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Who said what? Foreign Minister’s meetings in New York

Dunya called the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s ruling on Nasheed’s imprisonment “arbitrary” in a meeting with the UN human rights chief, and sought to downplay the call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to grant clemency to Nasheed.



In a meeting with the UN’s human rights chief in New York, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon called a UN rights panel’s opinion on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s imprisonment “arbitrary.”

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) has ruled the opposition leader’s imprisonment on a terrorism charge illegal. The government claims the ruling by five independent experts is flawed and refuses to release Nasheed.

Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a vocal critic of the rushed trial against Nasheed, met with Dunya on Thursday.

She is filling in for President Abdulla Yameen at the United Nations General Assembly. The president has skipped the UNGA twice now.

The foreign minister also met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Wednesday. The Secretary General’s Office said Ban had urged the Maldives to grant clemency to Nasheed to advance political dialogue with the opposition.

The foreign ministry promptly issued a press release to counter headlines in the Maldives, stressing that Ban had said that he and the UN “do not want to interfere in the internal politics of the Maldives.”

No mention was made of his comments on Nasheed.

According to the Secretary General’s Office, Ban had “called attention to both national and international concerns over the situation of former President Mohamed Nasheed.”

“He urged the Maldives to grant clemency to Mr. Nasheed as it would send a powerful signal to advance the dialogue process in good faith.” Dunya is scheduled to address the UNGA today. The foreign ministry says she will draw attention to challenges faced by small island states.

Climate change, sustainable development, Islamic radicalization and lack of capacity in the Maldives to deal with such challenges are key talking points for the Maldives’ in its bilateral meetings in New York, according to statements by the foreign ministry.

Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Ali Naseer told the Bloomberg that the Maldives wants US to help it fight terrorism. Naseer put the number of Maldivians traveling to Iraq and Syria at 40, although the police in January had said the number was more than 50.

The Maldives cannot tackle Islamic extremism comprehensively on its own, Naseer said. The government wants more intelligence cooperation, more security assistance and more engagement, especially from the US, according to Bloomberg.

The opposition has criticized the government for refusing to acknowledge the problem when it first surfaced, and its soft response to the spread of extremist ideologies, noting the lack of laws and programs to counter radicalism in the Maldives.

Both Naseer and Dunya raised fears with the press that an unexplained explosion on the presidential speedboat may have been a targeted attack against Yameen. The government in Malé has sought to downplay the explosion as an attack, but has said it is not ruling out an attempt on the president’s life.

A multi-national group of experts are in the Maldives to assist with the investigation. On climate change, the Maldives this week unveiled its commitment to reduce carbon emissions, a mere cut of 10 percent from business as usual scenario.

In New York, Dunya also met with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, Italian Foreign Minister, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal, and the UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca.

It emerged last week that the Maldives has hired Washington-based Podesta Group, a prominent lobby firm, for a fee of US$50,000 for six months.

Photo by Foreign Ministry