Maldives government tried to sound calm ahead of a crucial ahead of a crucial sit-down of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which will decide the archipelago’s fate in the 53 member bloc.
CMAG, a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers, laid out a six-point reform agenda in February, which includes the release of political prisoners and judicial reform.
The group is set to review Maldives’ progress on Friday.
When asked if the government has made any progress on the reform points, spokesperson for the president’s office Ibrahim Muaz Ali insisted that president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has always looked to reform and strenghthen democracy since taking office.
“It’s not something do because a particular country or an organisation asked us to,” Muaz said.
There have been question marks over the Maldives’ adherence to democratic values in recent years following the controversial exit of Mohammed Nasheed, seen as the first-democratically elected president following multi-party elections in 2008.
Nasheed, who left the presidency in 2012, later said he was unseated in a coup. But the international community, including India, recognized his successor, Mohammed Waheed.
Yameen came to power in 2013 but his critics maintain that he has been assuming authoritarian powers, suppressing dissent and protests.
Nasheed’s jailing on a terror charge last year was a key trigger of the current political crisis. He was allowed to leave the country in an internationally brokered deal in January.
Commonwealth has been pushing the government and the opposition to engage in dialogue and end the political strife in the archipelago.
Muaz pointed that president Yameen had sincerely initiated the all party talks in a bid to end the political strife.
But the talks failed solely because of the opposition, Muaz insisted.
Exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed meanwhile has urged CMAG to base its decisions over the current political strife in the Maldives on facts rather than political considerations of stakeholder states.
Nasheed’s comments is in reference to the representation of the nations in CMAG, especially India and Pakistan which helped the Maldives government to escape action in February.
Earlier this year, president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on a visit to India, publicly acknowledged that he was visiting New Delhi to thank the Indian government for “protecting” the Maldives in the CMAG deliberations which had examined whether the democratic processes in the atoll nation had broken down.
India was one of the nine countries in the CMAG team that visited the Maldives in February.
A Commonwealth human rights body meanwhile, has urged the suspension of Maldives from the 53 member bloc due to the deteriorating situation in the archipelago.
The CHRI report published on Monday had expressed grave concern over the continuing and persistent
deterioration of human rights, rule of law and democracy in the Maldives.
“The government of the Maldives continues to act with little regard to constitutional principles or Maldives’ international commitments, in particular the Commonwealth Charter,” the report read.
The NGO drew particular attention to the curbing of fundamental rights, targeted persecution of opposition leaders, misuse of state institutions to restrict, crush and punish dissent, stifling political debate, and crippling independent institutions.
“It is clear that the government is not engaging sincerely with the Commonwealth or the United Nations to implement reforms that will strengthen democratic institutions and enable realization of fundamental
Despite intense international concerns especially from the Commonwealth, the CHRI noted that the government had failed to take any steps that would enable the release of jailed political leaders — highlighting that the country’s Supreme Court has recently upheld sentences of several political leaders including former president Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
The report also accused the government of the abusing the Anti-Terrorism Act and other legislation to
persecute political leaders and public officials.
“The Maldives continues to curtail fundamental freedoms through regressive legislative measures and
numerous incidents of harassment and violence against journalists,” noting the recently enforced defamation Act.
“The act will only shorten a shrinking space for speaking out against accusations of corruption involving state officials and provide a powerful tool for the government to control information flow, thereby perpetuating state impunity.”
In light of the findings, the international non-governmental organisation formed to support Human Rights has urged CMAG to take resolute action against the Maldives which includes Maldives’ suspension from the Commonwealth.
The report also recommended the Commonwealth to halt all technical other than the mandate of the recently appointed Special Envoy.