An Echelon Media Company
Friday December 9th, 2022

Maldives’ top judge arrested as state of emergency declared

AFP – The Maldives’ top judge was arrested Tuesday as security forces stormed the Supreme Court at dawn, in a deepening confrontation with President Abdulla Yameen who has declared a state of emergency in the troubled honeymoon islands.

The detention of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another Supreme Court judge raised the stakes in a dramatic clash after Yameen refused to comply with an order to release nine political dissidents.

Police said both men were under investigation for corruption and that the court’s top administrator had also been detained.

Yameen has presided over an escalating crackdown on dissent that has battered the image of the upmarket holiday paradise, and left almost all the political opposition jailed since he came to power in 2013.

On Monday he even ordered the arrest of arrest of his estranged half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had sided with the main opposition.

The 80-year-old — president for 30 years until the country’s first democratic elections in 2008 — was taken from his home in the capital Male around midnight on Monday, according to a tweet from his daughter Yumna Maumoon.

"I have not done anything to be arrested," Gayoom said in a video message to supporters posted on Twitter.

"I urge you to remain steadfast in your resolve too. We will not give up on the reform work we are doing."

– Court stormed –

Heavily armed troops and police special operations units stormed the Supreme Court in the early hours, the court said on Twitter, as police used pepper spray to disperse hundreds of people gathered outside.

The court’s shock move in support of the political dissidents on Thursday also included an order for the government to restore the seats of 12 legislators sacked for defecting from Yameen’s party.

The opposition now has the majority in the assembly — meaning they could potentially impeach the president.

But the government, which has ordered police and troops to resist any attempt to arrest or impeach Yameen, said the court was not above the law.

"The Supreme Court ruling stands in defiance of the highest authority in the country: the constitution," spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab said in a statement.

"The Supreme Court must remember that it too is bound by law."

He said the government would "facilitate calm" and ensure the safety of all citizens and tourists "throughout this unusual period".

– ‘Martial law’ –

The court’s decision also paved the way for exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed — the nation’s first democratically elected leader who was controversially convicted of terrorism in 2015 — to run for president this year.

Yameen, who has faced several unsuccessful opposition attempts to impeach him for alleged corruption, responded by shuttering parliament and on Monday his administration announced a 15-day state of emergency.

"The reason for the declaration is that the Supreme Court’s ruling was obstructing the functioning of the government," presidential aide Azima Shukoor said on national television.

The declaration gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain individuals, curtails the powers of the judiciary and bars parliament from impeaching Yameen.

But it must be officially conveyed to parliament within two days, according to officials.

Nasheed, who has expressed fears of unrest, said the declaration amounted to martial law, while an opposition legislator called it a "desperate move".

"(This) is tantamount to a declaration of martial law in the Maldives," Nasheed said, urging regional super power India to intervene.

– US ‘troubled’ –

Opposition legislators have also called on the international community to pressure Yameen.

The United States said it was "troubled and disappointed" at the declaration of a state of emergency and called on Yameen to comply with the rule of law.

"President Yameen has systematically alienated his coalition, jailed or exiled every major opposition political figure, deprived elected Members of Parliament of their right to represent their voters in the legislature, revised laws to erode human rights… and weakened the institutions of government," the State Department said in a statement.

The United Nations, Australia, Britain, Canada, India and the US had welcomed the court’s decision, while UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the weekend called for "restraint" as the crisis escalated.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka president slams power regulator chief after conflicting with minister

ECONOMYNET – The powers to change the electricity tariff in Sri Lanka is vested with the Minister of Power and not the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL), President Ranil Wickremesinghe told the Parliament.

The minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekara has requested an upward price revision to be implemented in two phases both in January and July next year, saying the recent tariff hike was not enough for the state-run utility provider Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to continue uninterrupted power supply.

However, Jaynaka Ratnayake, the Chairman of the PUCSL had said  the recent tariff hike is enough for the CEB to cover the cost of production and it will not allow another price hike. However, he has said a twice a year price revision is necessary though it should be in April and October instead of January and July.

President Wickremesinghe said the PUCSL chief was opposing the tariff hike due to his personal reasons.

“The power is vested with the Minister and me. I am the one who made the PUCSL act and I know what is in it,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament on Thursday. quoting a letter from the Attorney General which mentioned provisions in the island nation’s Electricity Act.

Accordingly the Act, the PUCSL would be statutorily obliged to give effect to such policy. It is observed that neither the Act nor the PUCSL Act contains any provisions that empowers the PUCSL to change or act invariant of such policy guidelines.

“The Chairman of the PUCSL is misguiding the general public. I have to meet him and see,” Wickremesinghe said.

WIckremesinghe said the Chairman does not want the tariff hike because he owns one of the highest electricity consuming companies.

“He is the Chairman of the Trillium corporation. It is the firm that takes up the most energy”, he said.

The Trillium group is managed by Janaka Ratnayake and he also holds positions as the chairman and CEO of Trillium Property Management & Services Ltd., City Housing and Real Estate PLC, Trillium Residencies Ltd., Computer Care (Pvt) Ltd., and Rent a Comp Services (Pvt) Ltd., and JR Management Consultants (Pvt) Ltd.

“It means when the electricity bill increases, his expenses increase as well”

He said the CEB still has a loss of 300 billion rupees since 2013 and it needs to be covered.

The CEB issue can be solved only in three ways, either printing more money, increasing value added tax or increasing the tariffm, he said. (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka President bemoans over inconsistent LNG deals

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe bemoaned over successive governments’ liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal that has brought in all the world powers into the discussion.

Wickremesinghe’s center-right United National Party (UNP) had discussions with India and Japan between 2002-2004 for an LNG project.

“Following dialogues with India and Japan, the UNP government could come to agreements to get two LNG power plants. After we were defeated the successor government, without cancelling those agreements granted it to New Fortress company in USA,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament.

“Thereafter, as they did not like New Fortress, they gave it back to Pakistan and China. So within the same premises, there were China, Pakistan, India, USA, Japan and only Russia was not there.”

“It was wonderful that a world war did not ignited there as there were five main powers in the world.”

“Now there is no LNG or anything here and now they ask me to solve this issue.”

Wickremesighe’s outburst comes as his government is forced to raise tariffs on power prices after successive governments failed to implement cheap and renewable power generation projects.

He said a total loss for the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board since 2013 was 300 billion rupees and a possible drought next year could increase the 2023 electricity cost to 420 billion rupees.

“If it rained, we need Rs. 352 billion while Rs. 295 is required if rained so much to have floods. How are we going to find this money? We would have to print money, but Rupee would depreciate. We would have to increase VAT but it would increase the price of all commodities or to charge it direct.” (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

Continue Reading

Air quality drop forces Sri Lanka to close schools; public warned

ECONOMYNEXT – A rapid drop in air quality in Sri Lanka has forced the Colombo government to close all schools across the country after a deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal, officials said.

The Education Ministry, issuing a special notice on Thursday said, it has decided to close all government schools for Friday, after discussing with the officials in Meteorology Department and Disaster Management Center.

An official said the drop was due to the deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal carrying the air from India.

Due to the depression over South east Bay of Bengal (370 km east of Trincomalee) has concentrated into a cyclonic storm “Mandous” by Wednesday night.

“Cyclone in the Bay of Bengal that is the prime reason for the increase in the pollution load as we receive more wind from India,” H.D.S.Premasiri, Senior Scientist, Coordinator-Air Quality, noise and vibrations at National Building Research Organization (NBRO) told EconomyNext on Thursday.

Officials said there is a likelihood of the cyclone moving west-northwestwards and further intensify into a severe cyclonic storm tonight and cross North Tamil-Nadu, Puducherry and South Andhra Pradesh coast around midnight of 09 th December and the maximum wind speeds will be 70-90 km per hour and can increase up to 90 in sea areas.

“Hopefully, today we can expect normalization in the environment and the effects of the fog will disappear”.

According to the NBRO’s real time Air Quality Index Indicator, the quality of air in northwestern coastal district of Puttalam has dropped drastically and indicated a particular matter (PM) 132, while Kegalle (85) and Mannar (84) were the districts which had next worst air quality.

According to NBRO, Battaramulla, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Kegalle, Mannar and Puttalam indicate a poor quality of air due to higher PM.

“The fog will lead to lung and breathing issues,” Premasiri said.

“So the public is warned to wear a mask when they travel outside. The pollution highly prevails in city areas and has a less impact on the other parts of the areas.” (Colombo/ Dec08/2022)

Continue Reading