Maldives govt. yet to implement SC ruling

Opposition leaders are still in prison, Parliament session deferred; President Yameen says court order was unexpected

Updated - February 03, 2018 09:58 pm IST

Published - February 03, 2018 08:47 pm IST - Colombo

Standing ground: A Maldivian opposition supporter faces the police during a protest in Male on Friday.

Standing ground: A Maldivian opposition supporter faces the police during a protest in Male on Friday.

Nearly 48 hours after the Maldives Supreme Court overturned the conviction of nine opposition leaders, including the exiled former President, Mohamed Nasheed, the Male administration is yet to release them, raising domestic and international concern over the delay.

On Saturday, authorities indefinitely postponed Monday’s Parliament session, citing “security reasons”, and the government dismissed the acting police commissioner from the post, a day after it sacked the police commissioner, following a tweet from the Maldives police saying it would uphold the Supreme Court ruling.

The Joint Opposition, including the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led by Mr. Nasheed, has expressed concern over President Abdulla Yameen’s “refusal” to abide by the ruling. “We are deeply fearful that the government’s refusal to implement the Supreme Court order could escalate unrest and incite violence across the country,” it said in a statement.

The government has maintained that it needed to “vet and clarify the order”. “No deadlines are being considered at this point — the focus is on , through consultations, implementing the ruling in the swiftest manner possible within the proper rules of procedure,” Ibrahim Hussain Shihab, the international spokesperson at the President’s office in Male, told The Hindu .

President Yameen has said he did not expect the ruling. In a report published on Saturday evening, the Male-based Maldivian Independent quoted Mr. Yameen as saying: “I didn’t expect this Supreme Court ruling at all, but as they are the top court and there’s a ruling, the state and all relevant authorities have to do a lot of work to see how to implement it.”

Ready for polls

Addressing supporters gathered in Male, Mr. Yameen said: “If they [the Opposition] need to see who has support now, if it takes holding elections early I would do that.”

The administration has neither released the nine persons, nor reinstated the 12 parliamentarians expelled earlier for defecting, despite the order mandating both. If reinstated, the legislators would raise the Opposition number in Parliament to a majority. The developments have sparked greater anxiety among locals critical of the Yameen administration.

“I hear that my husband has been shifted to another prison and kept in isolation,” Mariyam Nashwa, wife of former Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb, told The Hindu over telephone. Mr. Adeeb was among the nine persons the apex court named for immediate release, pending a fresh trial.

For months, Ms. Nashwa has been pleading with the authorities to grant medical leave to her husband who was diagnosed with glaucoma. “He has also been advised cancer screening, but even after the ruling, the government is refusing to release him.”

After the ruling, India, the U.S. and the EU, among others, have urged the government to respect the order and ensure that democracy and rule of law prevail.

Top UN officials and human rights watchdogs are also putting pressure on Male to comply with the order. The UN Secretary-General even offered to facilitate all-party talks to find a solution to the “political stalemate” in the Maldives.

“For the rule of law to retain any meaning, this ruling must be implemented and the witch-hunt against the political Opposition and other critics must come to an end,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

Following inaction for two days, countries, including the U.K., have issued travel advisories warning visitors of possible violence in Male, given the mounting frustration among people awaiting government action.

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