Sunday, June 3, 2007

European Union asks Maldives to re-start talks with opposition and usher in democracy

The European Union (EU) has called on the Maldivian government to re-start talks with the opposition aimed to bring democracy to the islands.

"The EU urgently calls upon the President of the Maldives to take concrete steps in this direction by creating an enabling environment for talks," the EU said in a demarche issued following talks with the atoll government Sunday.

"There is no alternative to the major parties in Maldives working together to introduce democracy. The absence of a formal process is likely to lead to further confrontation on the streets, that is in everyone’s interest to avoid."

The demarche also called on the government of Maldives to investigate the recent mysterious death of an opposition activist, Hussein Salah.

"The EU believes that there needs to be a proper investigation into recent events, including Mr. Salah’s death some weeks ago and that the use of force cannot solve political problems.

" At the same time, tragic though Mr. Salah’s death is, political leaders in Maldives need to raise their sights above these events and focus on how to revive the talks aimed at introducing democracy."

EU Head of Missions in Sri Lanka have been asked to make the demarche and to report back to the Council and their Capitals about the situation and the progress, the statement said.

The EU also approved a 4 million euro aid package on top of an earlier 19 million euro grant and 50 million euro soft loan.

The EU is Maldives' largest trading partner, purchasing fishery products and being the largest source of tourists the archipelago.

The country has the highest per capita income in South Asia, the lowest inflation and highest economic growth but opposition has been growing against President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who has ruled the islands for nearly three decades.

The opposition Maldives Democratic Party, many of whose activists have been imprisoned or exiled, has been leading the protests.

The death of Salah sparked protests in Male and his native Addu Atoll.

Source: LBO

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