The international community asking the Maldives to abide by commitments under UN conventions does not amount to “undue interference,” UK High Commissioner to Maldives John Rankin has said.
In an interview with private broadcaster Raajje TV in Malé yesterday, Rankin said decisions on domestic matters were up to the Maldives as a sovereign nation.
“But it is legitimate for one country to [remind] another country to abide by the undertakings which together we have signed up to,” he explained.
“That is a normal matter of diplomatic relations. So it is perfectly proper and not undue interference for one country to ask another to operate by those principles which we both voluntarily agreed to.”
Last week, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon hit back at statements issued by the Commonwealth, India, Canada, EU, and the UN expressing concern with the denial of legal representation to former President Mohamed Nasheed following the opposition leader’s arrest and prosecution on terrorism charges.
“Those who prefer to issue public statements about an on-going legal case, or on a domestic political situation, are advised to do a basic fact-check, before bandwagoning on to accusations made by a political party,” Dunya said in a statement.
Dunya insisted that due process was followed in Nasheed’s arrest and prosecution.
“The government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” Dunya said, urging foreign countries and international organisations to “refrain from acts and signals that could undermine the sovereignty of independent states.”
Nasheed arrived in court on Monday (February 23) for the first hearing of his trial without legal representation and with his arm in a makeshift sling after police manhandled and dragged the former president into court when he attempted to speak with journalists.
Rankin said the international community was watching developments in the Maldives closely and that the British government “remains very concerned” over Nasheed’s detention.
“The international community as a whole is watching what is happening here. Our concern is that President Nasheed, like any other citizen of the Maldives, should enjoy due legal process, that this fundamental right should be protected, and that we have transparent court procedures,” he said.
The Maldivian government has assured Nasheed’s safety following discussions on Thursday (February 26), Rankin added.
Prior to Rankin’s arrival in the Maldives, UK Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire issued a statement stressing the importance of following due process and respecting Nasheed’s rights “for international confidence in the Maldives”.
“It is also incumbent upon the Government of Maldives to ensure his safety. We urge calm right across Maldives and we encourage all parties to act with moderation and restraint,” reads the statement.
“The UK will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Rankin meanwhile referred to the Maldives’ obligations as a signatory to relevant UN conventions.
Rankin said the UK was “a friend of the Maldives” and that stability in the country was important to Britain with thousands of British tourists visiting the Maldives annually.
“As friends though, we are also honest friends and sometimes honest friends have to raise difficult issues, but we raise it precisely because we want to support that continued stability here,” he said.
Asked about Dunya warning that the Maldives might leave the Commonwealth, Rankin said the decision was up to the Maldivian government, but suggested that “together we can make progress internationally by working together in the Commonwealth.”
At a press conference last week, Dunya also accused Canada of exerting undue influence in the Commonwealth through funding. Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson had issued a statement suggesting that “the brutal and unjustified treatment of the former president call into question Maldives’ commitment to due process and democratic principles.”
Rankin said the Commonwealth was “a consensus organisation” of sovereign nations working together.
“But all members of the Commonwealth have signed up for the Commonwealth charter – a set of values which we have agreed between us, which we are all committed to. And therefore, the United Kingdom, for whom I speak, hopes that Maldives will continue to abide by those values.”
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