Maldives govt hopes to change EU's mind as sanctions loom

Maldives government is still "working hard" to stop the European Union (EU) from imposing sanctions against top government officials, Maldives fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee said Sunday.

EU is expected to sanction the Maldives later Monday over the worsening human rights and political situation in the archipelago.

Foreign Affairs Council is expected to adopt restrictive measures against the Maldives during the sit-down in Brussels on Monday. Maldives is on number five on the non-legislative agenda.

The council is expected to adopt a framework to be able to impose sanctions on persons and entities that violate human rights, undermine rule of law or obstruct the finding of a political solution in the country.

Shainee who is surprisingly leading a high-level delegation in Brussels has been engaged in talks with top EU officials ahead of the council sit-down later Monday.

The minister said the opposition appears to have convinced the EU that the Maldives government would not hold the presidential elections later this year to allow incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom to forcefully remain in office for a second term.

"But that's a blatant lie. As we all know Maldives is preparing to hold the elections in September. That's the reality. The other thing the opposition has told the EU is that all other presidential candidates would be thrown in jail," Shainee explained.

The government has accepted the new opposition alliance running mate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his running mate Faisal Naseem while the duo have already launched their campaign, he pointed out.

"We're trying to explain that the situation has now changed. So we're hoping that it would affect their decision," he added.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

Following the state of emergency, EU's foreign affairs council in February had passed adopted a series of conclusions on the Maldives which also refers to possible targeted measures if the situation does not improve.

In a seven -point resolution introduced and passed unanimously, the EU Parliament called on the EU "to make full use of all instruments at its disposal to promote respect for human rights and democratic principles in the Maldives, including, possibly, the suspension of EU financial assistance to the country pending the resumption of the rule of law and abidance by democratic principles."

The resolution also called on the EU council to introduce targeted measures and sanctions against those undermining human rights and to freeze the assets abroad of certain members of the Maldivian Government and their leading supporters in the Maldivian business community, whilst imposing travel bans on them.

President Yameen had even dispatched a high-level delegation to meet top EU officials recently to counter opposition efforts to convince the EU to impose sanctions against his government.

However, after the meeting with the Maldives delegation, EU's External Action Service in a statement had said the discussions focused on the critical importance of credible, transparent and inclusive presidential elections slated for September both for the democracy in the country and for future relations between the EU and the Maldives government.

Maldives government has been facing mounting international pressure especially from the US and the West over the contentious jailing of opposition leaders and the restrictions on fundamental rights and liberties.

EU had recently cast doubts over the possibility of holding free and fair presidential elections in the Maldives which has been slated for September 23.