Former Vice President Dr. Mohammed Jameel, Met Parliamentarians at this week’s European Parliamentary session in Strasbourg, France, asking them to stand on the side of civil liberties and human rights. Dr. Jameel has been active in his fight against the current regime, which is teetering on the brink of dictatorship due to the unconstitutional acts of the current President, Mr. Yameen.
Highlights of Discussion in European Parliamentary session
- Unconstitutional acts of President Yameen
- Islands sold to the Chinese
- September 2018 elections
- Unconstitutional amendments in Constitution
- Terrorism laws
- Human rights
- Mockery of the judiciary
EU consider imposing sanctions on the Maldives
The visit to the European Parliament follows Dr. Jameel’s previous meeting with the European Commission, timed to raise awareness about the up-coming September 2018 elections – at risk of being undemocratic. Dr. Jameel’s concerns stem primarily from the fact that the entirety of the opposition has either been forced into exile, or arrested. He himself is currently living in exile in London, having been forced to leave his country under intimidation and threats.
Dr. Jameel had intensive meetings with cross-party Members of the European Parliament, Jean Lambert, Charles Tannock, Brice Hortefeux, Fulvio Martusciello, Tomas Zdechovsky, Marijana Petir, Nicolas Bay, Richard Corbett, Ignazzio Corroa, Younous Omarjee, and Nathalie Griesbeck.
Jameel shared with South Asia Chair, MEP Jean Lambert, that only yesterday, Yameen’s administration had created amendments to the Constitution, which block opposition members from running in the upcoming elections. The new amendment to the Constitution prevents those who have claimed asylum, and dual citizens, from being nominated to run in elections, thus eliminating himself and all other prominent opposition members from the up-coming elections. Many opposition members have been tried under the State’s terrorism laws, simply for speaking out against the government. As a result, dozens of Maldivian politicians, including former President Gayoom, continued to languish in prison. Other leading political figures, like Dr. Jameel, and former President Nasheed have taken refuge abroad.
Malosse, Pro-European representative of the European Institution for Civil Society, expressed deep concern for European tourists traveling to the Maldives. Over 80% of the economy is based on tourism, much of which is controlled by, or heavily dependent on the European Union. Malosse said, “the EU is in the right position to support free and fair Maldivian elections – it could be the broker in ensuring these elections are democratic.”
Malosse also expressed regret at the increasing influence of China in the region and shared Jameel’s concerns that the Constitution could be amended to allowed foreigners to buy land, potentially allowing China to build yet another naval base in the region. “The Maldives should protect it’s territory, as the land mass is small and should be sustainable maintained for long term tourism and the benefit of the Maldivian people.”
Discussions also took place about President Yameen’s proximity to Islamist groups. The Maldives has one of the highest percentage (per capita) of foreign fighters that have left to join ISIS. Estimates range from 100-300 fighters that have left and returned. These numbers are difficult to determine, since Yameen gives the Islamists free reign and does not monitor their movements. Yameen’s closeness with Islamists stems from his desire to secure them as his voter base. Jameel stated that “the previous administration saw the Islamic fringe as a group that needed to be controlled and rehabilitated; however President Yameen has empowered them.” Like Malosse, MEP Hortefeux also expressed concern for tourists and shared that the French Ministry website discouraged tourists to visit the islands.
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.
MEPs present at the interaction expressed concern over the blatant abuse of power by President Yameen, thereby compromising key institutions like the Judiciary and the Election Commission. 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. Instead, President Yameen has gone ahead and muzzled the voice of the opposition, the media and the citizens of Maldives, through intimidation, harassment and other illegal means. All MEPs present agreed that under the current circumstances, it was unlikely that the elections in Maldives will be free and fair. They called on the EU to consider imposing sanctions on the Maldives to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
In the afternoon, Jameel met with MEP Charles Tannock, MEP Ignazzio Corroa, and MEP Richard Corbett, all of whom have been active on this issue and have expressed their concerns to the European Commission in the past. Although an Urgent Resolution was passed in the European Parliament in March, all three supported the proposal for another resolution in the September Plenary, ahead of the Maldivian elections on September 23rd, 2018.
According to Dr. Jameel, President Yameen had made a mockery of the judiciary and the parliament by ensuring that all opposing voices were dealt with severely and decisively. Dr. Jameel also explained how using the draconian “doctrine of necessity”, Yameen got the Parliament to amend the Judges’ Act to enshrine an automatic termination of judges who are convicted for a criminal offence. He used the same doctrine to institute an anti-defection law to sack 12 MPs of his own party, specifically those who had dared to cross over to the opposition. Dr. Jameel cautioned his audience that in the absence of strong steps by the international community, despite overwhelming public opinion against him, Yameen and his acolytes would return to power through a completely rigged election.
MEP Nicolas Bay and MEP Younous Omarjee were particularly concerned about the potential aftermath of the pending undemocratic elections, especially in light of President Yameen’s proximity to Islamist groups. Omarjee expressed his fear at the potential of the entire region being destabilized, which poses a risk to Maldivian citizens and tourists visiting from abroad. President Yameen’s policy of allowing Maldivian jihadists to leave and return to the Islands, without investigation or monitoring, means there is a high risk of attacks on foreigners. Bay noted that radicalization of young people is also an issue. To ensure the elections are free and fair, both Bay and Omarjee recommended that an official Election Observation Mission be sent by the European Union.
From these conversations that Dr. Jameel had with a cross-section of MEPs, it was clear that the Parliamentarians want decisive and immediate action. MEPs from multiple countries, and all aspects of the political spectrum, agree that the situation in the Maldives can no longer be overlooked. What remains unclear,unfortunately, is how the Commission will respond to the Parliament’s suggestions. With the Maldivian election scheduled for just two months away, there is little time for wavering or hesitancy. The European Commission must act now to defend the rule of law and civil liberties in the Maldives.