US disappointed over extension of emergency in Maldives

Washington: The US has expressed disappointment over the political crisis in the Maldives and asked its President Abdulla Yameen to end the state of emergency in the island-nation.

“The United States is disappointed by reports that Maldivian President Yameen has extended the state of emergency in that country for an additional 30 days,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

“The United States continues to call on President Yameen to end the state of emergency, uphold the rule of law, permit the full and proper functioning of the Parliament and the judiciary, restore constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people of Maldives, and respect Maldives’ international human rights obligations and commitments,” Nauert said.

The State Department’s reaction came after Yameen extended the state of emergency by another 30 days on Tuesday.

President Yameen declared emergency on February 5 after the Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials. Among them was exiled ex-President Mohamed Nasheed. The court said his 2015 trial had been unconstitutional.

Only 38 MPs were present for the vote, which took place hours before the state of emergency was due to expire, despite 43 lawmakers being needed for the vote to take place as required by the Constitution, Maldives Independent news website reported.

All 38 were from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and they all approved the extension, it said.

The opposition boycotted the vote.

The state of emergency will now end on March 22.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal in an editorial expressed concern over increasing Chinese influence in this island nation.

“Xi Jinpings Belt and Road Initiative puts the expansion of Chinese power and influence above all else, and the Maldives is an example of the collateral damage.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called China’s practices “predatory economics,” and too often that’s right,” the daily said.

India, it said, is naturally concerned that China could use the Maldives ports to expand its military presence in the Indian Ocean.

Three Chinese navy ships visited last year.

India’s economic ties with the Maldives are also being eclipsed, the editorial said.

“In 2012 the Yameen administration terminated a contract with an Indian company to renovate the countrys airport in favor of a Chinese company. Last year the government pushed a trade agreement with China through parliament without debate, eliminating tariffs on 95 per cent of Chinese goods over eight years,” it said.

According to the daily, as part of Xi Jinpings Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing granted loans and sent state-owned companies to develop Maldives ports and other public works.

A new International Monetary Fund report projects the Maldives’ external debt will hit 51.2 per cent of GDP in 2021 from 34.7 per cent in 2016 as a result of the projects, it said.