MPs of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have slammed Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon’s claim that the global spotlight on the Maldives is hampering the growth of nascent democratic institutions.
“Young institutions do not grow when leaders of powerful countries give running commentaries on every decision such institutions make. Growing up under the international spotlight is not easy for any country. Yet, the government is determined to prevent reversals,” Dunya said at a function held in London yesterday to celebrate the Maldives’ golden jubilee of independence.
The foreign minister’s remarks follow mounting international pressure on the government and renewed calls by the UN human rights chief as well as the US and UK government’s to release former President Mohamed Nasheed and other jailed politicians .
The foreign ministry has issued multiple statements defending Nasheed’s imprisonment ahead of a judgment from the UN working group of arbitrary detention, expected in mid-October.
Nasheed’s high-profile international lawyers Jared Genser and Amal Clooney have expressed confidence that the specialised UN agency will rule that his 13-year jail sentence was arbitrary and unlawful.
President Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile repeatedly criticised “foreign interference” in domestic affairs, declaring yesterday that the government will not bow to foreign pressure to release Nasheed and other jailed politicians.
MP Eva Abdulla told The Maldives Independent that Dunya and the five Supreme Court justices are “the only people in the world who think Maldives’ institutions are independent.”
“We find that the only countries that object to international scrutiny are those that have something to hide in terms of human rights violations,” she said.
Eva said Sri Lanka’s announcement at the UN Human Rights Council on Monday to set up a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to investigate war crimes was “an example of just how receptive a response can be when a country is trying to open up.”
Shahinda Ismail, executive director of local human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network, told The Maldives Independent that moving a nation forward requires “the guidance of those countries who have had vast experience and knowledge.”
“It is a matter of perception whether we call it a running commentary or a helping hand,” she said.
“Maldives has benefited invaluably from the various international actors who have been non-tiring, standing by us and for us through very hard times. Transiting from decades of autocratic rule into a modern democracy could never be achieved without those helping hands, and we must always remember this. Look at how far behind we have slid when we choose to turn away from their guidance. Our people have lost so much.”
MDP spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy meanwhile said that the government should acknowledge flaws in the judiciary as “a first step forward.”
Fahmy referred to a report entitled ‘Justice Adrift: Rule of Law and Political Crisis in the Maldives’ released last month, in which the International Commission of Jurists had called on the government to immediately reverse “the politicisation of the country’s judiciary and the erosion of rule of law”.
The UNDP and Attorney General Office’s ‘Legal and Justice Sector Baseline Study 2014’ made public in August meanwhile identified corruption as the leading factor in lack of public confidence in the justice sector.
Fahmy said criticism was to be expected when opposition leaders are “unjustly” jailed by such a judiciary. The international community is entitled to criticise the government because the Maldives is a signatory to international conventions, he added.
The international community is not interfering in domestic affairs but “reminding the government to uphold rule of law and abide by democratic principles,” he said.
Dunya said yesterday that the government remains “resolute in retaining the authenticity of our democratic journey by sticking firmly to our constitution and laws.”
“We are confident that it is possible, and that we are well on our way to realising a truly ‘Maldivian Democracy,'” she said.
“It is easy to criticise, but we ask you not just to only criticise, but to work alongside us to bring about meaningful change. Such change can only be sustained if it is steered by the people who will benefit most from it- the people of the Maldives,” she insisted.
Yesterday’s function in the UK was hosted by the Maldives High Commission with Baroness Sayeeda Warsi as the chief guest. Senior officials of the UK government, MPs, diplomats, representatives from the business community, journalists, and Maldivians living in the UK attended the function, the foreign ministry said.