“President Waheed says no elections until 2013”: Malaysian consultant Dr Ananda Kumarasiri

Former President Mohamed Nasheed stepped down voluntarily and there was no truth in reports that he was ousted in a military coup, Buddhist author and former Malaysian diplomat, Dr Ananda Kumarasiri, has told Sri Lankan media.

Addressing media at a press conference in Colombo last week, accompanied by Maldives High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Hussain Shihab, Dr Ananda Kumarasiri “expressed confidence that a full-fledged democracy will be restored in the country under the rule of President Waheed and the roadmap towards that end has already been laid,” the Sunday Observer reported, describing him as Dr Waheed’s “consultant”.

“Former President Nasheed and the pressure groups want snap elections to be held soon,” Dr Kumarasiri told the paper. “Some want it held immediately, others within six months and so on. But categorically citing constitutional provisions, President Waheed has stated that elections can be held only in November 2013 and there is no possible way of circumventing it.”

President Waheed had, Dr Kumarasiri said, “appointed a government of technocrats who are capable in their own lines.”

“They are not supposed to function as politicians but instead, they have to do everything in the national interest and deliver the goods through their proposals, projects or whatever. Political parties can go ahead with their kind of politics. In a truly democratic sense he has not appointed anyone to the Cabinet portfolios from his party. He is very transparent, very accountable and is a man of integrity.”

In the Observer interview, Dr Kumarasiri raised the prospect of constitutional amendments under consensus “to overcome the problems in holding elections before the date as specified in the constitution. Constitutional amendments may also become necessary in other areas, including the endemic problem of power separation between the executive, judiciary and the legislative.”

Nasheed’s resignation, Dr Kumarasiri insisted, was “voluntary”, something he said was very clear from video recordings that are now available.”

“His own doings led to his voluntary resignation, including the arrest of a Judge of the Criminal Court and other atrocious acts which turned the public wrath against him. Later, heeding requests of his party men who had lost their positions and economic footing, he took recourse to violent protests demanding snap polls.”

“There was no duress whatsoever on him , he wrote the resignation letter in his own handwriting and handed it over in front of the TV and the public. It was initially found that he had spent monies to the tune of some Rs. 17 billion for projects of his own design and appointing people to them. The amount is believed to be Rs.23 billion now. Under such financial straits, the Maldives cannot even think about snap polls,” Dr Kumarasiri alleged.

Meanwhile, impact on the Maldives’ tourism industry had been limited to “minor hiccups” and “one or two chartered flights were cancelled because the tourists wanted to be on the cautious side.”

“President Waheed has de-escalated the situation,” he claimed.

Dr Kumarasiri launching his Buddhist book, Siddhartha Prince of Peace.

“Close friend of the President”

Dr Kumarasiri first appeared to the media during a Q&A session with foreign media held in Dr Waheed’s residence on February 16, introducing himself as “a friend passing through”.

Australian SBS reporter Mark Davis challenged Dr Waheed that “you are an educated man who has been deeply involved in the United Nations, you know that that when a General puts a gun to your head, even metaphorically, that is not a resignation. Do you not accept that?”

Dr Kumarasir injected, stating: “If I may inject, from the video tapes, I do not see how my colleague has got this impression that there was a coup. If there was a coup then [it would show] from the tapes… from the evidence.”

President Waheed’s Press Secretary, Masood Imad, told Minivan News that Dr Kumarasiri was not employed by the government, but was “a very close friend of Dr Waheed” who had stopped by.

Imad expressed surprise that Dr Kumarasiri had spoken to Sri Lankan media: “I thought he had gone back to Malaysia”.

According to biographical notes online, Dr Kumarasiri is a retired career ambassador of thirty years standing, who joined the Malaysian Foreign Service in 1966.

Born in Malaysia to Sri Lankan parents, his early diplomatic postings included Assistant High Commissioner in Madras (1966-1972), Counsellor in New Delhi (1972 -1975) and Counsellor in Tokyo (1975-1978), Minister in Washington DC (1981-1984) and High Commissioner to Nigeria and Ghana in 1984.

He later became Director General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and authored the book, “Professional Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs Management: The Malaysian Experience”.

He is also a acclaimed speaker and proponent of Buddhism, and has written numerous titles on the religion including, in 2009, Siddhartha: Prince of Peace, as well as Matu-Posaka: Paragon of Filial Piety, Angulimala, My First Word Book: Buddhist Pedagogical Approach, The Terrifying Drug Menace: Relevance and Role of Buddhism, Welcoming the Birth of a Child, Living Buddhism: The Way Forward, Living Buddhism: Advancing from Knowing to Being, My Alphabet Book: Buddhist Pedagogical Approach and A Compendium of Buddhist Personal Names: Heritage and Significance of Adoption.