A State of Emergency Was Just Declared in the Maldives

When it comes to luxurious island vacations -- with the softest of beaches, the bluest of waters, and over-the-top overwater bungalows -- the Maldives tops the list. Made up of nearly 2,000 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the stunning archipelago is a romantic paradise. However, while the beauty of the Maldives is indisputable, it’s not without its blemishes. In fact, recent political turmoil and intensifying violence has led President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom to declare a 15-day state of emergency in the island nation.

Deep tension between the Supreme Court and the government continues to sweep the Maldives. Last week, the nation’s court ordered the release of nine opposition leaders, including the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed (who is now in exile), according to Reuters. However, President Yameen rejected the court order. The power struggle escalated further when Maldives National Defense Forces allegedly broke into the Supreme Court in the capital city of Male. Maldives former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood tweeted that “security forces have blockaded and locked the Supreme Court building from outside and hence the justices are without any food.”

Police also arrested another former president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom -- Yameen’s half-brother -- who ruled the country for three decades, until 2008, and is now part of the opposition.

“This is not a state of war, epidemic, or natural disaster. This is something more dangerous,” President Yameen, who has held his position since 2013, said on national television. “This is an obstruction of the very ability of the state to function.” 

Furthermore, this commotion comes during the country’s peak travel season. China, the U.S., and India have all issued travel advisories for the Maldives, a destination that relies heavily on tourism, reports Reuters. (Nearly 1.4 million foreign tourists visited the Maldives in 2017, and the tourism industry raked in $2.7 billion in 2016.)

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, reassuring travelers that the current situation would not impact tourism. “All tourism related businesses will be operating as usual and the situation of the Maldives remains stable. The state of emergency does not force any restrictions on traveling to the Maldives or within the Maldives,” according to the statement from the Ministry of Tourism.

The U.S. State Department’s travel advisory warns Americans that “terrorist groups may conduct attacks with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Attacks may occur on remote islands which could lengthen the response time of authorities.” The U.S. deemed the Maldives a level 2, which means travelers should exercise caution (level 4 is the most dangerous).

“Groups expected to protest in central Male in response to emerging political developments. Monitor local media for updates,” the U.S. State Department tweeted.  

Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said, “if you’re in Male, you should exercise caution and avoid any protests or rallies; there are no reports that outlying islands, resorts or Male International Airport are affected.” They also added that “most visits to Maldives are trouble free. The most common problems faced by visiting British nationals are lost and stolen passports, and swimming and diving related accidents.” 

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