17 March 2018 04:11 PM



Nasheed Asks India to Intervene in Maldivian Crisis, New Delhi And Beijing Reluctant to Take Sides

India might send a special envoy

MALE: The former Maldivian President and the current opposition stalwart, Mohamed Nasheed, on Tuesday asked for a military-backed Indian diplomatic intervention and also US economic sanctions against the Maldivian regime headed by President Abdulla Yameen.

India is yet to react to the appeal. But a military intervention is almost ruled out given the fact that these days, India does not resort to military action but only indulges in saber-rattling, at the most.

Gone are the 1980s when India flexed its military muscles in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

In July 1987, India sent its armed forces in considerable numbers to Sri Lanka to implement the India-Sri Lanka Accord. And in 1988 it sent its navy to interdict Sri Lankan Tamil militants while they were on their way to the Maldives to overthrow President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at the instance of one of his rivals.

While the Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka failed to deliver the goods or was only partially successful, the intervention in the Maldives bore fruit. Gayoom survived to rule the 1200 island archipelago till 2008 when a pro-democracy movement forced him to give way to a new order.

But in response to Nasheed’s fervent plea, couched as a “humble request” what India is most likely to do is to send a Special Envoy post haste to urge talks between the two parties and read out the riot act to Yameen, albeit gently.

This approach is expected to succeed because of Yameen’s weak position as on date.

The heavy flexing of muscles Yameen has been indulging in all these days, is unlikely to bring him popular support as he has curbed the democratic rights of all Maldivians and not just his enemies or rivals.

He has even curbed the Right to Silence when being interrogated. The judiciary and parliament have been completely crippled under Emergency Regulations. The Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed has been arrested along with fellow judge Ali Hameed. The chief of Judicial Administration is being interrogated.

All of them are being questioned on allegedly shady property transactions. But given the nature of police and judicial processes in the past, truth and honesty will be conspicuously absent. Jailing opposition leaders and recalcitrant officials on trumped charges has not been uncommon in the Maldives, not just under Yameen, but under other dispensations also.

On the political front, apart from arresting two former MPs, who the Supreme Court had re-instated last week, Yameen has arrested former President Mamoon Abdul Gayoom too.

Gayoom’s son and MP, Maumoon Faris, was released on Tuesday by the Criminal Court, but the government could well refuse to release him just as it refused to release the nine top opposition leaders who the Supreme Court had discharged last Thursday.

Even China, Yameen’s only friend in the world, may not be able to save him because the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, made it clear that China wants the spat between Yameen and the opposition to be settled by “dialogue and negotiations.”

It also issued the most stringent travel advisory asking Chinese to “avoid” the Maldives till the crisis is resolved.

China, being the greatest economic power in Asia is interested in a peaceful settlement of disputes in the South Asian region,and has, in the recent past, shown its willingness to mediate.

While other countries only talked of the Rohingya crisis in Myamnar but did little about it, China moved into political vacuum and brought about talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh, a move which won it friends in both countries.

With Indian military action looming on the horizon, China might take diplomatic initiatives to stem any such aggressive Indian move and urge Yameen to go for talks with his detractors.

A lesson which China has learnt from its bitter experience in Sri Lanka is that it should not put all its eggs in the basked of one leader. In the case of Sri Lanka it put all its eggs in the basket of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but when Rajapaksa lost power, its projects were stopped for investigations for about a year causing huge cost runs.

Since both the new Sri Lankan government and China wanted each other they re-negotiated the deals which strangely turned out to be more favorable to China as compared to the previous deals!

After the 2015 regime change, no country other than China came forward to build infrastructure. China needed to be in Sri Lanka for strategic purposes and it filled the post-regime change economic development gap with alacrity to become a power to reckon with in Sri Lanka.

The same thing could happen in the Maldives. China will not put all its eggs in the Yameen basket. It will pave the way to enter into equally favorable agreements with Nasheed or whoever replaces Yameen.

India too is likely to move cautiously and not jump at the opportunity to intervene militarily just because opposition stalwart Mohamed Nasheed wants it. As in the case of the stand off vis-à-vis China on Doklam and Pakistan, caution will rule the Indian mind.

Last Thursday, the Maldivian Supreme Court ordered the Yameen government to immediately release from prison nine top opposition political leaders. Among them was former President Mohamed Nasheed. The court also re-instated 12 MPs who had been sacked earlier for crossing the floor.

If implemented, these orders would have greatly strengthened the opposition parties both inside and outside parliament and helped the opposition carry out its threat to impeach President Yameen.

On Sunday, Attorney General Mohamed Anil told the media that government has information about the Supreme Court’s plan to pass an order to arrest and impeach Yameen. Anil dubbed the move as unconstitutional and said that as per the constitution, only parliament can impeach and remove the President.

He warned that the government and the police would not carry out illegal and unconstitutional orders. The Army chief, Maj.Gen. Ahmed Shiyam, who was by Anil’s side, said that the Security Forces would stand by the government in upholding the law and constitution.

The Maldivian parliament minus a number of opposition MP, was thought to be firmly under Yameen’s control. Vital resolutions of far reaching domestic and international import, such as the China-Maldives Free Trade Agreement (CMFTA), were passed in ten minutes flat without a debate.

But then, suddenly on Thursday, the Supreme Court passed an order re-instating twelve MPs who had earlier been unseated for cross floor crossing. If they do come back to parliament and sit with the opposition, the latter’s power to pass an impeachment motion against the President with the required two thirds majority would have been enhanced.

To add to Yameen’s woes, the Secretary General of parliament, Ahmed Mohamed, resigned, as he had been of the view that the reinstated MPs could start attending parliament.

Fearing trouble, the Speaker decided to postpone the parliament session indefinitely and the Security Forces surrounded parliament. Two reinstated MPs, Abdulla Sinan and Ahmed Ilham, who had arrived from abroad, were arrested at the airport

Earlier, the Election Commissioner, Ahmed Sulaiman, resigned amidst former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s allegation that Yameen is planning to rig the September 2018 Presidential election. After Sulaiman’s exit, the President decided to have an entirely new Elections Commission and called for applications..

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to accept the government’s plea that the nine political leaders ordered to be released by the court cannot be released because of certain legal and other concerns and that a mutually acceptable way has to be found to implement the release order.

The government had pointed out that the leaders in question had been jailed for serious offenses like terrorism, bomb attacks, bribery, embezzlement and fraud.

But the Supreme Court said on Sunday that it does not accept the government’s concerns as valid because the court is only asking for release prior to a retrial. The court’s point is that the trials which had ended in conviction were not fair.

Meanwhile, in an effort to intimidate the Supreme Court, the government started investigating the allegedly questionable purchase of properties by Justice Ali Hameed and the Judicial Administrator Hassan Saeed Hussain. There were reports that Chief Justice Abdullah Saeed may also have been involved in such transactions. Justices Saeed and Hameed were later arrested.

The Criminal Court also passed an order to arrest the Judicial Administrator, but the Supreme Court annulled it saying that the lower court had not followed the correct procedure.

The government’s counter to all this was that the constitution bars the judiciary from interfering with the “regulatory powers of the Executive” and that the courts’ orders are “unconstitutional”. It also asked officer to defy the court’s orders.

Later through Emergency Regulations, the government completely took over the judiciary by denying it all its constitutional rights.

However, as on date, Yameen has the support of the army and the police.