“Small justice is being served for a small state,” President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has said during the meeting of the 67th UN General Assembly.
“It is regrettable, but true, that some powerful international actors have come out in public and instructed the Maldives to take certain measures contradictory to our laws,” he said.
The President’s speech came during a high level meeting designed to reaffirm global commitment to the rule of law in order to further the UN’s goals of international peace, human rights, and development.
“We believe that the story of the Maldives needs to be told. It is a lesson to be learnt by other small states. The application of the rule of law is to protect the smaller and the weaker; to prevent small justice being served to small states,” said the President.
“The world’s small states cannot afford to be complacent. Our experience in dealing with the powerful international actors in the past few months has not been pleasant. If we do not stand up, and draw your attention to the injustices, the next could be one of you,” Waheed said.
A draft declaration agreed upon at the meeting included the recognition that the rule of law applies to all states equally.
Referring to the requests received from the international community during this year’s political turmoil in the Maldives, Waheed said that “powerful international actors” had instructed the Maldives to take certain measures contradictory to its laws.
“We were asked bring to an end a Presidential term and hold elections even if they were not allowed under the Constitution. We were asked in no uncertain terms to abide by such instructions even if it meant amending the Constitution,” Waheed told the meeting.
“We are being asked to withdraw certain criminal cases filed by independent state bodies for crimes as serious as the armed forces abducting and keeping in isolation, a serving judge. We were told to take these measures for the good of the country,” he continued.
The most notable group’s calling for early elections following the controversial resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed in February came from the European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth.
“When we questioned these instructions, the Maldives was labelled as an uncooperative State, casting doubt on the country’s democratic credentials. We were placed on an international watch-list, without due process,” said Waheed.
Waheed’s visit to New York will also see him attend the Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting which is scheduled to deliberate upon whether the Maldives will be kept on its investigative agenda.
The government has persistently questioned CMAG’s ability to place the country on this list of nations – reserved for those suspected of violating the Commonwealth’s core values.
Following last month’s Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report, which appeared to have absolved the current administration of being involved in what had been termed by many a coup, the government has again strongly urged its removal from the agenda.
The composition of the CNI itself was amended after pressure from the Commonwealth.
Waheed’s speech reiterated arguments made in a government statement sent to CMAG earlier this month.
“These are clearly punitive measures against a country whose economy is dependent on its image. The labelling has resulted the Maldives losing significant investments, external loan financing, and foreign tourist arrivals into the country,” he said.
“This has also encouraged domestic unrest. It has choked the country’s governance system and crippled our infant democracy,” Waheed added.
The Maldives’ tourist industry figures show that growth has continued this year, with arrivals increasing by 2.9 percent up to August compared with the previous year.
However, 2012’s year on year growth has slowed significantly when compared with last year’s rate of 18 percent at the same point.
China, whose growing tourists to the Maldives offset falling arrivals from Europe, agreed a package of concessional loans and aid worth US$500million earlier this month.
Concerns over investor confidence in the country have become focused on the airport development deal with Indian company GMR – the largest in the nation’s history. Pro-government political parties have repeatedly called for the airport’s nationalisation.
Significant investment in the renewable energies sector was also said to have been lost this year as a result of the country’s political instability.
“As one of the smallest countries in the world, there is very little we could do politically to counter the pounding that we are subjected to by some international partners. We lack the political and economic might of the larger states to counter the weight of these international players. There is no recourse available for small states like the Maldives. We were not given a fair hearing, or the benefit of doubt,” Waheed said.
“We do recognise that international organisations play a valuable and indispensable role in promoting the rule of law. Small states, like the Maldives, value our membership of international organisations. We depend on them to advance our interests and values. We expect them to work with us in promoting the rule of law.”
International Spokesman for Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Hamed Abdul Ghafoor described the speech as a “sob story”.
“CMAG is saying that there are severe structural deficiencies in the country’s democratic institutions. Waheed has taken advantage of this,” said Ghafoor.