Maldives mulls withdrawing from Commonwealth over foreign interference

Male/London, July 29 (IANS) The Maldives has briefed Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma on the government’s proposed move for withdrawing from membership of the Commonwealth grouping, days after President Abdulla Yameen hit out at perceived foreign interference over the jailing of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Maldives Foreign Secretary Ali Naseer Mohamed briefed Sharma on the government move at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London on Tuesday.

Discussions between the two focused on the recent debate that took place in the People’s Majlis regarding the Maldives’ membership of the Commonwealth.

A foreign ministry statement said the secretary general “expressed hope that the Maldives would remain a valued and active member of the Commonwealth family”.

Discussions also focused on the recent decision by the prosecutor general to appeal Nasheed’s jail sentence and other political developments.

On Sunday, Yameen in a speech to mark his nation’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain accused developed countries of imposing their own legal and moral standards on the atoll nation.

“We are disappointed that some countries, and indeed some prominent bodies within these countries, have seen it fit to interfere in domestic affairs in the Maldives,” Yameen said at the event.

He vowed to resist threats from “outside” which he said were far more dangerous than those from within, referring to the 53-member Commonwealth.

Last week, Yameen’s proposal to withdraw the Maldives’ membership with the Commonwealth was submitted to parliament and the president sought advice of the MPs on the matter.

The nation’s parliament last week debated on the issue.

During the debate, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives said actions of the larger countries within the Commonwealth were that of intimidation and bullying, thus if it comes to leaving the Commonwealth the government will not hesitate to do so, reported raajje.mv online news site.

“Their actions are as they please, it’s like bigger children in a classroom bullying on the weakest one. We will not accept this,” Nihan said.

Nihan also alleged that the Commonwealth was working in favour of a certain group of people since 2012.

Eva Abdulla, opposition MP of the Maldivian Democratic Party, said the country’s foreign policy should prioritise the stability of the Indian Ocean above all, and noted that it should be based on long term prosperity, and not towards vengeance for a momentary squabble.

She called on the government to respect the values of democracy and listen to the criticism of the Commonwealth rather than threatening to leave the organisation at every instance of displeasure.

The cabinet of President Yameen two weeks ago deliberated on the need to revise the Maldives’ activities during its membership of the Commonwealth.

The government of President Yameen has had a love-hate relationship with the Commonwealth ever since the arrest of former president Nasheed in February 2015, says raajje.mv.

Earlier in July, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon informed the secretary general of the Commonwealth that the Maldives will seriously consider its membership if the organisation will continue to treat it on a “selective basis and unfairly”, in violation of the Commonwealth’s own rules.

The Commonwealth, formerly known as the British Commonwealth of Nations, is largely comprised of former colonies of the British empire.

Though the Maldives did not initially become a member of the Commonwealth after gaining independence, it has remained a full member of the Commonwealth since 1985.

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