The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintains a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) is “on track” to commence its work, despite the government rejecting the latest nominee forwarded to represent former President Mohamed Nasheed.
The government has announced that the latest nominee, Lt Colonel Zubair Ahmed Manik, was not deemed fit to serve on the Commission. All of Nasheed’s previous nine nominees for the revised commission were immediately dismissed.
Lt Colonel Zubair was said to lack an “undergraduate degree as per the agreed terms of reference”, according to the government. The President’s Office told Minivan News today that it was unsure as to why Nasheed could not come up with a candidate “acceptable to the government and the people.”
The CNI was set up by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan following the controversial transfer of power that saw him succeed Mohamed Nasheed into office on February 7. The now opposition MDP has alleged that Nasheed was forced to resign under duress in a “coup d’etat” staged by opposition politicians, businessmen and sections of the military and police.
On April 16, The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (GMAG) warned it would consider taking “stronger measures” against the Maldives government should it not revise the composition and mandate of the CNI within 30 days over concerns about its impartiality.
A day before CMAG’s deadline, the government agreed to allow a retired Singaporean judge to co-chair the CNI, and also permit former President Mohamed Nasheed to appoint a representative to the commission. These revisions were endorsed by Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Don Mckinnon.
Following the visit of Mckinnon to the Maldives earlier this month, the government gave a press conference during which Attorney General Azima Shukoor outlined the conditions for Nasheed’s appointee. These conditions were that an appointee must not have served in a political position in the past two years, must not have taken a public stand on the transfer of power, and must “be of good behaviour and integrity”.
The initial nine candidates fielded by Nasheed include MP and former MDP chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi, former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, former Youth Minister Hassan Latheef, former Education Minister Shifa Mohamed, former President’s Member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Aishath Velezinee, Nasheed’s cousin Hudha Ahmed, former Airports Company board member Ibrahim Saleem, and former President’s Office political appointee Fareesha Abdulla.
The Commonwealth has requested a “suitable nominee” from former President Nasheed be appointed to the CNI by June 1, 2012, so that the revised commission could begin its work by the beginning of the month.
MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said today that the party had no comment on the government’s rejection of Lt Colonel Zubair as a nominee to sit on the CNI, whilst processes were “ongoing”.
Ghafoor did raise some concern that it did not “make sense” that the government, whose rise to power would form part of the CNI’s mandate, was allowed to impose conditions on an independent panel.
“I believe that CMAG will work under the assumption that the terms of reference for the CNI has to fit in with the wider guidelines for an independent investigation,” he said. “I therefore see that CMAG’s resolution [for an independent investigation into the transfer of power] will be completed and that everything is on track to ensure this.”
Having rejected the appointment of Lt. Colonel Zubair Ahmed Manik to the CNI, the government said it was also confident that work to appoint a Commission composition acceptable to itself and the Commonwealth was “on track”.
In a statement on the President’s Office website, the government claimed that former President Nasheed had continued to propose “generally unacceptable” candidates under a criteria it said had been agreed with the Commonwealth and CMAG.
“The administration agreed to the terms of reference of the CNI with Sir Don McKinnon, Commonwealth Special Envoy, including the criteria that all nominated candidates have to meet, to serve on the commission. The administration has invited former President Nasheed to nominate a candidate for the commission”, the statement read.
“The latest nomination is Lt Colonel Zubair Ahmed Manik who is a serving officer in the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and does not meet the basic requirement of having an undergraduate degree as per the agreed terms of reference.”
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad today told Minivan News that it was “unacceptable” for Nasheed to send his “family members and cronies” as nominees to represent him on the CNI.
“Can [Nasheed] not come out a someone who is acceptable to this government and the people of the Maldives? At this point, Nasheed has not sent someone with the basic degree qualifications agreed on,” he claimed.
With the Commonwealth’s preferred date of June 1 to have the new CNI in place approaching, Masood added that the government would not itself be forwarding any potential candidates to represent Nasheed.
“We have decided at present to give the benefit of doubt to Mr Nasheed,” he said.
Alongside the representation of a retired Singaporean judge and Nasheed’s own potential representative, President Waheed has himself appointed three people onto the CNI.
The president has appointed Dr Ibrahim Yasir, Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef and Chair Ismail Shafeeu, Defence Minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The Commonwealth has previously said that the criteria outlined for members of the CNI must extend to all members, including the government’s own appointees as part of an agreement reached earlier this month.