The People’s Majlis endorsed today President Abdulla Yameen’s decision for the Maldives to quit the Commonwealth over alleged unfair treatment, interference in domestic affairs, and threats to sovereignty and independence.
MPs voted 39-19 to support the president’s executive decision.
The move followed a warning by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group that the Maldives could be suspended in March 2017 if a political crisis triggered by the jailing of opposition leaders last year remains unresolved.
The democracy watchdog placed the Maldives on its formal agenda in late September.
The debate resumed more than a year later at Tuesday’s sitting of parliament, five days after the foreign minister and attorney general announced the decision to leave.
After the debate was wrapped up yesterday, the issue was forwarded to the national security committee for consideration. The committee concluded deliberations after one meeting on Tuesday afternoon that lasted half an hour.
In its report, the committee accused the CMAG of taking “unfair and unjust” actions against the Maldives since 2012 and of attempting to “meddle in domestic policies and exert influence on the Maldivian state’s sovereignty and independence”.
Such actions by the Commonwealth’s democracy watchdog were “adversely affecting the Maldives’ economic development and disrupting social harmony,” the committee said.
During yesterday’s debate, opposition MPs severely criticised the government for leaving the Commonwealth without either consulting the people’s representatives or properly considering the repercussions.
Criticising the current administration’s “isolationist” policies, opposition MPs argued that the exit would be detrimental to the Maldivian people.
The Maldives has benefited in trade, commerce, travel, medicine, education, sports and youth development through Commonwealth assistance, they said.
Some MPs called on the government to reconsider the decision to end the Maldives’ 34-year membership of the 53-member intergovernmental organisation.
Several lawmakers also criticised the speaker for tabling the debate after the decision to leave the Commonwealth was announced last Thursday.
Pro-government MPs, however, backed the president’s decision and reiterated accusations of undue interference in domestic affairs, blaming international censure that the Maldives is facing on lobbying efforts by exiled opposition leaders.
The Commonwealth exit was widely criticised both at home and abroad. The governments of the UK and Australia urged the president to reconsider the decision whilst civil society groups called on the government to address criticism of its human rights record.
On Sunday, a group of human rights organisations and activists from South Asia, including the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, put out a joint statement condemning the exit as “a smokescreen to prevent further scrutiny and censure and deter the possibility of suspension.”
“By opting out of the Commonwealth, which the Maldives joined voluntarily in 1982, it has demonstrated its determination to stifle democracy and rule through authoritarianism,” reads the statement.
“We are deeply disappointed that the government has chosen to reject the Commonwealth’s technical assistance centered on strengthening democratic institutions and promoting political inclusivity. Walking away from the Commonwealth indicates a refusal to hold to its core standards and poses a serious danger that the Maldivian people may now face greater authoritarianism and impunity.”
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