Sunday 22 September 2019

Maldives president declares state of emergency

Captain Ali Ihusaan speaks to the media after an explosive device was discovered near the president's official residence. (AP)
Captain Ali Ihusaan speaks to the media after an explosive device was discovered near the president's official residence. (AP)

The president of the Maldives has declared a state of emergency that sharply curtails citizens' rights for 30 days.

The move comes after an explosion on his speedboat and the discoveries of a homemade bomb near his residence and a weapons cache.

Attorney general Mohamed Anil said President Yameen Abdul Gayoom made the decision to safeguard public safety.

"The military and police found weapons and an explosive from two locations in their operations. Because these would be a threat to the public and the nation, the National Security Council has advised to take immediate steps to protect the people of Maldives," Mr Anil said.

Under the state of emergency, the military and police are able to enter and search homes without warrants and can make arrests virtually at will. Citizens are forbidden to hold protests, strike, or travel between the country's many islands.

The declaration effectively thwarts plans by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party to hold a mass rally on Friday demanding the release of its jailed leader, former president Mohamed Nasheed.

It is customary for people to travel from outer islands to participate in protests in the capital, Male.

Opposition spokesman Hamid Abdul Gaffoor said the state of emergency was politically motivated, and the party would meet to decide whether to go ahead with the protest.

Maldives has been tense since a September 28 explosion on the president's speedboat and a subsequent series of arrests of people, including vice president Ahmed Adeeb, on suspicion of involvement in the explosion.

Mr Gayoom was unhurt by the blast, which the government called an assassination attempt.

The US FBI, which investigated the explosion, said it found no evidence that it was caused by a bomb.

The military said it found a homemade bomb in a parked vehicle close to the president's official residence. Days earlier, an arms cache was found on an island being developed as a tourist resort.

Maldives, best known for luxury island resorts and beaches, has had a difficult transition to democracy since holding its first multi-party election in 2008, which ended 30 years of autocratic rule by Mr Gayoom's half-brother.

Mr Nasheed, the country's first democratically-elected leader, resigned following public protests against his decision to order the arrest of a top judge in 2012.

In 2013, Mr Gayoom defeated Mr Nasheed in a disputed election in which the Supreme Court annulled the results of the first round, which Mr Nasheed was leading, and delayed a revote until Mr Gayoom was able to negotiate a winning coalition with other parties.

Mr Nasheed is now serving a 13-year prison sentence under a terrorism law for his role in arresting the judge. His trial was widely criticised for its apparent lack of due process.

PA Media

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