The new Maldives government must break with the repressive past, Amnesty International said Tuesday, as congratulations poured in for the president-elect.
Abdulla Yameen, whose government presided over rights abuses and erosion of freedoms that triggered sanctions from the European Union and the threat of sanctions from the US, was ousted from power in a recent election.
He conceded defeat to his opponent, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, and Monday night was mostly peaceful in the capital as thousands of people armed with flags and optimism took to the streets to celebrate.
The change in government was an opportunity to break with the past and chart a fresh course where human rights were at the heart of the policies and action of the new government, Amnesty International said.
“The joint opposition made several pledges when it comes to the human rights situation in the Maldives,” said deputy South Asia director Dinushika Dissanayake.
“Now it is time to begin to translate those words into action, including by releasing those people who were wrongly imprisoned, repealing repressive laws, and creating an environment conducive to full respect for human rights and where civil society can flourish.”
Solih’s victory has been widely welcomed by the international community.
There appears to be a warming of ties between the Maldives and India since his win, and foreign governments have applauded the election result although they stress the need for a smooth transfer of power.
Bryce Hutchesson, Australia’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, said the high voter turnout and peaceful polling was a “testament to the democratic spirit” of Maldivians, while Canada said the provisional tally from the Elections Commission pointed to a “clear victory” for Solih.
The US said it expected all parties to respect the will of the Maldivian people and supported a peaceful transition of power through the November 17 inauguration.
“As a fellow democracy, the United States stands ready to work closely with the next Maldivian government to expand cooperation on our shared interests in an independent and prosperous Maldives as well as a free and open Indian Ocean region,” said the State Department’s Heather Nauert.
The UK’s Asia minister Mark Field said he hoped to visit the Maldives and looked forward to working with the new government on “issues of shared concern.”
– Dirty tricks? –
The Maldives has been in turmoil for much of 2018.
A landmark Supreme Court ruling in February ordered the release of political prisoners including former president Mohamed Nasheed, only to be shoved aside days later by a contentious state of emergency.
High-profile arrests, a crackdown on opposition activity and further restrictions on freedom of speech followed.
There were allegations of dirty tricks in the months leading up to polling day but, before the provisional results were announced, EC boss Ahmed Shareef said there were no complaints or irregularities that could affect the outcome.
Local NGO Transparency Maldives said that while there were serious issues during the pre-election period, it was confident Solih had won and there were few problems on voting day itself.
The EC has until September 30 to announce the official results.
Yameen’s constitutionally prescribed five-year term ends on November 17, after the Supreme Court allowed his predecessor Dr Mohamed Waheed to stay in power beyond his constitutional term in 2013.
Presidents traditionally take the oath of office on November 11, which is the country’s republic day.
The annual budget for the upcoming year has to be presented to parliament before November 1, according to the Public Finance Act, meaning Yameen’s government will submit the 2019 budget.
Photo taken from @abretis Twitter feed