As the European Union reiterates calls for “urgent agreement” on a process for political reconciliation and elections in the Maldives, the government has said it would welcome international independent assistance on ratifying its legitimacy – but only by an organisation accepted by all parties.
The inclusion of international experts in the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) has been urged by numerous international actors as well as the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former President Nasheed. The CNI has been charged with looking into legality of the transfer of presidential power last month to ascertain the legitimacy of the current government.
It currently consists of three members: Ismail Shafeeu, former minister of defence and national security during President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s administration; Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Maldives National University; and Dr Ibrahim Yasir, former Director General of Health Services.
President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News today that there was now “consensus” among politicians for a foreign expert to sit on the panel of the CNI to ascertain the truth over the controversial transfer of power. However, Abbas claimed that the government was presently seeking UN assistance for the inquiry panel following allegations of bias by former opposition MPs and government ministers against “British interference” within the Commonwealth.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed in response that efforts by certain MPs and government members to discredit the Commonwealth in favour of the UN were nothing but a stalling tactic to delay appointing international assistance.
The Commonwealth, whose ministerial action group (CMAG) last week backed early elections in the country has been criticised by some former opposition MPs and government figures in the Maldives for the comments. The organisation has nonetheless been backed by the EU in its decision to send Special Envoy Sir Don McKinnon to the country over the last few days to hold dialogue with all parties and several former presidents.
Although, not directly echoing the Commonwealth’s calls 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 EU stressed concern over the continued political unrest in the Maldives.
“I believe it is of utmost importance that political parties and authorities abstain from taking any action that could further complicate matters. Moreover, the security of the leaders of political parties has to be guaranteed,” stated Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
“Agreement on the holding of early elections, on the independent investigation of the transfer of power of February 7 and on the re-establishment of the correct functioning of government and parliament is now more important than ever.”
Responding to the comments, Abbas Adil Riza said that President Waheed and his government appreciated the consideration of international bodies like the Commonwealth and EU regarding the current political situation in the country. He added that the government had therefore pledged to do everything they could to follow their advice.
The president’s spokesperson said the government was presently trying to work in line with international calls to host fresh presidential elections and a independent enquiry into the events leading to Dr Waheed coming to power on February 7.
“We are working hard to put together the most independent commission for the enquiry so we can have all parties to agree on its outcome,” Abbas stated. “Sadly MDP MPs have made accusations questioning the pointed panels independence so we have called on the UN to assist with this matter.”
When asked about the nature of this UN “assistance”, the government spokesperson said that discussions has so far related to securing an international expert to be appointed to the CNI panel.
However, Abbas stressed that the government favoured UN assistance – a body which has been noticeably silent amid the country’s growing political crisis. Abbas said some of the former opposition political parties, now in government, had accused the Commonwealth of being bribed by the MDP in local media.
“Since the MDP accusation questioning the independence of the current panel, the PPM and indeed some in the government have raised issues of British involvement in the Commonwealth. The international party has to play a role that is unbiased,” he said.
“The PPM, which is a major political party in this country, has outright accused the Commonwealth of bias.”
Abbas told Minivan News that amidst these allegations, acquiring the direct assistance of the UN, which represented a much wider scope of countries was a more preferable “solution to ensuring legality” of the government.
To this end, the spokesperson added that the foreign Ministry has been in touch with the UN over obtaining international assistance with the independent investigation and that responses had so far been “positive”.
However, he stressed that ensuring true independence in the Maldives was extremely difficult.
“The government is trying to find a balanced solution that all sides can agree upon. However, in a third world country like the Maldives the solutions are often very complex,” Abbas claimed. It is very complicated to maintain neutrality.”
However, MDP spokesperson, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party remained cautious over the government’s commitments to secure an international expert to oversee the independent investigation.
“What we have noticed is evasiveness by the government to finalise international involvement in the enquiry,” he said. “I believe the UN talks are a deviation.”
Ghafoor claimed that this alleged “reluctance” by the Waheed government to involve international experts in its affairs was reflected in what he called the disproportionate response from some MPs towards dismissing and insulting the Comonwealth.
To support this claim, he pointed to comments made by Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon, who dismissed calls by the Commonwealth for early elections as showing bias towards one particular party – presumably the MDP and former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Despite these concerns, Ghafoor said he was very encouraged by the latest EU statement issued by Catherine Ashton. The MDP spokesperson claimed the statement raised additional concerns regarding the current political situation from its previous statement last month, such as in the manner that government and parliament was presently functioning.
“We believe that this shows the situation has deteriorated further,” he claimed.