UN Human Rights Council mulls action against Maldives

The President of the UN Human Rights Council has called the imposition of 11 guidelines on the Maldives human rights watchdog by the Supreme Court as “unacceptable,” and said he stands ready to take appropriate actions within his mandate.

“National human rights institutions play a pivotal role in independently monitoring and protecting human rights. The imposition of restrictions on the HRCM [Human Rights Commission of the Maldives] for its engagement, in particular, with the Human Rights Council, and its mechanisms is unacceptable,” said Joachim Rücker in a letter to a New-Delhi based advocacy group.

The Supreme Court had found a human rights assessment submitted by the HRCM to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review unlawful, and set several guidelines prescribing how it should operate within the law.

The guideline bars the HRCM from communicating independently with foreign bodies, and orders it to protect unity, peace and order, and uphold Maldivian norms and faith.

The Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) on June 26 had urged Rücker to condemn the Supreme Court’s judgment against the HRCM, stating that “the act of reprisal” is unheard of.

If the UN human rights council fails to condemn it, it would set dangerous precedent across the world, the NGO warned.

In reply, Rücker said: “Please rest assured that I will continue to closely follow this case, continue the dialogue with the Government of the Maldives, as Member State of the Human Rights Council, and stand ready to take appropriate actions within my mandate.”

The issue had been raised at a human rights council meeting on June 26, and had been discussed at a bureau meeting with vice-presidents, he said. Concern had been raised with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon as well.

The ACHR had previously called on the UN Human Rights Council to suspend the Maldives from the council.

Suhas Chakma, the Director of the ACHR, on Wednesday called upon President Abdulla Yameen to place a new bill in the parliament to revoke the Supreme Court’s verdict against the HRCM before the end of the ongoing UN Human Rights Council.

The 29th session of the UNHRC is taking place from June 15 to July 3 in Geneva, Switzerland. The inter-governmental body is comprised of 47 member states and meets for 10 weeks every year, in March, June and September.

The Maldives was first elected to the council in 2010 and re-elected for a second term in November 2013.

The ACHR has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and provides information and complaints to national human rights institutions and the UN bodies and mechanisms.

The government had previously defended the court’s judgment, insisting that the court’s decision “clearly stresses” the commission’s independence.

The foreign ministry said the guidelines “do no stipulate, in any specific terms, any restriction or limitation on the HRCM’s ability to submit reports to the UN or any other national or international organ in the future.”

 

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Comment: In Jameel’s defense

The vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed left the Maldives last week amid preparations by his Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) to impeach him. After two days in Sri Lanka, Jameel reportedly left to the UK on Saturday without President Abdulla Yameen’s permission.

Some ruling party MPs say Jameel has fled the country.

The PPM’s justifications for Jameel’s impeachment are vague. Some MPs have publicly accused him of disloyalty and incompetence. Others have said tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb is more suited for the job. “We do not want to hide what we want to do anymore. We are going to appoint tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb as the vice-president before July 26,” one PPM MP has declared.

Meanwhile, rumors that President Yameen is fatally ill continue to persist. Opposition politicians say Yameen is seeking a trusted deputy ahead of a major surgery.

What is going on?

Impeaching a state’s vice president is no small matter.

Jameel was elected. The election may not have been free or fair, but its outcome was largely accepted. By many accounts, Jameel was the face of the PPM’s presidential campaign. Yameen was rarely seen in public, but Jameel walked door-to-door. He visited all the islands of the Maldives. Removing a vice-president amounts to overturning an election. It should only be undertaken for serious dereliction of duty.

If we allow Jameel to be voted out without debate, without a transparent and fair review of the charges against him, we are acquiescing to the most obscure of dictatorships.

Call your MP. Write letters to President Yameen. Demand answers.

Safe-guards

The Maldives constitution institutes several safeguards protecting the president and the vice-president from removal at the parliament’s whims. Article 100 lays three ground for impeachment: direct violation of a tenet of Islam or the law, misconduct unsuited to the executive or the inability to perform the responsibilities of office.

The constitution also says the Majlis may set up an investigative committee to review reasons for impeachment, and grants the accused the opportunity for defense. It further states that a two-third majority, or 57 votes of the current 85-member house, is required to remove the president or the vice-president.

The Majlis is expected to eliminate one of these safeguards today. PPM wants to amend the Majlis standing orders so that it will not be required to investigate charges against the vice president.

It is true that the constitution does leave the matter of setting up an investigative committee at the parliament’s discretion. However, even if an investigation does not take place, MPs must inform and convince us as to why Jameel must go.

Keep in mind, an impeachment is not the same as a vote of no confidence.

In parliamentary systems, prime ministers must enjoy the support of the majority to achieve office. The governments they head can fall if they lose a vote of no confidence, so they must preserve that support to stay in office.

But impeachment is a feature of presidential systems and requires a finding of extraordinary misconduct. As the separation of the executive and legislature is a fundamental aspect of the system, the impeachment process should never be used as a legislative vote of no confidence on the president or vice-president’s conduct or policies.

Impeachable offenses

Does the PPM’s charges against Jameel constitute impeachable offenses?

Speaking to Haveeru, one senior official accused Jameel of building an independent power-base by spending time with independent MPs. PPM parliamentary group leader MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that Jameel had failed to publicly defend the government ahead of an opposition’s protest on May 1. Still others have said he failed to show progress in the health and education sectors.

Meanwhile, Adeeb in a text message to PPM MPs this weekend, said that President Yameen needed to be given room “to rule this nation without internal resistance,” and said “I have witnessed how difficult it is for HEP Yameen to rule with many frictions.”

These charges fall far short of the standards prescribed in the constitution. Vague utterances on loyalty do not make a case for impeachment.

If MPs removed the president or the vice president, merely for conduct of which they disapprove of, it would violate their constitutional responsibilities.

Unimportant?

Some justify the vote to impeach Jameel by arguing that the position of the vice-president is not important. It is true that the vice president is only given the responsibilities and powers delegated to him by the president.

But the constitution also states that the vice president shall perform the responsibilities of the president if he is absent or temporarily unable to perform the responsibilities of office.

Many US vice-presidents have lamented the lack of meaningful work in their role. During his tenure as the first vice- president, John Adams remarked: “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that even the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

But he also says that the vice president “is nothing, but may be everything.”

US constitutional historian Lucius Wilmerding, writing in 1947 noted that even if the office of the vice president is unimportant, the officer or the individual serving as the vice president is certainly important.

For if the president becomes unable to perform his duties, then the vice-president will assume the presidency.

If rumors over President Yameen’s health are true and if he is to undergo surgery, he will have to hand over the presidency to his deputy. This is precisely why Jameel was elected. In voting for Jameel, the public was in fact, choosing a possible president.

The Majlis must carefully consider the kind of misconduct that renders a president or vice president constitutionally unfit to remain in office. As several professors of law argued at the US House of Representatives ahead of a vote to impeach President Bill Clinton, the parliament’s power to impeach, like a prosecutor’s power to indict, is discretionary. Hence, this power must be exercised not for partisan advantage, but only when the circumstances genuinely justify the enormous price the country may have to pay in governance and stature.

Hawwa Kareem is a pseudonym. She holds a degree in political science

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Nasheed’s house arrest extended, opposition backs age-limits for presidency

Former president Mohamed Nasheed’s temporary transfer to house arrest has been extended as opposition parties announced tonight support for a constitutional amendment setting new age-limits for the presidency.

A family member has confirmed Nasheed’s three-day house arrest was extended to eight weeks, after a doctor advised a stress-free environment and rest for back pain.

The opposition leader is serving a 13-year jail term on a terrorism conviction relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. The rushed trial was widely criticized for its apparent lack of due process.

MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and the Jumhooree Party (JP), at separate meetings, decided to back a ruling coalition proposed law to set an age limit of 30 – 65 years for the presidency.

The decision has fuelled speculation of a deal between the government and the MDP conditioning backing for the amendment on Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

Nasheed’s imprisonment has triggered a political crisis with three months of daily protests, historic marches and arrests numbering in the hundreds. Several foreign governments and the EU have called for his release.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) is seeking to replace vice-president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb. Adeeb is 33 now and ineligible for the vice-presidency as the Constitution states candidates must be 35.

PPM MPs have accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence, but opposition politicians and some media outlets have claimed President Abdulla Yameen is fatally ill and is seeking a loyal deputy ahead of a surgery.

The government has previously dismissed rumors regarding the president’s health.

Wednesday vote

The amendment is up for the vote at Wednesday’s sitting. A three-quarters majority or 64 votes will be required for it to pass.

The PPM and its ally the Maldivian Development Alliance only control 48 seats of the 85-member house. The JP has 11 MPs while the MDP has 22 MPs.

The JP, at a parliamentary group meeting, issued a three-line whip. Only seven of the 11 MPs reportedly attended the meeting.

Gasim Ibrahim, the JP leader and MP for Maamigili, is out of the country. The tourism tycoon has urged JP MPs to back the amendment and announced he will retire from politics when his five-year term as MP expires in 2019.

The government has frozen several accounts of companies belonging to Gasim’s Villa Group after slapping a US$90.4million fine claiming the money is owed in unpaid rents, fees and fines.

The MDP decided to back the constitutional amendment at a national executive council meeting tonight.

Even if the amendment passes, Dr Jameel can only be replaced if he resigns or if he is impeached with another two-thirds majority in the parliament.

House arrest

The Department of Correctional Services extended Nasheed’s house arrest to eight weeks tonight following a consultation with a neurosurgeon at the ADK hospital, a family member said.

Nasheed, who was previously held at a high security jail in Maafushi Island, was transferred to house arrest on Sunday. President Yameen authorized the transfer.

An unnamed senior government official told newspaper Haveeru that the extension came on the doctor’s recommendation.

“The doctor, after doing an MRI, has recommended [Nasheed] two months of bed rest. The neurosurgeon says he needs bed rest and a stress-free environment,” he said.

Nasheed was brought to Malé on Sunday nearly a month after a doctor first recommended an MRI scan.

President Yameen has ruled out negotiations over Nasheed’s release in talks with opposition parties, and has recently rejected a clemency plea.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Gayoom ‘unhappy’ with age limits for presidency

MPs of the ruling coalition have backed a constitutional amendment setting age limits for the presidency against the wishes of ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Gayoom, who heads the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), had sent a letter to the party’s parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan stating that MPs should wait on approval from the PPM executive council before supporting the amendment.

However, at an emergency meeting tonight, MPs of the PPM and its ally the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) decided that the parliamentary group does not require approval from the council.

The amendment – proposed by MDA MP Mohamed Ismail – proposes setting an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency. The constitution currently only says a candidate must be 35 years of age.

If passed, the bill would bar Gayoom from contesting presidential polls. The former president, who is now in his early 80s, had served six terms from 1978 to 2008.

“Deeply saddened”

Minivan News has learnt that Gayoom had sent a text message to Nihan on the morning of June 9 expressing disapproval with the proposal. “I reject the proposal to set age limits for the presidency. It will only bring President Yameen into disrepute. Setting a cap on the age of a presidential candidate is not done anywhere in the world.”

Shortly after the message was sent, some 44 MPs voted to consider the amendment and sent it to a sub committee for review.

After the vote, Gayoom, in a second text message to Nihan said: “I am deeply saddened. There is no point to a man whose opinions are not considered staying on as PPM president.”

The parliamentary committee has since voted to accept the bill. It will now be sent to the parliament floor for approval.

The bill has fuelled speculation that President Abdulla Yameen plans to replace vice-president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who is now 33 and ineligible for the position.

Yameen is Gayoom’s half-brother.

The relationship between President Yameen and Dr Jameel is reportedly under strain. Jameel’s cousin, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was dismissed from the cabinet last month. The government did not provide a reason for the dismissal.

Yameen is currently in Germany in an unannounced visit and is due back on Sunday.

Three-quarters

A three- quarters majority or 64 votes will be needed to amend the constitution. The ruling coalition controls 48 seats in the 85-member house, and will need the backing of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Jumhooree Party (JP).

A three-quarters majority will also be needed to impeach Jameel.

JP leader Gasim Ibrahim has urged the nine JP MPs to back the amendment, although it would bar him from contesting the next presidential elections. He will be 66 in 2018.

Gasim announced last week that he will retire from politics once his five-year term as Maamigili MP expires in 2019. The tourism tycoon’s announcement comes weeks after the government slapped a US$90.4million fine on his Villa Group and froze the accounts of five of Villa Group’s subsidiary companies.

The claim was issued after the JP split from the PPM and allied with the MDP in a campaign against President Yameen’s alleged authoritarianism.

Gasim has since suspended the JP campaign and remained silent on the imprisonment of MDP leader and ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The JP is in disarray with two senior officials facing terrorism charges.

The MDP, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and several JP MPs are continuing the campaign for Nasheed’s release.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Gasim to retire from politics

The leader of the opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim has announced he will retire from politics once his five-year term as Maamigili MP expires in 2019.

The philanthropist and tourism tycoon, who contested the 2008 and 2013 presidential polls, told newspaper Haveeru today that he plans to resign as the JP leader. He also said he no longer wants to run for the presidency.

“My experiences of the two [presidential] elections I’ve contested are clear. It has damaged my businesses. Now I want to step down and serve the people. There is a lot I can do to serve. I have served many people for the sake of humanity,” he said.

Gasim’s announcement comes weeks after the government slapped a US$90.4million fine on his Villa Group and froze the accounts of several subsidiary companies.

The claim was issued after the JP split from the ruling coalition and allied with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in a campaign against President Abdulla Yameen’s alleged authoritarianism.

The JP is meanwhile in disarray with two senior officials facing terrorism charges.

Gasim is in Germany at present, Haveeru said. He has been abroad since late April. In a tweet in May, he said he was in Thailand.

Party over

Gasim on Tuesday also appealed to the 10-member JP parliamentary group to support a ruling coalition-proposed constitutional amendment that would bar him from the presidency.

“The JP’s constitution states the leader of the party is its presidential candidate. I fill that position today. But with my decision to support that [the constitutional amendment] I cannot hold that position. So I will hold a congress and hand over the leadership to someone else,” he said.

The ruling coalition wants to set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency. The constitution at present says that presidential candidates must be 35 years of age.

Gasim will be 66 in 2018.

The MP said he would not abandon the party even if he stepped down from its leadership. “This is a party of 30,000 members. I do not want to destroy the Jumhooree Party. So I will settle the party debts to zero and hand over to a new leadership.”

The JP is currently the only opposition party in talks with the government.

The JP’s last-minute backing was key in President Yameen’s 2013 presidential win. The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the JP formed a coalition government, but tensions arose within months after JP accused the ruling party of failure to honor provisions in the coalition agreement including awarding JP members’ jobs.

Gasim had also backed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed in 2008 against the president of 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The JP and Nasheed’s MDP had formed a coalition with several smaller parties, but the coalition, too, fell apart within its 100 days. Gasim went on to play a key role in Nasheed’s 2012 ouster.

Economic sanctions

According to Haveeru, Gasim is in Frankfurt to save his ailing company.

The Villa Group – which operates businesses in shipping, import and export, retail, tourism, fishing, media, communications, transport and education – has faced difficulties in paying its 5000 staff due to the tax authority’s decision to freeze company accounts.

The Villa Group is contesting the US$90.4million claim at the civil court.

The claim has cost the company a US$80million loan, Villa has said.

“We are in dire straits, unable to pay salaries. With the accounts freeze, we are facing difficulties in sending money to students we provide scholarships for. Tourism occupancy is also very low. So I am looking for ways to improve the company’s financial situation,” Gasim said.

The Villa Foundation is currently supporting some 350 students’ higher education in the Maldives and abroad. The foundation says it has provided some 5000 students with full or partial scholarships.

Since the tax authority issued the US$90.4million claim, Gasim has not been seen at opposition protests and has remained silent on the ongoing political crisis triggered by the jailing of several politicians including Nasheed.

MPs and senior officials of the JP, however, went on to form a new coalition with the MDP and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party in March.

Gasim served as Minister of Finance from 2005 – 2008 and served as the Speaker of the special parliament set up to draft the Maldives’ new constitution in 2008.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

‘Dear President’ feedback portal launched

The president’s office has today launched an online form titled “Dear President” for citizens to share their concerns with President Abdulla Yameen.

The form is available on the president’s office website, and allows the public to send comments, concerns and thoughts on agriculture, fisheries, tourism, education, health, housing, youth, sports or other.

Members of the public are required to list their names and ages, while the email address and contact number is optional.

The public affairs coordinator at the president’s office, Aishath Leeza, said the campaign is receiving a lot of public support.

President Yameen and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim have recently held several public functions to meet with the elderly and the youth.

Late last month, the first lady visited chronically ill patients at the state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and distributed packages of rice, dates and cans to the disabled in Malé and its suburbs Hulhumalé and Vilimalé.

An eyewitness at the IGMH said he saw the first lady handing out envelopes with money to patients.

But the first lady’s secretary denied rumours that she had distributed money to the sick at the IGMH.

At the June 7 meeting with the senior citizens, President Yameen pledged to send 142 pilgrims to Hajj this year on government expenses. But president’s office spokesperson told local media two days later that the president’s remarks were misunderstood. The president had only pledged  to secure placements for 142 senior citizens through the government-owned Hajj Corporation, he said.

The first lady also met with the participants of the 30th National Quran competition last week.

 

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

President Yameen to travel to China

President Abdula Yameen is to travel to China on June 11 to visit the China-South Asia exposition and the Kunming import and export fair, local media report.

The president is to give a keynote speech at the joint-opening of the two fairs.

Leaders of the eight SAARC countries and Saudi Arabia will attend the fairs, Haveeru has said.

The opposition has planned a mass protest for June 12 over the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The Maldives will hold a second investment forum in China’s capital Beijing in September.

“Beijing will be a perfect place for Maldivian businesses to promote their businesses and networking,” minister Mohamed Saeed said in a tweet in late May.

 

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

‘Visit Maldives Year 2016′ campaign seeks record tourist arrivals

President Abdulla Yameen has launched the Visit Maldives Year 2016 campaign in a bid to increase tourist arrivals to the Maldives to 1.5million in 2016.

The campaign, organized by the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), will run until the end of June 2016.

The government plans to hold an underwater festival, an international surfing event, a tree-planting programme and photography exhibitions in the Maldives and global locations as part of the campaign.

The Maldives will also host the renowned tourism fair, ITB Berlin, in March 2016, as part of the Vist Maldives Year campaign.

“I am confident that through this global campaign we can look forward to welcoming record numbers of holidaymakers to our beautiful shores in the Maldives,” President Yameen said.

The president launched the campaign’s logo and website at an ongoing UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference at the Bandos Island Resort yesterday.

He highlighted the importance of tourism in job creation, raising standards of living and growth of the construction, agriculture and handicrafts industries.

“There is no doubt the tourism sector’s contribution to the creation of jobs is unparalleled with any other sector. In fact, the benefits of tourism as a catalyst for job creation go a long way from a mere creation of employment in hotels, resorts and restaurants. Many ancillary businesses throughout the economy gain from tourism, including the retail sector, entertainment arena and transportation industry.”

The government has earmarked three locations for community based tourism development, the president said.

The guesthouse island project aims to involve small and medium businesses in the lucrative tourism industry without encroaching on inhabited islands.

The project, launched in June 2014, envisioned the development of a 21,00 bed resort in Laamu Atoll Thumburi. The MMPRC changed the project to Baresdhoo in the same atoll last month.

He also pledged to provide sovereign guarantees for resort development loans with an interest rate less than four percent.

The policy is aimed at kick starting stalled development on some 60 islands leased for tourism, the government has previously said. The government has also cut import duty on construction materials for the resort development.

Speaking to the press yesterday, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said tourism growth is expected to slow this year due to a decline in Russian arrivals. However, he said the Maldives is on track to achieve the goal of 1.4million arrivals this year.

The Maldives marked the arrival of one million tourists in 2013.

In March, travel and tourism publication TTG Asia reported that Maldivian resorts were offering up to a 30 percent discount in prices to attract more arrivals.

Tour operators have also complained over ad-hoc increases in tourism sector taxes, including a hike in TGST from eight to 12 percent in November 2014 and a new green tax of US$6 per tourist in November 2014.

Airport service tax was also raised from US$18 to US$25 in July 2014 for visitors leaving the country.

Adeeb said there was room for more growth in the tourism sector, and said the parliament’s decision to increase resort lease periods to 99 years as an important step.

The UNWTO secretary general, Taleb Rifai, noted the growth in Chinese arrivals to the Maldives and spoke of the need to cater to Eastern tourists and older tourists.

The tourism ministry last month leased Thaa Atoll Kalhufahalafushi to China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to develop a Chinese-friendly resort in the Maldives.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives tripled from about 100,000 in 2010 to more than 300,000 last year.

With a total of 363,626 arrivals in 2014, Chinese tourists accounted for nearly one-third of arrivals with a 30 percent market share, representing the single biggest source market for tourists to the Maldives.

The Indian minister for tourism Dr Mahesh Sharma, meanwhile, pledged to increase arrivals from India to the Maldives.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) manifesto pledges to establish 50 resorts in the Maldives in its five-year term and award resort shares to Maldivians working in the tourism sector.

Adeeb has previously said the government will introduce a model for resort workers to obtain shares in resorts by the end of the year.

The government has also pledged to develop uninhabited island, Ismehelaareha in southern Addu atoll, as a resort to improve the southern economy.

Adeeb has also said he plans to transfer the authority to permit guesthouses from the tourism ministry to local councils

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Comment: The Maldives cannot represent climate leadership with an autocrat at the helm

This article is by former president Mohamed Nasheed’s climate advisor Mark Lynas. It was originally published in The Guardian. Republished with permission. 

Lynas has authored several books on climate change, including Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. 

This week sees governments meeting in Bonn, Germany for the last negotiating session in advance of November’s UN meeting on climate change in Paris – billed as the best chance in a generation for a worldwide treaty to tackle global warming.

The omens are better than for many years. The political landscape was changed dramatically by last November’s China-US emissions deal. With the world’s two biggest emitters covered, other pledges have been arriving thick and fast: the task for Paris will be to forge them into a global agreement with legal force.

The other major issue under discussion in Bonn is finance, in particular how the commitment to providing developing countries $100bn (£65bn) a year by 2020 for climate adaptation and mitigation can be funded. One of the strongest and most morally charged voices in this arena is the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), who are most vulnerable to sea level rise and other climate impacts. But this is where the problems start.

The chair of Aosis is currently the Maldives, a country of hundreds of coral atolls, none of them more than a metre above sea level. The Maldives shot to global attention in 2009, when its charismatic president Mohamed Nasheed held an underwater cabinet meeting to raise awareness of his nation’s plight, and laterpledged to make his country the world’s first carbon neutral state.

Nasheed personally took on the might of China and the US in the climactic closed-door heads of state meeting in Copenhagen in 2009. He then defended the deal from the conference floor when other world leaders had already jetted home, salvaging some positives from a process that was otherwise headed towards total collapse. (I was climate adviser to President Nasheed during that time.)

However, the Maldives is no longer represented by Nasheed,who was ousted in a coup in 2012 and later lost a rigged presidential election to the half brother of the former dictator. Nasheed was recently arrested, tried and sentenced to 13 years in prison following a politically-motivated trial Amnesty International decried as a “travesty of justice”. He is currently languishing in an unsanitary jail with highly restricted access to medical care, legal representation or visits from his wife and young children.

The Maldives’ new autocratic leadership has gutted the country’s democratic institutions and imprisoned every political opposition leader. The authoritarian president Abdullah Yameen has ditched the carbon neutral pledge and plans instead to drill for oil in the Maldives’ pristine coral-fringed waters. Yet this is the voice, as chair of Aosis, now supposedly representing the moral force of small island states at the international climate negotiations.

Having some of the most vulnerable countries in the world representated by authoritarian regimes presents the world with a dilemma. Should demands from these countries for billions of dollars’ worth of climate aid be heeded, when minimum standards of good governance are ignored and human rights are trampled?

In the Maldives, Yameen’s ministers have been accused of links with international gangsters and drug-dealers. Corruption is endemic, while journalists have been threatened, beaten and disappeared. Islamic extremism, meanwhile, is thriving, with hundreds of Maldivians reportedly traveling to Syria to join Islamic State.

The problem was recognised by Nasheed when in office. Sharing his concerns over the possible channeling of western climate aid through corrupt governments in developing countries, he said: “The money is rarely spent on what it should be. Even that which isn’t stolen is spent on the wrong thing. The contract is given to a minister’s relative, rather than to a reputable company.”

This is not a call to reduce the amount of aid pledged in Paris: the $100bn target has been agreed and should be met. But there is surely now a strong case for setting up procedures to enforce minimum standards of accountability for countries aiming to draw from these funds. There are plenty of Aosis members and other vulnerable nations that respect democracy, human rights and good governance, from Barbados to Cape Verde to Samoa.

These countries should be first in the queue, while nations like the Maldives that slip backwards into autocracy and corruption should be excluded from accessing climate finance support. In the meantime, Aosis should come to its senses and realise that it is damaging the interests of small island states worldwide to have its collective voice represented by a regime that crushes democracy and imprisons opposition leaders.

Human rights and climate change cannot be traded off against each other. It is because human rights and dignity are accepted as universal values that there is a moral case for climate finance in the first place – to address the injustice of those suffering the worst climate impacts not being those who bear the most responsibility for global warming.

Morality is a double-edged sword – if you behave unjustly yourself you forfeit any claim to moral leadership. That is why the Maldives cannot represent climate leadership while an aspiring dictator remains at the helm.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)