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Commonwealth body takes flak for Maldives let off

Mohamed Visham
29 September 2016, MVT 11:10
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting in New York on Friday.
Mohamed Visham
29 September 2016, MVT 11:10

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has lost an opportunity to take strict action against the Maldives government, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) said raising concern over the continued leeway being allowed to member states for repeated disregard to the Commonwealth Charter.

Days after CMAG, a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers placed Maldives on its formal agenda, CHRI in a statement accused the body of failing to show urgency in responding to evidence pointing at persistent violations by the Maldives government.

"Unless monitoring by CMAG is accompanied with clear consequences for non-compliance, the body’s weight in the promotion of democratic values will not strengthen", the statement read.

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.

CHRI which had pressed for Maldives' suspension from the Commonwealth before CMAG's sit-down on Friday expressed concern that the ministerial body had failed to do so.

"This was the time to order the suspension of the Maldives from the Councils of the Commonwealth with a strong message that this would only be lifted upon visible, time-bound, progress in the six areas stipulated by CMAG," CHRI stressed urging the ministerial group to consider convening before March next year to review the situation in the Maldives.

The government had moved quickly to invite opposition parties to designate representatives for the talks but shifted blame to the opposition after the UN led all party talks failed to make much headway.

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.

Opposition parties have renounced all pre-conditions in a bid to honour Commonwealth's call for compromise and accepted the government's invitation for dialogue.

CHRI however, cast doubts over the success of the talks urging more international pressure on the government to take the steps needed for dialogue.

The calls for harsher action against Maldives comes after the special envoy of the 53 member bloc to the archipelago Dr Willy Mutunga urged the Commonwealth to “consider a full range of options” in order 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.

 

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