Maldives government Sunday ruled out leaving the Commonwealth after a watchdog body of the 53 member bloc placed Maldives on its formal agenda and warned the archipelago of suspension from the Commonwealth if it fails to make substantial progress to resolve the persistent political strife in the Maldives.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers, laid out a six-point reform agenda in February, which includes the release of political prisoners and judicial reform.
During the body’s sit-down on Friday, the ministers expressed deep disappointment at the lack of progress in the priority areas.
“… in the absence of substantive progress across the priority areas, the Group would consider its options, including suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth, at its next meeting, in March 2017,” a statement after the sit-down read.
Fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee who is also the chief government representative in the all party talks, told Mihaaru that the government cannot achieve the Commonwealth laid reform agenda if the opposition refuses to engage in dialogue.
Opposition parties have refused to engage in direct talks with the government before jailed political leaders are released.
Government had invited all political leaders in exile to return to the Maldives to join the all party talks assuring that there was no danger for opposition figures.
The opposition had announced a united front to oust president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom from office and form an interim government until the next presidential elections in 2018.
The Maldives United Opposition (MUO) brings together the Maldivian Democratic Party, the Adhaalath Party, two of president Yameen’s former deputies and his former defence minister.
The MUO was established in London where key members of the opposition are in exile including Yameen’s first vice president Dr Jameel and former president Mohamed Nasheed.
Nasheed’s jailing on a terror charge last year was a key trigger of the current political crisis. He was allowed to leave the country in an internationally brokered deal in January.
Jameel had meanwhile fled to the UK last July, days before he was impeached in a controversial vote. At the time, the Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim were already in jail.
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last year but was given asylum in Britain after traveling there for back surgery. Nazim is serving an 11-year jail term for possessing a firearm, and former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor was sentenced to 33 years in prison on corruption, two counts of terrorism charges, including an assassination attempt on the president.
MUO had announced that it would represent all political opponents in the talks.
However, the government has refused to recognize the opposition alliance.
Shainee reiterated the government would always welcome dialogue despite the obvious differences with the opposition.
"The government has always extended an open invitation for opposition parties. We have tried to be flexible. But the pre-conditions demanded by the opposition have been a stumbling block for the talks. But the government will again call for dialogue this week," Shainee revealed.
In addition to the Commonwealth, the United Nations had also initiated proxy talks after the main opposition parties refused to sit-down with government demanding the release of all jailed political leaders as a pre-condition for the talks.
Commonwealth had also called on all sides for compromise and renounce any pre-conditions.
The minister referring to the CMAG statement blamed the opposition for Maldives' current international predicament.
"The opposition, using various international bodies are doing everything they can to harm our economy and reputation," Shainee said.