Commonwealth suspends Maldives from rights group, seeks elections

LONDON Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:01am IST

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - The Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from its democracy and human rights watchdog on Wednesday and called for elections before the end of the year after the island state's president was forced from power at gunpoint earlier this month.

Commonwealth officials meeting in London stopped short of suspending the Indian Ocean country from the 54-member group of nations, predominantly ex-British colonies.

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned on February 7, says he was ousted in a coup by mutinous military and police officers after protests in the archipelago known for its luxury tourist resorts.

Mohamed Waheed Hussain Manik, previously vice president, has taken over power and has suggested that elections could be brought forward from the scheduled date of October 2013.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), a nine-strong group of foreign ministers which investigates human rights and democracy issues, said it was too soon to say whether the transfer of power was lawful.

"It was not possible in the allotted time to determine conclusively the constitutionality of the resignation of President Nasheed," CMAG said in a statement which called for an independent inquiry into the events early this month.

Calling for "restraint and mutual respect", the group urged Waheed and his predecessor as president Nasheed to start immediate talks to help pave the way for elections that should take place before the end of this year.

The Maldives' membership of the CMAG watchdog will be suspended while it remains under investigation. The group will review the situation next month.

The protests that led to Nasheed's departure began after he ordered the army to arrest the criminal court chief justice on suspicion of blocking corruption and human rights cases against allies of his predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Most of the cabinet already selected by Waheed are veterans of the government of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years.

The chain of 1,200 islands was a sultanate for nearly 900 years and became a British protectorate in the 19th century. After gaining independence from Britain in 1965, the first fully democratic elections were held in 2008, with Nasheed taking power.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Roger Atwood)

FILED UNDER:

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Reforms Push

Reforms Push

Modi may order insurance, coal reforms if vote delayed - officials.  Full Article 

Economic Pulse

Economic Pulse

Crank up public spending to revive growth - chief economic adviser.  Full Article 

Sony Cyberattack

Sony Cyberattack

Obama vows U.S. response to North Korea over Sony cyberattack.  Full Article 

Cook Out

Cook Out

Cook out, Morgan in as England ODI captain - reports.  Full Article 

PM's Moves

PM's Moves

Modi moves in to speed up $300 billion stuck projects.  Full Article 

Obama's Message

Obama's Message

Obama's year-end message to Americans: I'm not a lame duck.  Full Article 

India This Week

India This Week

Some of our best photos from this week.   Pictures 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device   Full Coverage