In a brewing political crisis the Maldives government Sunday ordered its police and armed forces to reject any order by the Supreme Court to arrest or impeach President Abdulla Yameen over his refusal to act of the courts earlier orders to release political prisoners.
President Abdulla Yameen has been ruling his country with an iron grip and had charged 12 legislators, defecting from his party, with terrorism charges. The Supreme court of the country found the charges to be political motivated and reinstated them as members of country’s parliament.
But the Yameen government has refused to comply with the said orders, has shut parliament and has ignored international calls to comply. In a national television address on Sunday Attorney General Mohamed Anil said “Any Supreme Court order to arrest the president would be unconstitutional and illegal. So I have asked the police and the army not to implement any unconstitutional order,” Anil said.
The reinstatement of the dozen legislators gave the opposition led by former (and jailed) president Mohamed Nasheed, a majority in the 85-member assembly, and can potentially impeach Yameen.
There is a clear pitfall for India to have a face-off with China on the present situation. Traditionally India has been a great friend to the Muslim majority country. However exver since president Mohamed Nasheed as ousted the relationship has been on a downhill. President Yameen has always sided with China to survive Indian pressures on respect of democracy and rule of law. On its part, Maldives’ proximity to US’ Diago Garcia naval base make the island nation of immense strategic importance to both Beijing and as a result to Washington.
In the present crisis almost all countries with any interest in the Indian Ocean region has asked Yameen to respect Supreme Court decisions, China being exception, which like always continues to vouch for its own interests with complete disregard to due process, rule of law and democracy. Its time for Indian foreign ministry to have strategic clarity of thought and action as this crisis may well turn out to be an important battle for influence over the entire Indian Ocean Region.