The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has today welcomed efforts to resume the stalled all-party talks, despite warning that any agreement on resolving political tensions in the Maldives had been “complicated” by opposition criticism of a draft report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).
The all-party talks, which were last held back in June, are one track of the international community’s response to the political turmoil in the Maldives, together with the Commonwealth-backed CNI.
DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said today that his party had no objections to resume these all-party talks and subsequent discussions over the possibility of setting early elections.
However, Thasmeen claimed criticisms of the CNI’s findings by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s own representative on the commission threatened to compromise the chances of finding a potential resolution through dialogue.
The DRP is presently one of several parties serving in the coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.
President Waheed announced on Friday (August 24) during an official visit to Sri Lanka that he would be inviting “political parties” to attend fresh all party talks, initially launched to try and resolve an ongoing deadlock in the country surrounding the controversial transfer of power that brought him to office in February.
While welcoming fresh talks, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which alleges that President Waheed came to power in a “coup d’etat”, has raised several concerns over the “conflicting statements” made by the government concerning talks of early elections and discussions on the potential outcomes of the CNI report.
The independence of the CNI’s report into the events surrounding the transfer of power on February 7 was itself today questioned by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s appointee to the commission, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed.
Saeed alleged that certain information and evidence provided to the CNI had been omitted in a draft report of the body’s findings drawn up by the commission’s co-chair.
“There are significant gaps in the draft and it does not include evidence and statements given to the commission by many people. I believe remaining silent on the unfolding of events would be an injustice to this nation and to the people of the Maldives,” he announced today.
DRP Leader Thasmeen contended that Saeed’s comments had potentially compromised the success for all-party talks to resolve the current political tensions, as key players had now begun taking positions on the CNI’s findings before they had even been released.
“One party is now making judgements on the CNI, when the whole idea was to set out potential responses to the CNI before its findings are released,” he said. “Now people are changing their positions on how they will respond to the findings and things will be much more complicated on reaching acceptance on the report.”
Thasmeen contended therefore that “regardless of the CNI’s outcome”, all parties should accept its findings.
In moving forward with all-party talks, Thasmeen claimed that the DRP itself had no objections to the nature of potential topics on the agenda – a consideration that had seen earlier all-party talks stall on a number of occasions.
“Preconditions are not healthy in these talks, but today’s events have made things much more complicated now,” he said.
Thasmeen added at the time of press that he had not yet been made aware of whether a formal invite to the all-party talks from the president had been received by the DRP as he had been away travelling. He added that while the DRP welcomed talks between political representatives “at the highest level”, the party would wait to see who else would be attending the discussions before nominating its own candidate to take part.
The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – a government coalition partner of the DRP – last night announced it would also be accepting President Waheed’s invite to participate in talks.
PPM Leader and former Maldivan President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told local media that the party’s decision to previously abandon the all-party talks had followed the start of what he claimed were “illegal activities” and protests carried out by the MDP.
PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer declined to comment today when contacted by Minivan News about the party’s participation in the talks or its response to the CNI’s findings.
While also welcoming the possibility of fresh talks today, MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that President Waheed had continued to be acting “irresponsibly” by giving conflicting statements regarding his support for talks. Ghafoor said this was seen particularly in the manner the president had addressed issues such as discussing early elections and the possible outcomes of the CNI.
“[President Waheed] has said in Colombo that is the opposition who are destabilising the country at present, but it is his own conflicting positions that are doing this,” he alleged.
Ghafoor pointed to claims made by the president in both international and local media during his visit to Sri Lanka over the last week that he said showed conflicting viewpoints with his stated desire to resume the talks. President Waheed and his government in a number of interviews ruled out Commonwealth calls for early elections, as well as maintaining there would be no discussion on the outcome’s of the CNI until its work was completed.
“We would welcome the all-party talks. On August 14 we proposed discussions on three potential outcomes of the CNI. By August 18 we had got a reply from the government, who have since then been giving conflicting statements to the media,” Ghafoor claimed. “[President Waheed] has now called for all parties to join in talks and discuss the previous six point agenda, which includes the issue of early elections. He has also said that early elections are out of the question as the Commonwealth doesn’t understand the present situation.”
Following Saeed’s statement today, the MDP convened an emergency meeting of its National Council, where a resolution expressing concern on the draft CNI report was adopted with unanimous consent. The resolution was proposed by former minister Mohamed Shihab and seconded by MP Mariya Ahmed Didi,
Despite the party’s criticism of the investigation, Ghafoor contended that there remained time to find consensus among the members of the CNI panel concerning the findings before they were released to the public on Thursday (August 30).
“The CNI report should be something that all its members have to agree upon so without MDP’s word, the report would not be authentic,” Ghafoor said. “There is a draft out there that appears to conclude that there was no police mutiny [on February 7], this is just not acceptable given what the public saw,” he claimed.
President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza and Media secretary Masood Imad were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press.
However, speaking to local media following the release of Saeed’s statement today, Abbas claimed that Nasheed’s representative on the CNI panel had “violated” the agreement with the Commonwealth concerning disclosing details of the investigation.
“The Commonwealth agreement Nasheed signed states that a Singaporean judge will reside in CNI. No one must interfere with the work of the commission and also states that everyone must accept the findings of the commission,” he was quoted as saying in newspaper Haveeru. “But the representative from Nasheed sharing the draft report with the public is an indication that Nasheed does not respect any agreement.”
Abbas reportedly added that as a draft report, the CNI members still had room to discuss finalising the findings before their release.
The previous round of the UN-mediated all-party talks, held at Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort and Spa in early June, collapsed after parties aligned with the government presented the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with a list of 30 demands.
The list included calls that the MDP “stop practicing black magic and sorcery”, “stop the use of sexual and erotic tools”, and “not walk in groups of more than 10”.
Following the Bandos retreat meeting, Convenor of the All-Party talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, acknowledged the lack of progress and suggested that “In the end, the most senior political leaders will need to create an atmosphere conducive to discussions, and come together prepared to work in good faith.”
Earlier this month, informal parliament-initiated talks – running parallel to the formal All-Party talks – were deemed to have stalled after participants failed to reach a consensus on resolving wider ongoing political deadlock and the suspension of the People’s Majlis.