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Maldives crisis 'worst in its history'

Shamil Shams Interview
February 13, 2018

In a DW interview, Jameel Ahmed, the former vice president of the Maldives, said the country needs international support to resolve a political crisis after President Yameen jailed judges and suspended rights.

Malediven, Demonstranten der maledivischen Opposition rufen Parolen, die während eines Protestes die Freilassung politischer Gefangener fordern
Image: picture-alliance/M.Sharuhaan

DW: How do you view the current political crisis in the Maldives, particularly President Abdulla Yameen's decision declare a state of emergency and defy the Supreme Court's ruling to reinstate opposition MPs and release political prisoners?

Jameel Ahmed: This is unusual anywhere in the world, and is definitely not a democratic step; a president openly violating the constitution and forcefully removing the chief justice and a senior judge of the highest court in the country.

Citing the reason behind enforcing the state of emergency, President Yameen said he wanted to investigate judges and some opposition leaders, including his half-brother and Former President Maumoon. The declaration of emergency for such trivial things could be dubbed ridiculous and incompetent.

Yameen has violated the constitution by suspending certain rights that are untouchable even under the state of emergency. The right to a fair trial is one of them.

Read more: Maldives seek to project calm but tourists told to stay away

Read more: Maldives judges rescind order to free prisoners as crisis deepens

Malediven Vize-Präsident Mohamed Jameel Ahmed
Jameel Ahmed, former vice president of the Maldives Image: Getty Images/AFP/STRDEL

Former President Mohammed Nasheed recently asked India to send troops to the Maldives to restore democracy. Isn't it undemocratic to ask for a foreign country's intervention?

India is our immediate neighbor and the largest democracy in the world. The Maldives and India are closely linked and share a common culture. India has reiterated its support to the people of the Maldives. In difficult times, India has always helped us.

The current crisis in the Maldives is the worst in its modern history. If it can't be resolved through diplomacy, we'll need other ways. The president has refused to meet an EU delegation. The crisis is turning the Maldives into a pariah state that could ruin its tourism-dependent economy. And our nation cannot afford this.

India, in my opinion, needs to actively work with other countries to resolve the crisis in Maldives without any delay. New Delhi has the moral and legal responsibility to help the people of the Maldives. In the past, India has helped the Maldives to dispel an armed attack on the nation.

Read more:India 'disturbed' by Maldives' political crisis 

Read more: Maldives court orders release and retrial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed

What are Former President Nasheed's chances of returning to the Maldives and contesting elections?

His chances of returning back to the country and contesting elections are very bright.

What does last week's Supreme Court's decision mean for the opposition in exile in the UK?

No opposition leader in the Maldives is free and able to carry out political activities. All of them have been arrested by the government under false charges. The Supreme Court's ruling on February 1 came as a relief to these injustices. It meant that all exiled opposition leaders could return to the country. The government defied the order and instead arrested Supreme Court judges.

Maledivischer Präsident Yameen Abdul Gayoom
Maldivian President Yameen surrounded by bodygaurds in the capital Male on February 3Image: picture-alliance/M.Sharuhaan

Are you planning to return to your country anytime soon?

Yes, as soon as possible. I would like to actively participate in politics depending on the political situation in the Maldives.

How does the opposition view Yameen's growing closeness to Beijing? Do you see a growing Chinese influence on Maldives politics?

Yameen claims he has the backing of China, Saudi Arabia and Russia ­- yet none of these countries have any particular reason to appease the president and alienate the people of the Maldives. President Yameen is an unpopular politician and is unlikely to win the next election.

China is a friend of our people and not the regime. I don't think China has any special reason to favor Yameen against the wishes of the Maldivian people.

Gambia has rejoined the British Commonwealth after its own political struggle against a dictator. Does this offer any hope for the Maldives?

Since Yameen came to power, he has consistently drifted away from the international community and traditional allies such as the Commonwealth, India and the EU. As a small nation, we have always benefited from being part of the Commonwealth family. I have no doubt that we will rejoin the Commonwealth as soon as we get rid of this government.

Dr. Jameel Ahmed is the former vice president of the Maldives. He has also served in the cabinets of four different presidents, and has been minister of justice, minister of civil aviation and communication, and minister of home affairs. He is currently living in exile in London.

The interview was conducted by Shamil Shams.

Maldives political turmoil