UN Resident Coordinator for the Maldives Andrew Cox has called on the public to be better informed of issues facing their communities, while listening “to different voices and views”, questioning elected representatives and making their voice “count” in a statement issued to mark Human Rights Day.
According to the UN, this year’s Human Rights Day is focused mainly on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is said to outline provisions on freedoms of association, expression and opinion, as well allowing for participation within government either individually or through an elected representative.
Cox’s statement emphasised that millions of people worldwide had exercised these freedoms by taking to the streets, not just in trying to express their thoughts and aspirations, but to make sure their voice counted.
“Human rights are claims and expectations of every man, woman and child that their governments not interfere in some kinds of activities (respect); safeguard them from abuse (protect); and provide basic conditions to enable everyone to achieve their greatest potential (fulfill),” he stated.
Taking the Maldives as an example, Cox stated that like many democratic countries worldwide, it was vital that everyone was allowed to have a voice without exception – including women, persons with disabilities, children, and other vulnerable groups and marginalised communities.
“Every Maldivian has the right to have their voice heard and to have a role in making decisions that shape their local communities, as well as shape the Maldives into the kind of country they want to live in,” he said.
“As we approach an important election year in this country’s fragile path of democratic progress and development, I hope all Maldivians will make your voices count on the issues facing the well-being of your communities, especially women. Not realizing the full potential of women in public life is simply a loss that the country cannot afford at this critical stage.”
Cox also called on the public to better inform themselves of key issues affecting their lives and communities, as well as listening to differing opinions in order to be better able to held elected representatives on both sides of the country’s political divide to account.
“It’s your right,” he concluded.
Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights Dr Mariyam Shakeela, who also serves as Minister of Energy and Environment, was unavailable for comment when contacted by Minivan News today.
Her predecessor, Dhiyana Saeed, was sacked last month, shortly after her husband, MP Abdulla Jabir challenged the legitimacy of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government, alleging the country was being run as a police state.
Saeed had previously alleged that the arrest of Jabir on an island along with senior figures from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) over alleged possession of drugs and alcohol had been “politically motivated”.
Last month, the UN in the Maldives came under strong criticism from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which claimed the local office of the NGO had remained “shamefully silent” over alleged human rights abuses flagged by other organisations.
“While the IPU, CMAG, Canada, the Human Rights Committee, the EU and certain international NGOs such as Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights have expressed varying degrees of alarm at the Maldives’ backsliding on democracy and human rights, others including the UN Resident Coordinator and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have remained shamefully silent,” MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed at the time. “To remain silent in the face of injustice is to be an accomplice to that injustice.”
The Office of the UN Resident Coordinator later responded to the MDP’s allegations by defending its activity in the Maldives and reiterating its “strict impartiality toward political parties”.
“As a trusted partner, the UN has spoken repeatedly in public and in private over the course of several years and three governments on democracy, development, and human rights. Most recently, the secretary-general spoke of the need for political dialogue, national reconciliation, and respect for the constitution. He called on all parties to exercise maximum cooperation and restraint,” the NGO stated.
Back in July 2012, a Maldivian government delegation sought to defend the Maldives’ human rights record and commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) before the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC).
The delegation was questioned on a number of specific issues relating to alleged torture of prisoners, the use of judicial flogging as a punishment, freedom of religion – which is outlawed in the country – the death penalty and the conduct of the nation’s judiciary.