visitors to travel to Maldives
— MFA-Maldives (@MDVForeign) November 4, 2015
3:18pm: Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, leader of the PPM, has declared his support for the declaration of a state of emergency.
PPM fully supports President’s moves to ensure safety of all at this critical time for national security. — Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (@maumoonagayoom) November 4, 2015
Former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who was impeached in July, says the move suggests the government “intends to crack down on opposition.” Jameel, who currently resides in London, has called for intervention by the international community to “restore democracy with a new election.”
2:46pm: Shortly before the Attorney General announced the declaration of a state of emergency, the police and the military held a joint press conference and stressed the seriousness of the threats to national security and public safety.
“Looking at the investigation and intelligence reports, we believe there are more weapons out in the public and we believe these weapons are in the hands of someone or a group out there,” said Assistant Commissioner Abdulla Nawaz.
The police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) are carrying out operations to recover the weapons, Nawaz said. The discovery of an improvised explosive device near the official presidential residence on Monday indicates that “our nation and especially the Malé area is not safe.”
“The MNDF and the police believe the Maldivian people are not safe when there are weapons and explosives out in public,” he said.
MNDF Captain Ali Ihusan also stressed the danger posed by the unaccounted-for firearms and explosives.
“From the information we are getting from the investigation, we believe there is a big possibility that there are still more weapons and explosives in the hands of the public. Therefore, we believe that this is a danger to us, our nation and the public,” he said.
Ihusan urged anyone with information about the weapons to contact the police or MNDF without delay.
“I guarantee that the security forces will work tirelessly to ensure safety to the public,” he said.
2:30pm: Thoriq Hamid from Transparency Maldives said the NGO is “extremely worried and concerned that the situation has escalated to this point.”
“We call on the state authorities to respect fundamental rights and freedoms. We urge independent oversight mechanisms of the state to remain vigilant and monitor the situation carefully so as ensure that no individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms are unduly restricted or violated.”
2:20pm: A source close to Vice President Adeeb has told The Maldives Independent that the declaration of a state of emergency “means that they could not get enough votes for to impeach Vice president Ahmed Adeeb and that the government was unable to influence keeping him detained for more than 15 days.”
A legal expert who wished to remain anonymous meanwhile criticised the move as “unnecessary.”
“They cannot search every house in the country. It is unjustified. This declaration is a clear obstruction for human development and for people to live with good reputation. Even though the president has power there are things that he should and should not do, that is why we elect a mentally sane person,” the lawyer said.
2:03pm: MP Ahmed Nihan, majority leader of parliament, told The Maldives Independent that the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group “will remain steadfast behind President Yameen.”
“We fully support the decision by President Yameen. The declaration by the President today shows that the government is fully committed to ensure the safety and security of Maldives and its people. That is the President’s number one priority,” he said.
Nihan said PPM MPs have not yet met to discuss the issue, but expressed confidence that “all MPs of the ruling coalition will support the president’s decision.”
“This is not a decision aimed at any individual, this is a decision taken to ensure that Maldives remains a safe and peaceful country for everyone,” he said.
“I can understand that there might be some skepticism regarding the events since September 28. Expressing one’s opinion is a fundamental right, but the launch blast occurred in front of media, in broad daylight. I do not think any objective mind would doubt about the seriousness of the situation.”
The declaration of the state of emergency must be submitted for parliamentary approval within 48 hours. The People’s Majlis may revoke the declaration or approve it in whole or part.
1:50pm: Popular news website Haveeru has been down since this morning. The reasons are unclear.
1:30pm: The executive decree declaring the state of emergency reads, “I, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the President of the Republic of the Maldives, hereby proclaim: Following the explosion on the presidential speedboat, Finifenma on 28 September 2015, the Maldivian military and police seized dangerous weapons and explosives from two areas. As some weapons are still missing, and having received confirmed reports that some groups are planning to use these dangerous weapons and explosives, the National Security Council, having determined there is a threat to the safety and security of citizens and to national security, has advised immediate action. Hence, for the reasons stated above, and exercising the authority provided in Article 253 of the constitution, I declare a nationwide state of emergency for 30 days, effective 12pm today.
“My beloved citizens, I assure you, that in enforcing this decree, the rights and freedoms stated in the Constitution will only be restricted within the limits of Article 255 of the Constitution, and only to the extent strictly required by the situation.”
The following constitutional rights have been suspended:
Article 19: “A citizen is free to engage in any conduct or activity that is not expressly prohibited by Islamic Shari’ah or by law. No control or restraint may be exercised against any person unless it is expressly authorised by law.”
Article 24: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his private communications. Every person must respect these rights with respect to others.”
Article 31: “Every person employed in the Maldives and all other workers have the freedom to stop work and to strike in order to protest.”
Article 32: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly without prior permission of the state.”
Article 41(a): Every citizen has the freedom to enter, remain in and leave the Maldives, and to travel within the Maldives.”
Article 45: “Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained, arrested or imprisoned except as provided by law enacted by the People’s Majlis in accordance with Article 16 of this Constitution.”
Article 47: “No person shall be subject to search or seizure unless there is reasonable cause,” and, “Residential property shall be inviolable, and shall not be entered without the consent of the resident, except to prevent immediate and serious harm to life or property, or under the express authorisation of an order of the Court.
However, under article 255 of the constitution, the following rights and freedoms cannot be restricted in a state of emergency: Right to life (Article 21), no slavery or forced labor (Article 25), freedom of expression (Article 27), press freedom (Article 28), fair and transparent hearings (Article 42), rights on arrest or detention (Article 48[b]), rights of the accused (Article 51), confession and illegal evidence (Article 52) assistance of legal council (Article 53) no degrading treatment or torture under (article 54), no imprisonment for non-fulfilment of contractual obligation(Article 55), human treatment of arrested or detained persons (Article 57), retrospective legislation (Article 59), prohibition of double jeopardy (Article 60), retention of rights (Article 62), along with non compliance with unlawful orders (Article 64).
The 2013 Freedom of Assembly Act has also been suspended.
Article 253 of the constitution authorises the president to declare a state of emergency for a period not exceeding 60 days “in the event of natural disaster, dangerous epidemic disease, war, threat to national security, or threatened foreign aggression.”
Under article 254, a state of emergency “may include the temporary suspension of the operation of laws and infringement of certain fundamental rights and freedoms.”
Correction: A previous version of this live blog erroneously listed Article 48 of the constitution (rights on arrest or detention) among the fundamental rights that have been suspended. The article has been removed from the list after clarification with the Attorney General’s Office.