Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland has appointed former Kenyan Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga as her special envoy to the Maldives.
Dr Mutunga “will consult with all relevant stakeholders to encourage the strengthening of a pluralist, multi-party democracy, steps towards credible and inclusive presidential elections in 2018 and the advancement of reforms to give full effect to the separation of powers,” according to a statement by Commonwealth.
The appointment was made at the request of the Maldivian government and comes ahead of a review of the Maldives’ political situation by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.
The CMAG, expressing concern over the protracted political crisis triggered by the jailing of opposition leaders in early 2015, had called for “clear, measurable progress” by September, when it will “assess progress, take stock, and take decisions accordingly.”
The Commonwealth described Dr Mutunga as a lawyer, reformist, and academic who has had “an expansive career in the areas of constitutional reform, mediation and coalition building.”
Baroness Scotland said of the appointment: “Dr Mutunga comes with a wealth of judicial knowledge and sagacity. His ability to listen to all sides and to mediate is second to none. The fact that he has had to deliberate on some of the most sensitive issues pertaining to past difficulties in Kenya makes him an eminently sensible choice to be envoy to Maldives.”
The Commonwealth and the Maldivian government are “like-minded on the benefits of appointing a special envoy,” she said.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has meanwhile welcomed Dr Mutunga’s appointment and expressed confidence that the special envoy “first-hand experiences of state-sponsored persecution will help him better appreciate and empathise with the dire situation facing the opposition parties in the Maldives today.”
MDP Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said: “We reiterate our commitment to dialogue. The need is urgent and immediate. Our hope is that this time around, the Government would engage in good faith, and not abuse this opportunity to try and hoodwink the international community, as it has been prone to do in the past.”
A UN special envoy had failed to resuscitate all-party talks after two weeks in the Maldives last April.
The MDP and Adhaalath Party refused to engage in talks unless its leaders – former President Mohamed Nasheed and Sheikh Imran Abdulla – are released from prison.
Following the CMAG’s meetings in both February and April, the government had contended that the watchdog body decided that the situation in the country was “not serious enough to warrant being placed on the agenda.”
Nasheed told The Hindu last month that the Commonwealth has “failed to impress upon the government of Maldives the need for reform.”
“I think the Commonwealth Secretariat is being very childish in hiding behind semantics. They refuse to say if the Maldives issue is in the formal agenda, even while the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group says it is,” he was quoted as saying.