“If the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) agrees to remove the Maldives from its agenda – and it’s a big ‘if’ – it will be based on guarantees of free and fair elections next year in which Nasheed could participate,“ said former Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Dr Ahmed Shaheed.
Shaheed explained that he had been in contact with a number of ministerial delegations from the group, receiving assurances that the Maldives would not be removed from the agenda without “very good assurances” that human rights norms would be adhered to.
Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has today said that any direct conditions set by CMAG could infringe upon the sovereignty of the Maldives, telling Minivan News that nothing along these lines had been conveyed to the government by CMAG.
After the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) ruled that February’s transfer of power was constitutional, prominent members of the government have argued that the country be removed from CMAG’s investigative agenda.
Conversely, members of the now-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have been lobbying for the Maldives to stay on the group’s agenda, arguing that questions still remain over the country’s ability to adequately observe the values of the Commonwealth.
This campaigning has taken former President – and current MDP presidential nominee – Mohamed Nasheed, to the UK this week, where he met with Foreign Secretary William Hague and asked him to back calls to ensure continued Commonwealth oversight of the Maldives.
“We want to be on someone’s agenda until the elections are through. That’s what we’re trying to do now. I have known William Hague for some time. I know they have difficulties as a government. They have to take on board everything and give proper consideration to the regional sensibilities of British intervention in the Maldives,” the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported Nasheed as saying.
“But we feel now that they have an avenue to help the Maldives through the Commonwealth. What we are asking for is not the sun, the moon and the stars. What we are asking for is very natural and it can be done.”
Nasheed also spoke at the Royal Commonwealth Society on Wednesday, where he pushed for the Maldives to remain on the CMAG agenda, despite the CNI report’s findings.
“I am not for one second suggesting the transfer [of power] was legal… but we don’t have to go there to keep us on the CMAG agenda,” he continued, arguing that the persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s values was ample grounds to keep the country on the CMAG agenda, according to its revised mandate.
Jameel remained confident, however, that CMAG’s role in the this year’s political crisis ended with the CNI’s legitimisation of the current government: “We do not believe that CMAG will take any steps to exceed its mandate as it exercises a defined function.”
Shaheed’s comments regarding Nasheed’s ability to run in next year’s elections come as the government continues to pursue him through the courts, with prominent politicians stating a desire to see the former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience back behind bars.
On Wednesday evening, Nasheed acknowledged his fears of returning to prison.
“I don’t want to be there but we have to face reality of consequences and I don’t see the international community as robust enough to stop that happening – this is very sad… I might not be with you for the next few years but, rest assured, we will come back and democracy will reign in the Maldives again.”
Jameel today argued CMAG could not override domestic legal proceedings.
“The people have decided the criminal justice system of the Maldives. So no foreign party has the authority to dictate or ask to revise that process,” he told Haveeru, referring to charges against Nasheed in relation to the detention of Judge Abdullah Mohamed in January this year.
During his time in London, Nasheed also met with Richard Ottaway MP – Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Alistair Burt MP – Parliamentary under-secretary of state at the FCO as well as MPs John Glen MP, Mark Menzies, and Karen Lumley.
A Spokesperson from John Glen’s office said that discussions had included the Commonwealth’s procedures in such cases as well as Britain’s role in dealing with the CNI report.
Dr. Shaheed spoke to Minivan News from London just before boarding a plane to New York, where he will be lecturing on human rights.
He has recently accepted a position at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom as visiting professor of human rights practice for the coming academic year. He will continue his work for the United Nations.
President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan also left for the United States yesterday morning, where he will reportedly be attending the next meeting of CMAG on September 28, at which a decision on the removal of the country from the agenda is expected to be made.
Waheed will also be attending the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) which opened last Tuesday.
Despite the Commonwealth Secretariat being based in London, for logistical reasons CMAG also meets annually in New York alongside the UNGA.
The previous teleconference meeting, earlier this month, was expected to produce a decision on whether to remove the Maldives from the agenda.
After an inquiry as to why no decision was made at the teleconference, following local media reporting technical problems, the MDP was informed that the CMAG ministers preferred to conclude such discussions face to face.
Shaheed suggested that Waheed’s attendance at the meeting could be taken advantage of by CMAG members to “wrest concessions” from the president.
He added that sending the president himself was a far better idea than sending other members of his cabinet who had “waged war” on CMAG.
No spokesperson from the President’s Office was responding to calls at time of press.