“President Yameen, the world is watching you”, warns Australian senator

Australian Senator James McGrath has warned President Abdulla Yameen that the eyes of the world are on the Maldives’ deteriorating human rights situation.

“Do not lead your country into the shadows of fear and hate and violence. Stamp on ISIS and the other agents of hate. Let the Maldives be free – President Yameen, the world is watching you,” McGrath told the Australian Senate yesterday (October 28).

The Queensland senator told the house of judicial corruption, political violence, media suppression, and religious extremism in the Indian Ocean nation.

He gave special attention the the ongoing Supreme Court case against the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan 82 days ago.

McGrath informed the assembly that he had worked with former President Mohamed Nasheed during his successful 2008 presidential election campaign, describing the transition to democracy as a “political fairy tale”.

The governing Progressive Party of Maldives last week accused Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of attempting to use the international community to influence the case against the HRCM, to “discredit Maldives reputation”, and to “impoverish the Maldivian people”.

Recent events in the Maldives, including consistent attacks and threats against opposition MPs and property, have prompted concern from the EU, Amnesty International, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the Canadian government.

McGrath – who described the suo moto proceedings used against both the HRCM and the Elections Commission earlier this year as “unusual” – said “a worrying trend has been for the supreme court to violate the separation of powers outlined in the 2008 constitution”.

Noting the likely abduction of 28-year-old journalist Rilwan had come after a series of attacks on the media in recent years, McGrath observed a “slide into authoritarianism and religious extremism” in the aftermath Nasheed’s departure from office in February 2012.

The senator’s comments regarding ISIS followed one week after UK Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Tobias Ellwood responded to a written question from Karen Lumley MP on the group’s potential activities in the Maldives.

“We are aware of the activity of ISIL sympathisers in the Maldives, and we will continue to engage with the Maldives government about the promotion of religious freedom and moderation,” Ellwood informed Lumley.

While up to four Maldivians are reported to have been killed fighting in the Syrian civil war this year, a family of four were reported to have migrated to ISIS held territory last week.

Up to 200 demonstrators marched through the capital Malé last month, brandishing the flag made famous by ISIS, calling for the full implementation of Shariah in the Indian-ocean archipalego.

McGrath yesterday expressed alarm at recent moves to subject the publication of poems and prose to government approval – a move he called “blatant censorship” – before concluding his speech.

“The world is watching you president Yameen. Be a true leader and let your people be free. Let them speak freely, let them be without fear of violence, let them have rights of association, let them talk right and join together as free peoples.”