Maldives foreign minister resigns citing opposition to death penalty

Maldives foreign minister resigns citing opposition to death penalty
July 05 18:39 2016

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has resigned this afternoon, citing opposition to the government’s plans to implement the death penalty.

In a statement shared with the media, Dunya said the resignation was “one of the most difficult decisions” she has taken.

“Yet, the decision became inevitable because of the profound differences of opinion on the government’s policy in implementing the death penalty at a time when serious questions are being asked, and concerns being expressed, about the delivery of justice in the Maldives,” she said.

She added: “I remain convinced that the Government’s policy on death penalty, decided on a hasty fashion, would be detrimental to the image and reputation of the Maldives and would be a significant obstacle in achieving President [Abdulla] Yameen’s foreign policy goals, and building a resilient Maldives.”

Her resignation comes amidst an escalating power struggle between her father, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and his half-brother the incumbent for control of the ruling party.

Shortly before Dunya’s announcement, the Progressive Party of Maldives expelled her brother, MP Faris Maumoon, for voting against a government tourism bill at Gayoom’s behest.

The anti-corruption watchdog also summoned the elder Gayoom for questioning over an investigation into an audit report released eight years ago.

However, Dunya made no mention of the increasingly acrimonious PPM split.

She expressed gratitude to Yameen for “his guidance and support during the past two and half years,” and thanked cabinet colleagues, staff, and officers of the foreign service.

“I remain hopeful, however, that the Maldives would be able to overcome many challenges in implementing President Yameen’s foreign policy, protect and promote the independence and the good image of the Maldives, and make Maldivians proud.”

Yameen’s decision to end a six-decade moratorium has drawn criticism from UN human rights experts, the European Union and Amnesty International. They have called on the government to halt the planned execution of a 22-year-old death row inmate, Hussain Humam Ahmed, convicted of murdering a parliamentarian in a trial riddled with irregularities.

Gayoom has also opposed Humam’s execution.

Dunya’s time in office has seen a dramatic shift in Maldivian foreign policy towards China and Saudi Arabia in the wake of fierce criticism by traditional allies, India, the EU, the UK, the US and the Commonwealth over human rights abuses and the jailing of opposition leaders.

Under Dunya’s watch, the Maldives has so far avoided action despite a campaign for targeted sanctions on senior government officials by the opposition.

Dunya was appointed foreign minister in 2013 when Yameen assumed power. She had previously served as deputy minister for foreign affairs in Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government in 2012 and her father’s government in 2008.

She is Gayoom’s eldest daughter.

Her brother Gassan Maumoon is a junior minister at the president’s office. Her twin sister, Yumna Maumoon, quit the government without comment in April.