DQP MP Riyaz, PPM MP Ilham submit bill to withdraw Maldives from Commonwealth

MP of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Ilham, and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed have submitted a bill to parliament that could see the Maldives withdraw itself from the Commonwealth within 60 days of ratification.

Under the proposed bill, a decision to later rejoin the 54 member state intergovernmental organisation would require a similar act to be passed in parliament.

A PPM MP  told Minivan News on condition on anonymity that  there has been no discussion among members following the submission of the bill.

The MP emphasised that the wider party had not yet discussed a policy on leaving the Commonwealth, while also stressing the need for further dialogue with the organisation.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (GMAG) has increased pressure over the last month on the Maldives government to revise the composition and mandate of an independent commission established to ascertain the nature of the controversial transfer of power in February.

CMAG said that “stronger measures” would be considered against the Maldives over the next month if it failed to enact changes to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) to ensure it was more “credible” and “independent”. These claims led to a backlash from some government-alligned MPs accusing the Commonwealth of showing “bias” and not respecting the country’s constitution.  The government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has stressed it remains committed to the body despite some reservations about the clarity of CMAG’s agenda.

However, after submitting the bill to parliament yesterday, MP Riyaz claimed in local media that the Commonwealth was working to “protect the interests” of one party in the country without understanding the “reality” of the situation.

Ilham meanwhile told the press that although withdrawal from the Commonwealth was not seen as the “best option”, the bill had been forwarded “in consideration” of issues that may affect the country in the future.

MPs Ilham and Rahseed were both unavailable for comment when contacted at Minivan News at time of press. PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Yameen was also not responding.

Party discussions

The PPM MP said that he was aware that the bill had been submitted yesterday evening by two members of parties belonging to the coalition government, yet was not sure of the exact details of the proposed bill.

“It is at a  very early stage right now, I do not know myself what it is about,” he said. “From my view it is not something that has been discussed within the PPM yet.”

The PPM member added that a recently founded joint parliamentary group consisting of several coalition parties had also not had the chance to discuss any motion on leaving the Commonwealth.

“I have previously expressed my concern that [leaving the Commonwealth] is not the best way to solve this issue. It is not really a choice we can take,” he said. “I would still say that there is a chance to sit down together and discuss this matter.”

“Anything can happen in politics”

MDP spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said he suspected that even if all the PPM and DQP parties’ members backed the bill, there would not be enough support to pass the motion to leave the Commonwealth in the Majis.

“I don’t believe they could get backing for such a bill, this is simply Gayoom posturing,” he claimed. “Of course, anything is possible in politics, but I do not think the Maldivian people would support this. We are a tourism-based economy and this move would not be good for investor confidence in future.”

Ghafoor added that submission of the bill itself was “extremely revealing” of the attitude of government-aligned MPs towards establishing an independent investigation of February’s transfer of power through the CNI.

“I’m a little perplexed as to why they are acting this way.  The MPs are clearly upset about the Commonwealth’s calls and this has been seen in the increasingly xenophobic language [in Dhivehi] used by some of the parties regarding the outside world and the Commonwealth.”

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP was itself completely against leaving the commonwealth, a decision he believed would be shared by the majority of the public who were “aware of the benefits” that the organisation had  afforded to the country.

“The MDP certainly has a global outlook. Therefore the thought of leaving an international organisation like the Commonwealth in this day and age is the height of ridiculousness,” he said.  “Clearly the PPM believe that we are still in the 1930s.”