05 May, 2016
Maldivian democracy continues on a downward spiral despite Commonwealth warnings.
A peaceful Labour Day march organised by eight Maldivian NGOs ended with police pulling protesters off public streets on 1st May 2016. Within minutes of gathering, the crowd carrying banners asking for a living wage and a stop to human trafficking was dispersed by police in riot gear.
In response to the May Day clashes, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the former Foreign Minister of the Maldives and current United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran said: “Banning May Day rallies is [a] clear indication [the Maldives government] has absolutely no intention to honour CMAG demands.”
For the uninitiated, CMAG is the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. It’s supposed to be a watchdog committee assigned to keep tabs on how the Commonwealth countries behave–whether they adhere to values such as freedom of expression, etc., as laid down in the Commonwealth Charter.
The ministers of the Commonwealth did not make demands as Mr. Shaheed put it on his tweet. They made polite requests. The Maldivian government has been ignoring these requests for more than a while, and we at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative have asked both CMAG and the Maldivian government to take a good, long look at what’s at stake: Democracy.
The May Day melee clearly demonstrates the continuing crackdown on the freedom of expression, association and assembly, in a marked effort to intimidate and silence any dissent in the Maldives.