The Maldives “throws up all the challenges of consolidating a transition to multi-party democracy,” Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba observed this morning at the opening of the Commonwealth’s regional workshop on parliamentary cooperation.
The aim of the workshop, she said, was to help create a constructive partnership between government and opposition parties in each participating country.
“While they may be political adversaries, they share a common national responsibility and obligation of nation-building and advancing the prospects of real development – human, political, social and economic — of the people of their respective countries,” she said.
“This can only be achieved if the political system works constructively for the welfare of all, not if it creates or exacerbates ruptures in society.”
Government and opposition have to see themselves as partners, Masire-Mwamba said.
“Government must acknowledge that there needs to be democratic space for the opposition to function and to enable other viewpoints to exist. Indeed it is often said that government can only be as good as its opposition – thus the role of opposition is a very real one in holding governments accountable and ensuring they deliver.
“On the other hand, oppositions also need to be constructive, using the democratic space provided responsibly to raise legitimate dissent where this is required, without becoming needlessly disruptive,” she suggested.
The Maldives’ consolidation of its hard-won democracy has been “long and bumpy”, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid noted, also speaking at the opening of the workshop.
“The state has spent the better part of the last three years struggling to demarcates the roles prescribed under the new constitution. It has been three years of exceptional experience for all of us,” he said at the launch of the event, which will run until June 15 at Traders Hotel in Male’.
“The perception of political parties injected a new paradigm into Maldivian politics. There is no simple formula to build a healthy rapport between political parties. The concept of a government with a legitimate opposition in the political spectrum was one that was hard to grasp for many,” Shahid said.
“We have had situations where some thought that the new democracy in the Maldives was too much for the very small and widely spread out society. We have instances in which some questioned whether democracy and the party system was te best form of governance for us. We have had instances when almost all hope was lost.
“It is to the credit of the leadership and the people of this nation that we have been able to sort out these challenges and resolve many of the encounters we have come across.”
The workshop is jointly organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), and hosted by the People’s Majlis in the Maldives.