The decision was confirmed at one minute past midnight today, just one hour and one minute after Brexit was finally delivered at 11pm yesterday. The island paradise left the Commonwealth in 2016 after it was threatened with suspension over its human rights record and lack of progress on democratic reform.
However, President Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih, a campaigner for democracy during decades of autocratic rule, who was surprisingly elected in 2018, subsequently promised a programme of reforms, and swiftly applied to rejoin.
The island nation – which is home to just under 400,000 people – has been officially readmitted after demonstrating evidence of functioning democratic processes as well as popular support for being part of the family of nations.
Announcing the decision, Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland said: “I warmly congratulate Maldives on its successful application.
The Maldives, home to several species of sea turtle, has rejoined the Commonwealth
President Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih said it was a “happy day”
“We are delighted to welcome the country and its people back to the Commonwealth.
“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.
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President Solih chaired a meeting discussing a reapplication to join last year
“Together we will support Maldives to realise its ambitions.”
Consultation with other Commonwealth nations had revealed all were supportive of the Maldives’ readmission, Baroness Scotland said.
The Indian Ocean archipelago, which is famous for sandy white beaches and luxury tourism, consists of almost 1,200 islands, many of them uninhabited.
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Baroness Scotland said she was “delighted”
During last year’s election campaign, Mr Solih touted the importance of human rights and, since his surprise win, political prisoners have been freed and opposition figures allowed to return from exile.
He said: “Today is a happy day for Maldivians as we return to the family of Commonwealth nations.
“As a young democracy, the Commonwealth’s foundational values of the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, multilateralism and world peace remain relevant to us more than ever.
Nations which are members of the Commonwealth (plus Ireland, which is not)
Boris Johnson addresses the nation last night
“We gratefully acknowledge the support and help of the Commonwealth to the Maldivian democratic movement, and we look forward to the support of fellow member states to ensure the long-term entrenchment of these values in our society.”
The country underwent an assessment in accordance with the rules set down by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Kampala in 2007.
Former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom had pulled the Maldives out of the global body, citing what he called “unjust” treatment, after the country was threatened with sanctions including suspension if it failed to show progress in what were described as “key democratic governance issues”.
Former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom
Mr Yameen, who was elected in 2013, had been accused of a crackdown on political rivals, courts and the media.
Speaking prior to the 2018 Presidential election, Viraj Solanki of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told Express.co.uk: “The chief concerns of both the joint opposition in the Maldives as well as international organisations and regional powers, have been of ensuring ‘free, fair and inclusive’ elections in the Maldives; restoring the political process in the country; and ensuring the country’s security and stability.
“This also includes concerns that vote rigging will be likely during the election, as well international media not being granted visas to cover the elections.”