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Maldives welcomes EU infrastructure development


The Maldives welcomes EU commitment to infrastructure assistance, looks forward to continued political dialogue

Male’, April 5, 2005 (Tuesday) - The Maldives today welcomed the positive report of the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with SAARC countries, following their visit to the Maldives on 25 - 28 March 2005. Speaking in response to the Delegation's press release, the Chief Government Spokesman, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed said:

"The EU Parliament Delegation's positive comments following their visit here are most welcome. The tone of the Delegation's remarks reflects the genuine feeling of warmth and cooperation that was evident throughout their visit.

"We are gratified that the Delegation recognised the hard work and optimism of the Maldivian people in rebuilding their homes and livelihoods following the 26 December tsunami. The EU Parliament is the latest in a succession of eminent international bodies, including the UN, World Bank and various donor agencies, to have praised the Maldives' swift and efficient efforts in reconstructing our country. The Delegation's commitment to champion the cause of the Maldives, and our need for assistance in rebuilding our economy and infrastructure, is particularly appreciated.

"As one would expect, the Delegation took a special interest in the Maldives' ongoing democratic reform process. Their expression of support for, and confidence in, both the principles and objectives of the reform programme, is a deserved endorsement for the reform agenda to which we are committed.

"In the spirit of our growing and developing relationship with the European Parliament, we are grateful for the Delegation's observations as to how to progress the reform programme even before the new Constitution has been drafted. We shall listen to, and act upon, the delegations suggestions for expediting our reforms. Indeed some of the areas recommended by the Delegation for immediate progress - in particular the need for greater transparency and modernisation of the judicial process, and strengthening of media freedom are priority areas in which policy actions are being carried out independent of constitutional reform and where new legislation is at this moment being drafted.

“We recognise that a healthy and vibrant civil society is fundamental to a modern democracy. The Government’s policy is to encourage and support civil society organisations, as evident from recently enacted legislation, and from the manner in which the post-tsunami recovery and reconstruction efforts are being carried out.

"The Delegation's remarks underline just how far the Maldives has come, despite the tsunami, since their Resolution of September 2004. We will continue to look to our friends in the European Parliament as our journey toward multiparty democracy continues, to welcome their advice and suggestions, and hope that the SAARC grouping will remain a valued champion and friend in Brussels to the people of the Maldives”.

(ENDS)

Notes to Editors:

(a) For inquiries, please call the Chief Government Spokesman, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, on (+960) 773999, or the SCU on, (+960) 773394.

(b) For information in the European parliamentary delegation’s visit to the Maldives, please refer to the website of the European Parliament, on www.europarl.eu.int.

(c) The Agenda for Democracy, Human Rights and Reform

On 9 June 2004, President Gayoom announced historic plans to make sweeping changes to the Constitution to usher in a 21st century democracy in the Maldives.

The People’s Special Majlis, empowered to amend the Constitution, was convened in July 2004, and is now finalising its rules of procedure.

On 14 February 2005, the President presented his 31-point Proposals for Constitutional Amendment to the Speaker of the People’s Special Majlis. He said that he would like the Special Majlis to complete its work in about a year.

On 27 February 2005, President Gayoom announced the finalisation of the Criminal Justice Action Plan 2004 - 2008. The Plan will overhaul the entire criminal justice system to bring it in line with international standards.

The President’s Proposals include:

Further decentralization of the powers of the executive.

Greater separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

Removal of the gender bar in contesting the presidency.

Two-term limitation on the presidency.

Creation of a Supreme Court.

Provision for the formation of political parties.

Introduction of multi-candidate direct election of the president.

The Wider Reform Programme; A Human Rights Focus

The proposals for constitutional amendment comprise a wider set of reforms that the President has accelerated in his current term of office. In the main, these focus on strengthening fundamental rights, increasing transparency and accountability, and improving the criminal justice system and the penal system.

Measures Recently Implemented:

a) A new Family Act vastly strengthening women’s rights.

b) A Human Rights Commission was established on 10 December 2003.

c) Codification of arrestable and non-arrestable offences in February 2004.

d) The UN Convention Against Torture acceded in April 2004.

e) A Public Complaints Bureau established in June 2004.

f) Police separated from the security services and made a civilian force in September 2004.

g) Provision for legal representation strengthened in April 2004.

h) A Jail Oversight Committee of Judges and MPs formed in April 2004.

i) Jail system re-organised, with the separation of remand centres from the prison.

j) Agreement signed with the International Committee of the Red Cross in October 2004 to give the ICRC access to prisons.

k) Amnesty International given free and unfettered access to prisons in October 2004.

l) US National Democratic Institute (NDI) carried out a study in developing a legal framework for a multiparty democracy, in October 2004.

Measures Underway:

a) Redrafting of the Penal Code.

b) Drafting of a Freedom of Information Act, strengthening media freedom.

c) Formulation of a Political Parties Bill.

d) Formulation of a five year Criminal Justice Action Plan.

e) Formulation of a Police Act.

f) Drafting of the Criminal Procedures Act.

g) Drafting of the Parole Act.

h) Drafting of the Prisons Act.

i) Electoral reform being undertaken with the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat, leading to a new Electoral Bill.

A Quarter Century of Evolutionary Political Reform

The Maldives is starting from a very basic level of governance structures that had evolved over centuries of tradition unaffected by its limited colonial experience. The first Constitution was introduced in 1932.

Over the past twenty-five years, President Gayoom has promoted political modernisation in an evolutionary manner, through reform, innovation and development. These have evolved alongside and drawn synergies from the strident social and economic development of the past quarter century. The major milestones include:

Parliament and Governance:

a) Introduction of parliamentary immunity.

b) Introduction of the practice of presentation of annual statement of government policy to the parliament.

c) Introduction of the practice of setting up parliamentary commissions and standing committees.

d) Introduction of the practice of reporting to parliament on major issues of national interest.

e) Introduction of independent foreign observation of elections to the parliament and the presidency.

f) Development of Cabinet government.

g) Creation of oversight bodies such as the Anti-Corruption Board.

h) Election of Island Development Committees on every island to promote participatory local governance.

i) Establishment of advisory committees and councils comprising eminent persons from public and private sector to advise on policy formulation and decision-making.

j) Development of media and communications, including programmes to train journalists

Re-organization of the Courts

Numerous initiatives have been undertaken to re-organize courts to modernize the judicial system, increase efficiency, strengthen independence of judges, and increase appellate safeguards. They include:

a) Establishment of the High Court.

b) Establishment of a Court for Juveniles.

c) Establishment of an appellate panel of eminent judges and lawyers to review appeals.

d) Establishment of a Faculty of Shariah and Law.

e) Introduction of Training Programmes for Judges and Lawyers, including training programmes taught by the President himself.

Promotion of Human Rights

(a) The jail system was re-organised and the facilities provided were improved.

(b) The Maldives acceded to international human rights instruments, notably those promoting the rights of women and children.

(c) The status of the populations in the outer atolls was given special priority, seeking to empower them through rapid development of the atolls.


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