Mariyam Shakeela appointed chairperson of WHO executive board

The Minister of Health and Gender Dr Mariyam Shakeela has been appointed as the Chairperson of the Executive Board of World Health Organisation (WHO).

This appointment took place at a meeting of the WHO Executive Board following the World Health Assembly in Geneva today (May 26), and will be the first time the Maldives has received this title, local media Sun Online reported.

The WHO Executive Board is composed of 34 persons who are technically qualified in the field of health, each designated by a member state who has been elected to serve by the World Health Assembly.

Member states are elected for three-year terms, and Maldives was elected in 2012.


President Waheed complains to Canada over Foreign Minister’s “inappropriate remarks”, “harshly worded questions”

President Mohamed Waheed has written a letter of complaint to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accusing Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird of making “inappropriate and derogatory remarks” towards Acting Foreign Minister Mariyam Shakeela during the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)’s meeting on September 27.

The Commonwealth’s human rights and democracy arm had “expressed concern at developments” in the Maldives following the Supreme Court’s delay of the run-off elections, noting the Commonwealth election observation team’s assessment that “this was a credible electoral process and met the standards for democratic elections to which Maldives has committed itself.”

The Supreme Court meanwhile last night annulled the election in a 4:3 decision, citing a secret police report on alleged electoral irregularities and ordering fresh elections on October 20 with enhanced police and government involvement.

In his letter to Prime Minister Harper, Waheed complained that Baird “posed several harshly worded questions… concerning domestic politics in the Maldives”, and said these “put unnecessary pressure on an otherwise excellent relationship” between the Maldives and Canada.

Shakeela represented the Maldives at the CMAG meeting, “and advocated on the need for reforming the Group in order to make the body a more effective and credible one that can help, not hamper, democracy consolidation in the Commonwealth member countries,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

“The Minister also highlighted on the need for the CMAG to take matters in proper context, and not to over-react on delicate situations in member countries,” it said.

The diplomatic spat has been widely reported by a bemused Canadian media.

Baird’s office responded to Waheed’s complaint by pointing out “the irony of the Acting Foreign Minister of the Maldives representing that country at CMAG, when her President received five percent of the vote in the first round of the election. Perhaps that is where President Waheed took offence.”

“It might have also been when Minister Baird pointed out to CMAG members that the second round of elections were ‘suspended’ under mysterious circumstances and called on Maldivian officials to proceed with the second round of elections without delay,” said Baird’s Spokesperson Rick Roth, in a statement.

“We believe that this delay is troublesome and can only lead to more instability; which is exactly what we have seen in recent days. The Minister believes that countries within the Commonwealth should adhere to a certain standard of values and principles which is clearly lacking in the Maldives,” the statement read.

“Canada supports the people of the Maldives, and that judicial authorities and security forces must not unduly delay the expression of their democratic will,” it concluded.

Baird has pushed for the Maldives to be placed on CMAG’s formal agenda. Following the group’s meeting in New York, Baird joined Maldivian pro-democracy demonstrators for a photo outside the Australian consulate.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird with Maldivian demonstrators

Don’t interfere in Maldives’ internal affairs, acting Foreign Minister tells UN General Assembly

The Maldivian government has called on the UN to ensure “non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states.”

In her address to the UN General Assembly on October 1, Acting Foreign Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela referred to “concerted efforts by external forces to prevent the emergence of an indigenous democratic system of governance in the Maldives [by] attempting to shape the outcome of, what is, an internal issue”.

Dr Shakeela’s comments follow global concern over the Supreme Court’s indefinite suspension of a constitutionally-mandated run-off election scheduled for September 28. Police enforced the order on Saturday by surrounding the Elections Commission with orders to storm the building and seize the ballot papers unless the commission capitulated.

“Democracy consolidation is not just about holding elections. Nor is it about having a democratically sound Constitution. In the Maldives too, we quickly found that changing the Constitution, or having a multi-party election, did not instill democratic values within our society,” Dr Shakeela told the UN.

“For democracy to be cultivated and consolidated, the supremacy of the constitution must be upheld above all. The institutional deficiencies we face, must be addressed within constitutional provisions. And the political leadership must sustain an unshakable commitment to the principles and values of states.”

Presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who placed third in the first round with 24.07 percent of the vote, went to the Supreme Court seeking to annul the vote alleging widespread electoral fraud and declaring “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11”.

He was swiftly joined in court by second-placed Abdulla Yameen, who received 25.35 percent of the vote, and Attorney General Azima Shukoor, Yameen’s former lawyer. Siding against the Elections Commission, the three alleged electoral irregularities despite the unanimous positive assessments of local and international election observers, including the UN itself.

In a statement, UN Secretary General Bai Ki-moon said he was concerned about the Supreme Court’s postponement of the second round, given that the first round was “widely recognised as a success by international and domestic election observers.”

“It is of the utmost importance that the will of the people be respected in deciding the future of the country. These are pivotal elections for reaffirming the democratic process in the Maldives,” stated the UN Secretary General.

Dr Shakeela meanwhile told the UN that “Some of the parties that competed in the election have identified serious issues with the conduct of the elections, and have asked the Supreme Court of the Maldives for a ruling. We are expecting the Court to come out with a ruling in the coming days. The integrity of the second round of our Presidential election cannot be maintained without ensuring the integrity of the first round through Constitutional means. We await the Supreme Court’s verdict to continue the electoral process.”

Dr Shakeela went on to accuse “some external forces” of “attempting to shape the outcome of, what in effect is, an internal issue. The Maldives is small. Our democracy is at an infant stage. Our institutions are young. That does not, however, mean that larger countries have a right to intervene and attempt to dictate outcomes in domestic affairs of the Maldives.”

Protests resulting from the suspension of the election have meanwhile led to other countries including the UK, China, Canada and Australia to upgrade their travel advisories.