Maldives. After unprecedented political protests at the
end of 2003, the situation remained troubled throughout
2004. A newly formed illegal opposition party, the Maldivian
Democratic Party (MDP), tried to pressure the authoritarian
government to implement democratic reforms, but public
protests were turned down and dozens of people arrested.
CountryAAH, President Aumun Abdul Gayum proposed a series of radical
constitutional changes in June and invited Parliament to
debate, but the opposition was skeptical of his honest will.
When Parliament convened to start the debate, disagreement
over the procedure for electing the President broke out,
leaving a quarter of the members in protest.
When around 5,000 people later demonstrated in the
capital Male for increased civil rights and the release of
political prisoners, riots broke out and hundreds of people
were arrested. A state of emergency and curfew were
introduced and the debate on a new constitution was declared
suspended. The European Parliament blocked aid to the
Maldives worth about US $ 2 million and voiced its support
for the Maldivian opposition's demand for a boycott of the
Four people, including a former minister, were indicted
in early December for participating in the democracy march.
They were accused of trying to overthrow the president and
risking life imprisonment. However, they were pardoned after
the tsunami a few weeks later, when the president wanted to
promote national reconciliation. The tidal wave required
relatively few human lives in the Maldives but devastated a
large part of the tourist islands of which the country is
economically highly dependent.