Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Tannock issues warning over Maldives “judicial coup”

26th October 2013

In a speech to the European Parliament this week, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman Charles Tannock levelled a stern warning over the looming constitutional and democratic crisis in the Maldives.

He urged Maldivian politicians to put their country's future ahead of their own ambitions and to allow true democracy to thrive instead of concentrating power in the hands of a few elitists and Islamist hardliners.

Mr Tannock, Conservative MEP for London, told a plenary session of the parliament in Strasbourg:

"I have long been a friend of the Maldives, and a supporter of that country's journey to democracy and respect for human rights. In 2008, the country's first democratic election, which saw Mohammed Nasheed become President, represented a turning point for the Maldives, and we all hoped that a future of multi-party politics and a tolerant peaceful democratic rule would become the norm.

"It is therefore with a mixture of alarm and profound regret that we have looked on the deteriorating situation over the past eighteen months, with an effective military backed coup ousting President Nasheed, followed by a political campaign waged against him for daring to challenge the imposition of the more austere aspects of Sharia in this small South Asian island paradise.

"The election last month, therefore, represented a fresh opportunity, and was comprehensively endorsed as free and fair by international including Commonwealth observers, as well as by the EU technical mission on the island. The Supreme Court's decision to annul the result, which would have put Mr Nasheed comfortably on the path to re-election, and the police's forcible prevention of a further poll, smacks of judicial and political interference in a clear democratic process, and cannot be accepted.

"The people of the Maldives deserve better than this: they must have their voices heard, and their decisions respected. The constitutional crisis in Male which looms if a new President is not elected before the current President's mandate expires could spell disaster for this small but dignified nation. I therefore join colleagues in calling for Maldivian politicians to put the interests of their country before their own political futures, and to help create a truly democratic society where it is the people, and not a small band of disfavoured elites allied to ex-President Gayoom and Islamist parties, who determine the country's future.

"We in the EU should apply maximum pressure to reverse this judicial coup." After the speech he told journalists: "I believe the Maldives could face a very strong and unwelcome response from the international community if these failings are not mended. I am sure that no regime there would find it comfortable if governments began advising their citizens not to visit as tourists because of the dire state of human rights including particularly women's rights and the lack of basic democratic freedoms."