Progress continued to elude the participants in the All-Party Roadmap talks yesterday as the latest meeting ended in stalemate.
After repeated false starts since the first meeting on February 20, the talks stuttered after Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) representatives continued to question the make-up of the group engaged in the discussions, as well as the sincerity of the government’s statements over early elections.
One of the MDP’s representatives at yesterday’s meeting, former Home Minister Hassan Afeef, expressed doubts about the potential success of the roadmap talks.
“They are not interested in talking about political settlements, they are talking nonsense,” said Afeef.
“I don’t believe Mujuthaba [mediator of the talks] chose the parties [who were involved]… the old dictatorship chose it. I asked him how he had chosen the parties and he said he had chosen those who had been protesting against the MDP. It’s ridiculous, a farce,” continued Afeef.
The similarity of these statements with those following the first round of talks belies the lack of forward movement in the discussions.
An MDP statement after the first meeting explained the decision to boycott “when it became clear that the talks were to include political parties with no democratic mandate, and that they would focus on procedural issues such as the timing and venue for future talks – a clear effort to delay substantive discussions.”
The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, which has been involved in the talks, does not have official representation in the parliament or on an elected council.
Under parliamentary regulations, MPs who joined Gayoom’s PPM from the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) technically count as independent MPs until elected on a PPM ticket in the next parliamentary election.
Also representing the MDP at the meeting was the party’s interim chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik, who told Minivan News that “no concrete talking” took place at yesterday evening’s event. He also questioned the assembly and the motivations of the group.
Changing tack slightly, the MDP have now suggested that the talks should include all registered parties in the country, given the involvement of parties with no democratic mandate already participating.
“I have told Mujuthaba, ‘if all-party talks means all-party talks, then okay… if not, what are we doing?’” said Moosa.
PPM representative at the talks, Ilham Ahmed, told local paper Haveeru that the MDP had given no previous indication that they would be calling for greater inclusivity in the discussions. Ilham said that the proposal should be discussed as the MDP’s approach was “confusing”.
A press release from Mujuthaba’s office today stated that the main aim of yesterday’s talks remained the order the agenda. Mujuthaba told Haverru that no decisions had been made on the MDP’s new proposal.
The agenda was tentatively agreed upon at the second meeting at the end of February. The list included constitutional amendments, dates for early elections, and the potential changes needed for independent institutions. The order with which the agenda should be addressed was supposed to follow shortly after this.
The press release also said that all parties involved in the talks would meet with the United Nation’s observer at the talks. Mujuthaba is scheduled to be out of the country until April 24, prompting the convening of yesterday’s meeting.
The MDP’s blocking of President Waheed’s address to the People’s Majlis on March 1, however, saw the withdrawal from the talks of the DRP, PPM, Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP). The MDP contends that its disruption of the sitting was justified as Dr Waheed’s presidency was illegitimate, given police and military mutiny that led to Nasheed’s resignation.
Moosa also questioned the agenda of the talks, suggesting that the aim of the group was to legitimise the government rather than push for early elections.
Regarding the continued participation of the MDP in the talks, Afeef said that he personally did not think progress could be made, but said he would be prepared to represent his party in further talks if asked.
Moosa stated: “We are ready to talk about early elections, for that we are ready to talk.”