6 February 2018

  President Yameen declared emergency rule on 5 February 2018. This was his respose to a court order that quashed convictions of nine opposition leaders on the grounds that their trials were plitically tainted. The Supreme Court also ordered the reinstatement of 12 members of the parliament who were stripped of their seats for defecting the party last year. If the 12 lawmakers are reinstated the ruling party would lose its majority and it would pave the way for an impeachment of the president. Yameen’s office released a statement that the supreme mcourt order had disrupted the government function, breached national security and undermined the constitution. Hence it was necessary to impose emergency rule. The Reuters News Agency reported.

 Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a half-brother of President Yameen, who has allied himself with the opposition, was detained at his home. Gayoom’s son-in-law, Mohamed Nadheem, was also arrested at the same time.

 President’s emergency rule has restricted some rights of the citizen and suspended some laws. President Yameen ordered the arrest of the Chief Justice and a senior judge. He also ordered the forces to take control of the Supreme Court. The President also fired two police chiefs who said that they would uphold the court order. President said that the judges were plotting a coup.

Yameen was standing up to international pressure because he believed China was on his side. China has not called for implementation of Supreme Court order. The recent Free Trade Agreement and participation in Belt and Road initiative shows the influence China has over Yameen. Some analysts said that even if international community decided to impose sanctions, China will offer support to the Maldives because of its stakes in that country.

 As the news of the emergency spread there was a wave of protests in the capital city. According to the country’s Constitution, a decision to impose Emergency has to be submitted to the Parliament, or Majlis, within 48 hours of it coming into force. If the House was not in session, it has to be convened within 14 days. Yameen put off a scheduled session of the Majlis that was to begin on February 5.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, a leading opposition figure, was in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, when the Supreme Court delivered the ruling that set off the latest crisis.  He requested India to intervene with military support. India is very much aligned with Nasheed but it is unlikely that it will take any military action. He also urged the United States to cut out all financial transactions with the country.

While Maldives is strategically important for India, the presence of China will deter it from making any moves to support Mohamed Nasheed. In 1988, a Maldivian group led by Abdullah Luthufi attempted to overthrow the government in Maldives. The group was aided by armed mercenaries of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), a Sri Lankan Tamil secessionist organisation. The intervention by Indian armed forces trounced the attempted coup. Current situation is not comparable to what happened in 1988.

United States and India have urged the President to settle the dispute through dialog. China which has substantial investments in the Maldives has also said that the dispute should be settled internally. Global Times a state run English language daily in China warned India not to intervene in the affairs of Maldives.

 In the past the Maldivian judges were aligned with President Yameen. It is not clear why they wanted to make a U-turn to support the opposition.

A new ruling, which was published online, was signed by the bench’s three remaining judges. It said the judges, upon considering concerns raised by the president, had decided to “annul” a section ordering the release and re-trial of the nine people, seven of whom are imprisoned in the Maldives, Al Jazeera reported. It said that Yameen has coerced and intimidated the remaining judges to issue the new ruling. The president on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court move to reinstate the convictions of high-profile political prisoners.

Maldives police on Wednesday arrested three family members of jailed top court judge Ali Hameed who was arrested along with chief justice Ali Hameed.  Two of Hameed’s wife‘s siblings and her sister in law are believed to have been taken into custody. Hameed was taken to state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) around just after midnight on Wednesday and was immediately admitted. It is not known whether he has been released from the hospital.

Law relating to the State of Emergency has been revised. Under the revised rule a person can be detained without being told why he is being detained. Those arrested need not be produced before a judge for remand hearing within 24 hours. Those arrested can be detained so long as the state of emergency remains.