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.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Faizan Us­mani

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.

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