The killer headlines these days are about the standstill to Maldives political party peace talks.
The UN has spent more than US$40,000 to recruit a peace negotiator, and the resources allocated towards this are justifiable. There have to be efforts made to resolve the bickering and barking of the political parties.
In my graduate studies in human rights and peace studies, I was asked in one course to research a paper on how to connect human rights and peace. It was challenging as these were two varied disciplines and the advocates of both notions have different discourses.
Oftentimes during conflicts, the human rights advocators desire to settle scores with the human rights violators and bring justice. If the human rights violators are the past regime or the government, the government will reject all peace talks.
At the same time, peace keepers may show some indifference to human rights violators as their main aim is to resolve disputes and conflicts so that peace processes and peace talks can resume. When you study the history of peace negotiations in conflicting countries, each country has undergone dissimilar transformations.
We can consider the examples of good peace negotiations and try to adapt a workable methodology that may be appropriate to Maldives.
No external expert can resolve the case without internal and domestic willingness to resolve the political differences to accord peace to the citizens of the Maldives.
The international community has been adamant that the Maldivian politicians would be able to settle their differences for the sake of the Maldivian people. I was skeptical and shared my views with the international diplomatic missions, statesmen or whoever came during the past few months to influence the Maldives politicians to resolve our domestic political affairs.
At the beginning there were reservations by Maldivians and politicians that the good name of the peace talks could be stolen by external experts and foreign countries. When Assistant Secretary of US State Robert Blakes met us in July, I was critical and open.
I shook my head negatively at his hypothesis that political parties will resolve the conflict.
There was a series of successive visits by foreign diplomats before his visit and afterwards. Another visit was a mission from UN Department of Political Affairs who met stakeholders but kept nodding off through nearly all the meetings.
I predicted at the time that the peace talks will be boycotted sequentially. I predicted that the sudden quick agreements will stall if there are no international negotiation facilitations. I suggested having an international negotiation facilitation team of 2-3 members with local consultants.
It will be a costly affair but I felt it has to be done.
Do you know what happens when two kids starts fighting over a toy? Each kid will tug at the toy, trying to gain control and power. The stronger kid will always win.
A smart kid knows how to cajole, and sweet talk will win over the other kid. Nice is manipulative and always wins. We need this kind of approach in the resolution of politics in the Maldives.
Nobody wins at all rounds, some lose and some win. We have to learn to accept defeat sometimes.
Immature political games
The deadlock in parliament’s deliberations has been challenged several times, at a cost in public spending of Rf400,000 a day. When the deadlocks are at climax, the pressure rises from the public. The general public starts calling for the resignation of MPs through radio and television channels, which are their only outlet.
Local television polls have shown that the public believes the MPs are not doing their jobs, although the political parties do not take these polls seriously are claim this is work of the opposition or government.
Again, are there any laws where the public, ultimately the highest authority in the Maldives, can make the MPs accountable?
Unfortunately, there seems to be no such laws and the MPs seem to be above law. They have failed many times to pass the required laws as per the Constitution. The public has witnessed the MPs name-calling on the parliament floor, accusing everybody of corruption without citing credible sources, accusing each other of fraud, vulgarity and theft.
Many times we have seen the MPs committing criminal offenses in parliament by hitting each other, but none of these cases have been put to trial.
Each MP – not to be outdone – presents that he talks on behalf of the public. This is an old story we are sick of hearing.
How many MPs can truly say that they have talked and understood the voices of the public? The general public elected the MPs with high expectations and hopes for a better democracy.
Dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue. We understand the Maldivian context, we are going through a democratising process and there will be many political hurdles, but not at the cost of public spending, our public life, and political peace.
The MPs are paid large amounts of public money for their salaries and they have to fulfill their obligations. How can, the ruling Government, the opposition or the independent candidates say that they are not ready for dialogue or peace talks?
The only way forward to any political solution in the Maldives is to keep up the dialogue. Ask any Maldivian citizen and you will hear same thing: we need the politicians to talk and bring solutions to the political conflicts.
Also, the peace expert should climb down from his chair and talk to the average citizens to hear our grievances. To the politicians, if you are not ready to dialogue, please resign from the political scenario and give peace to average citizens.
We have bigger issues in trying to make ends meet and earn a living, what with the high rents, spike in food prices and living costs. In addition to this, we have to deal with drug and gang warlords, fear, and sadly a society disintegrating moral values.
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