The Commonwealth Ministerial Action (CMAG) has said it will consider taking “further and stronger measures” against the Maldives government unless the composition of its Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) is revised in the next four weeks.
During a meeting held in London today that was attended by representatives of both the government and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), CMAG continued to call for fresh elections to be called this year.
The need for long-term measures to strengthen the capacity of the country’s judicial sector, as well as fresh party talks between the country’s most senior political representatives to help resolve the current political situation was also raised.
Following the conclusion of today’s talks, CMAG said its members were critical of the government’s attempts so far to establish an independent enquiry into the exact nature of how President Mohamed Waheed Hassan came to power earlier this year.
The CNI, which is charged by the government with looking into the legality and legitimacy of the transfer of presidential power on February 7, was set up amidst international calls to provide an independent assessment of the legitimacy of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration.
The now opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which alleges that former President Mohamed Nasheed was deposed in a coup d’état, has refused to work with the CNI claiming it lacks impartiality and had no international representation.
While reiterating its previous calls for presidential elections to be held by the end of this year, CMAG said it was with “deep regret that there had been little progress towards a political understanding in the Maldives” during the last month.
“The Group was of the view that the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), established to assess the events leading to the transfer of power on 7 February 2012, is not independent or impartial, and has failed to gain sufficient support in Maldives,” CMAG said in a statement.
“Ministers urged the Government to review immediately the composition and terms of reference of the Commission to make it genuinely independent, credible and impartial. CMAG reiterated the Commonwealth’s offer to provide assistance in this regard.”
Amidst the concerns said to be held by the CMAG over the independence of the CNI and its ability to conduct an independent enquiry into the change of government back in February, the body also set out a time-line for the government to adhere to in order to enact reforms.
“Further and stronger measures”
“Should the composition and terms of reference of the [CNI] not be amended within four weeks in a manner that is generally acceptable and enhances its credibility, CMAG would be compelled to consider further and stronger measures,” the body concluded.
Aside from continuing to push for the establishment of fresh elections by the end of 2012, CMAG added that it also supported Commonwealth’s assistance in order to “strengthen democratic processes, institutions and culture in the Maldives.”
“In this context, it expressed support for the Commonwealth Secretariat’s technical assistance for strengthening for the long term the capacity of the judicial sector, as agreed with the authorities in Maldives,” CMAG added.
“It also welcomed the Secretary-General’s offer to provide elections-related assistance. The Group further called for the capacity of the Majlis to be strengthened.”
In supporting these stated aims, CMAG additionally welcomed ongoing collaborations between other international parties such as the UN and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The CMAG panel that presided over today’s talks was comprised of Foreign Ministers from member states including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Jamaica, Sierra Leone,Tanzania and Trinidad and Tobago.
The representatives during the course of the talks were updated on the current situation in the Maldives by the Commonwealth Secretary General and his Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon who has visited the country to meet with various representatives from both sides of the political divide.
The Maldives government was represented at the talks by Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor, who presented evidence during the day to the CMAG panel. Dr Farahanaz Faizal also met with the CMAG panel as a representative for former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Azima Shakoor could not be contacted by Minivan News at the time of going to press for her reaction to CMAG’s conclusions.
Speaking to Minivan News yesterday ahead of today’s CMAG meeting, President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that the government felt the success of its coalition partners in three out of four by-elections over the weekend was an indication of its “mandate” amongst the Maldivian people.
Abbas therefore called on international bodies such as CMAG to take the results of the weekend’s polls into consideration when reflecting on the need for early presidential elections before the ones already scheduled for 2013.
“It is clear that there is public support in the country for this government and that there are not any problems with its constitutional mandate to be in power. In three out of the four elections held, the coalition won by a clear majority,” he said at the time. “The MDP has continued to call for early elections, though yesterday’s elections show that the public backs the government until early elections can be held in July 2013.”
In a statement released Saturday whilst polling was being conducted, the MDP maintained the by-elections indicated that the country was able to hold “free and fair elections” as soon as possible.
“The MDP has consistently called for early presidential elections in the Maldives to resolve the political deadlock that exists since the unlawful transfer of power on February 7 following police and military backed coup in the Maldives,” stated party spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor .
“Elections today are held at a time when [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom has publicly stated early Presidential elections would not be held in the Maldives citing conditions for elections are not right and also that Elections Commission does not have the capacity to hold early elections in the Maldives.”
CMAG was last month accused by members of President Waheed’s government of showing “bias” towards certain political parties in calling for general elections as early as possible to resolve questions over the administrations legitimacy.
The government later said it was concerned over the “language” used by the Commonwealth in its statement.
The President’s Office said last month said that although it was not for the time being looking to leave the Commonwealth, it added that such a move could be considered if CMAG continued to use similar language in the future.
“If this language continues, we will look to consider our position [in the Commonwealth],” government spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News at the time.
The government later denied it had made such claims, alleging to local media that the report in Minivan News had been “politically motivated”.