The first talks of the political parties on the “Roadmap for a Possible Way Forward”, initiated by the President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, were cancelled on Monday night after the former ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) boycotted the meeting calling it “a clear effort to delay substantive discussions”.
The first meeting was set to start at Nasandhura Palace Hotel at 8.30pm last night with representatives from nine parties, with former Tourism Minister Ahmed Mujthaba appointed as convener by Dr Waheed to mediate the talks.
Representatives of all parties aside from the MDP attended the meeting. After a 15 minute wait for MDP members to appear, Mujthaba told the press the meeting was cancelled due to the absence of MDP.
He noted that unofficial talks however continued between the parties and that date for the next meeting would be set when MDP’s participation was confirmed.
Meanwhile, in a press statement the MDP said it had planned to participate in the talks, and expressed the party’s “commitment to serious talks between responsible political parties to ensure a smooth transition towards early elections, as per the roadmap mediated by the Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.”
However, according to the statement, MDP decided not to take part “when it became clear that the talks were to include political parties with no democratic mandate, and that they would focus on procedural issues such as the timing and venue for future talks – a clear effort to delay substantive discussions.”.
MDP said the talks must focus on substantive issues such as the timing and conditions for early elections and related transitional arrangements – topics which MDP officials claim were not on last night’s agenda.
“Yesterday’s events – together with comments by Dr Waheed reported in the media – create doubts as to whether he is agreeable to early elections at all,” MDP claimed in the statement.
“The Maldives is in the midst of a serious political crisis. A crisis which can only be resolved by free and fair elections at an early date. In a democracy, only the people have the right to decide who should govern them. It is therefore vital that all serious political parties meet as soon as possible to address the real issue – the date and conditions for early elections. MDP stands ready to participate in such talks for the good of the country,” said MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.
The party also said it had made it clear that the talks must only involve parties which either have a seat in parliament or in a local council.
Minority opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) headed by the Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, which was present in last night’s talks, does not have official representation in the parliament or on an elected council. Under parliamentary regulations, MPs who joined Gayoom’s PPM from the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) technically count as independent MPs until elected on a PPM ticket in the next parliamentary election.
Minivan News asked Mujthaba about the MDP’s allegations and sought details on the talks, however he responded that the Roadmap Secretariat had decided to temporarily cease giving interviews to the media.
“We have decided to not to give any further interviews to the press at the moment as we are trying to set up the next roadmap meeting,” he explained. “But we will continue to invite MDP to participate in the meeting.
However he added that last night’s meeting had an “open agenda” and members were allowed to discuss all elements of the roadmap.
Meanwhile, speaking on Tuesday morning, Nasheed said the MDP’s position remained that disputes should be resolved through peaceful dialogue and negotiations.
He added that “MDP and most Maldivian citizens” agreed with the DRP’s position that in the event of an early presidential election this year the constitution should be amended to ensure there would not be another election in 2013.
Discussions should therefore involve political parties represented in parliament as a two-third majority would be needed to approve the constitutional amendments, Nasheed continued, suggesting that smaller parties without any seats in Majlis “would find it difficult at the moment to help with deciding a date for an election.”
Minority parties could however participate in talks on reforming the judiciary and security services, Nasheed suggested.
MDP would enter discussions today on amending the constitutional provision requiring an election in 2013, Nasheed revealed, inviting other political parties to join the talks.
“In my view, what we lost was democracy,” Nasheed said. “What we lost was not the rule of Galolhu Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed. His rule isn’t important either. Nor is he a very important person. What we have lost are principles and conventions we have long-desired for this country – these were essential for our development and progress.”