The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has expressed “disappointment and deep concern” at the lack of progress in the all-party talks, intended to lead to an early election and resolution of the current political crisis.
The MDP has said it remains committed to discussions around setting a date for early elections, however the former opposition parties with strong representation in the newly reappointed executive, including the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Adhaalath Party (AP), Jumhoree Party (JP) and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), withdrew from the talks following the disruption of parliament on March 1, after the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) refused to allow Dr Mohamed Waheed to deliver the presidential address to the opening session. A similar stand-off is expected on Monday, with the MDP maintaining that Dr Waheed’s presidency is illegitimate, and the new government reluctant to set an election date, citing the need for “conditions to be right”.
In a statement issued on Friday, CMAG said it “continued to be strongly of the view 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].”
CMAG – the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm – “urged all parties to engage in dialogue without delay, in earnest and in good faith with a view to achieving agreement on the date of early elections, and the processes required to do so, including any necessary constitutional amendments and supporting legislation.”
Following a fact-finding mission in February and an extraordinary meeting on the situation in London, the Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from participation in CMAG and called for an internationally-assisted independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the change of government on February 7, which former President Mohamed Nasheed contends was an opposition resort owner-sponsored and police and military-led coup d’état.
The Commonwealth also expressed concern about early efforts on behalf of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s new government to arrest former President Nasheed, following the issuing of an arrest warrant in the immediate days following the change of power.
In its most recent statement, CMAG expressed regret over the disruption of parliament on March 1, and “urged all parties to engage in dialogue without delay, in earnest and in good faith with a view to achieving agreement on the date of early elections, and the processes required to do so, including any necessary constitutional amendments and supporting legislation.
“The Group also noted that the Commission of National Inquiry in Maldives had commenced its investigation into the events between 14 January and 8 February 2012, but that it had not secured cross-party support. In this context, CMAG acknowledged that international assistance for the investigative mechanism has been requested, and noted that the Commonwealth could be of potential assistance. It reiterated its strong belief in the importance of the work of the Commission and the conviction this should carry in Maldives and internationally.”
A programme of assistance for the judiciary will commence shortly, CMAG stated, and noted the arrival of the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, on March 16.
“During his visit, the Special Envoy hopes to meet all the principal stakeholders to promote the consolidation of democratic culture and institutions and Commonwealth values and principles, to encourage inclusive agreement among political leaders on a way forward from the current situation, and to oversee further Commonwealth support for Maldives, including technical assistance,” the organisation noted.
Meanwhile the Maldives remains on CMAG’s agenda. The group will meet in decided to retain Maldives on its agenda, noting that it would meet in April when further steps could be considered in light of progress over the next month.
The most recent CMAG meeting was chaired by Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Communications of Trinidad and Tobago.
Other Ministers participating in the teleconference included Senator Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia; John Baird, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada; Bernard K Membe, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Tanzania; and Ebun Jusu, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone.