A team from the United Nations (UN) brought in to observe the political crisis have now left the Maldives after stressing to all parties involved the need to halt further violence.
Speaking to reporters on Monday evening at the UN headquarters in Male’, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco said that he was officially concluding his brief visit to the Maldives and was satisfied that both the former and current administrations will now co-operate on solving the political crisis triggered when President Mohamed Nasheed was deposed on February 7 amidst violent scenes.
Fernandez-Taranco and the UN team were dispatched to the Maldives on February 9 in the aftermath of what the international media is now calling a “coup” and the UN team has been negotiating with all parties involved, “both publicly and privately”, to prevent further violence and end the political deadlock. The team’s work has also addressed the question of holding elections, and whether the Maldives will launch an investigation into allegations of recent human rights abuses.
“The UN has been involved throughout the whole crisis in advising how to solve some of these matters,” said Fernandez-Taranco.
“We have been engaged with President Mohamed Waheed and the former President Mohamed Nasheed and speaking to all other political leaders since very early on in the crisis,” he explained.
Fernandez-Taranco admitted that the UN was “alarmed” to hear reports of violence and allegations of human rights violations in the Maldives during the past week.
“We will be following the events and will be watching to see how the different leaders exert their opinions, in order to ensure that all differences of opinions will be demonstrated peacefully,” he said. “We condemn any acts of violence.”
However, Fernandez-Taranco stopped short of committing the UN to investigating the allegations of violence and human rights abuses, saying that his mandate on this occasion was simply to observe the situation and report back to the Secretary-General.
Instead, he advised that “There needs to be a credible and independent investigation by a national mechanism into the developments of the past week, and the events that led up to them. As I have emphasised throughout, only the people of the Maldives can find the way forward.
“We have not been given a mandate for an investigation into the traumatic recent events or to investigate alleged human rights abuses. I believe that an investigation that is credible, independent, impartial and that addresses the concerns of the Maldivians is important to the future of the country, and we can support the Maldives with whatever mechanisms it needs so that a national investigation can be formed.
“We did not come here on a fact-finding mission. I came here to inform myself as to the situation here in the Maldives, and what I have seen here I will use to inform the Secretary-General. He has been very keen to hear from us about the extent of our influence in our efforts to help provide national stability.”
Regarding former President Nasheed’s call for a prompt election, Fernandez-Taranco said that the UN respects the constitution of the Maldives and the issue should be decided by Maldivians; emphasising that all sides have assured the UN they respect the constitution of the Maldives and its directives on elections.
“The next election is scheduled for 2013,” he said. “The date of the next elections is something that the Maldives’ people must determine for themselves. We do not have any opinion as to when they should be held. The constitution of the Maldives regulates as to when and how the elections must be held. The UN has supported the Maldives previously in both local and national elections, on request, and can do so again.
“We are committed to the belief that the constitution of the Maldives needs to be respected, and that any government that is inclusive of all sides will be the best possible government for the Maldives,” he said, reinforcing the UN’s support of the Maldives in achieving this outcome. “All must work together, constructively, for the good of the nation,” he summarised.
Fernandez-Taranco stessed the need for all parties to restrain from committing violent acts and from encouraging others to do so.
“The Maldives cannot afford a descent into violence and protracted instability that would jeopardise the progress achieved by the country since 2008, and its economic future. While considerable controversy persists about the events of recent days, all actors I spoke with agreed on the importance of preserving the democratic gains that have been made. All said they were committed to the constitution, which is widely held up as a model of reform. There is also a broad consensus on the need to protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law throughout the Maldives, including the performance of the judiciary,” he added.
A divided public
The Maldivian public’s opinion on the UN’s involvement in their domestic affairs appears divided.
One man in his 40s who requested anonymity said, “The UN can come and can go, their reports and findings can be released, but they can’t actually give us a real solution to our problems unless they pass sanctions which would affect the economy.
“We don’t know if the Maldives now is going to become more fundamentalist now, and if so, these guys could do anything to our resorts, banning alcohol for example. The Maldives could turn into a very strict Islamic state, and I don’t think the UN can do anything about it.
Making reference to the suggestion that the Commonwealth expel the Maldives, he benignly said, “So what? These guys [in power] will continue to do whatever they want. They can’t really be bothered with the Commonwealth and the UN, whatever they have to say.”
A 24-year-old Maldivian woman who also requested anonymity said she hoped a UN investigation will be conducted in order to shed light on the week’s past events.
“Everyone’s so ethnocentric with their political parties right now. I hope the UN conducts an independent investigation on how the power was transferred,” she said.
A man in his twenties, who wished to only be identified as “Moon”, called for the UN to have more involvement in the political situation in the Maldives.
“All I know [of the UN] is they like to make reports, file them in boxes and give speeches on podiums using international mediums,” he said.
“As for the international community approving this taking of power, it doesn’t surprise me because it’s going to be easy for President Waheed to do a report and convince them it’s legitimate using his friends and experience through the UN. If only everyone would act independent, and not as puppets. My message to President Waheed is ‘control the politics’, to Nasheed ii is ‘play it smart this time, learn from your mistakes, and to Ban Ki-moon [UN Secretary-General], ‘please be more productive and progressive.’”
MDP has said it will continue to demonstrate until elections are held.
“Protesting and demonstrating is not for me,” said Moon. “Violence will not solve anything, just make things worse, like what happened with the MDP. That’s why I believe we should all act smart and get along with this present president’s cabinet.
“Politics is never fair anywhere in the world, and in the Maldives it’s always ‘propaganda’ as we are new to democracy. Most people are all about power in their own favour, as in human nature.”