International advisors to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) – Judicial Advisor Sir Bruce Robertson and Legal Advisor Professor John Packer – have defended the commission’s independence and professionalism in the wake of criticism from the MDP’s representative.
Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed resigned from the commission the evening prior to report’s publication, expressing concern that the CNI had experienced the withholding of evidence, non-cooperation from crucial witnesses, non-examination of witnesses, witnesses being intimidated or obstructed, testimonies and evidence that was not reviewed, and misleading translations.
“Four of the five members acted at all times with independence and integrity in carrying out the important task for the future of the nation,” stated Robertson and Packer, in an appendix to the report. “The other member was not at all times willing or able to act independently and resigned the evening before the report was submitted and published.”
Saeed’s resignation created “discord and mistrust” in a community “in desperate need of reconciliation”, the pair claimed, defending the professionalism of the CNI’s methods.
“We have seen nothing but objective and independent professionalism in the institution. The Commission has sensibly and sensitively heard all who wanted to make a contribution. It has firmly and fairly held participants to telling what they had heard and seen for themselves and deflected them from conjecture and speculation without facts.”
“The nation has been well served by the Commissioners and any assertions of bias or lack of objectivity levelled against those remaining have no justification. They reflect badly on those making unfounded allegations,” Packer and Robertson stated.
“For the evidence collecting exercise to have value all witnesses had to be questioned and challenged about their recollections of events and the basis for them. Equally they had to be confronted with alternative evidence so they had the opportunity to comment on it. Some found this process unsettling. Many were familiar and only comfortable with making assertions and not being required to justify or explain how they had reached their view,” they noted.
As the evidence unfolded, the advisors said they observed “a national obsession with street demonstrating at an alarming level”.
“Some would want to call [this] an example of the rights of freedom of expression and assembly. In reality it is rather more bully-boy tactics involving actual and threatened intimidation by a violent mob,” they stated.
“This perpetual behaviour is sapping public life and hindering the Maldives’ development as a modern democracy.”
The evidence revealed longstanding tensions in the Constitution as a result of a Presidential system being “grafted” on to a parliamentary system.
“The creation of independent commissions will only be the safety valve intended when they are adequately resourced and fulfil their mandates in a timely and decisive manner,” they observed.
Furthermore, “Fundamental to the operation of a modern democratic society is the existence of an operating and absolutely independent judiciary which has the confidence of the entire community. Radical action is required to breathe utility into much of the state framework, especially to ensure the proper administration of justice. This cannot wait.”
Dunya writes to McKinnon
The comments from the international advisers followed a letter sent to Commonwealth Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon., daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
In the letter, obtained by Minivan News, Dunya advises McKinnon that Saeed had “put the Commission’s work at risk by publicly questioning the credibility of its draft report, three days before its scheduled publication.
“He has also questioned the integrity of the highly respected senior judge from Singapore, Justice Selvam, the Co-Chair of the Commission, who was recruited by the Commonwealth. This is a disturbing development that could inflame the already heated political environment in the Maldives,” Dunya wrote.
She informed McKinnon that it was “time the Commonwealth puts into perspective the pattern of behavior by former President Nasheed since he resigned from the office of President, and ponders the credibility of his accusations and claims.”
“The government is committed to bringing stability into the country and cultivating the values of democracy in the Maldives,” she claimed.
“You may recall that while accepting Mr Saeed’s name to the CNI, the government made it very clear its strong reservations about Mr Saeed’s impartiality and independence because of his close associations with the MDP.
“We request you call upon former President Nasheed and his supporters in the MDP, as well as Mr Saeed, to stop their intimidatory actions and let the work of the CNI proceed to a successful conclusion. The Commonwealth’s valuable role in resolving the political tensions in the maldives is a critical one, and that role should also be seen to be fair as well,” Dunya wrote.
“Otherwise there is a risk that the country’s young democracy might be pushed into a steep decline where only chaos will reign.”
Former President Nasheed on Friday accepted the CNI’s report, subject to Saeed’s reservations, however he observed that the report had effectively set a legal precedent under Maldivian law for the overthrow of an elected government through police or mob action.
This, he said, left the Maldives “in a very awkward, and in many ways, very comical” situation, “where toppling the government by brute force is taken to be a reasonable course of action. All you have to do find is a narrative for that course of action.”
Minivan News is currently waiting for a response from MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.