Colombo: The European Union is closely monitoring the situation in the Maldives in the run-up to the Presidential elections scheduled for September 23, according to a media release issued by the Delegation of the European Union to India and Bhutan.
A group of European Parliamentarians and other officials recently visited capital Male and threatened to impose economic and other sanctions on the Maldives if the present regime headed by President Abdulla Yameen fails to hold free and fair federal elections.
The EU Delegation release, however, clarified that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Tomas Zdechovsky, Maria Gabriela Zoana, and Ryzsard Czarnecki, together with the former President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Henri Malosse and EESC Member Madi Sharma, were visiting the Maldives in their private capacity and not official.
European Union’s position regarding the situation in the Maldives was defined jointly by all 28 Member States through the Council Conclusions adopted in February which have been followed by the framework for targeted restrictive measures adopted in July, said the release.
Any follow-up decisions in this light are the prerogative of the Council of the European Union and have so far not been taken, said the statement.
In July, the European Union warned it could adopt sanctions ranging from travel bans to asset freezes against those responsible for human rights violations and undermining the rule of law in the Maldives.
The decision was a direct follow up to the Council’s conclusions of February 26 that urged Yameen government to engage with opposition leaders for credible, transparent and inclusive presidential elections.
There has been political upheaval in the Maldives since February, when President Abdulla Yameen imposed a 45-day state of emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling quashing the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including the first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed.
In order to show solidarity in the face of Yameen’s attacks on the democracy, the four opposition parties in the Maldives formed a coalition and agreed on a common candidate, the veteran, and lawmaker, Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih.
Opposition candidates have been obstructed from campaigning. They are not allowed to place posters, have rallies, hold public meetings, travel for the purpose of campaigning, or collect funds for their campaign expenses. The ruling party controls all the major television channels, making it counterproductive for the opposition candidate to appear in political debates, fearing that the content would be edited to his disadvantage.
Furthermore, while four members of the opposition party have been arrested on dubious charges and are being held without due process, the remaining political leaders have been forced into exile under the threat of violence or arrest.
Yameen has also stated, on multiple occasions, that he is interested in reinstating the death penalty, failing to specify which crimes would qualify for this punishment. This has left many political dissidents fearful for their life.