The Maldives government is seeking clarification over criticisms levelled against it this week by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) concerning the composition of an independent inquiry body set up to probe February’s transfer of power.
On Monday, CMAG set a deadline of four weeks for President Waheed’s government to review the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI)’s composition and terms of reference.
Speaking to Minivan News, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that the administration was looking to speak with CMAG to clarify the exact nature of its concerns. He stressed the government would continue to work with the Commonwealth body over the latest set of calls regarding the CNI.
President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration has continued to face calls over the last month from CMAG to hold early elections during 2012. These calls, also backed by international political bodies like the EU, additionally require the government to ensure an independent enquiry is conducted into its legitimacy amidst opposition claims that it had come to power in a “coup d’etat”.
President Waheed yesterday said that the government was committed to meeting Commonwealth calls for an independent inquiry, as well as agreeing to hold early elections. However, the president added that this could only be done by July 2013 under the present constitution.
The CNI is the body established by the president to conduct an independent inquiry into the transfer of power that saw Dr Waheed take office on February 7.
The president later established a coalition government made up of former opposition parties. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had itself refused to join the government as it continues to question the administration’s legitimacy.
CMAG concerns “not communicated”
Abbas said that the government felt the exact nature of CMAG’s concerns in the report were “not communicated”, adding that any criticisms should be based on clear statements.
“The government will enquire with CMAG about what exactly their concerns are,” he said. “The Foreign Ministry will request more information on this.”
As of yesterday evening, a Foreign Ministry official contacted by Minivan News said that the ministry would be issuing a statement giving its response to CMAG at a later date.
In a statement released Tuesday, President Waheed announced that his government welcomed an offer from Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon to “assign a judge to advise and assist the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).”
The President also claimed he would hold early elections as requested by international bodies such as the Commonwealth and EU, but would do so by July 2013 – “the earliest date permitted under the Constitution”.
As part of its statement following its meeting in London this week, CMAG, the body charged by the organisation to deal with human rights issues, reiterated the need for long-term measures to strengthen the capacity of the country’s judicial sector. It also called for fresh party talks between the country’s most senior political representatives.
The need for long-term measures to strengthen the capacity of the country’s judicial sector, as well as fresh party talks between the country’s most senior political representatives in helping resolve the current political situation was also raised.
Abbas Adil Riza said that while the government did welcome the recommendations of CMAG in regards to establishing administration’s legitimacy, he added that the it would do so only within the bounds of the constitution and the laws of the Maldives.
When asked if he was confident the government could satisfy the calls from CMAG relating to early elections and the impartiality of the CNI, Abbas again said that it would first be important to clarify what exactly was expected of President Waheed’s administration in regards to establishing independent mechanisms in the CNI.
When asked, Abbas maintained that the Maldives was committed to remaining as a member of the Commonwealth.
“Obviously,” he responded. “We wish to continue to be members in the organisation, but we only would do so under the regulations of our constitution.”
Whilst the government continues to seek clarification on the nature of the commitments expected of it by the Commonwealth, the now opposition MDP said this week that it too welcomed CMAG’s latest statement. The party’s calls for presidential elections to be held later this year – a stance former President Mohamed Nasheed continues to promote internationally – were also backed by CMAG.
MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor expressed particular encouragement for the Commonwealth’s decision to set a four week deadline to address concerns about the impartiality of the CNI.
However, Ghafoor believed that foreign assistance may be needed on the basis of mediation to move forward in resolving questions over the legitimacy of President Waheed’s position.
“The government has continued dragging their feet on both holding meaningful road map talks towards securing early elections and in ensuring the independence of the CNI,” he said.
“The next step now could be in third party mediation.”
Ghafoor claimed that mediation could be provided by asking a Commonwealth nation like India to try and help facilitate fresh talks such as all party roadmap discussion. Previous attempts at such talks have stalled on several occasions during the last two months owing to disagreements between the MDP and several parties in Dr Waheed’s national unity government.
“In the next four weeks, we are willing to engage with the government on CMAG’s recommendations,” he claimed at the time. “We resumed [roadmap] talks but there are eight pro-government representatives compared to just one of us wanting to make decisions on a vote basis. Obviously we have a problem on how to move ahead right now.”