Foreigners will not be allowed to meddle in domestic affairs of the Maldives, President Abdulla Yameen has declared, slamming opposition politicians for seeking foreign interference.
Addressing youth supporters Sunday night at a private function in Citron Restaurant – reportedly organised by First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim – President Yameen said foreigners could not come to the country to “settle our affairs” as the Maldives was a member of the UN family with the same rights and independence as any other nation.
“We wouldn’t want foreigners from different countries coming here to criticise what we do and telling us what to do. So that is not something we will give any room for,” Yameen is heard saying in a recording obtained by Minivan News.
“So in the work we’re doing in the Maldives we will try to do things in accordance with our laws and Islamic principles. And if the consequence of that is people from distant nations finding it unacceptable, that is their problem. That is their problem. But we are not going to give up an inch of our country’s sovereignty to foreign parties.”
Yameen’s remarks come amidst a political crisis and anti-government demonstrations sparked by the arrest and prosecution of both former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on terrorism charges.
Last month, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon hit back at statements issued by the UN, EU, India, Canada, and the Commonwealth expressing concern with the arrest and trial of the opposition leader.
“The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” she said in a statement.
Yameen meanwhile said protesting on the streets was not a right reserved to the opposition and warned them not to consider the government’s “compassion and patience” as weakness.
“Do not believe at all that it is our weakness when we don’t act or take up problems seriously. It is because we love the Maldivian people. We were patient to prioritise [national] interest, peace and security here. But when it reaches the point where our patience is challenged, then we will say that we will also welcome taking things down the determined path,” he said.
While his administration welcomes protests and free expression within legal bounds, Yameen said opposition politicians inviting foreign governments to take action against the Maldives was unacceptable.
He argued that causing harm to society and imperilling national security could not be justified in the “context of individual liberty.”
Yameen asked youth to consider if it was acceptable to call for tourism boycotts and invite other countries to “meddle in the Maldives’ sovereignty and independence.”
People who cause damage to the country should be given just punishment, Yameen insisted.
Referring to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-Jumhooree Party (MDP-JP) alliance’s demands to release “political prisoners,” Yameen said the new constitution separated the three powers of state and the president could not interfere in judicial proceedings.
He also accused the opposition of not attempting to save youth incarcerated for arson and other offences during anti-government protests after allegedly encouraging the crimes.
“But when they feel something is about to happen to a politician over a crime he committed, it is as if the Maldivian sky is falling on our heads,” he said.
“So this is the double standard among us.”
While ordinary Maldivians faced harsh sentences on a daily basis, Yameen said the opposition politicians and lawyers briefing foreign diplomats about the “inadequate system” were unconcerned.
“But when just one case of a politician is filed at court, the entire justice system of the Maldives becomes a corrupt system,” he said.
The Maldives’ judiciary deserves the respect of foreign nations, he said.
He went on to say that former allies the JP and Adhaalath Party who protested against Nashed’s administration now calling for his release was “a riddle.”
All citizens were equal before the law, he continued, and all citizens have a constitutional right to defend themselves in a court of law.
Opposition protests against Nasheed’s administration in 2012 were prompted by the government “destroying the justice system” and arresting Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, Yameen said.
The public “came out in defence of the constitution” when Nasheed defied the Supreme Court’s orders to release the chief judge, he said, adding that the protests were about “a substantial and serious problem” whilst the current protests were “without any substance or basis.”
On the opposition alliance’s demands to release Nasheed, Yameen insisted that the government has not “arrested any politicians” and argued that enforcing the law without bias was in the best interest of the nation.
“Those facing punishment for their crimes happening to be politicians does not mean [we are] taking action against politicians,” he said.
If the president interfered and sought to settle such cases out of court, Yameen asked both the youth and opposition parties to consider if the president should overrule the judiciary once a death penalty verdict has been passed.
“Should President Yameen enforce the judgment differently for different people based on their colour, their faces, and their social standing?” he asked.
“If President Yameen acts differently in the present cases, why wouldn’t he act so in [death penalty cases]?”
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