President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan on Wednesday claimed that it is was up to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) to allow new members in its investigation of the controversial transfer of power on February 7, while the commission insists that it cannot self-enact changes to its composition.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Waheed contended that it was upto the commission to “allow new members” to join the investigation.
“It is a matter that commission has to decide on. I met with the commission’s president and mentioned it. Even though I had appointed the commission, I have said that it is an independent commission. I do not criticise or oversee their work,” Waheed observed. “I am open to work as they commission want.”
However, when contacted by Minivan News on April 17, a spokesperson for the CNI said that the commission was itself unable to enact changes to its composition.
“The CNI was set up by the president, so it will be for the government to discuss this [CMAG’s findings],” the spokesperson said.
The CNI was set up by Dr Waheed Hassan to investigate the controversial change of power on February 7 which the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintains was a coup d’état orchestrated by remnants of the former dictatorship, funded by several resort interests and carried out by mutinous police and military units.
However, the commission’s credibility has been challenged by both local NGOs and the Commonwealth which has urged the government “to review immediately the composition and terms of reference of the Commission to make it genuinely independent, credible and impartial.”
According to Waheed, discussions on reforming the CNI are underway, but stopped short from giving a date on when the changes will be finalised. The government-set deadline for producing the final inquiry report is May 31.
“Talks are underway on reforming the Inquiry Commission. But no decisions have been made yet. We will inform as soon as decisions are finalised,” Dr Waheed told the press.
Responding to Waheed’s remarks, Aiman Rasheed, Project Coordinator at Transparency Maldives today contended that the “changes should have been made months back”.
Transparency Maldives, Maldivian Democracy Network, Democracy House, and the Maldives NGO Federation, itself representing 59 organisations, joined forces to push for “immediate changes to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) so that it gains public trust and confidence and is able to achieve its objectives.”
“To put it simply, the commission was established by a presidential decree. Therefore any changes to the commission’s mandate, composition or scope of investigation can only be made by the president himself,” Aiman pointed out.
He observed that the government has failed to respond to the civil society’s requests to reform the mandate and scope of the CNI based on cross-party agreement.
“If the CNI completes its investigation with the current composition, it is bound to create further chaos,” Aiman concluded.
Waheed noted that he has spoken to the head of the commission over civil society’s request for observer status and added that the decision must be taken by the commission.
Meanwhile, CNI has come under fire from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which released a statement last week 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.
Subsequently, members of parliament backing President Waheed have called on the state to withdraw the country’s membership from the Commonwealth, during a debate on a resolution forwarded on Monday.
Newly sworn in Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen claimed at the same press conference that allowing foreigners to intervene in the domestic affairs would be an an “attack on our independence and national sovereignty”.
However, Waheed today noted that the “government does not consider leaving Commonwealth” and added that the international organisation in which Maldives participates, can continue to make recommendations, but the decisions on the national matters “will be solely made by us”. “We are not going to do whatever someone tells us to do.”