Judge arrest sparks anti-govt protests in Maldives

With the Maldivian government asking the UN on Sunday to mediate in a standoff with the Opposition over the arrest of a criminal court judge

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published: January 23, 2012 1:54:49 am

With the Maldivian government asking the UN on Sunday to mediate in a standoff with the Opposition over the arrest of a criminal court judge,the Maldivian High Commissioner in India Abdul Azeez Yoosuf said here that the “religious sentiments” are being raked up by the opposition parties that is causing trouble in the country.

“Calling for the resignation of the government is something we,as a young democracy,are learning from others,including India. But the government is trying to understand the problems of the people and resolve them,” Yoosuf told The Indian Express.

The Maldivian envoy said the opposition parties is forming an alliance with the religious parties,and the recent movement against the President Mohamed Nasheed government is dominated by religious sentiments.

While the Ministry of External Affairs was yet to react on the developments in the southern island nation,Kuldip Sahdev,a former Indian diplomat who handled the Maldives desk in South Block for more than a decade,said the situation was not as grim.

“This is a very young democracy,still struggling to find its forms. Unlike the past when the opposition leaders had to flee the country or were sent to jails,President Nasheed decided he will not indulge in political vendetta and allow former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to lead the Opposition in the country,” said Sahdev,who played a key role in India’s foreign policy towards Maldives when the coup attempt in 1988 was thwarted by the Indian armed forces.

Sahdev was of the firm view that New Delhi should “encourage democracy to take its roots” in the country,which came into being in 2008 under the new Constitution.

However,recent developments have prompted accusations that President Mohamed Nasheed’s government has subverted democracy in the country.

The military’s arrest six days ago of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed for corruption set off low-level nightly protests by the opposition coalition allied with Nasheed’s predecessor and archrival Gayoom.

The Opposition protests by roughly 300 people have resulted in minor violence and scores of arrests,and follow a series of similar tussles over the past year which have begun to feature hardline Islamic rhetoric.

The Maldives is home to 330,000 Sunni Muslims and extremism has rarely figured in its past,but religious pressure earlier this month forced the government to briefly ban spas and massage parlours at the luxury resorts for which the islands are famed.

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