There are still no signs of normal democratic activity in Maldives. On July 24 Police and Military stopped Opposition MPs from entering Parliament in what was the latest chapter in the ongoing, and increasingly bitter faction fight in the strategically located archipelago of 1,192 islands in the Indian Ocean.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen deployed the National Defence Force officers and police on July 24 to stop opposition MPs entering Parliament in Male, the country’s capital.
It was an unprecedented act. For Yemeen, the provocation was the Opposition’s plans to table a no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, one of his allies. Opposition, Maldivian Democratic Party, (MDP), Chairman, Hassan Latheef, told Reuters: “We were dragged, pepper-sprayed, and tear-gassed by the police and brutally stopped from entering the parliament.”
The MDP and its allies have attempted to hold protest rallies following police and military blockade of Parliament. On Wednesday night (July 26) seven journalists from two television stations were arrested while covering a protest outside a MDP meeting in Malé. They were accused of obstructing police attempts to disperse an “unlawful gathering.” They were released later.
U.S., British, German and French embassies and EU representatives have criticised Yameen’s attempts to muzzle the Opposition. “We were alarmed by the recent actions of the government of Maldives which seriously damage and undermines democracy” and the country’s “international human rights obligations,” they said in a joint statement from Colombo, where they are based. And condemned the forcible closure of Parliament to opposition MPs and their harassment and arrest. The Parliamentarians should be allowed “to conduct their rightful duties,” the statement demanded.
The MDP-led opposition has been planning for months to oust the Speaker. For MDP leader and former President Mohammed Nasheed and his supporters, this is the first step to removing a law that bans anyone convicted on so-called terrorism charges from running in Presidential elections.
In an interview to an Indian daily on July 21, Nasheed said that the Maldives “was in danger of becoming another Sri Lanka,” a reference to the Chinese infrastructure loans taken during the reign of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Nasheed has accused Yameen of “selling Maldives’ national interest to the Chinese.”
Yameen introduced this anti-democratic law in 2015 to side-line Nasheed after he latter was convicted of terrorism charges for ordering the arrest and detention of the then chief justice Abdulla Mohamed in 2012. Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years’ jail but under pressure from India, the US and Britain, he was allowed to leave Male under the pretext of taking medical treatments in London.
Last April, the MDP, together with Jamhooree Party, Adhaalath Party and supporters of former Maldives strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, attempted to remove Speaker in the 85-member Parliament. The move failed after 10 MPs from Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) refused to support a no-confidence motion.
The Opposition has since managed to secure the support from 45 MPs, including PPM members, for another no-confidence resolution, which was scheduled for July 24.
Although Yameen failed to persuade the 10 PPM defectors to support this vote, he reportedly used other tactics. The Maldives police claim that opposition MP Faris Maumoon bribed some members of Parliament to win their backing. He denied the allegation but was arrested and taken into custody on July 18.
Another opposition supporter has also been accused of bribery. Yameen has secured a Supreme Court ruling that any MP who changed their political party affiliations would be unseated. He claimed that four government MPs had lost their seats.
– POREG Team