Former Maldives Vice President asks India to help restore democracy

A Maldives policeman charges with baton towards protesters after the government declared a 15-day state of emergency in Male, Maldives | Photo: PTI

The former Vice President of the Maldives, Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, has raised concerns over the growing political unrest in his country and has called for an urgent intervention by the international community.

The 48-year-old lawyer-turned-politician has asked India to lead the international efforts to restore democracy in the island country.

India has expressed "deep dismay" over the Maldivian parliament accepting President Abdulla Yameen's recommendation of extending the state of emergency by another 30 days, in a manner that New Delhi dubbed as a matter of concern.

Jameel, who is now living in exile in London, said, "For the extension of emergency, Article 255 of Maldives Constitution requires that there must be an appropriate forum, which needs a strength of 43 members of the Parliament. Having not that number the government decided to go ahead with 36 members of the Parliament. Clearly, the extension is 'illegal' and 'unconstitutional.' The emergency, therefore, is invalid and unconstitutional."

President Yameen had first declared the emergency on February 5 following the Supreme Court's order of releasing a group of opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.

Among them was exiled former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed.

The former vice president said that the people of the Maldives only have hope from the international community.

Jameel added, "The people of the Maldives have tried all available measures to restore democracy. The judiciary has given its judgment, the Parliament has tried, the constitutional institutions have tried and they all are unable to restore rule of law and democracy in the Maldives. Now, in such circumstances, my opinion is that international community must come to help. I believe India must lead the international effort to restore democracy in the Maldives using all available legal mechanism that is within the international law."

Adding that the people of the archipelago are suffering, as the judiciary is under siege and the parliament is dysfunctional, Jameel said, "The entire democratic process has collapsed. The request in such a scenario is where would they go? I believe India, which is our nearest neighbour and biggest democracy in the world have a legal and moral responsibility to help the people of the Maldives."

In recent years, the growing Chinese footprints in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region has been a cause of conflict. There has been a rapid expansion in the ties between Male and Beijing.

Jameel blames President Yameen for deliberately creating problems so to remain in power.

He said, "The entire situation was brought upon by President Yameen alone. He is someone who is having said he is ready to stay in power even if he has to sell the country to someone else."

The former vice president opined, "I am not saying that during his regime a lot of companies from different parts of the world including China have tremendously gained and a lot of these big projects went to Chinese companies which would not have stood the test of democratic means. But, I do not have any particular reason that China would have delineated the people of Maldives and side with the person who is highly unpopular and surely unelectable. So, I would believe that China would be happy to see the Maldives stable and democracy flourishes in the country."

Amidst the political crisis, the Election Commission of the Maldives on Friday announced that the first round of presidential elections will be held in early September.

Jameel denounced the move by saying, "I do not believe that at the moment there is a situation where we talk about having an election. This is just a drama that President Yameen is trying to suggest that the things are better."

He added, "No, you are talking about a country whose entire opposition is either in prison or in exile. None of the opposition members is free and able to contest the election. Whose judiciary is under siege, Supreme Court is under siege and Chief Justice was literally dragged out of the chamber and detained. Does the international community believe in such a scenario free and fair election is possible? Surely no!"

Expressing his dismay, Jameel continued, "No one is there to contest an election. Not a single opposition leader is free including his own brother, who served the nation for 30 years, President Gayoom is in detention. I do not believe there is a conducive environment to hold a free and fair election.

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