Chaos reigned supreme once again in Male on Monday, after the Maldives government tried to block the no-confidence motion against Parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh, a key ally of President Abdulla Yameen.
Several Opposition lawmakers who entered Parliament defying the orders were detained, even as the special operations police officers locked down the building. Reuters reported as many as 30 MPs tried to enter Parliament but were brutally treated by the security forces. MPs who managed to enter the building were subjected to pepper spray and were removed from the premises.
In a press statement, the Maldives Police Services said they were “investigating a case of obstruction of police duty against Members of Parliament who broke into the restricted area…”, and that it was requested by the Maldives National Defence Force to “to intervene in clearing out individuals who forcefully entered the Parliament building”.
Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, the former President, demanded: “#Maldives Defense Forces Chief Major General Shiyam must end his coup and vacate Parliament. MPs must be released from detention.”
Yameen pushed into a corner
The scenes in Parliament were a reminder of March, when another trust vote against the Speaker was allegedly sabotaged, and forces were called to clear out the Opposition. Maseeh is accused of blocking anti-corruption investigations.
President Yameen has been pushed into a corner after defections to the Opposition, which are now said to number about 45 of the 85 lawmakers in Parliament.
Looked upon as a ‘dictator’ for his high-handedness, Yameen has been grossly unpopular in the island nation. He has also been going after his opponents.
Faris Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Yameen’s nephew, was put in prison on charges of bribery recently.
It was in March that the four main Opposition parties came together against Yameen’s ‘tyrannical’ ways, to restore democracy and rule of law. The coalition is, interestingly, led by Yameen’s half brother Gayoom, who heads the Progressive Party, and includes Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, Qasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party and Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s Adhaalath Party.
Gayoom, meanwhile, had reportedly apologised for his role in Yameen’s election as President.
Developments in the island nation are watched closely in New Delhi, because of the Maldives’ strategic importance in the Indian Ocean power calculus.
Yameen has been generous to the Chinese and the Saudis. Under him, Maldives has become a part of China’s OBOR initiative, and he has allowed the Chinese to take up construction projects in strategically located islands. He is also considering giving an atoll to the Saudis, despite India’s reservations.
It’s a sign of frosty relations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to visit the Maldives. India has also been worried about the rising Wahabi influence in the archipelago.
Nasheed had also rubbed India the wrong way during his tenure, when he inaugurated the new Chinese embassy the day the then PM, Manmohan Singh, arrived in Male for the SAARC Summit.
After managing to escape from the Maldives, Nasheed has been speaking out for India’s interests, and has even spoken about annulling concessions made by Yameen to other countries. He had earlier accused India of sending mixed signals on the situation in the Maldives, and demanded that India support his endeavours.
Interestingly, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will start his three-day visit to the Maldives on Tuesday.
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