Commonwealth panel suspends Maldives

London/Male: Maldives has been suspended from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, the most powerful panel of the Commonwealth body, following the recent political turmoil in the country that led to the ouster of its first democratically-elected president Mohamed Nasheed.

At its extraordinary session in London yesterday, the CMAG received a report from a three-member ministerial mission that visited Maldives from February 17 to ascertain the facts surrounding the transfer of power and to promote adherence to Commonwealth values and principles.

"Having considered the report of the mission and reviewed all the information made available to it, CMAG agreed that it was not possible, in the allotted time, to determine conclusively the constitutionality of the resignation of President Nasheed on February 7, 2012.

"The Group therefore agreed that an independent and impartial investigation of the events of February 6 and 7 should be completed in a transparent manner within a reasonable timeframe," it said.

The CMAG, a representative body that looks into violations of the 54-member nation bloc`s political values, asked Maldives to hold early elections within this year and appealed to the disputing parties in the country to hold serious political dialogue.

The CMAG noted the announcement by President Waheed Hassan of a three-member commission of inquiry to probe the circumstances. "It strongly felt that there should be international participation in any investigative mechanism, as may be mutually agreed by political parties in Maldives," it said.

Given the question that remain about the precise circumstances of the change of government, as well as the fragility of the situation in Maldives, CMAG decided that Maldives should be "placed on its formal agenda".

"The Group further agreed that, in situations where a member of CMAG was under scrutiny by the Group itself, its CMAG membership should be placed in abeyance as long as it remained on the formal agenda of CMAG. "It decided, accordingly, that Maldives should not participate in CMAG during this time," it said.

CMAG decided to convene again via teleconference in March to review progress in Maldives, and to consider at its next scheduled meeting in April 2012 any further measures that may be warranted, the CMAG said in a statement.

The CMAG stopped short of suspending Maldives membership from the Commonwealth group of nations but decided that Male`s membership of the ministerial action group would be in abeyance.

"The group urged President Waheed and former president Nasheed to commence an immediate dialogue, without preconditions, to agree on a date for early elections, which should take place within this calendar year," Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said. The Maldives would be suspended from the ministerial action group but not the Commonwealth, he told a press conference in London.