The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has refrained from declaring whether the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed was constitutional, but has called for a “formal” independent and impartial investigation with the involvement of international partners.
In a press conference held in London on Wednesday, CMAG noted the formation of an inquiry by the new Maldivian government, but said it “strongly felt that there should be international participation in any investigative mechanism, as may be mutually agreed by political parties in Maldives.”
Echoing calls from other international bodies including the European Union, the Commonwealth called on President Waheed and former President Nasheed “to commence an immediate dialogue, without preconditions, to agree on a date for early elections, which should take place within this calendar year.”
Such a dialogue, CMAG urged, “should facilitate the opening of the Majlis (parliament) session as scheduled on 1 March 2012.”
“This dialogue should lead to collaboration on the passage of the necessary constitutional amendment for the holding of early elections, as well as such legislation that needs to be passed to ensure peaceful, inclusive and credible elections,” CMAG stated.
CMAG further expressed “strong concern” at the ongoing arrest warrant issued against former President Nasheed, “and urged that this issue be addressed in order that his ability to participate fully in the electoral process is not prejudiced.”
Furthermore, “given the questions that remain about the precise circumstances of the change of government, as well as the fragility of the situation in Maldives, CMAG decided that Maldives should be placed on its formal agenda.”
The Maldives would no longer participate in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group while it remained on the Commonwealth’s watch list, the statement added, however the country would not be suspended from the Commonwealth itself.
“The Group further agreed that, in line with the agreed parliamentary agenda and matters emerging from the dialogue, the Commonwealth should enhance its technical assistance to Maldives to help build capacity in such areas as the Judiciary and the Parliament, and that of the Elections Commission, as well as to promote adherence to democratic values and principles.
“In particular, it urged the Commonwealth to support the Elections Commission as well as to engage with all stakeholders towards ensuring the credibility and peaceful conduct of the next elections. It recommended the expeditious development of a code of conduct for political parties in the lead-up to the elections.”
Responding to questions at the London press conference, CMAG stated that the circumstances of Nasheed’s resignation “remain unclear to us” and said that “a more formal inquiry is needed, with international support.”
“Both parties have requested the help of the secretariat, and CMAG has made clear it is fully supportive and will lend what support it can.”
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) issued a statement on Wednesday evening “fully endorsing” CMAG’s recommendations.
“First, that an independent and impartial investigation of the events of 6-7 February should be completed in a transparent manner within a reasonable timeframe, and that there should be international participation in any investigative mechanism, as may be mutually agreed by political parties in Maldives. MDP notes that, unfortunately, Dr Waheed has already failed to comply with this recommendation,” the party said, referring to his appointment of two former ministers of Gayoom’s regime to the inquiry commission, including the former defence minister.
“Second, that key parties to the crisis should commence an immediate dialogue, without preconditions, to agree on a date for early elections, which should take place within this calendar year. The MDP remains ready to participate in serious discussions in this regard with other political parties that have a democratic mandate.”
“Third that such a dialogue should facilitate the opening of the Parliament session as scheduled on 1 March 2012, which should in turn lead to collaboration on the passage of the necessary constitutional amendment for the holding of early elections, as well as such legislation that needs to be passed to ensure peaceful, inclusive and credible elections. MDP believes securing such amendments should be the sole focus of the new parliamentary session. Other parliamentary business, including the annual Presidential Address, must be cancelled.”
“Fourth, the decision to appoint a Special Envoy to the Maldives, and the call for all sides to respect human rights and refrain from violence and incitement.”
The MDP further agreed with CMAG’s decision to suspend the country’s membership of CMAG “until such a time as the crisis is resolved and until a democratically-elected government once again holds office.”
President Mohamed Waheed Hassan meanwhile responded thanking CMAG for its recommendations, “recognising the challenges we face as a nation and the honest attempts of the National Unity Government to deal with them.”
“The CMAG recognises that progress will only be made if peace and harmony return to our streets, political parties put aside partisan advantage and put the nation first, all parties join in a genuine dialogue without preconditions.
“We have already established an Independent National Enquiry Commission look into the events surrounding the transfer of power on February 7. Clearly as it is independent it will be for them to decide if they wish to take up the generous offer of international assistance in its deliberations,” Dr Waheed said.