The Indian-sponsored all-party roadmap talks that stalled last month appear to be gathering momentum again after parties agreed on a new set of priority issues.
After asking the parties involved to list the five issues that concerned them most, the convener, Ahmed Mujuthaba, compiled a list of three issues which would be focused on in future talks.
The primary concerns of all the parties combined were: firstly, the country’s economic troubles; secondly, the constitution and laws of the country; and, thirdly, the judiciary and crime.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were represented at the talks by Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who said the meeting was “very successful.”
Jumhoree Party (JP) representative at the talks Abbas Adil Riza – also President Mohamed Waheed’s spokesperson – informed Minivan News that there had been an agreement that only the convener would comment to the media on the content of the talks.
Despite repeated attempts, Minivan News was unable to contact Mujuthaba.
“I think there is momentum,” said Ghafoor. “We should have done this from the start.”
This is in stark contrast to the reaction of the previous MDP representative in the last round of talks, former Home Minister Hassan Afeef, who branded the talks “ridiculous”, describing them as “a farce”.
The talks appeared to have stalemated at the conclusion of the last meeting on April 7 after the MDP continued to question the make-up of the talks. The party argued at that meeting that all registered parties in the country ought to be included in the discussions, criticising the decision to include certain government-aligned parties without an apparent democratic mandate.
Ghafoor explained that the main concern of the MDP was that the party would have been outnumbered eight to one, making voting on any decisions senseless, despite it representing the largest number of MPs and political membership. However, Ghafoor explained that the convener had yesterday made it clear the process of agreement would now be based on consensus rather than votes, meaning that this previous objection was “no longer relevant”.
Whilst the talks do not immediately address the calls for early elections, Ghafoor argued that other parties could not avoid the issue forever.
“We agreed to start talks with issues they are comfortable with,” he said, but argued that the discussion of early elections remained a key part of the talks envisioned in President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s road map.
“As long as the roadmap exists, the issue of early elections exists,” commented Ghafoor.
The talks are being observed by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) mediation expert Pierre-Yves Monette. After speaking with parties following the last round of talks, Monette was reported by Sun Online as stating that he had seen no serious obstructions to a successful resolution of political differences.
“The worst thing would be not to want to listen to others, to be incapable of listening to other points of view. I have experienced this in my job in many other countries – but I don’t find that here. There is clearly willingness to listen, and to talk. They know they disagree on major issues. They are ready to listen to the arguments of others and to enter a dialogue: this is the beginning of a possible solution,” Monette was reported as saying.
Ghafoor said he felt that Monette had played a “significant part” in making this round of talks a success. He did, however, note a tension amongst the smaller parties represented at the talks towards the observer, notably those with little or no formal representation in the Majlis or local government, including the Gaumee Ittihad (GI), Jumhoree Party (JP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
He argued that even the presence of Monette at the talks prompted a xenophobic response from these groups. Of the list of concerns listed by the parties and collated by the convener, Ghafoor claimed that foreign interference was a point raised by many of those present.
The all party roadmap talks resumed yesterday following the return to the country of the convener of the talks Ahmed Mujuthaba.
A coalition of Maldivian NGOs working under the banner ‘Thinvana Adu’ (Third Way) called earlier this week for a renewal of efforts to enhance dialogue between political parties. “It is our belief that a crucial step towards resolving the political crisis in the country…is for all political parties to resume dialogue and commit to a politics of compromise.”
In a press release, the group gave a thinly veiled criticism of Mujthaba’s schedule, which has seen him absent from the country for long periods of time, further slowing the progress of the talks.
“The Party Talks convener must be able to devote adequate time to the matter,” read the statement.
The next meeting is scheduled on May 5, between 2:00pm and 6:00pm. Ghafoor claimed that the convener had wished to devote longer to the talks. He said that Mujuthaba’s desire for an intensive three-day session was blocked by the smaller parties.