Government employs Baroness Scotland to challenge legality of “unfair”, “biased” Commonwealth intervention

President Mohamed Waheed’s government spent £75,000 (MVR 1.81 million) on advice from former UK Attorney General and member of the House of Lords, Baroness Patricia Scotland, in a bid to challenge the Commonwealth’s “biased” stance on the Maldives.

The terms of reference document for the contract, obtained by Minivan News, is dated May 28, 2012 and is signed by both Scotland and the Maldives’ Deputy Attorney General, Aishath Bisham.  It also carries the official stamp of the Attorney General’s Office.

The Maldives was suspended from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm – and placed on its formal agenda after former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged that his resignation on February 7 had taken place under duress.  Nasheed contended he was forced out of office amid a mutiny by police and armed forces, orchestrated by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and funded by several local wealthy resort businessmen.

CMAG swiftly challenged the impartiality of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) established by incoming President Mohamed Waheed to examine the circumstances of his own succession, and called on Waheed to hold early elections to restore the country’s democratic legitimacy.

After a number of countries – including the UK and EU – backed the Commonwealth’s stance, the government was pressured into reforming the CNI to include a member of Nasheed’s choosing and a retired judge from Singapore, GP Selvam. The reformed Commission is due to publish its findings in late August.

“The Maldives government is of the view that the Maldives has been placed on the [CMAG] agenda unfairly, and there is a general feeling that the Commonwealth and the CMAG view points are biased in favour of President Nasheed’s allegation of a coup,” the Attorney General’s office, stated in the terms of reference.

“The specific output expected from the assignment is a detailed legal opinion on whether the Maldives was unfairly placed on the CMAG agenda and whether this continuation of being on the agenda is unfair,” the document states. “In particular, the consultant will assess whether the CMAG had acted in contravention of its own mandate and powers and had demonstrated bias in their actions.”

The brief also calls for Baroness Scotland to “review the work of the Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Don McKinnon and the staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat”.

The contract called for Scotland to spend four days in the Maldives to “review all necessary documentation as well as video footage of events that led to the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed”, as well as meet “all important stakeholders” including the government coalition, “key figures in the opposition MDP”, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid and his deputy Ahmed Nazim, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), Elections Commission, CNI, as well as UN Resident Coordinator Andrew Cox.

Both the UN Resident Coordinator and the MDP said they had not had any meeting with Scotland.

“I think I was away on leave at the time, but I am not sure if my office got an approach for a meeting or not,” said Cox.

Elections Commission President Faud Thaufeeq had not responded at time of press.

“We were not even aware of this woman; she never approached us,” said MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“Now we hear she was in the Maldives, probably staying in a fancy resort with somebody interesting likely footing the bill. I hope the House of Lords looks into this,” he added.

“It is very disturbing that a member of the House of Lords from an 800 year-old democracy would come to a little banana republic to stir up trouble in league with the plotters of a coup d’état.”

Speaking to local television station VTV, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza denied the allegations.

“It is not true that the government spent 75,000 pounds on a former British attorney general. It is part of the lies that the Maldivian Democratic Party is spreading,” Riza was reported as stating in Haama Daily.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad meanwhile told Minivan News “I think that case was handled by [President Waheed’s Special Advisor] Dr Hassan Saeed.”

“[Baroness Scotland] did consult with us during the time CMAG was pressuring us, and we sought legal advice as to how to proceed,” Masood added.

Dr Saeed and Attorney General Azima Shukoor had not responded at time of press.

Minivan News is also awaiting a response from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Finance regulation violation

The leaked document also includes a letter in Dhivehi sent from the Attorney General’s office to Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad requesting authorisation for Baroness Scotland’s “unprecedented work/expense” following her visit to the Maldives.

“There was no contract made. With this letter we ask if attached terms of reference are sufficient as a contract,” the AG’s office writes.

“This is in violation of the Public Finance Regulations of 11 February 2009, especially sections 8.21, 8.22 and 8.34 where consultancy work needs to assigned on the basis of a contract with specific terms agreed on matter listed in section 8.22 of the regulations,” observed former Maldives Foreign Minister, Dr Ahmed Shaheed.

Regulation 8.22 states that any award of work to be done for the government must be assigned after signing a mutually agreed contract, while regulation 8.21, concerning ’emergency work’, states that such shall only be assigned “after signing a mutually agreed contract stipulating the price and quality of work to be done”.

Furthermore, said Dr Shaheed, “a simple reading of the [Commonwealth’s] Millbrook Action Programme (1995) and the augmentation of that at Perth in 2011 will make it clear that CMAG can list countries on its agenda when the Ministers feel there are violations of the constitution. So it is a fairly straightforward, and clearly not worth 75,000 pounds.”

The bill for Baroness Scotland’s legal services comes at a time the Maldives is grappling with a crippling budget deficit of 27 percent, a foreign currency shortageplummeting investor confidencespiraling expenditure, and a drop off in foreign aid.

Story breaks in UK press

Baroness Scotland came under fire in the UK press after the story emerged in the Daily Mail. The Mail established that the peer and former Attorney General had not listed the payment from the Maldives on the House of Lords’ register of members’ interests.

“Her entry says she has set up a firm to provide ‘private consultancy services’ but says it is ‘not trading at present’,” the Daily Mail reported.

In a statement, Baroness Scotland confirmed she had been “instructed by the Attorney General of the Maldives to give legal advice”, and slammed the leak of the terms of reference and “all communications passing between myself and the Attorney General, whether written or oral, pertaining to the nature and extent of that advice, as confidential and legally privileged.”

She additionally claimed to have been approached by both the government and the opposition (MDP), and said she had accepted an invitation to chair a roundtable “at which all parties are to be invited.”

“I am a senior barrister with specific expertise in the area of constitutional law, criminal and civil law reform, and am skilled in mediation,” she explained.

Baroness Scotland was previously scrutinised by the UK press in 2009 after she was found to have been employing an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper in her London home.

As the story emerged, MPs from the UK’s Conservative Party – which has long backed Nasheed and the MDP – seized the opportunity to attack the former UK Labour Party Cabinet Minister.

Conservative MP Karen Lumley told the Daily Mail that is was “disgusting that a former British attorney-general should take a well-paid job advising the new regime, which has no democratic mandate. President Nasheed was overthrown in a coup and the Maldives is now very unstable. Many of my friends there have been arrested by the new regime.”

Conservative MP John Glen told the paper that Baroness Scotland should “hang her head in shame”.

“What happened in the Maldives was a military coup,” he said, adding that it was “outrageous” that the former AG should be “advising a regime responsible for ousting a democratically-elected president.”

Former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Farahanaz Faizal, described the government’s employment of Baroness Scotland as “absolutely shocking. If the government wanted legal advice to support the AG’s Office, the proper way is to request the UK government bilaterally.”

“To think that someone of her calibre would undertake an assignment to check if Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Jamaica, and others of CMAG had acted against their mandate is disgraceful,” Dr Faizal said.

“Coup investigation not within our mandate”: HRCM, PIC, PG, ACC, MMC

Investigation into the legality and legitimacy of the transfer of power on February 7 is not within Maldives’ independent state institutions’ mandate, the institutions have said.

Instead, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) will respectively investigate human rights violations and police conduct on February 7.

The Prosecutor General (PG) and the Maldives Media Council claim the two bodies do not have investigative authority, while the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said no cases have been lodged with the commission regarding the transfer of power.

Following the Commonwealth and EU’s call for an impartial investigation into the alleged coup d’état, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan appointed a three member Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) to investigate the transfer of power. However, the commission has come under fire from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and civil society groups for unilateralism and lack of independence.

Moreover, the CNI has said it will not conduct a criminal investigation, but will publish a report based on members’ informed opinions in May. The commission’s mandate “specifically indicates that the inquiry will not be a criminal investigation. Any criminal investigation pertaining to the subject of the inquiry will remain the responsibility of the relevant authorities”.

But with the abdication of responsibility by independent state institutions, it now appears no independent commission in the Maldives will investigate the power transfer of February 7.

Ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor expressed “deep disappointment” and said institutions were “not extending themselves enough.”

“When the system breaks down, it is the responsibility of national mechanisms to deal with it. The democratic impulses driving these institutions are dying. This is why we are asking for external involvement and mediation in the inquiry,” he said.

President Mohamed Nasheed stepped down after elements of the police and military mutinied and called for his resignation. Video footage also show the police and military vandalising MDP’s offices and taking over state media Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) prior to Nasheed’s resignation.

Police cracked down on peaceful demonstrators in Malé the following day on February 8, leading to widespread arson and vandalism of courts, police stations and courts in the atolls.


Speaking to Minivan News, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) said the commission will investigate human rights violations on February 6, 7, and 8, and release a comprehensive report by mid-April. However, the commission will not look into the transfer of power.

“We will not be looking into the transfer of power. The transfer of power is out of the commission’s mandate or the capacity in terms of numbers to investigate such a complex matter that involves so many institutions,” said commission member Ahmed Abdul Kareem.

“If HRCM gets involved in this inquiry, then we will not be able to investigate day-to-day cases,” he added.

He also said the best solution was for an impartial state inquiry with the representation of the Majlis and courts.

HRCM is currently investigating former President Mohamed Nasheed’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed. The former President, along with former Home Minister Hassan Afeef and Defence Minister Tholath Ibrahim, were last week summoned for questioning by the commission.

In response Gafoor said, “If the HRCM does not understand a coup to be an infringement of an entire public’s human rights, they are not extending themselves at all.”

Police Integrity Commission

President of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Shahindha Ismail said the commission would only be investigating the legality of police actions before and after February 7.

“Although the question of a coup has been raised, the PIC does not have the mandate to investigate such a claim. We are investigating police actions before and after February 7—whether they were lawful or unlawful,” she said. The PIC can only address the question of police mutiny once investigations are complete, she added.

Further, the PIC can only investigate the police role, but not that of the military. “There is no oversight body of the military except for the parliament,” she said.

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz previously told local media the police would not be conducting an internal investigation of police conduct during transfer of power, citing concern of investigation “overlap” on the issue between the HRCM and the PIC.

Prosecutor General’s Office

Deputy PG Hussein Shameem said the Prosecutor General was not an investigative body, but could order an investigation if an investigation is not taking place.

“We have not ordered an investigation because we have been informed such an investigation is ongoing,” Shameem said referring to the CNI’s work.

Article 223 (d) of the constitution gives the PG the authority to oversee the legality of preliminary inquiries and investigations into alleged criminal activity. However, with the CNI stating it will not conduct a criminal investigation, the PG office’s role in the CNI inquiry is now unclear.

Maldives Media Council

Minivan News asked the Maldives Media Council (MMC) whether it was investigating the police and military takeover of the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) on February 7. Video footage shows some kind of firearm or explosive being used to enter the courtyard, and MNBC staff alleged the police and military intimidated them, and forced some journalists to go home before rebranding the station to its former title under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The 15 member MMC is mandated by law to establish and preserve the freedom of media.

MMC President Mohamed Nazeef said the council was not an investigative body, and was waiting on other institutions to complete investigations.

“We are waiting since other institutions, such as the HRCM are investigating this matter. We do not want an overlap. We are not an investigative body and we cannot conduct an in-depth criminal investigation. We can only recommend matters of concern to the police. But if no one is investigating the issue, we will address it,” he said.

“MNBC was state media, controlled and protected by the government. Our concern and focus was more on the media personnel and private independent media organisations,” Nazeef added.

The Anti-Corruption Commission

The Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) said that although the MDP alleged elements of the police and the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) were bribed to revolt against Nasheed, the commission could not investigate the entire military and police force.

“There are allegations that the police and military took bribes during the transfer of power. But there are approximately 5000 police officers. We cannot investigate the entire police force. We would need to conduct a forensic investigation, check their bank accounts and the bank accounts of relatives. But no one, even on a podium, has said with certainty the individual who took bribes. They say all police officers took bribes. I would like whoever is accusing the police to give us more details,” ACC President Hassan Luthfee said.

He also said there had only been two cases submitted regarding the transfer of power. One of them concerned a complaint that MDP demonstrators who laid money at police feet were actually bribing the police. The MDP were protesting against alleged police bribery.


The CNI has now asked for witness statements and asked the public to upload statements and videos on their website if witnesses were uncomfortable giving statements in person.

The CNI has collected statements from all political parties except the MDP. But the MDP has refused to cooperate with the committee.

“We do not recognise the CNI. How can the people who instigated a coup investigate the coup? There is no validity in the process. How can we give any weight to it?” Gafoor told Minivan News.

The MDP has raised concerns over the committee’s composition. The CNI is chaired by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Defence Minister Ismail Shafeeu. The MDP has also called for strong international presence on the commission.

The EU, Commonwealth, India, UK and the US have called for an impartial investigation.

Dr Waheed Hassan told local television station Villa TV (VTV) he would resign and reinstate ousted President Nasheed if the CNI established the February 7 transfer of power to be illegitimate.


MDP refuses to cooperate with CNI citing concerns over impartiality

The ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it does not recognise the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI), in response to the committee’s call for cooperation on Thursday.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan charged the CNI with looking into the legality and legitimacy of the transfer of presidential power on February 7. The MDP alleges former President Mohamed Nasheed was deposed in a coup d’état and have called for early elections.

The CNI told local media all political parties have complied with request for statements except for the MDP. But the committee said it believed MDP may cooperate if the CNI addressed the party’s concerns, local media reported.

The MDP has raised concerns over the committee’s composition. The CNI is chaired by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Defence Minister Ismail Shafeeu. The MDP has also called for strong international presence on the commission. The EU and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) have supported the call.

The CNI did not appear to commit to addressing MDP concerns, but instead requested dialogue.

However, MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said, “We do not recognise the CNI. How can the people who instigated a coup investigate the coup? There is no validity in the process. How can we give any weight to it?”

Gafoor also noted that the CNI had not requested for statements from officials of Nasheed’s administration.


According to local media Sun Online, committee head Ismail Shafeeu said, “[The MDP] have told media that they are dissatisfied with the commission. They have said the same to us.”

Further, CNI member Mohamed Fawaz Shareef had said he believed the MDP may cooperate if the CNI addressed the party’s complaints. The CNI have now requested for dialogue with the party, reports Sun Online.

According to Sun Online, the CNI also said although the UN had assured the committee of assistance, the committee had not heard back from the UN. The CMAG has offered assistance to the investigation, but the government said it favors UN assistance over that of the Commonwealth.

The CNI have requested for statements or videos to be uploaded to its website if witnesses are uncomfortable with submitting statements in person.

The CNI has said its inquiry is not a criminal investigation, but that the final report will consist of the three members’ opinions on the events of February 7.

Minivan News tried to contact the CNI for further comment, but the committee said it did not speak to the media except during its biweekly press briefings.

The committee is expected to complete its inquiry by May 31.

Dr Waheed Hassan told local television station Villa TV (VTV) he would resign and reinstate ousted President Nasheed if the CNI established the February 7 transfer of power to be illegitimate.


The MDP has criticised the lack of cross-party consultation in compiling the committee and the lack of international experts on the committee.

“It has been conceived and imposed by those parties allied to Dr  Waheed without any consultation with MDP. It does not include any eminent international experts. And the inclusion of individuals who held Cabinet posts during the autocratic government of former President Gayoom, including the appointment of a Chair – Mr. Ismail Shafeeu – who had held various ministerial posts under former President Gayoom including the position of Defense Minister at a time of widespread human rights abuses in the country, suggests that no effort has been made to ensure independence and impartiality,” the MDP said in February.

The EU, Commonwealth, India, UK and the US have called for an impartial investigation.

Local NGOs Transparency Maldives, Maldivian Democracy Network, Maldives NGO Federation and Democracy House have called on the CNI to seek cross-party support, international assistance and have asked for observer status.

According to the CNI’s website, its members held meetings with the Adhaalath Party, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Maldives Reform Movement (MRM). The CNI has also met Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon, the UN’s Mediation Expert, and three NGOs. These are the Maldives Democracy Network, Transparency Maldives, and Democracy House.

It has also met with media outlets, the Attorney General’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, Communication Authority of Maldives, Police Integrity Commission, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, the Civil Service Commission and the Prosecutor General’s Office.