While the Commonwealth’s Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon meets with a team of government figures in Male’, local media reports that President Dr Mohamed Waheed has told a gathering of diplomats in India that the Commonwealth is being unduly influenced by opposition politicians in the Maldives, and that it is acting beyond its remit.
Speaking at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi during his five day official visit to India, Dr Waheed reportedly told the room that the Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) had followed the lead of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in attempting to intimidate the government.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth’s Donald McKinnon arrived in Male’ yesterday with proposals to double the current size of President Waheed’s Commission of National Enquiry (CNI) to include two representatives favourable to former President Nasheed as well as a Commonwealth judge.
This suggestion comes as the deadline given by CMAG for improved independence and impartiality draws near. President’s spokesman Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that the discussions between the government team and McKinnon were expected to finish tonight.
There have also been calls from the MDP and civil society groups for international involvement with the investigations.
Abbas said that the make-up of the team involved in discussions with Donald McKinnon was confidential, although Haveeru has reported the team to include the Attorney General Azima Shukoor, Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Minister for Gender Dhiyanna Saeed, Minister of Defense Mohamed Nazim, and Special Advisor to the President Dr. Hassan Saeed.
Speaking to the press after a meeting with the Special Envoy yesterday, International Spokesman for the MDP Hamed Abdul Ghafoor summarised his party’s concern over the CNI as it stands: “The people we are accusing of overthrowing the government in a coup d’état can’t be the same as the people investigating it”.
Abbas revealed that representatives from the government aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) had also been present. The spokesmen for these parties were unavailable for comment at the time of press.
Waheed is said to have reiterated the governing coalition’s previous criticism of CMAG’s assessment, telling those present in New Delhi that CMAG had acted just as the MDP had done, criticising the workings of the CNI without having taken the time to properly study its methods.
Shortly after President Waheed created the CNI to investigate the events surrounding February’s transfer of power, the MDP refused to cooperate with the investigation.
Today’s speech marks the first time that Waheed himself has spoken out against the Commonwealth.
During the speech Waheed is said to have repeated an argument first made by former President Maumoon Gayoom last month, in which the utility of Commonwealth membership appeared to be questioned.
“We used to believe that the Commonwealth was the champion of the smaller nations that extended assistance in every way possible. But to the contrary we witnessed the grouping inclined towards Nasheed, head towards punishing us,” Haveeru reports Waheed as saying.
Last month, Gayoom, now head of the PPM, said that the priorities of the Commonwealth regarding small nations had changed in recent years. He went on to urge a “rethink” of the Maldives’ membership.
Gayoom’s statement was soon followed by the submission of a bill in the Majlis from government aligned MPs calling for the country’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth.
President Waheed also told the assembled diplomats that CMAG was acting without a mandate, citing the criteria under which a CMAG investigation can be initiated. These conditions had not occurred, he argued, in the Maldives.
The Maldives Permanent Representative to the European Union (EU), Ali Hussain Didi, delivered the same argument in a speech to the EU Parliamentary Group on April 24.
Despite his clear disappointment with the 54 nation group, Waheed said that he would not back the proposals to withdraw from the Commonwealth and expected the bill to be dismissed as soon as the Majlis returned from its current recess.
He is also reported to have told the group of ambassadors that the proposal to re-formulate the commission had already been accepted, with the ongoing meetings being held only to formulate the exact details of the changes.