The Lone Ranger
Now that the Maldives has opted out of the Commonwwealth, it must brace itself for an isolationist role, something that a country of this small size can ill afford.
If Brexit refers to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, then the decision recently taken by the Maldives to leave the British Commonwealth can be referred to as Maldivexit. It was October 2016 when the People’s Majlis of the Maldives, with a clear majority vote of 39-19, endorsed the decision. It was earlier decided by the President Abdulla Yameen to quit the Commonwealth.
An uncommon move by all standards, the archipelago exited because of continued interference by the Commonwealth in its domestic matters. According to the Maldivian government, ment, repetitive warnings were being issued by the Commonwealth over alleged human rights ghts abuse against political opponents in the Maldives.
According to o the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative tiative (CHRI), the ruling Progressive Party of f the Maldives (PPM) has significantly undermined mined democratic culture in the country through hrough its authoritative moves. Since 2013,3, for instance, the PPMdominated parliament ment has passed several restrictive and oppressive pressive laws to prevent the separation of powers and to curtail the freedom of expression sion in the country.
Reintroduction of the death penalty, limitation of political rights of prisoners ers and passing of the AntiTerrorism Act, 2015 5 are the leading examples, ples, indicating a paradigmdigm shift the country. This has taken over in the past few yearsears to establish the new identity of the country that goeses against the basicic tenets prescribedd in the Commonwealth Charter.
In October 2016, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG) issued a last-ditch appeal to the Maldivian government to resolve the yearslong political crisis, which surfaced in February 2012 during President Mohamed Nasheed’s days.
Since then, the country has not been able to function as a truly democratic state, speedily inching towards becoming an authoritarian regime. The CMAG, in its last warning, gave a six-month deadline of March 2017 to bring the ongoing operation against the political and human rights activists to a halt and to ensure rule of law and i implementation of good governance practices in the Maldives.
However, President Abdullah Yameen, had earlier questioned the Commonw Commonwealth’s mandate to dictate to member states. A After the United Nations, this is the world’s larg largest assembly of nations.
Besides revealing the cu current state of government affairs in the Mald Maldives, the move says a lot about Yameen as well. Earlier,E following Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut its diplomatic relationship with Iran, the Ma Maldives was the only country that supporte supported the break-up decision and move moved even further to sever its diplomatic ties with Iran fo for no reason.
Overa Overall, Yameen’s views are entirely oppose opposed to those enterta entertained by the rest o of the modern world world. For instance, he b believes every coun country should be able to practice dem democracy without fore foreign influence. Thi This is in response
to the international pressure he has been facing about conforming to the fundamental values endorsed by the Commonwealth, the United Nations and other international organizations.
Despite being a man of few words, Abdullah Yameen can still be referred to as a Donald Trump of the Maldives who holds different views compared to those of his opponents in the country, as well as to those of democratic states in the world that have a higher regard for human rights and want other nations to follow their model. Yameen thinks otherwise.
According to him, “Human rights cannot be afforded in the Maldives to the same extent or as broadly as in Western, first world countries.” The statement is a direct response to the repeated criticism of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) over the blatant violations of the Maldives’ international human rights obligations the country is supposed to fulfil under the Commonwealth declaration and other international treaties and agreements it is signatory to.
Examples of such international agreements are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), etc. Even so, Abdullah Yameen rebuffs the CHRI’s bashing and questions the effectiveness of its regulations passed against his government by comparing the human rights violations perpetrated in the Maldives to violations committed by the Israeli forces in Palestine.
He says, “There are plenty of UN resolutions on the Palestine issue. But countries that advocate for human rights and countries that raise their voices, saying there are no human rights in the Maldives, surely do not see the suffering of the Palestinian people, and their ears are surely deaf to it.”
This tends to be a clear message forwarded to western countries, arguing the double standards the the West applies whenever it comes to taking notice of violations of human rights in different regions.
“I do not believe foreign parties should be concerned about state actions that Maldivians are not concerned about,” he says. He finds nothing wrong in his retributive approach to tame political forces in the country, as far as the public doesn’t make an outcry over the ongoing political instability. He supports the Maldivian judiciary in spite of the questionable role it has been playing in order to maintain the status quo.
For him, the continued repression of the freedom of expression, media censorship, abduction, arrest and political trials of journalists and opinion leaders do not fall into the ambit of human dignity. “What aspect of human dignity has been lost? What are the weaknesses in the Maldives’ judiciary?” he asks.
He firmly believes in a conspiracy theory behind the alleged human rights abuses in the Maldives, which are objectively targeted by the Commonwealth, as well as other international forums. He believes in consulting the Shariah, or the law of Islam, compared to man-made rules and regulations followed internationally. According to him, “Every day there are warnings of an imposition of sanctions on the Maldivians, because we enforce Islamic Shariah and teach Islam in schools.”
In today’s Maldives, street protests and anti-government rallies are not allowed. Also, it is compulsory for NGOs to seek government permission before receiving any foreign donation, while lawyers and law practitioners have to abide by a new code of conduct issued by the Maldivian Supreme Court last year.
Now that the country no more remains a member state of the Commonwealth, the Yameen-led Maldives seems to be moving along a precarious path which is paved with reduced development support from the world. Losing representation at key international fora will also ultimately usher in both short and long-term losses for the Maldives.
The writer is a member of the staff.