Maldives leader seeks approval to extend state of emergency

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has called for parliamentary approval to extend a state of emergency by 30 days as political turmoil continues in the South Asian island country.

The plea was made on Monday as the 85-member parliament was expected to vote on the proposal and a day before the current state of emergency expired.

The state of emergency allows police and security forces to make arrests without warrant, while they could enter and search homes.

The Maldivian president declared a state of emergency on February 5 for 15 days to annul a Supreme Court ruling that ordered the release of a group of his imprisoned political opponents, including nine opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticized trials.

Yameen’s administration has also arrested former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and a Supreme Court judge under the emergency law on allegations of attempting to overthrow the government.

Reports said ruling and opposition party leaders engaged in disputes about whether parliament’s approval was required to extend the state of emergency under the constitution.

“If the opposition wants to annul this declaration, they have to go to the parliament and ask for a vote,” said Ahmed Nihan, ruling party group leader in parliament. “The … emergency does not become void because parliament does not approve it.”

Opposition parliamentary group leader, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, however, said the constitution “clearly states” parliament’s indispensable role in extending an emergency.

“If this is not approved (by parliament), it is going to be invalid. Once the emergency becomes void everything done under that state of emergency also will be void and invalid,” he added.

Former president Gayoom, a charismatic and high-profile campaigner against climate change, was convicted in 2015 on a terrorism charge widely criticized as politically-motivated and sentenced to 13 years in jail.

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