Maldives: In A State Of Emergency?

The Maldives has declared a state of emergency for a period of 30 days. This comes in the aftermath of suspected assassination attempts on important government officials. A threat to national security was cited after explosives were discovered near the official residence of President Abdulla Gayoom in the capital of Male on Wednesday. This was followed by a blast onboard Gayoom’s boat as it prepared to dock in Male on September 28.

Power has been handed to security forces for the first time since the passing of the constitution in 2008. In a televised address, Attorney-General Mohamed Anil quoted,

“because these would be a threat to the public and the nation, the National Security Council advised taking immediate steps to protect the people of Maldives.”

It comes just two days before a planned demonstration by the primary opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Senior ministers have informed Reuters that the government would only make limited use of powers in order to restrict the right of assembly. No curfew or arbitrary detention is anticipated.

The island has experienced a difficult transition to democracy since hosting its first multiparty election in 2008. The country’s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, was sentenced in March to thirteen years on terrorism charges for ordering the arrest of a judge. The case has drawn international criticism for lack of due process. Human rights groups and spokespersons from the United States consider the case against Nasheed politically motivated. The anticipated protest put forward by the MDP for Friday was intended to demand the release of the ex-president.

Gayoom has been quick to quell apparent disloyalty within his faction. Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb was arrested on Saturday in connection to the boat blast. Adeeb’s arrest resulted in the sacking of Defense Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel on October 14 and the arrest of two other military officials after the incident. Addressing the nation, Gayoom accused Adeeb of providing the police with money and equipment outside of the state budget. The decision to arrest Adeeb was made “for the security of the country.” Adeeb denies involvement in the blast, which has sparked further tensions in the region present following the train and imprisonment of Nasheed. A spokesman for Nasheed stated that the emergency rule shows the loss of support from the allies of Gayoom and disloyalty of security forces.

The Maldives has been in the spotlight ever since the ousting of Nasheed in 2012 and his conviction in March. His famed legal team–Geoffrey Robertson, Amal Clooney, Laila Ali and Jared Genser– revealed their plan to campaign internationally for his release on Monday. Despite claims made by Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon about the state of peace in the Maldives, the country’s tourism industry has suffered from the unrest. The welfare of its citizens and the nation’s democratic process hangs in the balance as events continue to unfold.