The government has sent a statement to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s (CMAG) demanding its removal from the group’s agenda, ahead of its teleconference this Tuesday (August 11).
In the statement, dated September 7, the government argues that there remains “simply no justification for keeping the Maldives on the [CMAG] agenda”.
The CMAG had placed the Maldives on its formal agenda in February although President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government has maintained that the group “lacked the mandate” to to so.
Waheed’s government also spent £75,000 (MVR 1.81 million) on advice from former UK Attorney General and member of the House of Lords, Baroness Patricia Scotland, in a bid to challenge what they deemed was the Commonwealth’s “biased” stance on the Maldives, and has continued to express disapproval at what it terms “interference” by the Commonwealth.
The government’s statement offers five reasons in support of its removal from the CMAG agenda.
Firstly, the government pointed out that the recently completed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) had found no legal issues surrounding the transfer of power, adding that its international observers had hailed the report as “exemplary.”
The publication of the CNI was closely followed by an independent legal analysis which has raised serious doubts over the credibility of the CNI’s findings.
The teleconference statement added that former President Mohamed Nasheed had also welcomed the report, “though with some caveats”.
The most notable of the caveats mentioned by Nasheed was that the report left the country in a “comical” situation “where toppling the government by brute force is taken to be a reasonable course of action.”
Secondly, the government reasons that the CNI’s findings of police brutality are already being acted upon by the relevant independent institutions – the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) and the Prosecutor General (PG).
The onus placed on these institutions since the release of the report has again raised doubts as to their ability to handle these politically sensitive investigations.
However, the fourth reason cited for the removal from CMAG’s agenda was the government’s willingness to expand cooperation with the Commonwealth in order to strengthen the institutional infrastructure.
This willingness to enhance relations with the Commonwealth appears at odds with the apparent enmity shown by senior figures towards the organisation since the CNI’s release.
Both Dunya Maumoon, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Dr Hassan Saeed, Special Advisor to the President, have publicly argued that the Maldives had been treated unfairly, suggesting that the country should leave the organisation should it not be removed from the CMAG agenda without delay.
“Should the Maldives continue to be kept on the CMAG agenda, I have to say that there are a lot of citizens and very senior members of the government who have many serious concerns regarding whether the Maldives will stay on as a member of the Commonwealth,” Dunya told the press last Thursday.
Dr Hassan launched a scathing attack in a comment piece for local newspaper Haveeru, in which he argued that the Maldives had received “third class justice” from the Commonwealth.
“It is my belief that the Commonwealth and its institutions have treated us very badly,” wrote Dr Hassan.
“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,” he said.
President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza was reported in local media today as saying that he does not feel CMAG should intervene in any future challenges the country faces.
When discussing the current visit of Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon, Abbas said he felt this would be McKinnon’s last visit to the country.
The third reason listed by the government in its statement to CMAG argues that calm had been maintained “despite some serious efforts by the opposition to create unrest.”
Although there was widespread anticipation of unrest before the release of the CNI with Nasheed at one point calling for his supporters to “topple the government”, the demonstrations surrounding the report’s release were not accompanied by a notable increase in violence.
The presence of international news crews in anticipation of unrest did, however, did lead to greater coverage of the ensuing protests.
The statement also mentions the initiation of the ‘Leader’s Dialogue’ talks which it claims will focus discussion on practical issues such as legislation which will ensure elections next year can be held freely and fairly.
Finally, the government argues that the stigma of remaining on the CMAG agenda is negatively affecting foreign investment and tourism in the country.
“The Maldives, which is one of the smallest countries in the Commonwealth, is experiencing difficulties in finalising foreign investment projects, and in some cases, concessional loan financing, as well as a drop in tourist arrivals into the country as a result of being on the CMAG agenda,” read the statement.
Ministry of Tourism figures show that this year’s tourist arrivals had grown just 2.8 percent compared to the same period in 2011. Figures for 2011, however, showed growth of 17.6 percent compared with 2010’s arrivals.
“It is therefore time that the Maldives is removed from the formal agenda of the CMAG and allow the government to focus on what it is expected to do; cultivating and nurturing democracy in the Maldivian society,” concludes the statement.
“After all, in democracies, governments are answerable to the people,” it finishes.