In an unprecedented move, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has declared a state of emergency, ordered security forces into the supreme court and arrested a former president.The president has defied a Supreme Court ruling handed down last week, which revoked terrorism charges against nine leading opposition figures including the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, who is now in exile.
“The President has been compelled to declare a state of emergency due to the risk currently posed to national security,” said a statement from President Yameen’s office on Monday. “Implementation of the Supreme Court ruling is – in its current form – incompatible with maintenance of public safety.”
China, the United States and India issued travel advisories for the Maldives, a country of 400,000 people best known as a beach paradise for the tourists that provide most of its foreign currency revenue.
The United States on Monday called on the Maldives government and military to respect the rule of law after the president of the archipelago declared a state of emergency. “America stands with the people of Maldives. The Maldivian government and military must respect the rule of law, freedom of expression, and democratic institutions. The world is watching,” the White House National Security Council said in a post on Twitter.
The U.S. National Security Council released a statement on Twitter saying, “The Maldivian government and military must respect the rule of law, freedom of expression, and democratic institutions. The world is watching.”
Amnesty International said that the 15-day emergency declaration must not become a license for further repression. “The Maldivian authorities have an appalling track-record of suppressing freedom of expression and any form of opposition, a pattern of behavior that has intensified over recent years,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty’s Deputy South Asia Director.
The Maldives has experienced political unrest since Nasheed, the island’s first democratically-elected leader, was forced to quit amid a mutiny by police in 2012.