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Maldives health minister resigns amid political crisis

February 27, 2018

MALE, Maldives (AP) — Maldives state health minister Dunya Maumoon resigned Tuesday in an apparent protest against the arrest of her father, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, while appealing to the international community to help the Maldivian people overcome the weeks-long political crisis in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Dunya is also the niece of current President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who earlier this month declared a state of emergency in a bid to strengthen his powers after the country’s Supreme Court ordered the release of a group of Yameen’s political opponents who had been imprisoned after convictions that were criticized for alleged due process violations.

“Today at this time of pain and crisis for both my family and my country, it is my sincere hope to see my father home at the earliest,” Dunya stated in a statement posted on her Twitter account.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is Yameen’s half-brother, was arrested three weeks ago after the emergency decree. He is accused of conspiring with the opposition to overthrow the government.

He was president from 1978 to 2008, when the Maldives became a multiparty democracy.

“He is not just my father, but the father of the nation, who has built this country and has earned respect and love of the people,” his daughter stated, calling upon the international community to support the Maldivian people in overcoming the crisis and building a stronger democratic system.

Yameen last week extended the state of emergency for another 30 days and Parliament approved it.

The opposition said the emergency extension was illegal because there was no constitutionally required quorum in Parliament. The regulations give wide powers to security forces to detain people and curtail freedom to protest.

Under the emergency law, Yameen had two Supreme Court judges arrested, accusing them of corruption. Later, the remaining three judges annulled the order to release Yameen’s opponents.

Maldives became a multiparty democracy after decades of autocratic rule. Yameen has rolled back much of the country’s democratic gains after being elected in 2013.

The country’s traditional political alliances have been upended in recent years. Maumoon Gayoom is allied with exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed, who unseated him in the 2008 election.

Nasheed, Yameen’s most prominent rival, is among the politicians ordered freed by the Supreme Court.

Maldives is an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands. More than one-third of its 400,000 citizens live in Male, the crowded capital city. Tourism dominates the economy, with wealthy foreigners flown directly to hyper-expensive resort islands.

Separately Tuesday, Amnesty International urged Maldivian authorities to immediately release officials detained during the state of emergency, saying they must be released unless they are “promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offence.”

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