In Maldives, the tiny island nation of South Asia, the government and the Supreme Court are at a face off.
Former president Muhammad Nasheed was convicted of charges ranging from corruption to terrorism and sentenced to prison. The top court had ordered the cancellation of punishment and release of eight opposition leaders including Nasheed. The Supreme Court found that the sentence was part of a ploy carried out in political vendetta by the former president and other leaders with the aid of the judiciary. The court which rejected the case of 12 Parliament members, who have been kept away citing ineligibility following the extension of support to the opposition, reinstated them. With that, the Abdulla Yameen government has lost majority in the 85-member Parliament. With no options left, the Yameen government has been deploying all tactics using the police and official machinery. As per the order of the Supreme Court, those including former president Nasheed who during his 13-year imprisonment went for treatment abroad and sought political asylum in Britain, should be set free. However, the existing government has not been ready to accept the Supreme Court verdict. The Parliament has been sealed off with the help of the police and the army in order to stop the entry of the members who got legal validity for their membership, into the Parliament. Reports of clashes between the police and the opposition have been surfacing in the capital of the small island country. Things have taken a course such that it will aggravate the political chaos in this strategic island in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.
It was in a move to bring back the country to a democratic order after thirty years of authoritarian rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom that Nasheed won the elections ten years ago and paved way for the birth of a new era in Maldives. However, as the first term of the Parliament ended in the democratic order and it entered the second, signs of return of the former autocratic rule had been apparent. There have been allegations since then citing the voting figures that while Nasheed emerged victorious during the first round of the 2013 elections, the current President Yameen managed only a narrow majority in the second round. Following this, Yameen, also the half brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, assumed power, who ever since then was seen advancing with moves to eliminate political opponents. Although the allegations were grave, the international community as well as the human rights and social organisations had expressed skepticisms over its authenticity. Still Yameen went ahead with his steps, backed by the court.
It is the same court which has now found that the actions of the government were motivated by vested political interests and that it has failed to probe the allegations in the light of facts or to indict those concerned. The court has also warned that the President's non-compliance with the court order would lead to governmental and political crisis.However, Yameen's faction alleges that this is an attempt to oust the President through impeachment. It was the Attorney General himself who came forward with this allegation. The President charges that the right to install and throw out a government rests with the parliament, but here a pack of illegal people have attempted to take that role. However, the Opposition demands that Yameen's regime, having lost its moral justification when deprived of majority, should step down soon; instead the regime is threatening judges that they would get entangled in legal cases, and is thus attempting to decimate democracy. But then Nasheed and his followers are trying to move a vote of no-confidence against the regime which has lost its majority in the parliament, and on the other hand the regime is struggling to not create room for such an event.
Neighbouring countries including India and countries in and outside the region are of the opinion that the Yameen government should abide by the court verdict, as part of allowing democratic freedoms. The Commonwealth of nations has already raised this demand. But Yamneen seems unwilling to yield to that, and instead is proceeding with dismissing the police officers who made a statement that they will accept the court verdict, conducting raid in the house of the head of judicial administration department, and shutting down the independent TV station. However, at a time when there is increasing clamour for democracy from within the country and abroad, and when the judiciary which he had held under control, is turning against him, he will not be able to make much headway. Therefore, the sooner he realizes this and seeks a resolution in compliance with the court verdict, the more the chances for the tiny country of Maldives and its people to avert disaster.