More ruling coalition lawmakers broke whip-line Wednesday to vote against the government decision to leave the Commonwealth.
As many as six government lawmakers sided with the opposition in the vote — which however was not enough to prevent the archipelago from quitting the 53 member bloc after 34 years.
During the sitting on Wednesday, 39 lawmakers voted in favour of the government decision to leave the 53 member bloc out of the 58 present.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom last year had sought the parliament’s opinion over Maldives’ exit from the Commonwealth. A parliamentary committee with government majority had ruled that the Commonwealth had continuously treated the Maldives unfairly and attempted to infringe the sovereignty the island nation.
The national security committee had also expressed concern that Maldives’ continued engagement with the Commonwealth was causing an adverse impact on its economy and efforts to attract foreign investments.
Maldives government Thursday decided to leave the Commonwealth citing unfair and unjust treatment of small states.
Foreign minister Dr Mohamed Asim flanked by Attorney General Mohamed Anil during a press conference told reporters that the decision was “extremely difficult,” but was necessary to “protect the sovereignty” of the archipelago.
Asim said the Maldives government has fully cooperated with the Commonwealth since the controversial resignation of former president Mohamed Nasheed in 2012.
“Regrettably, the Commonwealth has not recognised that progress and achievements that the Maldives accomplished in cultivating a culture of democracy in the country and in building and strengthening democratic institutions,” Asim added.
Maldives government has been forced to ward off intense international criticism especially from the Commonwealth over the continued crackdown on dissent, jailing of political opponents and increased rights violations.
The decision comes weeks after the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) placed Maldives on its formal agenda and warned the archipelago of suspension from the Commonwealth if it fails to make substantial progress to resolve the persistent political strife in the Maldives.
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.
“… in the absence of substantive progress across the priority areas, the Group would consider its options, including suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth, at its next meeting, in March 2017,” a statement after the sit-down read.
The CMAG’s demands also included calls for steps to prevent use of anti-terror laws to stifle dissent, swift action on recommendations for judicial reform and freedom and space for civil society.
“CMAG has continued to take unjust and biased actions against us. They’ve made life very difficult for the Maldives because we are strategically small,” the foreign minister said.
The Attorney General during the press conference accused CMAG of attempting to circumvent the rule of the law in the Maldives.
“We have always admitted that Maldives remains at the infancy stage of democracy and needs to strengthen every state institution. But CMAG has been asking to intervene in certain trials. To influence court verdicts. That is something we simply cannot do. It’s against every international law and is clearly an infringement of our sovereignty,” Anil said.
Maldives joined the 53 member bloc in 1982.