UK “disappointed” by Maldives withdrawal from Commonwealth

UK “disappointed” by Maldives withdrawal from Commonwealth
October 15 21:45 2016

The United Kingdom is disappointed that the Maldives has withdrawn from the Commonwealth, the country’s foreign secretary has said.

Adding to the chorus of concern over the decision, Boris Johnson said Thursday that the UK “regrets that the Maldives has chosen to leave.”

The UK will continue to work with the government to help strengthen democracy, particularly freedom of speech and the media and the independence of the judiciary, he said in a statement. “The stability of the country must be central to what happens next.”

The Maldives had quit the Commonwealth, after accusing the intergovernmental organisation of undermining the country’s sovereignty and independence, interfering in domestic affairs, and treating the country “unfairly and unjustly.”

The announcement came after the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group warned the Maldives of suspension if steps were not taken to resolve a protracted crisis triggered by the jailing of opposition leaders.

A majority of Commonwealth member states are former British colonies.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron said in January that the UK is prepared to impose targeted sanctions on top officials if political prisoners are not freed.

“Let us hope that diplomatic efforts, including by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, will lead to the changes we want to see,” he had said.

The Maldives’ decision to withdraw has been condemned widely. Commonwealth secretary general, Patricia Scotland, said she hoped the separation was temporary and that the Maldives “will feel able to return to the Commonwealth family and all that it represents in due course.”

Amnesty International said the Maldives should address rights abuses instead of lashing out at legitimate critcisim.

The Adhaalath Party, a minor opposition party, also criticised the move Friday, saying President Abdulla Yameen’s decision was aimed at evading the CMAG’s call for dialogue and the establishment of an environment conducive to free and fair elections.

The religious conservative party called on the international community to “keep the Maldives under scrutiny and assist its people to establish democracy as per the constitution before the incumbent government plunges the country deeper into isolationism.”

Transparency Maldives, a human rights advocacy group, said Saturday that the withdrawal “without any public consultation and in response to the Commonwealth’s attempts to hold the government accountable, demonstrates disregard for public opinion in matters that directly impact the people”.

It also shows the “government’s inability to live up to the inherent principles of good governance, democracy and human rights enshrined in the Commonwealth charter,” the group said.