Maldives parliament cancels opening session over security concerns

Maldives parliament on Saturday announced its decision to cancel its opening session slated for Monday citing security reasons amid the ongoing political standoff in the country.

The island nation has been plunged into fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The first sitting for 2018 was scheduled for Monday and due to be addressed by President Abdulla Yameen Abdulla Gayoom. It was cancelled indefinitely, parliament said in a message sent to lawmakers.

More than a day after the Supreme court ordered the immediate release of as many as nine political prisoners, government has thus far refused to comply.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and deposed ruling party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

The others named in the order included former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's brother in law Hamid Ismail.

Maldives' international partners including the UN, UK, US and India have echoed calls on the government to comply with the court order.

The Supreme Court had said the questionable and politically motivated nature of the trials of the political leaders warrants a re-trial and ordered the authorities to immediately free the jailed leaders until a court of law sentences otherwise.

The court has ordered relevant authorities to strictly enforce the order and warned legal action against anyone who refuses to obey the court order.

The court had also annulled its anti-defection ruling and ordered the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling. The Supreme Court said the anti-defection ruling was issued as a temporary solution to the constitutional dispute case filed by the state but insisted that the relevant authorities have failed to bring to effect an anti-defection law specified in the ruling.

The reinstatement of the 12 lawmakers disqualified by the country's elections commission would mean that the united opposition would now have parliament majority which has the power to impeach the president.

“The speaker has asked to inform that the opening of parliament scheduled to be held on Monday, February 5, 2018, will not be held as scheduled due to security reasons and that work is being done to hold the opening of the parliament as soon as possible,” the message said.

Opposition has slammed the parliament speaker accusing him avoiding impeachment.