The Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Ben Rogers, was in the Maldives last week and has issued a detailed report of the situation there. The Commission was launched last year and has already done some good work – it recently had a hearing on Burma and is soon to be holding one on Eritrea. I should declare my interest though, as I am a member of it (and Ben has written for YourPlatform five times).
He met with an impressive array of Government representatives, members of the Maldivian Democratic Party, and the local media. The Maldives is a small Islamic archipelago of around 300,000 people, Ben seemed to make a quite an impact on the capital, with the local media labelling him a "British Human Rights Envoy", and the government appearing fairly co-operative (despite a little ‘misunderstanding’).
2003 was a bad year for democracy in the country, with the government blocking the MDP website. There was also the infamous human rights case of a prisoner being tied to a tree and beaten to death by the police in the middle of the night. The ensuing riots (and shootings of rioters) marked a key time in Maldivian politics, with President Gayoom (who has been Head of both State and Government for 28 years) sanctioning an official Human Rights Commission to monitor the government.
A synopsis of what the report concludes is in the final paragraph:
"It is time now for the Government of the Maldives to support its reformist rhetoric with bold action, and to undertake steps
immediately to give the democratic movement and the international community
confidence in its sincerity. The Government must take the lead in creating
conditions conducive to all party dialogue and a transition to multi-party
democracy. If it does take such steps, as recommended above, the Opposition
must be ready to respond generously and constructively."
Promoting democracy and speaking out on human rights abuses (despite some misgivings about the concept of human rights) is thoroughly Conservative in principle. It also tangibly shows that we are interested in other people, which builds up trust for our other policies, and appeals particularly to the under-30’s – a group we came third with in 2005. Members of the media should note that a lot of Conservatives are passionate about these issues, and that they are being taken on seriously by the Party.