President Mohamed Waheed has written a letter of complaint to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accusing Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird of making “inappropriate and derogatory remarks” towards Acting Foreign Minister Mariyam Shakeela during the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)’s meeting on September 27.
The Commonwealth’s human rights and democracy arm had “expressed concern at developments” in the Maldives following the Supreme Court’s delay of the run-off elections, noting the Commonwealth election observation team’s assessment that “this was a credible electoral process and met the standards for democratic elections to which Maldives has committed itself.”
The Supreme Court meanwhile last night annulled the election in a 4:3 decision, citing a secret police report on alleged electoral irregularities and ordering fresh elections on October 20 with enhanced police and government involvement.
In his letter to Prime Minister Harper, Waheed complained that Baird “posed several harshly worded questions… concerning domestic politics in the Maldives”, and said these “put unnecessary pressure on an otherwise excellent relationship” between the Maldives and Canada.
Shakeela represented the Maldives at the CMAG meeting, “and advocated on the need for reforming the Group in order to make the body a more effective and credible one that can help, not hamper, democracy consolidation in the Commonwealth member countries,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
“The Minister also highlighted on the need for the CMAG to take matters in proper context, and not to over-react on delicate situations in member countries,” it said.
The diplomatic spat has been widely reported by a bemused Canadian media.
Baird’s office responded to Waheed’s complaint by pointing out “the irony of the Acting Foreign Minister of the Maldives representing that country at CMAG, when her President received five percent of the vote in the first round of the election. Perhaps that is where President Waheed took offence.”
“It might have also been when Minister Baird pointed out to CMAG members that the second round of elections were ‘suspended’ under mysterious circumstances and called on Maldivian officials to proceed with the second round of elections without delay,” said Baird’s Spokesperson Rick Roth, in a statement.
“We believe that this delay is troublesome and can only lead to more instability; which is exactly what we have seen in recent days. The Minister believes that countries within the Commonwealth should adhere to a certain standard of values and principles which is clearly lacking in the Maldives,” the statement read.
“Canada supports the people of the Maldives, and that judicial authorities and security forces must not unduly delay the expression of their democratic will,” it concluded.
Baird has pushed for the Maldives to be placed on CMAG’s formal agenda. Following the group’s meeting in New York, Baird joined Maldivian pro-democracy demonstrators for a photo outside the Australian consulate.