Moderator of All-Party Talks resigns as MDP withdraws

Convenor Ahmed Mujuthaba has resigned from the All-Party Talks.

The talks were envisaged by India as a means to resolve political tension in the country as one track of the international community’s response to the situation, together with the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), but have since been eclipsed by the leader’s dialogue talks.

The CNI recently released its report stating that there was no coup in the Maldives, that Nasheed did not resign under duress, and that no police mutiny took place.

In a press release issued by the talks’ secretariat, Mujuthaba stated two specific reasons for his decision to resign.

The first reason was that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had declined from participating in the talks at present, Mujuthaba stated. As the All-Party Talks have now been converted to Leaders’ Dialogue, which is limited to parties that have parliament representation, he suggested that the talks could be continued within parliament itself.

The MDP has released a statement last night stating the party had decided in its National Executive Council meeting to stop participating in the talks for the time being. While it further states that this is not a permanent withdrawal from the discussions, the statement does not cite the reasons behind the decision.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad however said to Minivan News today, “Mujuthaba has resigned. What more is there to say? MDP has hijacked the all party talks.”

He declined from commenting on whether the Leaders’ Dialogue meeting scheduled for this afternoon would still be held.

At the initial Leader’s Dialogue meeting of 2nd September, the MDP Chairperson’s request for placing the issue of MDP’s role in the government on the discussion agenda gave rise to dissenting opinions through the coalition.

President Waheed had later stated that there was no possibility of MDP joining the unity government.

President’s Advisor on Political Affairs Ahmed Thaufeeg, earlier this month was quoted in local media as stating that MDP should attend the Leader’s Dialogue accepting that there would be no discussions concerning early elections, no chance of the party joining the current government, and that the party should have no further conditions.

Ahmed Mujuthaba was not responding to calls at the time of press.

MDP International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today that the party had temporarily withdrawn from the All Party Talks for the purposes of ‘reconsideration and re-engagement’.

Hamid said that on August 14 the MDP had taken the initiative to suggest holding talks between the parties represented in the legislature, but the proposition had initially been rejected by the government, who wished to have the talks after the release of the CNI report.
According to Hamid, the MDP came to the decision to reconsider participation because the government was unwilling to address a number of important issues, ranging from declaring the political alignment of the current government, taking action against police brutality as noted in the CNI report, and the possibility for early elections.
Hamid further said the the party believed that for the talks to be successful, it needed a strong convener and that this needed to be facilitated by the international community.

MDP would consider halting protests for “substantial” high-level talks

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it will not rule out halting ongoing protests to facilitate fresh “high-level talks” with its political rivals, but would only do so should it see  “substantial” commitments from government-aligned parties.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government meanwhile stated it will not consider reconvening talks between senior politicians and former President Mohamed Nasheed until he ceases the alleged “harassment” and “threats of violence” against its ministers.

Proposed “Roadmap” talks were launched in February with the stated aim of overcoming the political deadlock resulting from the controversial transfer of power that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan into office. Former President Nasheed and his party  continue to allege that Waheed came to power in  a “coup d’etat” – and that the government is illegitimate.

Convenor of the roadmap talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, on July 12 announced that a series of “high-level” discussions will be held between President Waheed and the leaders of the country’s man political parties after 16 previous attempts had resulted in “no breakthrough.”

The last round of the UN-mediated talks, held at Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort and Spa in early June, collapsed after parties aligned with the government presented the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with a list of 30 demands.

The list included calls that the MDP “stop practising black magic and sorcery”, “stop the use of sexual and erotic tools”, and “not walk in groups of more than 10”.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today that while the party’s protests that it maintains are “largely peaceful” were “totally within” the law, it would not be a “big deal” to stop the street demonstrations if it would help secure meaningful talks.

However, Ghafoor claimed that the party was ultimately sceptical over the commitment of government-aligned parties to ensure “substantial” and “worthwhile” dialogue.

“We have always maintained dialogue is the best way to proceed in the current situation,” he claimed. “What we have seen in the last party talks has just been ridiculous demands such as the issues about keeping crows and using black magic. We found out as a party that we are not dealing with serious people.”

According to documents said to have been provided to the international community by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former President Nasheed has over the last week offered to stop ongoing street demonstrations to facilitate high level talks – but only if certain conditions are met by his political rivals.

The conditions stated in the document include addressing possible outcomes of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) presently investigating the events during and leading up to February’s transfer of power.  The CNI has been given a deadline of the end of August to concludes its report.

The MDP is also said to have requested allowing only the participation of parties with an elected parliamentary representative to attend the talks.  Such a condition would effectively rule out the participation of President Waheed.

Speaking to Minivan News today, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza claimed that the government had been attempting since February 16 this year to hold high-level talks with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to facilitate talks on resolving the current political situation.

However, he denied that the government had called for an end to the MDP’s ongoing protests, claiming instead that it was more concerned by the alleged “unlawful” behaviour of opposition supporters such as in the “harassment” of government officials during demonstrations in recent weeks.

“There has been harassment on several occasions of late by the MDP,” he claimed. “The government will not yield to threats of violence.”

Abbas claimed that in negotiating over continuing potential talks, the government had also refused to negotiate regarding addressing any potential outcomes of the CNI.

“Nasheed has continued to insist on doing this,” he claimed. “But we have said that we refuse to interfere with the country’s judiciary.   We have been clear that we will not negotiate on the CNI or do anything that may compromise its work.”

In a statement released last week, the government called for Nasheed and his supporters to stop “violent activities” in order to ensure any high-level  talks could conclude “fruitfully”.

“Former President Nasheed’s supporters have been agitating and protesting on the streets at times with violent incidences for the past two weeks,” the statement read. “He and his supporters have been harassing government officials for the past five months indulging in violent attacks including the burning of the gender minister’s car, a police motorcycle and a newly constructed police building.”

Foreign Ministry view

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing, discussions took place last Thursday, (July 26) between Ahmed Mujuthaba, President Waheed and UN Resident Coordinator Andrew Cox to convey a message that Nasheed would conditionally agree to end the MDP protests.

According to the document, the conditions set by the MDP required high level talks to resume at the “highest Level”, with the discussions taking into account the outcomes of the CNI’s findings on top of the existing six-point agenda set for the all-party talks.

The government was said to have responded the following day with five conditions that included:

  • All talks are held in the Maldives
  • The nine parties previously involved in the talks should continue to take part
  • Participants must be at the level of party deputy leaders or higher
  • The previous six-point agenda remained in place without adding the CNI to the discussion or anything that might “influence” its conclusions
  • The MDP agree in writing not to continue street protests for a “period of time” before talks resume

The briefing document claimed the MDP responded by calling on the government to only allow political parties with a parliamentary representation in the discussions. The opposition party said it would then put a stop to ongoing protests that have taken place over the last few weeks once talks continued.

The opposition party also said to have called for any agreed agenda to include the outcomes of the CNI.

By Sunday (July 29), the government was claimed to have responded that talks between the MDP and coalition parties be conducted on the basis of a “two-track” system based around political discussions and parliament.  The government also called for all parties including the MDP to refrain from holding protests.

The proposal was also said to have called for the agenda on the previous all party talks to remain unchanged, with the MDP addressing any issues regarding the CNI through parliament.


All party talks agree on order of agenda

The India-sponsored all party talks will continue later this month at a weekend retreat on Bandos Island Resort and Spa, after delegates on Monday agreed to the order of a six point agenda that will conclude with a date being set for early elections.

Convenor of the all-party talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, told Minivan News he was “quite hopeful” that the talks could be concluded during the next session, which he expected to last at least two days.

Mujuthaba said that the talks, which were timed to avoid clashing as much as possible with individual delegates’ work time, could be extended for a third day if required.

“We have have to schedule these talks for the following week as various parties were not available this weekend. We did not expect an agreement on this today,” he said.

The talks reconvened yesterday amidst claims of optimism from both government and opposition representatives over the importance of the discussions in resolving political upheavals resulting from February’s controversial transfer of power. The last round of talks ended prematurely on May 6.

Despite delegates having previously agreed on an agenda for the discussions, the talks have ended in stalemate on numerous occasions since first proposed. Recent rounds of discussions stalled over concerns about issues such as the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s parliamentary boycotts and the legality of a recent vote to remove its president and vice president.

The latest round of talks proceeded with consensus of all parties involved, said Mujuthaba.

Mujuthaba said parties had agreed to attend a weekend-long set of talks to try and resolve differences, and had agreed to the agenda for the six areas of discussion. All rounds of the talks have so far been held in two hour blocks.

According to Mujuthaba the order will proceed as follows:

  1. Public order and stability
  2. State budget concerns
  3. Independence of national institutions
  4. Identity and revise any laws
  5. Constitutional amendments
  6. Setting a date for early elections

Both the Commonwealth and European Union support fresh elections being held during 2012. President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has said that under the constitution, the earliest date that presidential polls can be held would be July 2013.

“I hope that we may see a conclusion to the talks,” Mujuthaba said.

Breakthrough claims

One of the two MDP representatives for the talks, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, said he believed the most recent session was a “breakthrough” for all participants involved.

“One of the items we wished to see on the agenda was early elections, however other parties like the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have proposed discussions first on other issues such as political instability, the economy and constitutional amendments,” he claimed. “Our position has always been that they can have any order they want for the agreed agenda.”

Fellow MDP representative Dr Mariyam Zulfa had previously expressed concern that a failure to set a date for elections earlier  into the talks would see significant delays to any decision being made.

Zulfa contended that the MDP  had a “natural interest” in moving the setting of a date for early elections towards the top of the talks’ agenda.

However, Ghafoor said that he remained optimistic over the direction of the talks.

Conceding that “huge problems” lay ahead, Ghafoor said his party was encouraged that any agreement had been reached.

He said that MDP’s protests were likely to be challenged during the talks in the first point on the agenda, political stability. Ghafoor claimed that delegates held varying perceptions on the protests, which the party maintains have been carried out according to its democratic right.

“It is a matter of interpretation over freedom of expressions,” he said. “However, the government do not see it like this.”

Ghafoor also raised concerns about a Housing Ministry request for police to dismantle an MDP protest site at ‘Usfasgandu’ that he claimed raised wider issues over the powers of decentralised government introduced by the former government.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) representative Ilham Ahmed, and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) representative Ibrahim Shareef were not responding at time of press.

Government commitments

Speaking to Minivan News prior to the latest round of talks, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza claimed the government was committed to the talks, insisting that all parties needed to agree on the direction of any resolution to the present political stalemate.

Abbas added that the MDP would be required to guarantee “peace” and “security” if talks were to continue successfully.

“The government is insistent that all parties should agree on certain things for the talks to continue,” he said. “These things include ensuring stability and calm.”

Abbas criticised protests conducted across the capital of Male’ over the weekend that reportedly saw some demonstrators interrupting a mosque service on Majeedhee Magu.  He said that the demonstrations, which led to clashes between demonstrators and the people inside, were a particular concern.

“Some of these protesters are now attacking mosques. This level of fundamentalism that we have seen over the last two nights is not acceptable,” he claimed.

Clashes between the protesters and some of those inside the mosque led to the arrest of five people, according to police. The unrest is said by an eyewitness to have begun when MDP supporters attempted to disrupt a sermon which Male’ City Council had said was unauthorised.