Asia in Review Archive (2019-2020)


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21 July 2020

Maldives: Government criticized for restrictions on protests 

(dql) Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the Maldives for restricting protests in violation of human rights, adding that new regulations threaten civil society groups which support peaceful protests.

HRW’s critic comes on the heels of first, a declaration of the Maldivian Ministry of Home Affairs last week according to which street protests, marches, parades, and other gatherings can only be held with prior written approval by Maldives Police Service, and second, a statement of the Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Ministry warning nongovernmental organizations that they should abstain from supporting “actions that are detrimental to national security and national interests.”

Both Ministries’ decisions are responses to a number protests staged in July, including marches by exploited expatriate workers demanding unpaid wages, child and women rights groups, as well as by the opposition coalition. [HRW] [The Edition]

7 April 2020

Maldives: Potentials of a coming ISIS hotspot? 

(jk) With the highest per capita number of foreign fighters (“250 fighters, and about 1400 alleged radicalised individuals, out of a population of 350,000”) around the world and an ongoing issue of “returning fighters” with setbacks for ISIS in the Middle East, there have long been fears the Maldives might become a hotspot for terrorists. A stabbing incident of three tourists earlier this year brought such fears to the forefront after the incident was linked to ISIS affiliated terror. [Daily Mail] Further reasons that warrant a watchful eye on developments are the fact  that the country already has a fundamentalist fringe in its society, powerful hard-line Islamist groups [e.g. Asia in Review No. 46, November/2019, 2], and allegedly little capacities dedicated to de-radicalisation. [Eurasia Review


17 December 2019

India and Maldives foreign ministers agree in closer cooperation on Indo-Pacific security

(ls) Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid met his counterpart S. Jaishankar on Friday for the first India-Maldives Joint Commission to be held in four years. The meeting mainly dealt with defense and security cooperation as well as the Greater Male Area Connectivity project. Both sides also agreed to work towards an increase of Indian investments and tourists to the Maldives. [Times of India]

In an interview with The Hindu, Maldives Foreign Minister Shahid laid out foreign policy elements. Inter alia, he said, “for us, the freedom of navigation, the total concept of the Indo-Pacific strategy is paramount, and we are fully part of it. In Washington this year, I assured Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that we will play our role as the heart of the Indian Ocean.” [The Hindu]

10 December 2019

Maldives: New Chief Justice for overhauled Supreme Court 

(jk) The parliament in Male confirmed President Soliih’s nominee, Muthasim Adnan as new chief justice. Adnan was removed former President Yameen’s regime in 2014 (UN OHCHR:2014). [Edition

The new parliament has now removed all five Justices inherited from the Yameen administration with the last justice leaving office last week. [The Maldives Independent]

3 December 2019

Maldives: Ex-president Yameen sentenced to five years in prison

(ls) Former Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen has been found guilty of money-laundering by a criminal court. The 60-year-old opposition leader was fined US$5 million and sentenced to five years in prison, the minimum jail term stipulated in the 2014 anti-money laundering law. Yameen had served from 2013 to 2018. During his tenure, several opponents were exiled and jailed. A famous critic/blogger was killed. [Maldives Independent]

During the five years that Yameen was president, the relationship between the Maldives and India deteriorated because of Yameen’s favorable stance toward China which invested millions of dollars in the archipelago. After Yameen’s tenure ended, relations between India and Maldives have improved. [Indian Express]

12 November 2019

Maldives: Human Rights NGO banned over anti-Islamic report

(jk) The Maldives government that had “temporarily” shut down the country’s leading human rights organization, the Maldives Democracy Network (MDN), recently [Asia in Review No. 42, October/2019, 3] has now decided to fully ban the MDN.

The group had been criticised by hard-line Islamist groups, claiming that it had insulted Islam when it published a report on radicalisation on its website a few years ago, which has now been confirmed by the Islamic ministry and police the police. The NGO dissolution follows from breaking the 2003 associations law prohibiting NGOs from contradicting tenets of Islam or undermining religious unity. [Maldives Independent]

15 October 2019

Maldives: Government shuts down human rights organisation

(jk) The Maldives government “temporarily” shut down the country’s leading human rights organization, the Maldives Democracy Network (MDN) in order to maintain “public order and communal harmony.” The group had been under pressure from critics, in particular hard-line Islamist groups, claiming that it had insulted Islam when it published a report on radicalisation on its website back in 2015. [Human Rights Watch]

24 September 2019

The Maldives’s renewed partnership with China in the spotlight

(ls) The Maldives’ Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid met Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his first official visit to China. The meeting demonstrates the importance of the Maldives as a partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Under the former president Abdulla Yameen, the Maldives forged a close partnership with China, which financed key developmental projects. The current administration came to power after criticizing the mounting debt owed to China and quickly moved to repair relations with India. [Maldives Independent]

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party fears the debts to China could run as high as $3 billion and risk sinking the economy. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi insisted that the Maldives are not caught in a debt trap and that China’s cooperation with the Maldives aims to promote the well-being of the Maldivian people, without political intentions and without seeking geopolitical interests. [Reuters]

24 September 2019

Maldives becomes signatory to New York Convention

(ls) The Maldives has become a signatory to the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Convention. As a party to the convention, Maldivian courts will be obliged to recognize and enforce arbitration awards determined in other states. The Maldives became the 161st nation to sign the convention and will need to ratify it after enacting a new law. [Maldives Independent]

10 September 2019

Indian Ocean Conference in the Maldives

(ls) The fourth Indian Ocean Conference 2019 took place this week in the Maldives. It was also attended by the Maldives’ President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesighe, Singaporean Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. The focal points of the conference were marine ecology, terrorism and navigational security. [The Edition]

On the sidelines of the conference, India and the Maldives signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) on criminal matters with the objective to enhance effectiveness in investigation and prosecution of crime through cooperation. India will also assist the Maldivian government against growing Islamist radicalization and institutionalized corruption that gathered momentum during the previous Yameen regime. [Asia Times]

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday addressed the Maldives parliament during his official visit to the country. Several agreements of cooperation in visa facilitation, water supply, youth development, vocational training, higher education and social empowerment were signed on the occasion. The Maldives is the third largest export destination for Sri Lanka among South Asian nations after India and Pakistan. [Maldives Independent]

03 September 2019

Maldives: Commission finds that former president Yameen covered up Al-Qaeda murders

(ls) In the Maldives, the Presidential Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances has concluded that three persons, including a well-known journalist, were killed by Bilad-al-Sham, a local extremist group linked to Al-Qaeda. The commission found that the previous government under president Abdulla Yameen covered up the murders. The group is also responsible for the assassination of a moderate legislator in 2012 and two liberal bloggers in 2012 and 2017. [Straits Times]

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2 July 2019

EU and Maldives to enhance cooperation, Maldivian FM visiting Russia

(jk) The Maldives and the EU have agreed to hold annual meetings at senior officials’ level to enhance cooperation. The EU recently lifted the framework for restrictive measures against Maldives which it had adopted for targeted sanctions against the Maldives in response to a deterioration of internal politics during the first half of 2018. The recent decision to enhance cooperation reflects both the growing importance of the Maldives in a greater geopolitical pictures, as well as recognising the incumbent administration’s “commitment to consolidating democracy, ensuring good governance and strengthening the rule of law.” [The Edition; Business Recorder]

In addition to the relations to the EU, the Maldivian Foreign Minister has also become the first Foreign Minister of the Republic of Maldives to visit Russia in his official capacity. [Modern Diplomacy]

11  June 2019

“Neighborhood First”: Indian PM Modi visits Maldives and Sri Lanka

(ls) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first overseas trip since being elected to a second term by travelling to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, reflecting the importance India attaches to its ‘Neighborhood First” policy.

In the Maldives, Modi and Maldives’ President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih signed six Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) in the fields of hydrography, health, passenger and cargo services by sea, customs capacity building, training of civil servants and the sharing of white shipping information between the Indian Navy and the Maldives National Defence Force. In March, the countries had signed a USD 800 million Line of Credit Agreement for assisting the Maldives to achieve sustainable social and economic development. [Business Today]

Modi also inaugurated a coastal radar system and military training center in the Maldives. The two leaders pledged to combat piracy, terrorism, organized crime and trafficking through “coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information, and capacity building.” [Al Arabiya]

Solih reaffirmed his government’s “India first policy” and pledged full support toward deepening “the multifaceted, mutually beneficial partnership between India and the Maldives”. Solih’s stand was a marked shift from his predecessor Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who developed close ties with Beijing. [South China Morning Post]

In Sri Lanka, Modi started his short visit by paying respect at one of the sites of the Easter Sunday attack. He said that he was confident Sri Lanka will rise again and cowardly acts of terror cannot defeat their spirit. [India Today] During his Maldives visit, Modi had already called for a global conference to tackle the threat of terrorism in the region and around the world. “The international community has actively arranged for global convention and many conferences on the threat of climate change. Why not on the issue of terrorism?” he said. [Reuters]

19 March 2019

Maldives: Parts of ruling coalition breaks with Soli over parliamentary polls

(jk) The Jumhooree Party (JP), one in the four-party ruling coalition headed by President Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party, has declared support for predecessor Abdulla Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and People’s National Congress (PNC) nominees in some 32 constituencies in the upcoming parliamentary elections. In turn, the PPM-PNC coalition would back the nominees of JP for 37 seats. The deal applies to constituencies in which JP and PPM-PNC do not face each other. The deal is being criticised as the government does not wish any part of their coalition to support any allies of former President Yameen who is currently in prison.  JP itself is not fully behind the move, as a number of high-ranking JP politicians including the country’s Vice-President, Transport Minister, Tourism Minister and Environment Minister have declared allegiance to President Solih. [Maldives Independent 1, Maldives Independent 2]