Mal­dives troops block­ade par­lia­ment, cri­sis worsens

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MAL­DIVES: Mal­di­vian troops block­aded par­lia­ment and clashed with op­po­si­tion lead­ers for a sec­ond day, wit­nesses said yes­ter­day, as po­lit­i­cal tur­moil es­ca­lated in the trou­bled hon­ey­moon is­lands. The lat­est tur­bu­lence came as the United King­dom urged its ci­ti­zens to take cau­tion in the cap­i­tal Male af­ter sol­diers tear gassed protest­ing politi­cians there. Sol­diers barred the main op­po­si­tion Mal­di­vian Demo­cratic Party (MDP) from en­ter­ing the heav­ily guarded par­lia­ment com­plex again yes­ter­day, with wit­nesses re­port­ing shov­ing as MPs were forced back from the bar­ri­cade.

“Even when par­lia­ment is not in ses­sion, MPs are free to go to the build­ing and at­tend to their work, but it is not al­lowed now,” MDP spokesman Hamid Ab­dul Ghafoor told AFP. “This is ridicu­lous.” The par­lia­ment gates were pad­locked by sol­diers Mon­day in a move de­scribed as il­le­gal by ex­iled Mal­di­vian op­po­si­tion leader Mo­hamed Nasheed. An op­po­si­tion coali­tion, united against Pres­i­dent Ab­dulla Yameen, had been threat­en­ing to move a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion against the speaker in a bid to im­peach the pres­i­dent’s ally. But MPs try­ing to en­ter the com­pound were hit with pep­per spray and forcibly evicted.

Yameen’s of­fice said in a state­ment Tues­day that par­lia­ment was closed ahead of an “in­com­ing VVIP visit”. Pak­istan Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif is in the Mal­dives as the trop­i­cal is­land na­tion cel­e­brates its 52nd an­niver­sary, the Pak­istan High Com­mis­sion in Sri Lanka said. “The spe­cial mea­sures taken by the se­cu­rity forces at the par­lia­ment build­ing on 24 July 2017 were to en­sure the se­cu­rity and safety of the premises, as man­dated by the... con­sti­tu­tion,” Yameen’s of­fice said.

Po­lit­i­cal protests

Res­i­dents said se­cu­rity in Male, a con­gested cap­i­tal just one-square mile (two square kilo­me­tres) in size, was tighter than usual. The UK gov­ern­ment urged its ci­ti­zens to avoid large gath­er­ings and protests fol­low­ing the dis­tur­bance around the par­lia­ment build­ing. “Pre­vi­ous demon­stra­tions and po­lit­i­cal protests have led to vi­o­lence and ar­rests,” the up­dated travel sum­mary said.

Months of po­lit­i­cal up­heaval in the Mal­dives has dented its im­age as a hon­ey­moon par­adise. The United States and other na­tions have urged the Mal­dives to safe­guard democ­racy amid a crack­down by Yameen on his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, most of whom are in ex­ile or jail. The op­po­si­tion coali­tion, led by Nasheed, wants to de­feat Yameen at elec­tions next year but is strug­gling with its lead­er­ship in tat­ters.

Ear­lier this month they se­cured enough sup­port from gov­ern­ment de­fec­tors to be­gin im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against the speaker, hop­ing to weaken Yameen’s grip on par­lia­ment. How­ever the par­lia­ment sec­re­tariat de­clared the im­peach­ment mo­tion was in­valid, sched­ul­ing the next sit­ting on July 31. The first at­tempt to im­peach the speaker in March trig­gered chaos when troops act­ing on Yameen’s or­ders stormed par­lia­ment and re­moved dis­sent­ing op­po­nents by force.

Nasheed be­came the Mal­dives’ first demo­crat­i­cally-elected pres­i­dent in 2008, but was nar­rowly de­feated by Yameen in a con­tro­ver­sial 2013 elec­tion run-off. In 2015, he was sen­tenced to 13 years in prison on ter­ror­ism charges that were widely seen as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. He now lives in ex­ile in Bri­tain.

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