Following its teleconference yesterday, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has delayed its decision on the Maldives’ potential removal from its investigative agenda until its next meeting on September 28.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by all member countries, as well as the Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma and Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon, who had visited country earlier this week.
President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad expressed confidence that the country would be taken off the agenda at the next meeting, saying that this move had been supported by all but one of those present for the teleconference.
“We have given in to all their demands. CMAG has been so much a part of our lives that we wanted to get out of it,” said Masood.
However, former Foreign Minister and current UN Special Rapporteur to Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed said that the Maldives’ removal from the agenda would be “a travesty”, given the government’s “reprehensible actions” following the CNI’s release.
“Things are not going well in the Maldives – the government is intent on persecuting Nasheed and the MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party)”, he added. “They seem hell bent on repressing the people.”
There have been strong calls from within the government for the country to be removed from the agenda after the Commonwealth’s approval of Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) which appeared to absolve government figures of any wrongdoing in the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed in February.
The release of the report was initially welcomed by a members of the international community, including, the EU, the United States, India, and the UN as well the Commonwealth itself.
“There was an expectation from the government that CMAG would rubber stamp the CNI report – this is far from realistic” said Shaheed, who suggested that these groups were welcoming the report’s release without necessarily welcoming the findings.
Observers representing the UN and the Commonwealth praised the independence and professionalism of the report.
CMAG placed the country on its formal agenda in February after it expressed its concerns over the precise nature of Nasheed’s resignation.
A member of CMAG itself, the Maldives was subsequently suspended from the group.
Local media yesterday reported that an emergency meeting of the cabinet had been called yesterday, although no details of the meeting had been revealed.
Today, Masood explained that the cabinet meeting was called simply to prepare for the CMAG’s anticipated decision.
“It is normal procedure to be prepared in this way, “ he explained.
Prominent members of the government, including State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon, as well as Special Advisor to the President Dr Hassan Saeed have suggested that the Maldives may leave the Commonwealth should it not be removed from the CMAG agenda.
“I would now argue that if CMAG does not remove the Maldives from its agenda in its next teleconference on 11th of this month, we should end our relationship with the Commonwealth and look to other relationships that reflect modern realities of the world,” said Saeed in an article written for local newspaper Haveeru.
Dr Hassan was not responding to calls at the time of press.
Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, told Minivan News earlier this week that Commonwealth should refrain from dictating the country’s national priorities.
“We appreciate their engagement, but [the Commonwealth] should also recognise our need to move forward and allow us to find local solutions to local problems,” said Jameel
In a statement sent to CMAG in preparation for the teleconference, the government maintained that the Maldives should be removed from the agenda, and that it should not have been placed on it in the first place.
“There is simply no justification for keeping the Maldives on the [CMAG] agenda,” read the statement, which went on to list reasons in support of its removal.
The reasons given, other than the apparent exoneration of the government by the CNI report, included its commitment to investigate issues of police brutality, the atmosphere of relative calm currently prevailing in the capital, and the detrimental effect being on the CMAG agenda was having on tourism and foreign investment.
The statement did, however, make mention of the government’s interest in expanding cooperations with the Commonwealth, particularly along the lines of strengthening institutions and “cultivating democratic values in the society.”
Shaheed today insisted that there was ample scope for the country to be kept on the agenda, drawing attention to CMAG’s revised mandate of October 2011, which he noted was championed by Nasheed himself.
“The revised mandate is not so much a punishment for countries but a safeguard for the people,” he said.