Crisis as Maldives leader defies apex court
The beleaguered Maldives government Sunday ordered police and troops to resist any move by the Supreme Court to arrest or impeach President Abdulla Yameen over his refusal to release political prisoners.
The tiny tourist archipelago has been plunged into a political crisis pitting the country’s top court against Yameen.
The judges last Thursday night ordered authorities to release nine political dissidents and restore the seats of 12 legislators who were sacked for defecting from Yameen’s party, ruling the cases were politically motivated.
But the Yameen government has so far refused to comply with the shock ruling. It has shuttered parliament and resisted international calls to respect the judicial order.
In a national television address Sunday, Attorney General Mohamed Anil remained defiant. “Any Supreme Court order to arrest the president would be unconstitutional and illegal. So I have asked the police and the army not to implement any unconstitutional order,” he said.
Former president and current opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed described the government’s refusal to obey the supreme court as a “coup.”
Nasheed, who was convicted of a terrorism charge and jailed for 13 years in 2015, urged police and troops to uphold the constitution.
“Statements made today by AG Anil to disobey SC orders is tantamount to a coup. They, and President Yameen must resign immediately,” Nasheed said on Twitter. “Security services must uphold the constitution and serve the Maldivian people.”
Nasheed lives abroad after travelling out of the country in 2016 on prison leave for medical treatment. He is currently in Colombo meeting Maldivian dissidents based in Sri Lanka.
The Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the dozen legislators gave the opposition a majority in the 85-member assembly, and it can now potentially impeach Yameen.
But the authorities shut parliament indefinitely on Saturday to avert such a move. Yameen also sacked two police chiefs after the court’s decision.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, led by Nasheed, has expressed fears that any move by the government to resist the court’s order may trigger unrest in the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims.
The government said on Friday it had concerns about releasing those convicted for terrorism, corruption, embezzlement, and treason. The United Nations, Australia, Britain, Canada, India and the United States have welcomed the court’s decision as a move towards “restoring democracy” in the Indian Ocean nation.
Nasheed was toppled in 2012. He was barred from contesting elections after his 2015 terrorism conviction.