Regional legislators rebuke Maldives over political crisis

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South Asian legislators expressed concern Tuesday about the political crisis in the Maldives as President Abdulla Yameen sought to extend a draconian state of emergency in the honeymoon islands. Parliament is expected to meet Tuesday in the turbulent island nation, where Yameen wants to extend by a month sweeping emergency powers that have provoked censure from the international community.

Yameen’s office said the extension was warranted “as the threat to national security has not diminished and the constitutional crisis has not been resolved”. It is expected parliament which Yameen shuttered in a recent crackdown on opponents will rubber stamp the existing state of emergency and renew it further. Yameen’s majority in the 85-member majlis was restored Sunday after the Supreme Court quashed its earlier order for a dozen pro-opposition MPs to be returned to parliament.

But South Asian Speakers and Parliamentarians, a regional grouping of legislators, urged the Maldives’ speaker to ensure the rule of law. The “declaration of emergency and arrests and disrespect of the supreme court rulings, undermine the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary”, Karu Jayasuriya, the group’s chairman and Sri Lanka’s speaker, said in a statement.

Yameen refused to abide the Supreme Court when it ordered that the MPs be reinstalled and a number of high-profile political prisoners be released. Instead, he ordered the arrest of the Chief Justice and another Supreme Court judge in a sweeping crackdown. The remaining three judges later reversed the original orders. His estranged half-brother, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was among those arrested on a charge of bribing Supreme Court justices to topple the government through a constitutional coup.

The UN human rights chief has described the state of emergency as “an all-out assault on democracy”. Yameen has jailed almost all his political opponents since coming to power in late 2013. The latest unrest has dented the Maldives’ image as a popular holiday destination. The nation’s top earner is tourism, with holidaymakers drawn to its pristine islands and crystal-clear blue waters.

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