Four NGOs working under the banner ‘Thinvana Adu’ (Third Voice) have urged President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to “bring immediate changes to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) so that it gains public trust and confidence and is able to achieve its objectives.”
Transparency Maldives, Maldivian Democracy Network, Democracy House, and the Maldives NGO Federation, itself representing 59 organisations, joined forces to declare that they are “deeply concerned by the recent political polarisations in the society.”
The CNI came under fire last week from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which released a statement giving the government four weeks to reform the body established to investigate the February 7 change of power lest CMAG consider “further and stronger measures”.
“The group was of the view that the Commission of National Inquiry, established to assess the events leading to the transfer of power on 7 February 2012, is not independent or impartial, and has failed to gain sufficient support in Maldives,” read the CMAG statement.
“What we see in the Maldives today is confrontation instead of political dialogue. Because of this political turmoil is increasing in the country,” said Aiman Rasheed, representing Transparency Maldives.
“Thinava Adu believes the citizens must know what happened. Citizens must know the truth. Maldives will find it difficult to take steps forward unless we know the answers. If the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) remains the same as it is today, we believe the inquiry cannot proceed in a way that citizens can trust or accept,” he continued.
Thinvada Adu said that they had previously written to the President on February 29 regarding the CNI as well as meeting with him on March 7. In both instances, the concerns of the group were expressed to the President. These concerns were said to have been “well received” without anything being “translated into action.”
In a press conference this morning, Ahmed Nizam of the Maldivian NGO Federation said, “Political opinion has become divided into two main thoughts since the change of power on February 7 and consequent events. Hence, we believe a third voice is very important in coming to a resolution.”
Reaction to CMAG criticism
Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, leader of the coalition government’s Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), responded to the CMAG report by saying that the group had based their report on incomplete information.
President’s Office spokesman Abbas Adil Riza last week said that the government did not understand CMAG’s criticisms and was requesting clarification over the required changes.
In response, the NGOs amended their CNI recommendations to include the following:
- Members of the CNI must be persons of integrity and should be nominated from groups such as the Human Rights Commissions (MHRC), the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), the Election Commission (EC), under the guidance of the Prosecutor General’s Office.
- The mandate and scope of the CNI must be decided by agreement across the political divide.
- The CNI must pool technical assistance for the international community to both expedite and give credence to the process.
- There must be opportunity for observation of the process by international actors.
- The CNI’s finding must be shared with the Parliament and independent state institutions as well as to the public.
- The state and its institutions must cooperate and make sufficient resources available to the CNI.
Thinvana Adu also focused on the importance of continued dialogue between political parties “without preconditions”. It was argued that, in order to resolve the current crisis, all parties must be permitted to join the discussions which must be attended by key decision makers.
The India-brokered all party talks have failed to build up momentum due to squabbles over the group’s composition and agenda. The MDP boycotted the first meeting on February 20, complaining that some of the parties represented had no democratic mandate, referring to representatives of former President Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) who at the time of the first meeting had no official representation in the Majlis.
Any MP having switched allegiance to the PPM after its formation in October 2011 was technically classed as an ‘independent’ according to parliamentary regulations. The PPM has since won its first official seat in the Majlis with Ahmed Shareef, formerly Secretary General of the Elections Commission, winning the Thimarafushi by-election on April 14.
The MDP was present at the second round of talks, at which a tentative agenda was defined without specific prioritisation, before the PPM and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) walked away from the meetings following the MDPs refusal to allow the Majlis’s opening session to commence on March 1.
After the eventual opening of the Majlis on March 19, the talks did resume but the latest round, again, made no progress, this time the MDP calling for the inclusion of all registered parties. Today’s Thinvada Adu statement appears to be taking a similar line.
The group of NGOs also criticised the availability of the talk’s convener Ahmed Mujthaba whose absence from the country has delayed the talks on more than one occasion. Explaining his absence after the last session, Mujthaba told local paper Haveeru, “I did not plan my life with the knowledge of the events of February 7”.
Mujthaba had not responded at time of press.
The group also stated that decisions on early elections should be decided through “participatory, transparent, political processes, via discussions amongst political parties.” Aiman Rasheed of Transparency Maldives added that this entailed any decision between parties that did not contravene the existing legal or constitutional framework.
Regarding the long term recommendations of the group, it urged legislation to enable independent commissions of inquiry to function effectively. It urged state institutions to show greater leadership and commitment to responding to the current crisis.
The group also repeated calls for the support of the international actors in the “process of democratic consolidation”.
“It is a concern that in the absence of such guidance it will be a challenge to the national institutions to nurture the infant democracy of the Maldives,” the group said.