President Abdulla Yameen lashed out at the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in his Republic Day address last night, calling the party “bipolar” and “destructive.”
Yameen accused the MDP of expressing concern over the adverse impact on the tourism industry from the unprecedented 30-day nationwide state of emergency declared last week, after having called for a tourism boycott.
“I think the psyche or thinking of these groups are characterised by bipolarism. We don’t see them saying the same thing twice,” he said.
The press was barred from last night’s Republic Day function at the Dharubaaruge convention centre, which was broadcast through state media. It was the first public event Yameen has attended since the September 28 blast on his speedboat.
Yameen delivered the speech hours after lifting the state of emergency, citing progress in the boat blast probe as well as international criticism of the move.
A visibly angry Yameen said declaring the state of emergency was the “hardest decision” he has ever made.
As the state has a duty to guarantee the constitutional right to life for all Maldivian citizens, any president would have had to do the same to ensure public safety after the discovery of weapons and explosives, he contended.
The government had said the security forces believe weapons are missing from a large arms cache discovered from an island leased for resort development.
The decisions to both declare and then lift the state of emergency six days later was made for “national interest,” which outweighs the rights or interests of an individual or group, Yameen said.
The government did not impose a curfew or deprive any individual or group of constitutional rights during the state of emergency, he insisted, but the opposition were telling foreign parties that the measure was unjustified.
“This is not something that is easy for us to accept or hear. For these parties, and for individual Maldivian citizens, the safety of the people wasn’t important. What became important to them was the restriction of the right of a particular group to gather at a particular place,” he said.
In his emergency decree, Yameen had suspended the right to freedom of assembly two days before a mass protest planned by the MDP.
Yameen said critics, including foreign governments, journalists and human rights groups, had not considered why a state of emergency had to be declared or asked whether there was “a real threat.”
“I am amazed by the articles written in the newspapers of neighboring countries. We thought they were countries who wished well for us. Why did we have to declare a state of emergency. They did not ask… The only question being raised is about the restriction of the rights of a few people,” he said.
Yameen also accused the MDP of trying to depict the Maldives as a “dangerous destination” for visitors.
“This starts with Maldivian citizens. And it has crossed our seas and started appearing in bold headlines of newspapers in our neighbouring countries,” he said.
Yameen went on to say that last night’s recipients of national awards of honour and recognition represented the “constructive” side of the 47-year-old Maldivian republic, whilst the recent security threats and the opposition’s invitation of foreign interference was the “flip-side” or “destructive side.”
While the constitution enshrines fundamental rights for individuals, Yameen said the country “collectively” has rights, too.
“The country’s right is to for this state to reach the coming generations as an Islamic and independent state,” he said.
“No individual or group, no matter how strong or wealthy, has the right to take away this right from the country.”
A Republican form of government is based on the consent of the governed, he continued, and the Maldives is mature after 47 years.
Yameen ended the speech by posing two question to the audience: “Do Maldivians have the capability to decide the Maldives’ affairs? The second question is, should Maldivians have the right to decide Maldivian affairs? Say it with me. Yes, yes, we should have that right!”
Unwarranted foreign interference in domestic affairs has been a recurrent theme of the president’s speeches in the wake of international censure over the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
In June, the Maldives narrowly avoided being placed under review by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) over the political crisis triggered by the jailing of the opposition leader and ex-Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.
A Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is due to take place in Malta in late November.
The MDP insists it has not called for boycotting tourism, but supported targeted sanctions against state officials responsible for alleged human rights violations.
In the wake of a UN rights panel declaring Nasheed’s imprisonment illegal, the opposition leaders’ high-profile international lawyers launched a campaign to lobby world leaders for travel bans and asset freezes against Maldivian state officials.