Commonwealth ministers arriving Friday to investigate “facts surrounding transfer of power”

A delegation of Commonwealth ministers will arrive in the Maldives on Friday February 17 to “ascertain the facts surrounding the transfer of power last week in the South Asian state.”

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) decided to send the mission “as soon as possible” following an extraordinary meeting held on February 12 concerning the spiralling political tension in the Maldives.

“This is an important ministerial mission that is to be seen as part of the Commonwealth’s continuing engagement with Maldives,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma. “It should also be viewed in the context of the Commonwealth’s abiding commitment to its fundamental political values.”

The Commonwealth has an increased mandate to involve itself in the internal affairs of its member nations since the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, in October 2011.

According to a statement from the group, the delegation will hold discussions with key interlocutors on circumstances surrounding the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on 7 February 2012.

Before it commences its work, it will be briefed by the Commonwealth Secretariat team that has been in the country since February 6, the statement read.

The CMAG statement issued after the February 12 teleconference stressed the importance of adherence by member countries to the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values, “including constitutional democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights; and in particular, the principle of separation of powers.”

The CMAG ministerial mission will be supported by a Commonwealth Secretariat team led by Amitav Banerji, Director of Political Affairs.

The group will be led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Communications of Trinidad and Tobago, the Surujrattan Rambachan.

He will be accompanied by Dr Dipu Moni, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, and Dennis Richardson AO, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has previously said he would be open to an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the rapid change of government, which former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has alleged was a coup d’état.

Germany was the first country to call for an inquiry last week, urging Dr Waheed’s government to “consolidate its legitimacy”, swiftly followed by the UK.

“I have heard calls for an independent inquiry into the events that preceded my assumption of the presidency. I am open to those suggestions – there is no problem with it. I will be completely impartial in any independent investigation,” Dr Waheed said.

“I don’t know the details, or how it can or should be done. I will consult legal advice as soon as we have an attorney general in place. I am sure we will be able to satisfy the call from Britain and Germany.”