The Maldives parliament Thursday approved a state of emergency imposed by President Abdulla Yameen and used extraordinary powers to sack his estranged deputy despite mounting international concern.
Lawmakers loyal to President Yameen voted to remove Ahmed Adeeb, who was arrested last month in connection with a September blast aboard the presidential speedboat that the government says was an assassination attempt.
All 61 parliamentarians present voted in favour of the impeachment, while opposition members in the 85-strong house stayed away, knowing the government had enough votes to carry the decision.
The impeachment was rushed through in line with the state of emergency, which suspended several rights enshrined in the constitution, including freedom of assembly and freedom of movement.
The United States and Britain expressed deep concern after the state of emergency was imposed, saying it curtailed vital civil liberties and urged the release of jailed opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed.
“The United States calls on the government of Maldives to restore immediately full constitutional freedoms to its citizens by terminating the state of emergency,” US State Department spokesman John Kerby said.
Thursday’s impeachment of Adeeb, formerly a close ally of the president, is the second in just under four months — Yameen sacked former vice president Mohamed Jameel in July.
The former vice president Jameel, who was Yameen’s running mate at the controversial November 2013 election, is still on the run after the president accused him of trying to topple the government.
Adeeb, who had a meteoric rise in politics, was also a hate figure for the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which accused him of dispatching underworld gangs to launch attacks against dissidents.
Addressing the nation soon after Adeeb’s arrest, Yameen justified the move saying it was carried out “for the safety and security of the nation”. The government has said security forces found another bomb near the president’s residence last week.
There has been no word from the opposition MDP on whether it would defy the state of emergency to hold a planned rally Friday.
The Maldives’ Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon earlier denied that the move was intended to suppress the protest, but said it was unlikely to go ahead “because of the security” in Male.
The Maldives has been in political turmoil since the country’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to step down following a mutiny in February 2012.
The unrest heightened after Yameen had Nasheed jailed in March on a charge of “terrorism” following a rushed trial which the UN says was seriously flawed. A UN panel last month called for Nasheed’s freedom, a demand rejected by Yameen.
The country’s tourism ministry sought to allay fears on Thursday, saying tourism-related businesses would be operating as usual.
“The situation in the Maldives remains stable,” the ministry said in a statement.
Holidaymakers who pay top dollar to relax on the Maldives’ atolls are usually whisked away by seaplane or boat, bypassing the restive capital Male where extra police have been deployed in recent months.
But some Western governments have advised their nationals to exercise caution while travelling to Male, citing protests and the possibility of terrorist attacks.
On Thursday, the Hong Kong Football Association raised serious concerns about next week’s football qualifier against Maldives and said the team would not play unless safety could be guaranteed.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has said there is no evidence the September 28 blast, which wounded Yameen’s wife and two others but left the president unharmed, was caused by a bomb.