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US disappointed over extension of emergency in Maldives

President Yameen yesterday extended a draconian state of emergency by another month, bolstering his grip on power in the troubled Indian Ocean island nation.

Reported by: PTI, Washington [ Updated: February 21, 2018 14:13 IST ]
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert

The US today expressed disappointment over the Maldivian government extending the state of emergency by another 30 days and asked President Abdulla Yameen to uphold the rule of law in the troubled Indian Ocean island nation.

Yameen yesterday extended a draconian state of emergency by another month, bolstering his grip on power in the troubled Indian Ocean 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 US 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 the Maldives, and respect the Maldives' international human rights obligations and commitments," Nauert said.

Yameen earlier this month had declared a 15-day state of emergency curtailing the powers of the judiciary and the legislature after the country's Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of Opposition leaders, who had been convicted in widely criticised trials.

The Maldives' Parliament yesterday extended the state of emergency by approving Yameen's recommendation. 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.

All 38 were from the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives. 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 China's increasing influence in Male.

"Xi Jinping's 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.

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 country's airport in favour 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's Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing granted loans and sent state-owned companies to develop the 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.

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