Maldives extends state of emergency for another 30 days

The under-construction China Maldives Friendship Bridge is pictured near the city of Male on Feb 8, 2018. Maldives President Abdulla Yameen sought parliamentary approval to extend a state of emergency for 15 days. PHOTO: AFP

MALE, Maldives (AFP) - Maldives President Abdulla Yameen extended a draconian state of emergency by another month on Tuesday (Feb 20), ignoring a growing chorus of international concern and calls for democracy to be restored in the honeymoon islands.

Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency earlier this month, curtailing the powers of the judiciary and the legislature after the country's Supreme Court ruled to quash criminal convictions against high profile opposition politicians.

The Maldives' highest court has since revoked its order after two top judges were arrested, seemingly giving Yameen the upper hand in a bitter power struggle.

Despite criticism from the international community, legislators from the president's party on Tuesday controversially approved to extend emergency rule by a further 30 days.

There was no immediate comment from the government but Yameen's office said Monday the extension was warranted as the threat to national security had "not diminished."

It also said the constitutional crisis in the archipelago had not been resolved since the court's decision on Feb 1.

Yameen currently has a majority in the 85-member parliament, restored Sunday after the depleted top court also U-turned on its order for 12 pro-opposition MPs - previously sacked for defecting from Yameen's party - to be reinstated.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said Tuesday they boycotted the vote on the state of emergency extension and accused the ruling party of voting without the constitutionally mandated quorum in the legislature.

Hours before the Maldivian parliament rubber stamped the extension a group of South Asian legislators said they feared for democracy in the Indian Ocean nation, where Yameen has long been cracking down on dissent.
He has jailed almost all his political opponents since coming to power in late 2013.

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, chairman of South Asian Speakers and Parliamentarians, and Sri Lanka's speaker, said in a statement.

The UN human rights chief has meanwhile described the state of emergency as "an all-out assault on democracy".

The 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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