13 October 2016, Malé
By Shihar Aneez
The Maldives said on Thursday it will leave the Commonwealth, weeks after the organisation warned it could be suspended because of its lack of progress in promoting the rule of law and democracy.
Best known as a paradise for wealthy tourists, the Indian Ocean archipelago has been mired in political unrest since Mohamed Nasheed, its first democratically elected leader, was ousted in disputed circumstances in 2012.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group last month warned the Maldives that in the absence of substantive progress in rule of law and democracy, it would consider its options, including suspension.
The Commonwealth comprises 53 states that were mostly former British colonies.
“The decision to leave the Commonwealth was difficult, but inevitable,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“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.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland expressed sadness and disappointment over the decision.
“The Commonwealth Charter reflects the commitment of our member states to democracy and human rights, development and growth, and diversity,” Scotland said in a statement.
“We hope that this will be a temporary separation and that Maldives will feel able to return to the Commonwealth family and all that it represents in due course.”
Amnesty International said the Maldives authorities should address their own human rights situation rather than lashing out at legitimate criticism.
“Human rights have been in a complete freefall in the country over the past few years. The government has locked up opponents through politically motivated trials and led an unprecedented crackdown on independent media,” Amnesty’s South Asia Director Champa Patel said.
President Abdulla Yameen’s administration reintroduced the death penalty in July, rejecting repeated requests by rights groups and the West.
Nasheed, in exile in Britain after being allowed out of jail to go there for medical treatment, formed the Maldives United Opposition in June with the aim of toppling Yameen.
Yameen’s administration has arrested most of his opponents. The opposition says the administration is trying to cover up corruption including money laundering, accusations the government has denied.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Trevelyan)
Official Statement of leaving Commonwealth by Maldives:
The Government of Maldives has decided today to leave the Commonwealth. The decision to leave the Commonwealth was difficult, but inevitable.
The Maldives joined the Commonwealth in 1982 with high hopes and expectations, convinced that the organisation will be an arena for coordinating critical issues that the member States, in particular, the smallest members of the organisation face.
Since 2012, the Government of Maldives has been giving maximum cooperation to the Commonwealth, shown maximum transparency, and engaged with the Commonwealth at the highest levels. The Government had high hopes that such level of engagement will produce fruitful results. 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. The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has enacted a total of 110 pieces of legislations. Out of which, 94 legislations were directly related to the core values set out in the Commonwealth Charter. An overwhelming majority of these legislations (69 out of 94) were specifically designed to promote human rights, to strengthen democratic governance, and to reinforce the separation of powers. These achievements have resulted in strengthening the rule of law and produced tangible outcomes in strengthening democratic institutions in the country.
The Commonwealth has sought to take punitive actions against the Maldives since 2012 after the then President of Maldives resigned, and transfer of power took place as per the procedures set out in the Constitution. The Commonwealth’s decision to penalise the Maldives was unjustified especially given that the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), established with the help of the Commonwealth, found that the transfer of power in the Maldives was consistent with the constitutional provisions.
Since then, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and the Commonwealth Secretariat have treated the Maldives unjustly and unfairly. The Commonwealth has sought to become an active participant in the domestic political discourse in the Maldives, which is contrary to the principles of the Charters of the UN and the Commonwealth. The CMAG and the Commonwealth Secretariat seem to be convinced that the Maldives, because of the high and favourable reputation that the country enjoys internationally, and also perhaps because it is a small State that lacks material power, would be an easy object that can be used, especially in the name of democracy promotion, to increase the organisation’s own relevance and leverage in international politics.
The Maldives reassures that its international engagement will continue both bilaterally and multilaterally.