Maldives

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 14th July 2015.

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Photo of Karen Lumley Karen Lumley Conservative, Redditch 11:30 am, 14th July 2015

What recent assessment he has made of the political situation in the Maldives; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

I remain deeply concerned by the situation in the Maldives. On 24 June, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear his view that there should be a political dialogue involving all parties to discuss the country’s governance, and that all political detainees, including former President Nasheed, should be released swiftly.

Photo of Karen Lumley Karen Lumley Conservative, Redditch

Does my right hon. Friend share my concerns that the continued detention of political prisoners, including former President Nasheed—the first democratically elected President of the Maldives—is an impediment to the ongoing talks and to the possible resolution of the crisis?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

We welcome the fact that Mr Nasheed has been moved to house arrest and the political dialogue between the opposition parties and the new Government. We hope the talks will provide the basis for progress on the numerous concerns within the Maldives. It is worth repeating that the Prime Minister has called for the release of all political prisoners, including former President Nasheed.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

But does the Minister agree that the Maldives are in breach of the principles of the Commonwealth charter, and does he think the time is right for the Commonwealth to take action against the Maldives to bring about the return of the rule of law and the principles of democracy?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

We are not a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, as the hon. Gentleman knows. I have discussed these matters with the Commonwealth Secretary-General. I understand that there has been a telephone conversation between CMAG members and that they keep the situation under continuous review.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

May I associate myself with the concerns expressed about President Nasheed and his welfare by my hon. Friend Karen Lumley? I understand that Richard Branson raised recently on his blog concerns about the impact of the political situation in the Maldives on travel and tourism. Does the Minister have a view on that?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British tourists play a key part in the Maldivian economy and we keep our travel advice under constant review, as my hon. Friend knows—the first thing we ensure, as far as we can, is the safety of our nationals—which includes the political stability of the country.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

The Minister will agree that the kidnapping and holding of a judge is a very serious affair, and that we should therefore allow the rule of law to determine the outcome of the case of former President Nasheed. Does he agree that the main focus of Government foreign policy in the Maldives should be on improving trade relations?

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The focus should be on improving relations, but it should also be on improving the democratic space. The trial of the former President was very rushed and appeared to contravene the Maldives’ own laws and practices, as well as international fair trial standards. That is currently being looked at.

Photo of John Glen John Glen Conservative, Salisbury

I urge the Minister to resist complacency on the Maldives, particularly given that the current regime seems also to be a recruiting sergeant for ISIL in the Maldives. There will come a time when the Government will need to stand clearly on the right side of the argument and intervene more fully to secure justice in that country.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

I hear what my hon. Friend says, but I do not think we can be accused of complacency. I recently raised the Maldives again with the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Indian Foreign Secretary and the US assistant Secretary of State. Both my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have met Mr Nasheed’s wife, and Amal Clooney and other members of Mr Nasheed’s legal team, to discuss the situation. We are closely involved.