The government has said the reformed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) will be in a position to officially begin its work from Thursday (June 21) with the arrival to the country of an as-yet unnamed Singaporean judge chosen to co-chair the body.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) continues to allege the government is working to delay reforms to the CNI that have been backed by the Commonwealth, however the government has claimed the commission would start work upon the judge’s arrival.
President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that the entire panel would be in place to begin its work following the arrival of the judge, adding that there had been “no delays” in revising the CNI in line with Commonwealth and international concerns about its impartiality.
“As it stands right now, President Waheed has met with (Former president Nasheed’s nominee) Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, who will be taking up his position on the panel from Sunday (June 17). He will then have access to the CNI’s findings other and information,” he said. “On June 21, the Singaporean judge will be arriving and work will then start.”
The CNI was established by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to investigate the controversial transfer of power that took place on February 7. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed that Nasheed was forced out of office in a coup d’etat.
The composition of the panel has since been revised to include a representative of former President Mohamed Nasheed and a retired Singaporean judge, as well as international monitors from both the Commonwealth and UN.
Riza added that the government had been in touch with the Commonwealth regarding the latest developments and said the intergovernmental organisation was “satisfied” with the work being undertaken.
He added that the commission, including the original three member panel of Chair Ismail Shafeeu, Defence Minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Dr Ibrahim Yasir and Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef were all ready to begin work.
However, following a tense, but largely peaceful demonstration by MDP supporters yesterday – led by former President Mohamed Nasheed – the party claimed that the government was working to try and “deceive” the international community over commitments to conduct its work. The CNI was expected to have been reformed by June 15.
“Cat and mouse game”
MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor alleged today that the president had been playing a “cat and mouse game” with the composition of a reformed CNI. He added that uncertainty remained over whether the three previous CNI members would continue on in their position, or if replacements would be needed.
Ghafoor claimed the government had been responsible for several delays to deadlines set by the Commonwealth to enact changes to the CNI.
“One month on from May 16, we have seen the government delay the appointment of a representative for [former] President Nasheed, now it seems another twenty days could be needed to resolve this current mess,” he said. “This whole saga suggests the president wishes to deceive the international community over the CNI in the hope interest will be lost in the idea of backing early elections. I do not think the MDP is in the mood to tolerate this.”
Hamid added that despite the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s (CMAG) having scheduled its next meeting for September, he expected for the Maldives’ political situation and the CNI to be on the agenda of a teleconference held by the group on Wednesday (June 20). CMAG, which is the Commonwealth’s human rights arm, has taken an active role in calling for revisions to the CNI, as well as backing early elections to be held in the country during 2012.
While the government has today said that Ismail Shafeeu will continue to serve as co-chair on the CNI with Dr Ibrahim Yasir and Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef also retaining their positions, the MDP claimed there was uncertainty over what role they may play.
Pointing to the publication this month of a ‘timeline’ of events by the former three-member CNI panel for “finding public opinion” on the transfer of power, Hamid pointed to comments previously made by the panel’s members that their work had now been completed.
The 282-point Dhivehi ‘timeline’ document does not feature any input from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who contested the panel’s impartiality prior to the re-composition. The report begins its findings on the day police attempted to summon Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, to the day the controversial transfer of power took place. The panel conducted interviews with assorted non-MDP participants, however the report does not source its findings.
The MDP have maintained that with the former CNI’s mandate having expired last month, uncertainty remained over whether the panel’s original three members were committed to the revised body or not.
The party has repeatedly called for Shafeeu to be removed, citing his connection to Gayoom, leader of government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). Dr Waheed had previously confirmed he has no intention of changing Shafeeu or two other members during the scheduled reformation.
Speaking to reporters at Male’ City Hall after voting in the MDP’s internal elections today, former President Mohamed Nasheed said that the government did not wish to reconstitute the CNI despite President Mohamed Waheed’s insistence that the reformed CNI would be able to begin proceedings mid-June.
Responding to questions from the press, Nasheed noted that it was halfway through June and it was still unclear whether former CNI members Dr Ibrahim Yasir, Ali Fawaz and Ismail Shafeeu would remain on the reconstituted commission.
Nasheed accused the government of “deliberately” delaying the reconstitution of the CNI. He added that CMAG was expected to hold a session on the Maldives’ political situation next Wednesday.
“CMAG gave additional time to the Maldivian government to complete the work it asked to be done by May 17,” he explained. “But [the Waheed administration] hasn’t done it. They haven’t constituted the commission.”
Aside from the work of the CNI, MDP supporters yesterday continued calls for President Waheed’s resignation and early elections during a protest around the capital that police say resulted in one protester being taken into custody for throwing a bottle at security forces.
The MDP has been protesting around Male’ every Friday during the last few months – with varying numbers of participants – to voice criticisms over the legitimacy of the current government, which it contends came to power in a “coup d’etat”. Former President Nasheed took part in yesterday’s demonstration, which the party claimed saw tense stand off with security forces, despite only one participant being taken into custody.
Hamid said yesterday’s protest also made a point of criticising the “arbitrary arrest” of Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed on Thursday, owing to his contribution to the MDP’s own report (Dhivehi) into February’s transfer of power.
Asked whether the high-profile publication of potentially sensitive information in the report could be construable as a criminal offence for those involved, Hamid contended that such as assumption was “based on the grounds that the present government is legitimate.”
Following an MDP national council resolution passed on February 8, 2011 the party agreed treat the transfer of power as an illegitimate act masterminded by members of the coalition government and mutinous sections of the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
“All the democratic changes that have been fought for in recent years we are now seeing slip away” he said.
Present at the protest yesterday, Hamid said the demonstrations were in the large part peaceful, even when members of the security forces marched through the gathered crowd.
“I suspect that this may have been done to try and incite the crowd so people might try and attack them,” he said. “A lot of people present did attempt to claw at the security forces, but they managed to pass through the crowd.”
With the former president in attendance at the time, Hamid added that supporters also wanted to keep Nasheed away from security officers, though he stressed that he did not believe police were coming for him.
Hamid also contended that the country’s security forces appeared to be in “disarray” at present, with protesters claiming that some officers were already not receiving salaries due to “bounced cheques”.
“The security forces had hoses, but no one was able or willing to use them on the crowd,” he added.
MNDF spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem said that the military was tasked yesterday specifically to protect a so-called “green zone” in Male’, that includes important structures and areas like the President’s residence and military headquarters.
“There was nothing special about yesterday’s operations. If there are any concerns about illegal activities police can come to us and ask for assistance,” he said.
Major Raheem also denied that there had been any difficulties in providing salaries to MNDF officers.
“I have received no information that payments have not been made to officers,” he added.
“Peaceful” and “calm”
Speaking to Minivan News today, police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef that the protests had proceeded in a generally “peaceful” and “calm” manner.
“One person involved in the protest was taken into custody for throwing a bottle, but they were later released,” he said.
Haneef added that although water hoses were present as a potential means to control crowds, the decision had been taken by police not to use such measures.
“Operationally, we will prepare all the equipment we believe will be necessary [during protests],” he said. “However, the decision was taken that action such as hoses were not needed yesterday.”