Parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee is seeking international experts to help oversee a review of the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report.
Committee Chair Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Waheed said during a press conference yesterday (January 9) that efforts were being made to bring international experts in the fields of law and public inquiries to the Maldives for a review of the CNI report. The process is expected to take a minimum of two weeks.
The CNI report, which was released back in August 2012, looked into the circumstances surrounding the controversial transfer of power in February the same year. The report concluded that the change of government had been constitutional.
The government today dismissed the review as being politically motivated, while also rubbishing allegations that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik had violated the constitution by not providing information from the CNI’s investigation to parliament.
Ali Waheed has claimed that the purpose of seeking international expertise was to ensure the autonomy and credibility of the parliamentary inquiry for both local and international actors. He added that parliament secretariat would make the announcement for applicants to fill the two positions at a later date.
The press conference was held right after the committee summoned the two former intelligence heads of both Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and Maldives Police Services as part of the parliamentary inquiry.
Ali Waheed was not responding to calls at the time of press. However, he was reported in local media as describing yesterday’s meeting as one of the most “extraordinary, concerning and fearful” experience in his parliamentary career.
“The information the committee got from the [intelligence heads] surprised me. New questions have come up over what took place last year,” he said. “The former intelligence heads wept at today’s committee meeting.”
When questioned about the impartiality of the committee, which has a majority representation of MDP members, Waheed claimed that the committee has previously been mostly made up of former opposition parties under the former administration.
He added that the committee at the time, under an opposition majority, had taken major decisions against the former government such as endorsing the bench of the Supreme Court during former President Nasheed’s administration.
“If the Maldivian Supreme Court is deemed legitimate, than regardless of who controls the majority of the committee, its decisions would be binding as well. This committee will do everything it can to maintain its credibility and autonomy,” he told local media. “I hope that committee members and members who give evidence to the committee will also think about that. I want this inquiry to take place transparently.”
Five members of the Executive Oversight Committee today passed a motion stating that President Waheed had disregarded Article 99 of the Constitution.
Article 99 states that the [Parliament] or any of its committees has the power to – (a) summon any person to appear before it to give evidence under oath, or to produce documents. Any person who is questioned by the [Parliament] as provided for in this Article shall answer to the best of his knowledge and ability; (b) require any person or institution to report to it; (c) receive petitions, representations or submissions from interested persons or institutions.
When contacted today, Media Secretary of Presidents Office Masood Imad declined to comment, stating that he “was very busy”.
He requested Minivan News to ask the committee members as to what constitutional clause President Waheed was alleged to have violated by not providing the information to parliament.
Masood said yesterday that the statements given to CNI were not in public domain and therefore it would be President Waheed who would make a decision on the matter.
“That is a property of [CNI], but now that commission has been dissolved. So now whether to make the documents available in the public domain is solely up to President Waheed to decide,” he said at the time. “The commission was formed to release a report on the findings. The report is now available, that means it will have what is mentioned in the statements.”
President’s Office Spokesperson, Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq also dismissed the committee’s motion claiming that it was a “political” decision.
In an interview given to Channel News Maldives today, Thaufeeq said that the new government has never tried to exert undue influence over the parliament.
“President Waheed has never even once violated the constitution. He is using the powers that have been vested to him by the constitution. He has never gone beyond his jurisdiction. Yesterday, the decision was made by a committee that had the majority of opposition MDP. That is a political decision,” he was quoted as saying.
Thaufeeq went on to accuse the People’s Majlis of trying to influence the day to day running of the government.
Executive Oversight Committee member and MDP MP Ahmed Easa responded that any information from the executive power must be given to the parliament unless it concerns the national security of the state or involves critical confidential information.
“Any document the parliament requests must be given from the government unless its concerns the national security or critical confidential information,” he said. “Even if the information concerns national security interests, there are procedures in which it can be shared. So far government has not said that those documents fit into the said criterion.”
He also claimed that there were no legitimate grounds for President Waheed to ignore the request from parliament without giving proper reasoning. According to Easa, the action “clearly violated the constitution”.
The Kendhikulhudhoo constituency MP admitted that committee would face “huge challenges” in reviewing the findings of the CNI Report without obtaining the information of which the report was based on.
“For an example, CNI has clearly mentioned that there are issues within the country’s judiciary. However, it has not gone into details. So how can we find about the mentioned issues within the judiciary without obtaining the information on which such a conclusion was based upon. We need to find out based on what information had the CNI come to such a conclusion,” he explained.
“They are crying out loud saying that the findings in the CNI report was the truth. If so what we are saying is that the truth must have been obtained from credible true information. Why are they hesitating to share that information with us?”