Head of President Mohamed Waheed’s Committee of National Inquiry (CNI), Ismail Shafeeu, has said the committee cannot wait for international assistance as they proceed with an inquiry into the controversial transfer of power on February 7.
“Due to the nature and importance of this issue, I do not believe we can wait for assistance from the UN system or Commonwealth system or wait for a consultant to arrive. If Maldivian sources cannot fully answer the legal questions or other issues that arise, then we will discuss with foreign lawyers, pay them any required fees and proceed,” Shafeeu told local media on Thursday.
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan charged the three member presidential commission with assessing the circumstances that led to Nasheed’s resignation and has asked the committee to publish its report by May 31. Nasheed alleged he was deposed in a coup d’état.
The Commonwealth, the EU and foreign governments including India and America have called for an impartial and independent investigation into the transfer of presidential power. The Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has said it “strongly felt that there should be international participation in any investigative mechanism, as may be mutually agreed by political parties in Maldives.”
President Dr Waheed’s Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News the government has now requested UN and Commonwealth assistance. “We believe we will get this assistance,” Riza said.
The CNI would decide on the extent to which international actors would participate in the inquiry, Riza said, but added that the government wants foreign expertise on formulating recommendations based on the CNI’s findings.
The ousted Malidivian Democratic Party (MDP) and local civil society groups have criticised the committee on its failure to solicit cross-party support regarding its composition. CNI head Shafeeu previously served as the Defense Minister under former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Consequently, the MDP has said it does not recognise the CNI.
Speaking to Minivan News, Aiman Rasheed from Transparency Maldives said: “It is imperative that the CNI solicits international aid. When we met with the CNI previously they raised concerns over their capacity, especially in hiring a legal team. This is the first time this has happened in the Maldives, and there is much to learn from international experience.”
According to the CNI’s mandate, the committee will not be conducting a criminal investigation. Speaking to local media on Thursday, the CNI said it had not yet interviewed any senior officials from Nasheed’s administration, but had conducted interviews with police and military officers.
The CNI website says it had spent 35 hours interviewing 37 individuals by April 3, almost two months after the change of government.
MDP lawyer Hisaan Hussein said CNI’s failure to interview former administration officials “raises questions over the kind of work the committee has been doing, especially given the amount of time that has passed now.”
The committee will approach former President Nasheed after conducting background research. “We will send a request [to see Nasheed] and see what happens then. We don’t think there is a reason for him not to give us information,” Shafeeu said.
CNI Member Dr Ibrahim Yasir Ahmed said the committee will address whether the Nasheed had been ousted in a coup.
“We will answer everything we can based on the information we gather. We will hold debates on the question of whether it was a coup or not,” Yasir said.
The CNI was in the process of obtaining foreign legal assistance on the question, Yasir added.
Transparency Maldives’ Aiman Rasheed said the inquiry was “a stepping stone for national reconciliation. If this doesn’t work, we may end up in a more chaotic situation.”
CNI Member Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef reiterated its call for MDP’s support in the inquiry process. Shareef said attempts to hold discussions with MDP were underway.
“MDP has publicly said they do not have confidence in this commission. Before we can proceed, we first have to know the details of their concerns,” Shareef said.
The MDP has released several statements outlining its concerns over the CNI.
“The Investigation team must include Maldivians who enjoy the trust of all parties as well as respected foreign experts. It must also have a mandate to look at events leading up to the resignation of President Nasheed as well as police brutality before and after the resignation,” a February 15 statement read.
Responding to the establishment of the CNI on February 22, the MDP said: “[The CNI] has been conceived and imposed by those parties allied to Dr. Waheed without any consultation with MDP. It does not include any eminent international experts. And the inclusion of individuals who held Cabinet posts during the autocratic government of former President Gayoom, including the appointment of a Chair – Mr Ismail Shafeeu – who had held various ministerial posts under former President Gayoom including the position of Defense Minister at a time of widespread human rights abuses in the country, suggests that no effort has been made to ensure independence and impartiality.”
As MDP and civil society concerns over the CNI remain unadressed, several MPs have now called for the investigation of the transfer of presidential power to be conducted through Majlis.
CMAG and the EU, among other international groups, have backed MDP’s calls for early elections in the Maldives.