EU expresses concern at lack of level playing field in Maldives

Brussels: The European Union (EU) has expressed concerns over the genuineness of the upcoming Presidential elections in Maldives due to lack of level playing field in the country. Elections in Maldives are scheduled to take in September this year.

The EU’s apprehensions come after former Vice President of Maldives, Dr. Mohammed Jameel, met with the Parliamentarians at this week’s European Parliamentary session in Strasbourg in France. Dr. Jameel urged the EU Parliamentarians to advocate civil liberties and human rights, wrote Maria Rutowicz in EP Today in her article — European Parliamentarians welcomed Dr Jameel from Maldives.

Rutowicz wrote that while Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) agreed to the fact that in the present scenario where most of the Opposition leaders have either taken political aylum in various countries, or are in prison in Maldives, it was unlikely that the elections in Maldives will be free and fair. They called on the EU to consider imposing sanctions on Male to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

“They expressed disappointment that the Maldives’ President had totally ignored calls made by the international community, including the European Union, to maintain rule of law,” Rutowicz wrote.

MEPs Nicolas Bay and Younous Omarjee were, in specific, concerned about the potential consequences of the pending undemocratic elections, especially in the wake of Maldives’ President Yameen’s proximity to Islamist groups, wrote Rutowicz. Omarjee voiced his concern at the probability of the entire region being destabilized due to terrorism.

The MEP maintains that President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s policy of permitting Maldivian jihadists to exit and return to the Islands, without investigation, implies a high risk of attacks on foreigners. MEP Nicolas Bay seemingly endorsed Omarjee’s sentiments and noted that radicalisation of young people is also an issue of concern.

“An MEP lunch was hosted in Dr. Jameel’s honour by MEP Fulvio Martusciello, and included MEPs Tomas Zdechovsky and Marijana Petir (both proven advocates of human rights and rule of law in this region), among others. Petir and Zdechovsky expressed their shared concerns about the deterioration of the situation in the Maldives and beseeched the European Commission to act swiftly,” Rutowicz wrote.

President Yameen’s proximity to Islamist groups was extensively discussed who is widely-known for giving the Islamist jihadis a “free reign” and for not keeping their movements under scanner. “Yameen’s closeness with Islamists stems from his desire to secure them as his voter base,” the author noted.

The MEPs also dwelled upon the unconcealed and brazen abuse of power by Yameen, which led to the credibility of the key institutions like the Judiciary and the Election Commission being compromised.

Furthermore, pro-European representative of the European Institution for Civil Society Malosse regretted the ever enhancing influence of China in the region.

“The Maldives should protect it’s territory, as the land mass is small and should be sustainably maintained for long term tourism and the benefit of the Maldivian people” the write-up quoted Malosse, as saying. She added MEP Hortefeux also voiced similar concerns for tourists and underscored that the French Ministry website discouraged tourists to visit the Maldivian islands.

Dr. Jameel used the occasion to take a dig at President Yameen, saying, “The Maldives is made up of 2000 islands, 188 of which are inhabited by Maldivian citizens. Many of the others, and chunks of the inhabited islands, have been sold to the Chinese government for infrastructure projects, including a proposed military base. This money is used by President Yameen to line his own pockets – it is pure corruption,” Dr. Jameel alleged.

The MEPs apprehensions are absolutely in sync with Dr. Jameel’s concerns, who himself is living in exile in London at the moment. Dr. Jameel’s fears stem mainly from the fact that the opposition has either been forced into exile, or arrested.

Jameel shared with South Asia Chair, MEP Jean Lambert, the recent amendments made in the Constitution by the Yameen administration. The new amendment bars those who have taken asylum, and dual citizens, from being nominated to contest the upcoming elections.

Dr. Jameel also enlightened EU members on how Yameen put the draconian “doctrine of necessity” to use and got the Parliament to amend the Judges’ Act to “enshrine an automatic termination of judges who are convicted for a criminal offence.”

During their discussions the EU Parliamentarians made it clear that they wanted immediate and decisive action. “The EU must act now to defend the rule of law and civil liberties in the Maldives,” wrote Rutowicz. (ANI)