Insights into Editorial: Crisis in Male
Political unrest continued in the country Maldives, strategically located Maldives in the Indian Ocean , after the Supreme Court ordered the release and retrial of opposition leaders including exiled former President Mohammed Nasheed.
The Supreme Court clarification has made it clear that there is no hurdle in implementation of its ruling ordering the release of convicted opposition leaders and the reinstatement of 12 parliamentarians.
On the other hand, Maldives government has shown no intent to release the opposition leaders and begin retrial.
This has led to constitutional breakdown and military is seen all over the capital city of Male.
Till 2008, Maldives was marked by autocratic rule, human rights abuses and corruption by then-President Maumoon Gayoom. After the internal protests and international pressure, elections were held for the first time and Mohammad Nasheed became first democratically elected president in 2008. During his tenure, Maldives had faced major rise in inflation, tough economic crisis.
In 2011, opposition held mass symposium in the name of protecting the ‘Islam’ which they believed that Nasheed’s government was unable to maintain in the country. The mass event became the foundation of a campaign that brought about social unrest within the capital city
In 2012, the Maldives military arrested SC judge on charges he was blocking the prosecution of corruption and human rights cases against allies of former President Gayoom. It resulted into weeks of protests and demonstrations.
To contain these protests, Nasheed ordered police and army to subdue the anti-government protesters. But police came out to protest against the government instead. It was followed by Nasheed’s resignation on the same day as president. Nasheed’s vice president, Mohammed Waheed , was sworn in as president.
The protesters demonstrated against the coup and in favour of Nasheed. Supporters of Nasheed’s political party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), led massive demonstrations. Amnesty has raised concerns of human rights abuses during this round of protests. The Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from its democracy.
In February 2013, a court ordered Nasheed’s arrest in the same case, and he took refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male. India had intervened in the crisis urged all parties to maintain peace and calm.
In November 2013, Nasheed lost the presidential election to current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom. Nasheed was booked under tougher anti-terror laws and was sentenced to thirteen years in prison on charges of terrorism.
Nasheed is now in exile.
What is the reason for recent crisis?
The worst political crisis to have hit the archipelago in the past few years with President Abdulla Yameen showing no sign of implementing the Supreme Court ruling which ordered the release of all political prisoners, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.
The ruling said all political prisoners must be released as the trials against them violated the Maldives’ Constitution and international law.
After the court ruling, Nasheed has declared that he can and will contest the elections which should take place this year.
What is the response from other countries?
Western countries including the US and UK have welcomed the Supreme Court verdict.
India has said, in the spirit of democracy and rule of law, it is imperative for all organs of the Government of Maldives to respect and abide by the order of the apex court.
Delhi’s leverage in the Maldives is less than it has ever been. Three years ago Indian Prime Minister cancelled his visit to Male. This has singled Maldives out as the only country in the South Asian and Indian Ocean Region that he hasn’t visited.
Concerted action from the international community is required to persuade Mr. Yameen to steer the Maldives out of this crisis, without taking recourse to coercive means.
As the Maldives is in the midst of a constitutional crisis, calling fresh elections, which are in any case due later this year, may be the best way out.
Being largest neighbouring nation and SAARC member, India also has a moral responsibility to facilitate “inclusive, free and fair elections in the Maldives” in 2018.