Second Maldives minister resigns as crisis rages on

Opposition calls for UN-mediated talks to end deadlock

Maldivian police officers detain an opposition protester, center, demanding the release of political prisoners during a protest in Male in this Feb. 21, 2018 file photo. — AFP

MALE — Maldives State Health Minister Dunya Maumoon has resigned, she said in a letter on Tuesday, grieved by the arrest of her father, the island nation’s longest-serving leader, after President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency.

The Maldives’ top court last week validated a 30-day extension of the state of emergency sought by Yameen over what he has called a national security threat and constitutional crisis.

“Today, at this time of pain and crisis for both my family and my country, it is my sincere hope to see my father home at the earliest,” said Dunya Maumoon, who becomes the second minister to resign from Yameen’s ruling party since the crisis began on Feb. 1.

“I therefore call upon the international community to support the Maldivian people to help us overcome this crisis and to build a stronger democratic system,” she said in the letter reviewed by Reuters.

Her father, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is Yameen’s half-brother and ruled the country for 30 years until 2008. He was arrested at his residence early this month, along with his son-in-law.

“He is not just my father, but the father of the nation, who has built this country and has earned the respect and love of the people,” she added.

After declaring the emergency, Yameen’s administration arrested the chief justice, another Supreme Court judge and Gayoom on allegations of attempting to overthrow the government.

Meanwhile, the opposition said on Tuesday it had hired a former UN rights rapporteur to push the global body to intervene in a political deadlock that has roiled the troubled honeymoon islands.

The opposition alliance, which includes the parties of former presidents Mohamed Nasheed and Gayoom, said they had enlisted British lawyer Ben Emmerson to advise them on securing UN mediation in the crisis.

Emmerson, a UN special rapporteur until last year, is also a member of Nasheed’s pro-bono international legal team, which includes high-profile rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

His appointment follows reports that Yameen had declined an offer from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for multi-party talks.

Emmerson will “advise the joint opposition in discussions with UN officials” on possible talks with Yameen’s administration, the Colombo-based opposition alliance said in a statement.

The Council of the European Union on Monday urged Yameen to end the state of emergency, release all political prisoners and restore rule of law. It warned of sanctions if Yameen failed to comply.

“The current situation is not in accordance with the principles of democratic rule and separation of powers,” the Council said.

“If the situation does not improve, the Council may therefore consider targeted measures.”

It said the European Union was ready to support any UN facilitation of talks between Maldivian parties to end the standoff, which it said threatened the safety of residents and tourists visiting the popular holiday islands.

Last week Yameen’s regime warned India against interfering in the crisis after New Delhi, once seen as Male’s closest ally, expressed dismay over the president extending the state of emergency.

Meanwhile, Maldives police arrested at least another four opposition members under state of emergency laws for protesting against the government, the opposition said on Tuesday.

Opposition politicians defied a police order to stop protesting after 10.30 p.m. local time on Monday (1730 GMT) and continued to demand that Yameen implement a Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders and ordered the release of politicians and officials held in prison.

The Maldivian Democratic Party, the main opposition party, said on Twitter police had arrested Mohamed Ameeth and Abdulla Ahmed, two lawmakers who had defected from Yameen’s party, and two more from other opposition parties late on Monday.

Independent television Raajje TV, which showed footage of police forcibly blocking protesters, said Abdulla Ahmed was arrested while giving a media interview about the protest. — Agencies