President Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News today that although the government was not currently looking to re-assess the country’s role as a member of the intergovernmental organisation, it was concerned over the language used in a statement by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on Friday.
“The government is concerned at the language that has been used by the Commonwealth [in the latest statement] and we condemn it. The foreign minister has conveyed this as well,” he said. “If this language continues, we will look to consider our position [in the Commonwealth].”
Riza added that the government would also forward its concerns about the language of the CMAG statement to the Commonwealth’s Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, who arrived in the Maldives on Friday.
Debate over the role of the Commonwealth in the Maldives has intensified over the last week following the political uncertainty generated by the ongoing controversy over the transfer of power that saw Dr Waheed replace Mohamed Nasheed as president on February 7, 2012.
In Friday’s statement, CMAG said it “continued to be strongly of the view that the earliest possible expression of the will of the people was required to establish universal faith in the legitimacy of those who govern the [Maldives].”
The government has since responded that discussions, road map talks, and other constitutional amendments designed to set out plans for any early elections remained an “internal issue”. Riza therefore called on the Commonwealth to refrain from issuing further statements with “language like that”.
Speaking yesterday about the elections calls, Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon said that CMAG, which serves as the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm, had shown some bias in its comments. However, she added that the statement had been positive about some of the government’s initiatives to try stabilise the country’s fractured political structure.
“The statement somewhat promotes the interests of a certain party or a certain individual. But I don’t want to say that exactly. Because there are many statements that are positive towards the government,” the foreign minister told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it will continue to try and prevent the Majlis from functioning until a date for early elections is set.
The CMAG had raised concerns regarding the obstruction of parliament by MDP MPs during the opening on March 1. It expressed regret over the disruption of parliament on March 1 and urged “all parties to engage in dialogue without delay, in earnest and in good faith with a view to achieving agreement on the date of early elections”.
MDP spokesperson, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said continuing to try and block the Majlis was a “thorny issue,” but believed the party could viably continue its attempts to block parliament.
He added that from the party’s perspective, it had little choice but to continue to try and prevent parliament from holding its opening position to “protect” the integrity of the Majlis.
“The moment we allow a coup leader to address parliament, the public will begin to question the integrity of the Majlis,” he claimed.
Former President Nasheed told his supporters that he himself planned to be on the front lines of the protests outside the reconvened Majlis session tomorrow and claimed that authorities “would have to shoot him” before they could proceed with the opening.
The government maintains the allowing the Majlis to open and Dr Waheed to speak to parliament was a constitutional requirement and not related to calls for Waheed to concede early elections.
In addressing the MDP’s comments, Abbas Adil Riza said that the Majlis operated as a separate entity from the president and therefore calls to hold fresh elections were not related to allowing parliament to function.
Riza added that the government was therefore calling on former President Nasheed to “stop advocating violence” particularly among young people, in regards to blocking the Majlis and opposing the government.
“More than 200 youths currently face charges for torching public buildings since February 8,” he added.
Though Riza said that the public would be free to gather on some of the capital’s roads to protest, he added that inside the parliament chamber, it was for the Speaker of the Majlis, Abdulla Shahid, and not the government to ensure parliament functioned correctly.
The government spokesperson added that just as under the government of Mohamed Nasheed, the speaker had control of 60 Majlis guards that had the power to remove disruptive elements from the parliamentary floor.
Despite CMAG’s criticism of efforts to block parliament from functioning, Ghafoor claimed that international calls from groups like the Commonwealth for early elections and constitutional reforms showed that there were questions to be answered over the legitimacy of the present government.
“We do not believe Dr Waheed to be a legitimate leader,” he said. “The MDP’s position is to try and find a political situation to agree on an election date and the corresponding constitutional reforms required to do this before opening parliament. This was highlighted and agreed by MDP members, but rejected by the opposition.”
Ghafoor claimed that the MDP has been working with the government and opposition politicians to try and secure an end to the current political deadlock. However, the spokesperson claimed that Parliamentary Group leader Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih, has previously expressed concern that Dr Waheed was not open to finding a potential solution on a timetable for elections.
Opposition parties including the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) have so far withdrawn from the roadmap talks aimed at finding a political solution to the current upheaval in protest at the MDP blocking parliament earlier this month.