The Foreign Ministry has issued a statement in Dhivehi claiming the Commonwealth had not answered the government’s requests seeking expertise for the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).
The CNI was set up by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to investigate the controversial change of power on February 7 which the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintains was a coup d’état orchestrated by remnants of the former dictatorship, funded by several resort interests and carried out by mutinous police and military units.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on April 16 challenged the independence of the commission, urging the government “to review immediately the composition and terms of reference of the Commission to make it genuinely independent, credible and impartial. CMAG reiterated the Commonwealth’s offer to provide assistance in this regard.”
However in its statement yesterday, the Maldives Foreign Ministry claimed “when the inquiry commission was set up on February 22, this ministry requested the Commonwealth for expertise. This ministry sent the terms of reference for such an expert to the Commonwealth. However, the Commonwealth has not sent an answer to the request to this day.”
“The Maldivian government has previously agreed to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s call for international expert assistance as per the CMAG statement. Hence, the Maldivian government requests an international expert for the inquiry commission in the near future with Commonwealth’s support,” the Ministry stated.
Spokesperson for the Commonwealth Secretariat, Richard Uku, said that CMAG had noted during its teleconference on March 15 that while the CNI had commenced work, “it had failed to secure cross-party support.”
“[CMAG] Ministers acknowledged that international assistance had been requested, and noted that the Commonwealth could be of potential assistance,” Uku said.
Following a visit to the Maldives by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, the Commonwealth had discussed the provision of a senior judicial advisor to the CNI, Uku explained.
“Draft terms of reference for the adviser were agreed with the Government of Maldives, and preparations made for the selection and placement of a Commonwealth adviser. However, by this time it had become amply clear that the existing composition of the Commission did not enjoy broad political acceptance. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy consequently focused his discussions with parties on attempting to facilitate agreement on this matter,” he said.
“At their meeting on 16 April, CMAG ministers were concerned that the Government had not made any moves to revise the composition of the CNI in a manner that would enhance its credibility. CMAG accordingly asked for the composition and terms of reference of the CNI to be reviewed in order to make them generally acceptable.
“Pending such a review,” he concluded, adding that the Commonwealth remained “ready to assist the Commission as soon as broad-based political agreement is reached on its composition and terms of reference.”
In its concluding statement on April 16, CMAG warned of “stronger measures” against the Maldives “should the composition and terms of reference of the Commission not be amended within four weeks in a manner that is generally acceptable and enhances its credibility.”
Uku told Minivan News last week that while the Secretariat would not speculate about what “stronger measures” might entail, a range of options were available to CMAG “including suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth”.
Figures in the new government and MPs of the new ruling coalition have reacted angrily in parliament and in local media to the deadline, possibility of Commonwealth suspension and accompanying international censure.
Haama Daily reported State Minister for Foreign Affairs and daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Dunya Maumoon, as questioning CMAG’s impartiality, claiming their response was based on “incomplete information” and stating that it was “very apparent that CMAG is not aware of Maldives’ laws and regulations.”
President Waheed’s political advisor, Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq, posted on Twitter that the Commonwealth “has no right to call on Maldivian govt to hold ‘early’ elections against the country’s constitution.”
“CMAG can take whatever action it wants if the Maldives does not hold early elections against its constitution. Go ahead if that is democracy,” Thaufeeq stated.
State Minister for Tourism, Ahmed Shameem, was reported in newspaper Miadhu as accusing the Commonwealth of showing contempt for the Maldives constitution, claiming that “some entities of the United Kingdom are trying to shatter the Islamic unity of the country.”
“Everyone wants their puppet to rule the country. Nasheed ruled Maldives as a puppet of the United Kingdom. Nasheed is ready to destroy the Islamic unity of Maldives,” Miadhu reported Shameem as saying.
State Minister for Fisheries, Fuwad Gasim, also alleged in Miadhu that “Most foreign ministers sitting in CMAG would not even know the colour of the Maldivians.”
“A group like that all of a sudden releases a statement listening to only one party through a teleconversation and comments on issues. This is not how responsible organisations do things,” Fuwad claimed.
Fuwad said that a statement released by the Commonwealth after “thoroughly considering what has happened in Maldives” would “differ a lot from the original statement.”
“There are countries in the Commonwealth that know what happened on February 7, and haven’t said it was a coup,” he said.
Fuwad added that India had been observing the events from the day they unfolded, and that all political leaders were in touch with Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay.
“They were regularly updating Mulay about the events,” he said. “So I believe Mulay had been observing the events of February 7 and he would have said whether it was a coup or not. India was the first country to recognise the new government, so how could we give credibility to a report made by those who were too far away?”
Meanwhile, speaking in parliament today, Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed called on the government to preemptively withdraw from the Commonwealth.
“There is no reason to have international relations with a group like this, who don’t even know how to ensure justice, he said. “I propose to disaffiliate ourselves from the Commonwealth for now.”
MP Muththalib from the Adhaalath Party accused CMAG of being “a weapon used to destroy the religion of this country.
“I do not believe CMAG has any right to call on us to hold early elections. We should consider the countries that are doing things for us,” he said.
“If the current government feels that disassociating with CMAG or the Commonwealth is the best thing for this country, I am in full support for this Majlis to pass such a motion.”
The MDP released a statement claiming it was concerned that attempts to discredit international bodies locally would lead the Maldives down the path of international isolation – “the route of Myanmar’s junta, or Zimbabwe or Fiji” – and reiterated its calls for Dr Waheed to step down and trigger early elections under the Speaker, or agree to amend the Constitution to provide for early elections before the end of 2012.