UN rights chief: ‘all-out assault on democracy’ in Maldives

Maldivian Police officers stand guard near the MDP (Maldives Democratic Party) opposition party headquarters after Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency for 15 days, in Male, Maldives February 6, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 February 2018
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UN rights chief: ‘all-out assault on democracy’ in Maldives

MALE: The UN human rights chief on Wednesday called the declaration of a state of emergency in the Maldives and the resulting suspension of constitutional guarantees an “all-out assault on democracy.”
Political turmoil has swept the Maldives since a surprise court ruling last week that ordered the release of jailed opposition leaders, including many of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s main political rivals. He imposed a state of emergency on Monday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said the restrictions “create a dangerous concentration of power in the hands of the president.”
Maldives became a multiparty democracy 10 years ago but lost much of those gains after Yameen was elected in 2013.
Zeid said in a statement issued by his office in Geneva that Yameen “has, to put it bluntly, usurped the authority of the state’s rule-of-law institutions and its ability to work independently from the executive.” What is happening now, he said, “is tantamount to an all-out assault on democracy.”
Zeid’s criticism came a day after three Maldives Supreme Court justices annulled their earlier order to free the imprisoned opposition politicians after two of the court’s justices were arrested.
The annulment came after Yameen declared the state of emergency, which gives officials sweeping powers to make arrests, search and seize property and restrict freedom of assembly.
The UN and many foreign governments including the United States, Britain and India have expressed concern over the state of emergency and have urged Yameen to respect the earlier court order.
Hours after the emergency was declared, security forces in riot gear stormed the Supreme Court building, arresting the two judges, including Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed. It was not immediately clear what charges they face, if any.
Security forces also arrested former dictator and opposition politician Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. His lawyer, Maumoon Hameed, said Gayoom faced charges including bribery and attempting to overthrow the government.
Gayoom was president from 1978 to 2008, when the Maldives became a multiparty democracy.
The Maldives is an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands with fewer than 400,000 citizens, more than one-third of them living in the crowded capital city, Male. Tourism now dominates the economy, with wealthy foreigners flown to hyper-expensive resort islands.
But it remains, in many ways, a small community. Gayoom, the former dictator, is the half brother of President Yameen. The two men are now political enemies. Former President Mohamed Nasheed, now the opposition leader, unseated Gayoom in the country’s first democratic elections in 2008. He and Gayoom are now political allies in an opposition alliance.


Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

Updated 13 December 2018
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Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

  • Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month
  • The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days

JAKARTA: Families of some of the 189 people killed in a Lion Air plane crash plan a protest rally in Indonesia on Thursday, while stalled efforts to bring the main wreckage to the surface and find the second black box are set to resume next week.
The Boeing Co. 737 MAX jet crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 shortly after take-off from Jakarta, but the families expressed concern that the remains of 64 passengers have yet to be identified, with just 30 percent of the plane’s body found.
“The relatives hope that all members of our families who died in the accident can be found and their bodies buried in a proper way,” a group that says it represents about 50 families said in a statement.
“We hope the search for the victims will use vessels with sophisticated technology,” it added, ahead of the rally planned for outside the presidential palace in Jakarta.
Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month, Reuters reported.
Indonesia’s national transport panel said the vessel was due to arrive on Monday.
The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days, a source close to the airline said on Thursday, on condition of anonymity, adding that Lion Air is paying because the government does not have the budget.
A spokesman for Lion Air was unable to respond immediately to a request for comment.
“Funds for the CVR search will be borne by Lion Air which has signed a contract for a ship from a Singaporean company,” a finance ministry spokesman told Reuters.
Lion Air’s decision to foot the bill is a rare test of global norms regarding search independence, as such costs are typically paid by governments.
In this case, investigators said they had faced bureaucratic wrangling and funding problems before Lion Air stepped in.
Safety experts say it is unusual for one of the parties to help fund an investigation, required by UN rules to be independent, so as to ensure trust in any safety recommendations made.
There are also broader concerns about resources available for such investigations worldwide, coupled with the risk of agencies being ensnared in legal disputes.
The clock is ticking in the hunt for acoustic pings coming from the L3 Technologies Inc. cockpit voice recorder fitted to the jet. It has a 90-day beacon, the manufacturer’s online brochure shows.
The flight data recorder was retrieved three days after the crash, providing insight into aircraft systems and crew inputs, although the cause has yet to be determined.