President Abdulla Yameen has urged the armed forces to defend his administration claiming international pressure is undermining the Maldives’ sovereignty and weakening the rule of law.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 123rd anniversary of the military on Monday, the president said: “I do not believe my government must seek permission from the international community in enforcing a court’s verdict. Maldivians will protect our interests. In protecting Maldivian citizens, remind yourselves of the the oath you’ve taken.”
President Yameen’s remarks come amidst a political crisis triggered by the arrest and the imprisonment of ex president Mohamed Nasheed and ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
The opposition has called for a 25,000 strong march in the capital Malé on Friday after the government shunned calls for negotiation.
President Yameen said the Maldives is facing foreign pressure, but said the military must not allow foreigners to collude with local parties to obstruct a lawfully elected government.
“As long as there is a lawful government, and as long as that government acts within the law and enforces the law, Maldivian soldiers must remain steadfast to their vows, to defend and maintain that lawful government. Otherwise, there is no dignity, honor or Allah’s blessings for Maldivian soldiers.”
The Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) must follow the military ideology of the US president Barack Obama, he continued, claiming Obama in a speech to the American armed forces had said he will respect the international community’s opinion, but will not seek it’s permission in saving American lives abroad.
The Maldives is a small state, but the international community must afford the Maldives the same rights as larger, more power countries, president Yameen said.
“If we are treated as second class, there is no use in us being part of international bodies. This is what my government believes.”
He said larger states did not allow foreign governments to meddle in domestic affairs. “No foreign country – as long as we do not breach international conventions – can come and tell us that kidnapping and holding hostage do not amount to terrorism in their view, and that this cannot be written in our laws.
“They cannot dictate this to our government. [They] cannot tell our government that since the Maldives is part of the international community, we must allow freedom of religion as allowed by foreign philosophies.”
Nasheed was convicted of terrorism over the military detention of a judge during his tenure. The rushed trial was criticized widely by foreign governments, international rights organizations and the UN for lack of due process.
President Yameen blamed Maldivian “enemies of the state” for foreign interference.
Powerful countries “will pressure us, and through various bodies, international organizations, they will attempt to obstruct us. On whose invitation does this happen? That of Maldivians like us, these acts are to heed their invitations,” he said.
Calls for foreign intervention are “dangerous” and encouraged disorder, but the military must stand ready to defend the state, he continued.
The international community cannot “come and see if the change of government was lawful here” or “if ballot boxes were counted right,” he added.
President Yameen described the Maldives’ sovereignty as scared, and claimed previous governments had allowed for foreign interference in domestic affairs. But the Maldives must now “unlearn” such acts, he said.
He pledged to uphold the “Maldivian laws, traditions, and enforce our court verdicts,” and said his government’s first priority is to maintain stability.
Defence Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel meanwhile said he will not “abandon” the president, while chief of defence forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam said there were attempts to “destroy” the army and said soldiers must be strong enough to counter such forces.