Maldives pres 'expects' EU to impose sanctions this month

Maldives' embattled president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Tuesday said he was expecting the European Union (EU) to impose sanctions against his government later this month.

Speaking during a ceremony to inaugurate a new harbour and sewerage system in Meemu Atoll Dhiggaru island on Tuesday, president Yameen remained defiant in the face of looming sanctions saying that he would not change his policies due to international pressure or the threat of sanctions.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

Following the state of emergency, EU's foreign affairs council in February had passed adopted a series of conclusions on the Maldives which also refers to possible targeted measures if the situation does not improve.

President Yameen however, insisted that he would not free "criminals" or reinstate a dozen opposition lawmakers which has crippled the parliament.

"The justice system will decide on the seats of the "disqualified" lawmakers," he stressed.

He had even dispatched a high-level delegation to meet top EU officials recently to counter opposition efforts to convince the EU to impose sanctions against his government.

Referring to the sit-downs, president Yameen said his government had tried to talk to the EU over the looming sanctions but to no avail.

"You can't hope to achieve anything by talking to someone who's mind is already made up," he alleged.

President Yameen further alleged that the EU had completely ignored the arguments made by his government to side and "believe" the opposition's version of events reiterating that the international community's narrative on the Maldives was being dictated by the country's globally well-connected opposition.

Maldives government has been facing mounting international pressure especially from the US and the West over the contentious jailing of opposition leaders and the restrictions on fundamental rights and liberties.

EU had recently cast doubts over the possibility of holding free and fair presidential elections in the Maldives which has been slated for September 23.