Statement by H.E. Mr Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations Office at Geneva on Agenda Item 64 (b), (c) and (e) to the Third Committee of the Sixty-Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly - 28 October 2008
Thank you Mr. Chairman,
I am pleased to speak on behalf of my delegation under agenda item 64 “Promotion and protection of human rights”, and would like to use this opportunity to brief this Committee on the Democratic and Human Rights Reform Agenda, that we have been pursuing in the Maldives for the last four years.
The Reform Agenda, launched in 2004, aimed at nothing short of a complete democratic overhaul of the Maldives political system. The Agenda, guided by an accompanying Roadmap containing dates and deadlines, foresaw: a completely new Constitution with a full separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers; brand-new institutions and bodies including a Supreme Court, a Judicial Services Commission, a Prosecutor-General’s Office, a Human Rights Commission, a Civil Service Commission, and an Anti-Corruption Commission; significantly strengthened human rights safeguards through a new Bill of Rights and accession to eight of the nine international human rights conventions; the introduction of a party political system; the strengthening and growth of a free and robust independent press; and the establishment of a framework for the development of a vibrant civil society.
Many, both inside and outside the Maldives, doubted our ability and resolve to complete this enormous undertaking.
Those people were wrong.
Today, as we sit here in New York, the Maldives is basking in a new dawn. Even as I speak, the people of the Maldives are in the process of electing a President for the next five years in a free and fair multiparty election that was observed by a range of international bodies. The second round of Presidential elections which has just been completed a few hours ago in the Maldives, like the first which was held three weeks ago, saw huge voter turnout and unbridled popular enthusiasm. Indeed the manner in which the People of the Maldives grasped their democratic right and conducted themselves in such an important and historic vote, is perhaps the greatest and most poignant testimony to the new Maldives that we have been able to build over the past four years.
This new Maldives is premised on the ideal that a successful, happy and prosperous society must be built upon the protection and promotion of the rights of every individual. All of us are born with the same inalienable rights and freedoms and understanding, asserting and enjoying those rights is the secret to an enlightened future in which each day is better than the last.
The fact that the Reform Agenda has reached its conclusion this year, 2008, is of course significant as we mark the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The theme of the United Nations campaign to mark this anniversary – “Dignity and Justice for All” could easily have been the theme for our own domestic reforms.
The Reform Agenda, in essence, transposes the International Bill of Rights into national legislation and then seeks to bring those rights to life; to change words and values into deeds, beliefs, structures and procedures.
- The right to equality before and under the law is now constitutionally guaranteed for all irrespective of nationality, gender, colour, race or origin.
- The right to vote and run for public office came to life in spectacular fashion during this month’s elections which saw seven candidates vie for presidential office and witnessed an 85% turnout.
- Freedom of expression is now a reality of daily life in the Maldives. The country now boasts a vibrant media community encapsulating a broad cross section of political and social views. There are already twelve daily newspapers, four private television stations, and seven private radio stations and a myriad of magazines and other publications operating in a country with a population of only 300,000 people.
- Freedom of association is now enjoyed by twelve political parties and a huge array of civil society organizations.
- Freedom of assembly without prior consent is now a constitutionally-guaranteed right and rallies and demonstrations are now commonplace.
- The right to a fair and public trial and other related judicial rights are now protected by a new Supreme Court, with members appointed by an independent Judicial Services Commission.
- Freedom from cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or torture is now guarded by an independent Human Rights Commission which acts as the National Preventative Mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
While we are very proud of our achievements, we are at the same time conscious that while the Reform Agenda may be successfully completed, there is still much work to do in terms of embedding and strengthening the reforms that have been undertaken. We are also conscious that our success is also the United Nation’s success. Since our independence, the Maldives has been a committed multilateralist and a dedicated Member of the United Nations family. The free, just and democratic Maldives that exists today and that promises “dignity and justice for all” was crafted with the help of our friends in the United Nations system and international community more broadly. At a time of great political and economic uncertainty around the world, it is important that we recall this fact and use it to remind ourselves of our ability, when working together, to build the “Better World” envisioned in the UN Charter.
Thank you Mr. Chairman,