China asks tourists to avoid Maldives over political crisis

China government on Monday asked the country's tourists against visiting the Maldives until the political situation in the tropical island destination stabilizes.

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.

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

"Chinese citizens who are preparing in the near term to go to the Maldives temporarily not go to the Maldives before the situation on the ground stabilizes," Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Geng Shuang was quoted by the Chinese media.

Chinese New Year is the peak season for Chinese tourists to visit and suggested tourists already there pay close attention to the situation, Geng said.

The stand of the Chinese government would add more pressure on the already embattled president Yameen as China remains the largest tourism market for the archipelago.

Amid increasing rumours that the apex court was preparing to act over the refusal to comply, president Yameen in a letter to chief justice Abdulla Saeed insisted that the constitution clearly stipulates the mandate, immunities and authorities of every state institution.

In the letter which was read out by the legal affairs minister Azima Shakoor on state television, president Yameen warned the Supreme court against 'abusing' the constitutional privileges, immunities and authorities granted to its judges in any way that contradicts or invades the jurisdiction and mandate of other state institutions or powers of the state.

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.

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.

Government meanwhile, confirmed a Supreme Court led move to have president Yameen arrested.

AG Mohamed Anil flanked by the army and police chief on Sunday had said the government has received information that a Supreme Court order to arrest president Yameen was imminent.

However, AG labelled the move as "unconstitutional" and the police and the army would reject any order by the Supreme Court to have the president arrested.

Chief of defence force Major General Ahmed Shiyam said the army would only act in accordance with the laws and constitution, adding that it would follow the legal advice of the attorney general.

"The army would not stand by watch while the Maldives goes into a crisis. The army would not obey an unconstitutional order," Shiyam insisted.

Newly appointed police chief Abdulla Nawaz echoed the army chief's statement.

The development comes amid accusations that the opposition had bribed some of the judges on the Supreme Court bench to influence the ruling.