Commonwealth delegation departs, ahead of extraordinary CMAG meeting

The Commonwealth ministerial delegation sent to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sudden transfer of power in the Maldives on February 7 has departed.

The information collected by the delegation will be reviewed and presented to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) at an extraordinary meeting to be held in London this week.

The delegation, led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Communications of Trinidad and Tobago, Surujrattan Rambachan, gave a brief but vague statement to the media on their departure. He was accompanied by Dr Dipu Moni, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, and Dennis Richardson AO, Australian Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and former head of Australia’s secret intelligence agency, ASIO.

The objective, Rambachan said, was “to develop a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power in this country earlier this month, as well as to promote adherence to Commonwealth values and principles. We believe we are returning with the enhanced understanding of the situation that we came to seek.”

“We have held detailed discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, including President Waheed, former President Nasheed, the Speaker of the Majlis, the Chief Justice, several political parties, independent institutions, relevant military and police personnel, as well as others. We have also consulted international partners and civil society,” Rambachan said, reading the delegation’s departure statement.

“The Maldives is a valued member of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth has had a long association with the democratic transition in this country. It will continue to support Maldives in every possible way as it seeks to find a way forward at this difficult time.”

Answering questions, the delegation resisted being drawn into discussion as to their preliminary findings, or their position on early elections, stating that the mission was non-judgemental and that much of the information received was still to reviewed before a report was compiled ahead of the CMAG meeting.

“We cannot pronounce at this stage whether something is illegal or legal, constitutional or unconstitutional,” said Dr Moni. “We have collected information and we really need to sit down and go through it. We came here with a very neutral mind. We will report our recommendations to CMAG.”

Whatever conclusion was arrived at “must be according to the interest of the Maldivian people,” noted Rambachan.

“We had discussions with political parties on the topic of a way forward. Early elections are something people are considering and we have asked for views and opinions. That will form part of our deliberations in London. The wishes of the Maldivian people must be taken into full consideration.”