Maldives lift emergency after Sri Lanka’s bombshell

ECONOMYNEXT – The Maldivian government Tuesday lifted a state of emergency hours after Sri Lanka took the unusual step of warning the smaller nation not to mess with its friendship and jeopardise regional stability.

A beleaguered President Abdulla Yameen hurriedly summoned a press conference in the capital island male to announce he was lifting the emergency he had imposed last Wednesday saying his life was in danger.

Despite Maldivian attempts to give a positive spin to its envoy Zahiya Zareer being summoned to the Colombo foreign office, Sri Lankan foreign ministry officials said she had been given a thorough dressing down.

In its harshly-worded statement in decades, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry accused the Maldives of exploiting its friendship and jeopardising regional stability.

Sri Lanka is miffed over the Maldivian High Commission last week securing the arrest and deportation of an 18-year-old social media campaigner Ahmed Ashraf bypassing the proper legal channels.

Police and immigration officials involved in the repatriation of the Maldivian man are to face disciplinary action and ministry sources said the government was recommending their sacking.

"The government finds it deeply disturbing that Sri Lanka, a country which has always maintained the closest friendly relations with the Maldives is being used to initiate questionable action against political and social media activists," the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said.

An escalating political crisis in the Maldives led Yameen to declare a state of emergency last week after accusing political opponents of trying to assassinate him, granting security forces sweeping powers to detain citizens.

"Sri Lanka encourages the government of the Maldives to ensure that recent developments are not allowed to escalate into a source of regional instability," the ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the Maldivian mission in Colombo, but yesterday the mission had said its envoy had a "pre-arranged" meeting with the Foreign Secretary to brief on the developments in the Maldives.

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Sri Lanka has also raised concerns about the arrest last month of two of its nationals in connection with so called attempts to kill Yameen.

However, the FBI has said the September 28 boat blast in which Yameen was unhurt was not caused by a bomb and undermined claims of an assassination plot. However, Yameen’s wife and two others were wounded.

Sri Lankan authorities also laughed off claims that a Sri Lankan man was a "hired sniper" paid by opponents to kill Yameen. Sri Lankan police say the man is the son of a dry fish importer.

He has had no military training, Sri lankan officials said adding that the Maldivians had begun to change their story of a sniper to a man who was trying to "bribe" Maldivians to cause unrest.

"We will not take this nonsense," a Sri Lankan source said. "President yameen should realise he is dealing with a new government that is quite different from the Rajapaksa regime. The bad old days are over."

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