Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has set Maldives a new deadline — March 2017 — to improve its dismal human rights record and address political problems that have wracked the island nation.
Failure to achieve substantial progress in key areas would result in the archipelago getting expelled from the Councils of the Commonwealth.
This is the third time the action group has extended the deadline for Maldives to make progress on six fronts: progress in political dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition, release of political prisoners, put an end to the government using the country’s anti-terrorism act to jail political opponents and dissidents, a separation of powers and an independent judiciary, and freedom and space for civil society.
The previous deadlines were in March and September.
The development took place during the CMAG meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York on Friday.
The CMAG, however, has put Maldives on its formal agenda for the third time in the past decade.
Being placed on the formal agenda is a step towards suspension or expulsion from the multilateral body.
The Commonwealth body of foreign ministers from nine member countries were addressed by Maldivian minister of foreign affairs Mohamed Asim and Attorney General Mohamed Anil.
Ministers who attended the meeting welcomed the United Nations’ efforts to facilitate political dialogue in the troubled archipelago, but regretted failure in initiation of a substantive dialogue.
CMAG stressed on the need to have a conducive environment for a credible presidential election in 2018.
The Commonwealth action group also called on both the government and opposition to engage in a political dialogue without preconditions.
CMAG has taken a stern view of the ongoing political problems in Maldives.
A scathing report submitted by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative earlier this month further damaged the island nation’s reputation in global fora.
The report urged CMAG to suspend Maldives from the Councils of the Commonwealth, exclude the country from all Commonwealth inter-government meetings and events and halt all Commonwealth technical assistance, other than the mandate of the Secretary General’s Special Envoy.
Maldives, a nation of about 340,000 Muslims, has been in a turmoil ever since the country's first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed resigned in 2012 following a political and military mutiny. Nasheed has maintained that he was toppled by a coup plotted by Abdulla Yameen.
Nasheed was later handed a 13-year prison sentence under the strong anti-terrorism law for arresting Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed. He, however, sought political asylum in the United Kingdom when he went there for a medical treatment.
Rights bodies and multilateral committees have blamed Yameen for getting Nasheed and prominent political figures were arrested.