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Commonwealth envoy warns Maldives govt of international consequences

Mohamed Visham
28 September 2016, MVT 13:40
President Yameen meets the Commonwealth special envoy Willy Mutunga on Thursday. PHOTO/PRESIDENT'S OFFICE
Mohamed Visham
28 September 2016, MVT 13:40

Commonwealth must "consider a full range of options" to bring the required political pressure on the Maldives government as the continued jailing of political leaders has eroded the legitimacy of the government and the judiciary, the special envoy of the 53 member bloc to the archipelago has urged.

In a briefing note to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)--a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers, Dr Willy Mutunga said a high level of fear and political intimidation prevails in the island nation.

Mutunga, the former chief justice of Kenya, after undertaking two visits to the island nation between July and September based on interactions with people at various levels, the briefing note of 14 points paints an abysmal and alarming picture of the situation that exists in the Maldives.

"The curtailment of fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly has created an environment of fear and intimidation," Dr Mutunga said in his report.

"The long-term detention of political leaders has eroded the government and the judiciary's legitimacy."

The envoy also raised question marks over the credibility of the next presidential elections in 2018 due to the inability of political leaders to participate in political life.

He further highlighted the dire state of the country's judiciary describing it as "deeply politicized and compromised, and willing to disregard the principles of natural justice."

"There is a dire need for political consensus in the long term, while in the short term, the government must demonstrate both the will and the leadership to help the nation emerge from severe democratic deficit," the report read.

He also warned the Maldives government that the continued crackdown on dissent could lead to international consequences.

Mutunga's report comes after CMAG had placed Maldives on its formal agenda and warned the island nation of suspension from the Commonwealth.

CMAG had 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.

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