The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) yesterday announced it would be suspending its anti-government protests and demonstrations in a bid to open dialogue with the government in the closing weeks of Ramadan.
In a press release, party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor stated that the demonstrations would be halted in order to “facilitate meaningful political dialogue to end the political crisis the country faces.”
“The MDP strongly believes unless there is political dialogue and agreement at a political level, the Maldives will not be able to come out of the current political crisis. In this regard, the MDP decides to halt its demonstrations to sincerely re-assure its commitment to meaningful dialogue,” read the statement.
Whilst Minivan News was today unable to elicit a response from the President’s Office, the office’s spokesman Abbas Adil Riza has expressed his scepticism in the local media.
“Though MDP tells the media that they’ve stopped their direct action protests – considering the actions of the party’s members, it’s hard to trust them. There’s a lot of intimidation,” Abbas told Haveeru.
“They’re attacking the vehicles belonging to ministers, harassing their families, disrespecting mosques, so the government needs assurance that the harassing will stop. We need to see it happen from their actions,” he continued.
The protests have been almost continuous since the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7 – a resignation the party continue to allege was forced.
February 8 saw clashes between Nasheed’s supporters and the police, whose mutiny had brought to the boil what had been a simmering political crisis.
Tensions were heightened once more last month as the MDP embarked on a campaign of protests on Chaandanhee Magu in the political and military heart of the capital. More clashes with the police resulted in multiple arrests and injuries which, again, provoked international consternation.
The persistent activities of the anti-government activists have regularly been cited as an impediment to high-level political dialogue.
Following the tense exchanges on Chaandanhee Magu, President Waheed stated that he would not engage in discussions with the MDP whilst it continued to back street protests.
Chances for dialogue?
The most prominent vehicle for dialogue since late February has been the all-party ‘roadmap’ talks initiated by current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan with the backing of Indian diplomats and United Nations mediators.
After a series of failed attempts to define a mutually acceptable agenda for the discussions, six points were agreed upon in May to be dealt with in consequential order.
The MDP’s protests since February have focussed predominantly on calls for early presidential elections. The discussion of a date for these elections was agreed upon as the last of the six points to be discussed in the roadmap negotiations.
The first of these points – public order and stability – resulted in a 30-point list of demands being presented to the MDP delegates by pro-government parties during the talks at Bandos Island Resort in June.
These demands, which included calls for the MDP to desist from using “black magic” and “erotic tools”, were deemed by the MDP to be indicative of the coalition’s lack of seriousness in progressing through the agreed agenda.
In yesterday’s statement, Ghafoor described some of these points as “plainly farcical”.
“We are committed to ensure an environment conducive to hold political talks at the highest level. Therefore, today, the MDP National Executive Committee decided unilaterally to halt the demonstrations. We hope leaders of political parties take this time to seriously engage in dialogue”.
In a further attempt to expedite progressive talks between political groups in the country, Nasheed last month offered an apology to former President Gayoom for accusing the 30-year ruler of orchestrating a coup d’etat.
Gayoom, leader of the parliament’s second largest party, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), had stated that he would be unwilling to sit down and negotiate with a man who made such accusations.
The roadmap talks have formed one half of a two-pronged approach to resolving the political crisis in the Maldives. The Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), after much coaxing from the international community, was established to conduct an investigation into the events up to and including Nasheed’s resignation.
The Commission is expected to conclude its investigations by August 31 after having received testimony from a reported 244 people, including President Waheed himself.
Abbas told Sun Online that he expected the MDP would merely halt its current activities in order to prepare for a mass protest on the day the CNI report is published.