Maldives opposition slams ‘despotic’ President Abdulla Yameen over decision to leave Commonwealth

Yameen’s government said on Thursday that it had been treated ‘unjustly and unfairly’ by the Commonwealth

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 1:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 1:46pm

The main Maldives opposition party accused President Abdulla Yameen of behaving like a despot on Friday for quitting the Commonwealth in the face of mounting criticism over his rights record.

The party of the exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed said the unilateral decision to pull out of the 53-member bloc was another example of how Yameen was turning the honeymoon islands into a diplomatic pariah.

“President Yameen has made the Maldives a very isolated place,” the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said in a statement. “This is an absolute despotic move, which says much about the Yameen regime and its political posturing and disregard for international or public opinion.”

The Maldives has been wrangling with the Commonwealth over its human rights record since the toppling of Nasheed, the Indian Ocean archipelago’s first democratically-elected leader, in February 2012.

President Yameen has made the Maldives a very isolated place. This is an absolute despotic move
Maldivian Democratic Party

Nasheed secured political asylum in Britain earlier this year after travelling to London for medical treatment while on prison leave from a controversial 13-year jail sentence.

The country of 340,000 Sunni Muslims is famed for its coral-fringed islands but has been gripped by political unrest since the fall of Nasheed and there are regular anti-government protests.

The Commonwealth had put Male on notice after Nasheed stood down as president in 2012 and said he had been forced out in a coup.

Nasheed was accused of “terrorism” and jailed in 2015 for 13 years following a rushed trial which a UN panel found to be flawed. The US has warned that democracy is under threat in the Maldives.

Yameen’s government said on Thursday that it had been treated “unjustly and unfairly” by the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of more than 50 countries, mostly former territories of the British empire.

“The decision to leave the Commonwealth was difficult, but inevitable,” said a statement from the foreign ministry. It also accused the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat of interfering in its affairs.

The Commonwealth’s watchdog committee of foreign ministers last month voiced “deep disappointment at the lack of progress” in the Maldives. It said it would consider suspension at its next gathering in March 2017.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the organisation’s members and peoples “will share my sadness and disappointment” at the Maldives’ decision to quit.