As of the 4th of November, the Maldives declared a state of emergency following the near assassination of President Abdulla Yameen, who narrowly escaped injury when a blast struck his boat last month. Despite US investigators’ attempts there has been no evidence found to prove that the blast was indeed an assassination attempt.
Nevertheless, since the discovery of machine guns, grenades and bombs, supposedly stolen from the state armoury, were found on an uninhabited island, Yameen declared a nationwide state of emergency for 30 days. Interestingly, the declaration came two days before a mass protest was meant to take place by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Due to the declaration, protests were banned and security forces were able to arrest suspects and conduct raids without warrants. The MDP called the declaration of a state of emergency ‘disproportionate’ and ‘a desperate attempt by a President who is losing his grip, to cling onto power’.
However as of the 10th of November, the state of emergency has been lifted and Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Maumoon says that they ‘are pleased that this matter has been dealt with so swiftly’. The news that it has been lifted is a sigh of relief for the citizens of the Maldives as they were having to deal with the new powers given to police and armed forces, which included being able to arrest suspects and suspend freedom of assembly and movement. Furthermore, there were threats to freedom of press, including hacks on news sites and Raajje TV station even suspended its news programming following the arrests of three of its journalists.
The fact that the state of emergency has been lifted on the 10th still means that the rally by the MDP was affected and given that there is no evidence that the blast on the boat was done by terrorists, one has to wonder whether this was in fact a strategic move by Yameen to hold onto his power (especially given that he sustained no injuries from the blast). Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, a spokesperson for MDP, stated that Yameen has ‘openly admitted to having no proper control over the police or the military’. Additionally, Yameen has jailed or threatened every opposition leader, placed criminal charges against 1,700 opposition activists and has even turned on his own Vice President; perhaps it is time for Yameen to resign.
So, what does the future hold for the Maldives? Mark Lynas, environment activist and former climate adviser to President Nasheed, seems to think that the Maldives is ‘following a tricky route towards democracy’ that seems to have derailed since 2008. In 2009, President Nasheed set huge targets of carbon emission cuts, however, as sea levels continue to rise, there have been accusations towards the government that it has abandoned its targets and instead is allowing oil companies to drill into its fragile reefs. Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Maumoon has even admitted that the government was exploring for oil, but assured that it still is committed to carbon emission targets. Given the evidence, it seems that the Maldives has a choice: either becoming a ‘corrupt petro state’ or an ‘enlightened, democratic climate leader’ and it seems that the forces of petro state seem to be winning.
Let’s hope that the Maldives will not lose tourism due to a seemingly unstable President and government along with the 42% tourism brings to the Maldivian economy and let’s hope that the Maldives will strive to fight climate change with the drive and passion it had back in 2009.