The Maldives, a tiny island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is in the midst of a severe political crisis.
Public outcry and unrest has grown since President Abdulla Yameen arrested and jailed nine members of the political opposition, including the country’s former president Mohamed Nasheed. The matter proceeded to the Supreme Court, which last week overturned those arrests and ordered all of the prisoners to be released.
When the country’s attorney general and chief prosecutor failed to release them as ordered, the opposition petitioned the parliament, seeking the removal for refusing to implement the Supreme Court verdict.
Then on February 5, instead of complying with the Supreme Court decision, Yameen declared a state of emergency, which allowed him the power to make arrests freely. He had his security forces storm the Supreme Court and arrest two of the five judges, along with an opposition leader, his half-brother former President Gayoom — whom he claimed were plotting to overthrow him. Predictably, the remaining members of the Supreme Court reversed their decision.
One opposition member of parliament, Eva Abdulla, said of Yameen’s emergency order that it was “nothing but a purge of the political opposition, the judiciary and the parliament”.
Yameen has been widely accused of corruption, of having used contracts with exclusive resorts to enrich himself. But as reported by the New York Times, the situation is made more complex for the fact that members of both the opposition and the Supreme Court have also been involved in graft.
Opposition members of parliament are appealing to India and the U.S. for intervention.
Meanwhile, the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs is trying to reassure potential tourists that they should feel comfortable vacationing in the Maldives. That grows less and less credible as the U.S., India, Australia, China and the UK all issue travel advisories to their citizens.
Zoe Licata (Boston, Massachusetts)