Beleaguered Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency on Monday, 5 February, reported local Maldives news organisation Rajje TV.
Following the announcement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued an advisory asking Indians to defer all non-essential travels to the Maldives due to the prevailing law and order situation.
The prevailing political developments in Maldives and the resultant law and order situation is a matter of concern for the Government of India. Indian nationals are, therefore, advised to defer all non-essential travels to Male and other atolls until further notice. Indian expatriates in Maldives are also alerted to the need for heightened security awareness, and urged to exercise due caution in public and avoid public gatherings.MEA
The move gives sweeping powers to Maldives’ security forces to arrest and detain suspects, and comes amid a deepening political crisis in the Indian Ocean nation as Yameen refuses to comply with a Supreme Court order to release political prisoners.
Earlier on Monday, sources within the Maldivian Supreme Court have sought India and other nations’ intervention to ensure that the “rule of law” is upheld in the country, TOI reported.
After the Maldivian Supreme Court had dismissed a hearing against exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed and ordered the release of nine opposition MPs on 1 February, the country’s Government had declared that it would not comply with the order, and had said that any attempt to impeach or arrest President Abdulla Yameen would be illegal.
The court had also ordered the reinstatement of 12 lawmakers who had been stripped of their parliamentary seats by Yameen's party for “defecting” in 2017, saying their removal was unconstitutional, Reuters reported.
The reinstatement of the dozen legislators, who now belong to opposition parties, would have caused Yameen's party to lose its majority in the 85-member parliament.
The United States Ambassador for Sri Lanka and Maldives Atul Keshap tweeted "Any robust Democracy requires a judiciary that functions without hindrance or intimidation."
Soon after, the White Hose National Security Council put out a tweet saying the US stands with the people of Maldives.
What Does India Have to Do With It?
Historically, India and Maldives have been on mutually friendly terms, with India even stepping in with military force to prevent a coup in Maldives in 1988.
After winning elections in 2013, one of Yameen’s first foreign visits was to India. Yameen figured among the list of world leaders who had also been invited to attend PM Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014, Livemint reported.
On 2 February, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had issued a statement urging President Yameen to step down and abide by the Supreme Court order.
We have seen the order of the Supreme Court of Maldives releasing all political prisoners. 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.Ministry of External Affairs’ statement on 2 February
TOI also reported that sources within the Maldivian Supreme Court had requested help from India and other democratic countries. The TOI report adds that Yameen is looking to sack the judges of the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.
In its statement on 2 February, the Indian MEA had reiterated that it hopes for a peaceful resolution to the crisis:
We are closely monitoring the evolving situation. As a close and friendly neighbour, India wishes to see a stable, peaceful and prosperous Maldives.Ministry of External Affairs’ statement
Apart from India, the UN, Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States have hailed the Supreme court order as a move towards democracy in the politically troubled climate of the country.
(With inputs from The Wire, TOI, PTI, Reuters, and Livemint)