Attorney General Husnu Suood has described a claim by the Opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) that Guantánamo Bay detainees will get Maldivian citizenship as “a total lie.”
After a meeting with the US Ambassador in Colombo last week, DQP has said the agreement between the US and Maldivian government involves granting citizenship to any detainees resettled in the country.
AG Suood said negotiations were still at a very “early stage” and added that claims of the government giving citizenship to foreign detainees were fabricated.
“We are not obliged to give citizenship to foreigners,” he said, noting the same guidelines would apply to a foreign detainee as to any other foreign national wishing to acquire Maldivian citizenship.
He said “we are still in the preliminary stages of negotiation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the US Embassy and the governments,” and currently there is only “a basic text, a draft proposal” of the regulations and procedures for resettling Gitmo detainees in the country.
The AG’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will then make comments on the draft. “Based on that,” Suood said, “the ministry will negotiate.”
One of the conditions proposed by the US states that the Maldivian government shall “conduct surveillance on the prisoners while they are in the country, including monitoring their phone calls, letters and other communications.”
Additionally, they must “prevent them from leaving the country.”
Suood said “that’s what we’re seeking to clarify, how we deal with [the former inmates]”, and added that their comments and concerns would all be sent to the US Embassy before the transfer was formally accepted.
“There is no concrete agreement between the two countries as of yet,” he noted.
Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said “the government of Maldives supports President Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo,” adding that “a Palestinian gentleman is due to be transferred from Guantanamo to the Maldives.”
He said “the United States has cleared this Palestinian man of any association with terrorism or any violent activities,” and have also confirmed “he has no criminal charges pending against him.”
He noted the man could not return to the Middle East due to his association with Guantánamo, and it is feared his life will be in danger if he is sent back.
“We should support innocent Palestinians. As a people, they have suffered so much injustice,” Zuhair said. “I hope when he arrives in the Maldives, we will treat him as he should be treated: as a victim who has been jailed for many years even though he has committed no crime.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, said the identity of the prisoner “has not been confirmed yet,” and added it will only be confirmed once the National Security Committee has concluded its meetings and have cleared the detainee of any charges.
He said “it will take some time” until the committee concludes its inquiries, as they have to “look at files and go through the process they require.” Dr Shaheed said after the legal framework is looked at, they can start assessing individual detainees.
Dr Shaheed did not attend a committee meeting held today.
He said although the Palestinian man Zuhair referred to was “one of the candidates” to be transferred to the Maldives, “it is not confirmed.”
Citizenship for detainees was not something the government was discussing yet, he said.
“I’m not saying we will do it or not,” he said, adding it would only be raised after the legalities of the transfer were cleared.
He added the transfer of detainees to the country was being looked at as “temporary,” like a “half-way stop” for the detainees, and not something permanent.
MPs meet US High Commissioner
A number of MPs met with the US High Commissioner today, said Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan.
Besides Nihan, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdul Gafoor, Jumhoory Party MP Gasim ‘Buruma’ Ibrahim, DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed and Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed participated in the meeting.
Nihan said “very important doubts about the Gitmo issue were clarified by the American High Commissioner.”
“We exchanged information between the High Commissioner and MPs,” he said, noting “the High Commissioner gathered us to see our opinion on the issue.”
Nihan said in the meeting he highlighted how poor the communication is between people and the government, adding “the administrative decision was made inside the ‘smoking room’ of the president and not in the Cabinet.”
He said President Mohamed Nasheed never discussed the detainee issue with either Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed or the Cabinet.
“He always presents decisions in the cabinet meetings,” Nihan said, “but he did not discuss it with anyone before deciding.”
National security committee meeting
Parliament’s National Security Committee held their first meeting on the resettlement of Guantánamo Bay prisoners in the Maldives on Sunday, after it was postponed last week by Speaker of Parliament, Abdulla Shahid.
There are still more meetings to be held on the issue, as they need to hear from more government officials and police.
AG Suood said he was meant to attend a meeting tomorrow, but it has now been cancelled. He said he was asking the Majlis to look at Article 5 of their rules of procedure, which says “any summons should be in writing and signed by the Speaker.”
The AG said he and the foreign minister received letters of summons from Parliament, but “they were signed by a legal council” and not the Speaker. “We are seeking clarification,” he said.
The US Embassy in Colombo said they could not confirm or deny whether DQP members met with the ambassador last week, and could not say whether they spoke about the transfer of detainees or the issue of citizenship.
Leader of the DQP, Hassan Saeed, did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.