A group of European officials, including the Members of European Parliament (MEP), have threatened to impose economic and other sanctions on the Maldives as the present regime fails to hold free and fair federal elections, scheduled for September 23 this year.
The five European officials, who recently visited Male, include MEPs Tomas Zdechovsky, Maria Gabriela Zoana and Ryzsard Czarnecki, Henri Malosse, the 30th President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Madi Sharma, a British EESC representative.
The delegation, who met with members of the Opposition party, uncovered disturbing, undemocratic trends occurring in the archipelago. They said attacks on democratic principles, combined with close ties to radical Islamist groups, brought the security of European tourists, business and investors into question.
MEP Ryzsard Czarnecki stated "Europe needs to do much more, and must coordinate with its international partners. But there should also be a warning to the people surrounding President Yameen who have committed human rights violations in his name: your names will be shared globally; there will be nowhere to hide. Yameen's only loyalty is to power and greed. In the future, he will not come to the defence of those keeping him in power now."
"These are not false threats. The individuals concerned should consider their actions, as European sanctions will have serious economic consequences. A travel ban and frozen assets will impact business owners, thus stifling political support for those responsible for these violations," Czarnecki added.
MEP Tomas Zdechovsky said "the international community will not stand by and accept a false election result; they will act together against the perpetrators - Europe is serious, its Members States are concerned and together they will work with the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Japan to uphold democracy and the democratic process. The sanctions list will be disclosed."
"The situation in Maldives is a threat for the entire international community and concerns all of us. This situation could happen anywhere in a world where an ambitious apprentice-dictator builds a prison for his or her own people, supported by an aggressive superpower and terrorist groups. We will not let Yameen transform the paradise islands of the Maldives to a hell. If Yameen wins with threats and fraud, we won't just ban his close friends, we will ban the whole country from tourism and investment," added Henri Malosse, the President of the EESC.
The situation is deteriorating in the Maldives as its citizens are aware of the electoral fraud and manipulation taking place across the country.
In the winter, a Federal State of Emergency was declared without legitimate reason, culminating in "anti-terrorist" laws which are used against political opponents, human rights activists and journalists.
These new and unconstitutional Acts have allowed President Yameen to imprison Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, as well as his political predecessor, 80-year-old Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has been refused adequate medical care and is now dying in jail.
A similarly-passed "anti-defection" law has also led to 16 Members of Parliament being barred from the chamber, disrupting the voting ratio and granting Yameen's government a majority.
European officials believe jihadists returning from foreign wars in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, are being released from jail, while Yameen's political opponents remain incarcerated. Evidence shows these fighters are allowed to move freely between active warzones and the Maldives, opening channels of radicalisation between Islamist states and vulnerable youth.
It is clear that the "anti-terrorism" laws are not intended to address the real and persistent risks of terrorism in the country; rather, they are used as a political tool against Yameen's opponents.
The Opposition Coalition still has a chance of winning the upcoming presidential elections - but these chances are squandered if the international community does not ensure free and fair elections.
In order to show solidarity in the face of Yameen's attacks on their democracy, the four opposition parties operating in the Maldives have formed a coalition and agreed on a common candidate, the respected veteran and lawmaker, Ibrahim "Ibu" Mohamed Solih. Fearful of Solih's popularity, Yameen has done everything he can to corrupt the elections.
Opposition candidates have been obstructed from campaigning. They are not allowed to place posters or have rallies, hold public meetings, travel for the purpose of campaigning, or collect funds for their campaign expenses. The ruling party controls all the major television channels, making it counterproductive for the opposition candidate to appear in political debates, fearing that the content would be edited to his disadvantage.
Furthermore, while four members of the opposition party have been arrested on dubious charges and are being held without due process, the remaining political leaders have been forced into exile under the threat of violence or arrest.
Yameen has also stated, on multiple occasions, that he is interested in re-instating the death penalty, failing to specify which crimes would qualify for this punishment. This has left many political dissidents fearful for their lives.
Without international support, the upcoming federal elections in Maldives will neither be free nor fair.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)