MDP confident MPs will support a parliament boycott as party seeks international pressure for reforms

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said its parliamentary group is expected to support proposals to boycott the People’s Majlis, alleging the government is failing to secure agreement on early elections or reforms to key national institutions.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said today that despite delaying a decision this week on whether the party’s parliamentary group would back its calls for a boycott, support would be forthcoming for “disengagement” from a political process he claimed was failing to secure reforms highlighted in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report.

However, a number of government-aligned parties speaking with Minivan News have slammed any such boycott, claiming that with the release of the CNI’s findings last month, parliament was now the only place where agreement and concession on the nation’s political “differences” can be made.

MP Ghafoor said that talks scheduled for Sunday (September 16) between the MDP Parliamentary Group and its national council had failed to come to a decision on whether such a boycott would be supported.  Ghafoor added that a number of MPs were unavailable to participate either through travelling or being in their constituencies.

“Yesterday we didn’t have adequate numbers to make a decision so we wanted some more time on this matter,” he claimed.

Ghafoor said he was confident there would ultimately be support to move ahead with the boycott, which was claimed to be vital in maintaining international pressure in securing hosting early elections as soon as possible.  Several recommendations were raised through the conclusions of the CNI concerning the capacity of the country’s judiciary and “excessive force” used by elements of the police between February 6 and February 8.

The MDP has maintained that as well as highlighting a need for reforms of the country’s judiciary and certain civil society institutions, the CNI’s conclusions also called for action to be taken against key defence and military officers suspected of instigating acts of violence in the build up and aftermath of the transfer of power.

Ghafoor claimed the government had failed to show any substantial commitments meet it obligations in addressing these concerns, as well as rejecting a role for the MDP in the new president’s coalition government.

“The boycott should be viewed as a total disengagement from the process of engaging with opposition parties both through talks and the Majlis,” he said. “We hope to create a vacuum that would bring an international third party into the process.”

Ghafoor added that the party had been “engaged” since February 7 in dialogue to try and secure agreement on moving forward with the national unity coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, which it accuses of coming to power in a “coup d’etat”.

The MDP’s claims of a “coup d’etat” were dismissed by the CNI report, which was published last month and later accepted by the MDP.  This acceptance was said to be made with several reservations that were raised by the appointee of former President Mohamed Nasheed about an alleged failure to commit certain key evidence and witness accounts from the report’s findings.

Ghafoor contended that a number of concerns remained including the the government rejecting allowing the MPD to join the national coalition government as well as the inclusion of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in the executive following the transfer of power.

“What we have right now is a structural problem here. We are told that no coup has occurred yet, we have opposition parties in the executive, while we have now become the country’s opposition according to the Majlis,” Ghafoor said. “The onus right now is on parliament to carry forward on these talks and ensure agreements can be reached. We are not confident this can be done [through dialogue with the government and coalition parties],” he added.

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP’s strategy was aimed at ensuring a renewed role for the international community to help push for reforms, something the party earlier this week stated be a key focus for former President Nasheed during an ongoing visit to the UK.

“The international community still has a responsibility to engage the situation here and try and find a solution to the issues being faced,” he said.

Responding to the proposed Majlis boycott, Jumhoree Party (JP) Deputy Leader Abdulla Jabir said that any party – no matter their political allegiance – opting to boycott the Majlis was a regrettable development as the country sought political and economic stability.

“I would regret any party, be it the MDP, PPM or DRP deciding to disrupt the People’s Majis. We are a small country after all,” he said.

Jabir claimed that in line with “many mistakes” made by former President Nasheed whilst he was in office, the MDP’s proposal to block the work of the Majlis was a similarly “regretful” decision.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Ameen, Secretary General of the government-aligned Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) told Minivan News that he believed that the Majlis remained a place of “engagement” for political parties, as well as the only place where any “concessions” between politicians could be made.

“There are definitely issues that need to be addressed on all sides and parliament will remain the best place to discuss issues such as early elections or any changes to the constitution,” he said.

Ameen added that while international assistance was welcome in trying to resolve political matters, local independent institutions already existed to address any issues that arose.

“If it becomes too difficult to find resolutions through the Majlis, then international assistance is welcomed, but it is best practice to try working through the Majlis first,” he said.

“As a nation we need to sit down and talk. If you wish to pressure the government the streets are not the place to do so. The government and coalition parties are here to speak. It’s very sad that people are not choosing to do so.”

According to Ameen, Dr Waheed’s coalition government had already conceded to what he claimed were MDP demands to reform the CNI with international participation to address concerns about its independence.

“The MDP demanded international observers and we addressed these concerns. I don’t know what more we can do,” he added.

The original three member CNI was reformed under pressure from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to include a co-chair in retired Singaporean judge, an appointee to represent former President Nasheed and international observers. The reformed body began its work back in June.

Minivan News also sought a response over the proposed boycott from DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and PPM Interim Deputy Leader Umar Naseer, whowere not responding to calls at the time of press.