Maldives rejoins the Commonwealth just one hour after Brexit

1 February 2020, 18:33 | Updated: 1 February 2020, 18:36

Maldives has rejoined the Commonwealth
Maldives has rejoined the Commonwealth. Picture: Getty

The Maldives has rejoined the Commonwealth just one hour and one minute after Britain formally left the EU.

The change means the total number of nations in the global organisation is 54.

President Ibrahim "Ibu" Mohamed Solih, a campaigner for democracy during decades of autocratic rule who was elected in 2018, pledged change and swiftly applied to rejoin.

The island nation has been readmitted after showing evidence of functioning democratic processes and popular support for being part of the family of nations.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland, announcing the decision, said: "I warmly congratulate Maldives on its successful application.

"We are delighted to welcome the country and its people back to the Commonwealth.

The move means the Queen will once again be the symbolic figurehead of the country
The move means the Queen will once again be the symbolic figurehead of the country. Picture: PA

"The reform process under way in Maldives aligns with the values and principles of the Commonwealth and we encourage the nation to continue on this path.

"Commonwealth members were pleased to note these developments and are happy once again to count Maldives as a member of the family.

"Together we will support Maldives to realise its ambitions."

Baroness Scotland consulted the other Commonwealth nations, who all had to agree to Maldives' readmission for it to go ahead.

Famed for its sandy white beaches and luxury tourist resorts, the Indian Ocean archipelago - home to around 500,000 people - is formed of nearly 1,200 islands, most of them uninhabited.

President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was elected in 2018 and swiftly applied to rejoin
President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was elected in 2018 and swiftly applied to rejoin. Picture: PA

In 2016, the Maldives government quit the global body under former president Yameen Abdul Gayoom, saying it had been treated "unjustly and unfairly".

The country had been threatened with sanctions including suspension if it failed to show progress in key democratic governance issues, including the prompt release of political leaders and misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

Mr Yameen, who was elected in 2013, was accused of a crackdown on political rivals, courts and the media.

But he was replaced by opposition leader Mr Solih in a shock result in elections in 2018.

The islands, which became a multi-party democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule, had been in political turmoil since its first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, announced his resignation in 2012.

It followed a mutiny by the police and weeks of demonstrations against his order to arrest the senior judge. He later said he was forced out in a coup.

All member countries of the Commonwealth must subscribe to the values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter, including a commitment to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity.

Maldives, which last joined the Commonwealth in 1982, will now be part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda, in June.

The Queen is the symbolic head of the Commonwealth, and more than 2.4 billion citizens make up the voluntary association.

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