The Maldivian government has expressed “disappointment” over a “misleading” statement by the Canadian Foreign Ministry, which accused it of threatening to arrest its political opponents with a view to eliminating former President Mohamed Nasheed’s candidacy in an upcoming election.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), issued a statement on July 27, in which he stated “It is clear that the arrests of senior officials of the Nasheed government are politically motivated. Such actions are completely unacceptable and must be reversed.”
“The threats of the present government to arrest its opponents, including former President Nasheed – the only democratically elected president in the last four decades – so as to prevent his candidacy, undermine that government’s credibility and violate its undertakings to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group,” Baird said.
“The Maldives has been given the benefit of the doubt by the Commonwealth so far. Continued intimidation, illegal arrests and other authoritarian tactics by the present government may require the Commonwealth to consider a different approach, in our view.”
Canada’s statement preceded a rally by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), at which senior party figures blasted the government for not being able to “put down” Nasheed “and his 200 hounds”, and called for the ousted President to be “put in solitary confinement”.
On July 24, former Justice Minister under Gayoom and current Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel, described Nasheed, his party and the Raajje TV station as “enemies of the state.”
“We will take action against whoever incites violence against the police, no matter who it is or what kind of position they hold or have held in the past,” Jameel vowed.
Following Nasheed’s resignation under controversial circumstances on February 7, the Criminal Court issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest.
Nasheed’s government had detained Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, accusing him of “taking the entire judicial system in his fist” in order to protect the remnants of Gayoom’s administration from prosecution for corruption and human rights abuses.
The warrant was never acted on by the police, amid tense confrontations outside Nasheed’s residence.
However police this week ordered Nasheed to attend police headquarters on August 2, to answer allegations in a tapped phone conversation that he had request supporters “fight back” against police.
“The Waheed administration is currently demonstrating a clear pattern of abuse of power and tactics aimed at removing President Nasheed from the upcoming Presidential race,” claimed MDP Spokesperson, MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who was himself recently arrested.
“The letter to summon President Nasheed is baseless and fails to state any specific charges. The letter refers indirectly to attacks on police, vandalising of police property and claims that their observations have led them to believe President Nasheed is responsible for such events.
“This summons is an attempt by the Government to thwart the progress of the Commission of National Inquiry and former President Nasheed’s participation in upcoming elections. Furthermore, members of the security forces have openly issued death threats to President Nasheed.
“In the absence of any specific criminal charges, “we are of the opinion that the only safe course of action will be for President Nasheed to provide a written statement without physically entering the police station,” Ghafoor said.
However in its response to the Canadian government, the Maldives’ Foreign Ministry said it “would like to make it very clear to the members of the international community that the government has not arrested, nor has it made any threat of arresting, its political opponents.” the Maldives Foreign Ministry responded.
Instead, the Ministry stated, “it is the prerogative of the Prosecutor General to decide on whom and when to charge an individual of criminal offence.”
“As part of a reform programme launched in 2004, the Maldives adopted a new Constitution with clear separation of powers between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government.
“The Constitution also established several new State-bodies, such as the Prosecutor General, and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives. These institutions are fully independent from the Executive branch of the government, and indeed assert their independence.
“Now that these institutions are independent, everyone, including our valuable friends in the international community, should be prepared to accept the decisions of these institutions,” the Ministry said.