The Maldives government remained defiant on Sunday, with the Attorney-General instructing law enforcement agencies not to obey a recent Supreme Court ruling ordering the release of nine Opposition leaders, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Security forces in the capital also shut the country’s Parliament and arrested two Opposition legislators on Sunday. Four days since the court ruling, President Abdulla Yameen’s administration appears firm amid an apparent political and constitutional crisis.
A statement issued by the President’s office said Attorney-General Mohamed Anil had advised law enforcement agencies “to uphold the Constitution and disregard all illegal orders”, alluding to Thursday’s surprise ruling on the release of Opposition leaders. The court had also ordered that 12 legislators, earlier expelled from Parliament for defection, be reinstated.
The statement from the A-G also said that security forces had received information that sometime on Sunday, the Supreme Court may impeach President Yameen, justifying the government’s order to the police and troops to resist such a move. According to local media, chiefs of the military and police said they would take orders only from the Attorney-General, implying they will not implement the SC ruling. The Hindu’s attempts to reach Mr. Anil over telephone were unsuccessful.
Terming the A-G’s statement “tantamount to a coup” Mr. Nasheed, in a tweet, called for President Yameen’s immediate resignation.
In an interview to a private television channel from Sri Lanka on Sunday, Mr. Nasheed called for protests and urged rank-and-file members of the troops to arrest the A-G and the chiefs of the army and police.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of Parliament, who had earlier announced he would reinstate the 12 MPs as per the order, also resigned on Sunday. He did not give any reason.
In a statement, the joint opposition alliance said, “President Yameen is now ruling the Maldives illegally.”
Breaking his silence on Saturday, President Yameen said he had not expected such an order from the Supreme Court. He appealed to Maldivians to put forward “patience and national interest”, adding that he was prepared to hold early elections.
Responding on Twitter, Mr. Nasheed said: “Pledging to hold an early election in a fixed term presidential system as in the Maldives is ludicrous.”
Since Thursday, the Maldives has been on the boil, with a few local media outlets and Twitter serving as the key channels of information other than official statements. On Sunday, senior members from President Yameen’s ruling party accused the television channel ‘Raajje TV’ of spreading discord, and demanded that it be shut down, provoking strong reactions.
Expressing dismay, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Atul Keshap tweeted: “I remember not long ago when #Maldives had several vibrant, independent channels and newspapers and a vibrant #FreePress. Almost all have fallen silent due to recent punitive legal restrictions on #FreedomofSpeech.”
Following Thursday’s development, domestic and international actors, including the UN and countries such as India and the U.S., have urged Mr. Yameen to respect the ruling.