The Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Don McKinnon, is presently in the Maldives as part of a visit that will conclude tomorrow (January 27).
“A key objective of Sir Donald’s visit will be to discuss efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and processes in Maldives, and how the Commonwealth can further assist in this regard,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma in a statement.
McKinnon’s visit follows the publication last year of a report by the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) into the controversial transfer of power on February 7 2012. The report concluded that there was no mutiny by police or the military, and that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation was not made under duress.
The CoNI was subsequently disbanded by President Waheed and the website containing the report was taken offline. The report is downloadable here.
“The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) noted the CNI report’s conclusions about the transfer of power. Going beyond that, CMAG highlighted the need to investigate acts of police brutality, and welcomed the government’s commitment to reform and to strengthen the independence and quality of key institutions. These remain core concerns and priorities for the Commonwealth,” Sharma stated.
“The Commonwealth continues to work towards consolidating multi-party democracy in Maldives. The year 2013 will be a critical one for Maldives, given the forthcoming presidential elections,” the Secretary-General said.
“It is essential for democracy in Maldives, and for lasting national reconciliation, that this year’s elections be both credible and inclusive. The Commonwealth expects there to be political space and a level-playing field for all candidates, parties and their leaders.”
McKinnon’s visit follows a recent parliamentary inquiry into the CNI report, during which senior military and police intelligence figures gave evidence to the Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) alleging that the transfer of power on February 7 “had all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat”. The same sources also claimed that the final CNI report had not reflected their input.
Those figures included Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi, Commander of Male’ area on February 7, Police Head of Intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed, Chief of Defense Force Major General Moosa Jaleel, Head of Military Intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilaam, Chief Superintendent of Police Mohamed Jinah and Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh. All six have since resigned or been suspended from duty.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) subsequently accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of complicity in a “systematic government cover-up designed to subdue testimonies from key witnesses to the coup d’etat”.
“The CNI, established by [President] Waheed shortly after he came to power, was originally made-up of three people – all well-known sympathisers of former President Gayoom – and chaired by President Gayoom’s former Minister of Defence,” observed the MDP in a statement.
“After an international outcry, the government was forced to agree to reform the CNI. The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s special envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, was subsequently sent to the Maldives to mediate an agreement, but eventually gave-in to government demands that President Gayoom’s former Defence Minister must remain as Chair, and that the other two members must remain in-place.
“Unsurprisingly, the CNI’s final report claimed that there was absolutely no wrong-doing on the part of the opposition or Gayoom loyalists in the police and military. This was despite widespread evidence to the contrary,” the statement added.
“The testimonies of all the main witnesses summoned to the Committee demonstrate a remarkable degree of consensus about what happened in early 2012, and a common understanding of the legality of the change in government. All witnesses stated, unequivocally, that the change in government bore all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat.
“All named the same individuals as being central to the coup – with foremost among these the current Commissioner of Police and the current Minister of Defense. All made clear that following a meeting between opposition leaders and the-then Vice President, Mohamed Waheed, in the weeks preceded February 7, those planning the coup swore their loyalty to him and thereafter he was fully implicated in the plot.
“All saw widespread evidence of collusion between elements of the police and army loyal to former President Gayoom and the main leaders of the coup. All had seen evidence that the plot to remove President Nasheed included the possibility that he would be assassinated if he did not leave willingly. And all claimed that the evidence and testimony they presented to the CoNI was either ignored or misrepresented,” the party claimed.
MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the respective accounts from the CNI and the UN concerning the transfer of power on February 7 were “not reflective of the experiences of Maldivians who witnessed and lived through the event both out on the streets and through their TV screens.”
“The letters sent to the government [concerning the transfer of power] represented a real shoddy job by these organisations. It is clear they did not do their homework. It is embarrassing,” Ghafoor said.
President’s Office Spokesperson Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq meanwhile told Minivan News this week that the CoNI report was a “transparent” process undertaken by “qualified Maldivian people”.
“Because of this, the CoNI report is accepted by the government. We have a judiciary, if anyone has a problem with this affair they can go to the courts themselves,” he claimed.