President of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuad Thaufeeq has expressed concern over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s decision to take refuge in the Indian High Commission.
Former President Nasheed sought refuge last Wednesday claiming his security was compromised and that the government was intending to arrest and convict him to prevent him contesting the 2013 presidential elections.
Speaking to local media, the elections commission chief said it was deeply concerning to see the presidential candidate of the largest political party seeking refuge from a diplomatic office.
Thaufeeq said Nasheed was a former President and ought to receive the privileges entitled to a former president as stipulated in the law.
“Firstly, Nasheed is a former president, secondly he a presidential candidate of a political party. Thirdly, he represents the largest political party in the country. Each of these factors carries significant weight,” Thaufeeq said.
He said the Elections Commission would do everything it could to find a solution for all the parties involved, including the former president.
Thaufeeq said Nasheed should get a fair trial in accordance with the constitution and the law, and that such a trial should not be politically motivated.
The President of the Elections Commission warned that if Nasheed’s trial proved to be a tool to bar him from contesting the scheduled presidential elections, it would cast doubt over the integrity of the election.
“Even if it is Abdulla Yameen or Umar Naseer or Gasim Ibrahim or Mohamed Nasheed or even Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, these people have all announced they will contest the elections. If one of them happens to be on trial, that trial must be free and fair,” he told local newspaper Haveeru.
The Elections Commission has announced that the election will take place on September 7.
Nasheed is being tried for his controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, during his final days in office in January 2012.
Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission ahead of the second hearing of his ongoing criminal trial, after an order was issued by the magistrate court to place him under police custody.
After entering the High Commission, Nasheed tweeted: “Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives.”
Rumours of Nasheed’s imminent arrest began to circulate on Tuesday (February 12) ahead of the scheduled hearing, prompting his supporters to camp in the narrow alley outside his family home in Male’.
Following the Indian High Commission’s decision to take Nasheed in, police failed to produce him stating they did not have the jurisdiction to enter the premises, citing the protections of the Vienna convention to which the Maldives is signatory. The hearing was subsequently cancelled in his absence.
The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik expressed concern over the move and accused India of meddling with its domestic affairs.
Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru on Thursday (February 14), Home Minister Mohamed Jameel said attempts by any country to prevent a person from facing charges pressed by an independent Prosecutor General (PG), could be described as interfering with domestic matters of a sovereign state.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Jameel implied that India was meddling in the Maldives’ internal affairs: “What’s happening now gives us an indication of the extent and level of interest some countries prepared to take in our internal matters,” he said.
“I would strongly urge everyone to let our institutions deal with the challenges, allow Maldives to uphold rule of law,” he tweeted.
A statement released by India’s Ministry of External Affairs following the development called on the government of Maldives to facilitate an inclusive election in which all political party leaders could take part.
“Now that the President of the Election Commission of Maldives has announced that Presidential elections would be held on 7 September 2013, it is necessary that the Presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance. Prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives,” read the statement.
The United States, United Kingdom, UN, EU and Commonwealth have all followed India‘s lead and stressed the need for the next presidential election to be an inclusive election.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has maintained that the charges are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.