Maldives quits Commonwealth over 'unfair treatment'

Maldives Ismail Sajid carries his national flag as he leads their delegation parade during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Asian Games at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium in Incheon on September 19, 2014 Photograph:( Others )

WION Maldives Oct 13, 2016, 03.50 PM (IST) Umaima Rasheed Hussain

Maldives announced the decision to leave the Commonwealth today over "unfair treatment". 

The Commonwealth is an intergovernmental organisation made up of 52 member states, mostly former British colonies. The Maldives joined in 1982. 

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom took the decision following a cabinet meeting. "The decision to leave the Commonwealth was difficult but inevitable," a statement later released by the ministry of foreign affairs said. 

The Maldives government said that the Commonwealth had been trying to interfere in the domestic issues ever since former president Mohamed Nasheed resigned in February 2012.

"The Commonwealth sought to take punitive actions against the Maldives since 2012 after the then President of Maldives resigned, and transfer of power took place as per the procedures set out in the Constitution. The Commonwealth’s decision to penalise the Maldives was unjustified especially given that the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), established with the help of the Commonwealth, found that the transfer of power in the Maldives was consistent with the constitutional provisions," the statement by the foreign ministry said. 

The Maldives government also said that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and the Commonwealth Secretariat have treated the Maldives "unfairly". 

"The Commonwealth has sought to become an active participant in the domestic political discourse in the Maldives, which is contrary to the principles of the Charters of the United Nations and the Commonwealth. The CMAG and the Commonwealth Secretariat seem to be convinced that the Maldives, because of the high and favourable reputation that the country enjoys internationally, and also perhaps because it is a small state that lacks material power, would be an easy object that can be used, especially in the name of democracy promotion, to increase the organisation’s own relevance and leverage in international politics," it said. 

The Maldivian government claims to offer maximum cooperation to the Commonwealth, show maximum transparency and engage with the Commonwealth at the highest levels. The government says the Commonwealth has not acknowledged the progress and achievements that the Maldives accomplished in cultivating a culture of democracy in the country and in building and strengthening democratic institutions. 

"Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has enacted a total of 110 pieces of legislations. Out of which, 94 legislations were directly related to the core values set out in the Commonwealth Charter. An overwhelming majority of these legislations (69 out of 94) were specifically designed to promote human rights, to strengthen democratic governance, and to reinforce the separation of powers. These achievements have resulted in strengthening the rule of law and produced tangible outcomes in strengthening democratic institutions in the country," the government highlights in the official statement. 

Pertinently, Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) had decided to put Maldives on CMAG's formal agenda, a step towards suspension or expulsion from the multilateral body. This comes at the CMAG's last meeting held in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The decision was taken after reviewing Maldives' progress on a six-point reform agenda: progress in political dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition; release of political prisoners; an end to the government using the country’s anti-terrorism act to jail political opponents and dissidents; separation of powers and an independent judiciary; and freedom and space for civil society, which CMAG had proposed earlier this year.

After announcing the decision to leave Commonwealth Maldives, the government stated that its international engagement will continue, both bilaterally and multilaterally.


'Isolation will not solve the problems' 

Reacting to the announcement, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, Champa Patel, said the Maldives authorities should address their own human rights situation rather than lash out at legitimate criticism. “Instead of complaining about unfair treatment, the Maldives government should look at engaging more constructively with the international community,"  the rights body said. 

“Human rights have been in a complete freefall in the country over the past few years. The government has locked up opponents through politically motivated trials and led an unprecedented crackdown on independent media."  

Former President of the Maldives and Leader of ruling PPM, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, said: "As someone who led Maldives into Commonwealth 34 years ago, I am disappointed that we have left. Isolation will not solve our problems."

Yameens's first vice president, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, also reacted saying: "Yameen's abrupt decision to leave the Commonwealth after CMAG's scrutiny shows that he is temperamentally unfit to lead the country."


Commonwealth 'hopes'  the separation is temporary 

Responding to Maldives' decision, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “I have received news that the Maldives Government has today decided to leave the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth family at large – its member governments and its peoples worldwide – will share my sadness and disappointment at this decision. 

“The Commonwealth Charter reflects the commitment of our member states to democracy and human rights, development and growth, and diversity. We will continue to champion these values and to support all member states, especially small and developing states, in upholding and advancing these practically for the enduring benefit of their citizens.

“Therefore, we hope that this will be a temporary separation and that Maldives will feel able to return to the Commonwealth family and all that it represents in due course.”