Commonwealth unveils 17 member observer group for presidential election

Former Prime Minister of Malta Dr Lawrence Gonzi is to head a 17 member Commonwealth group arriving in the Maldives on August 31 to observe the upcoming presidential election.

The group, constituted by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, is mandated to “observe and consider all aspects of the electoral process” on September 7 to ensure it is held in compliance to agreed standards for fair polling.

It was confirmed by the Maldives Election’s Commission late last month that observers from both the Commonwealth and EU would be monitoring the election. Representatives from other local groups and institutions have also pledged to observe the vote.

The Commonwealth Observer Group, scheduled to arrive in the Maldives later this month, is expected to be in the country until September 14.

The group’s work will be overseen by a Commonwealth Secretariat support group, led by Nishana Jayawickrama, head of the intergovernmental organisation’s Asia/Europe Political Affairs Division.

According to the Commonwealth, the seventeen member panel consists of:

  • Group Chair Dr Lawrence Gonzi
  • Hugh Craft, former Australian diplomat
  • Bruce Hatch, Canadian elections expert
  • Elizabeth Ohene, former minister and media expert in Ghana
  • Navin Chawla, India’s former Chief Election Commissioner
  • Prof Lisa Ann Vasciannie, Jamaican governance expert
  • Yusmadi Yusoff, former Malaysian MP
  • Notemba Tjipueja, Namibian Elections Commission Chair
  • Maryan Street, New Zealand MP
  • Prof Attahiru Jega, Nigerian National Electoral Commission Chair
  • Zobaida Jalal, former minister in Pakistan
  • Dr Alphonse Gelu, Registrar of Political Parties in Papua New Guinea
  • Hendrick Gappy, Seychelles Electoral Commission Chair
  • Ms Lindiwe Faith Mokate, South African Human Rights Commission
  • Andi Schubert, Sri Lanka youth representative
  • Prof Sylvia Tamale, Ugandan gender expert
  • John Turner, UK elections expert

In a statement, the Commonwealth said the observer group will work impartially and independently, conducting itself in line with the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation.

As well as making possible recommendations on how to strengthen the electoral framework in the Maldives for future voting, the observers will also submit a report on the 2013 presidential election to both Commonwealth and Maldives authorities.

Local observers

Earlier this month, both the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) announced plans to station election observers in specific areas of the country.

The MDP has pledged to place more than a thousand election observers throughout the country, an average of four observers per ballot box.

Meanwhile, the HRCM will reportedly be stationing its own election observer teams in 10 regions of the Maldives to monitor polls.


MDP accuse Commonwealth Secretariat of complicity in “coup” cover-up

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of being involved in an alleged cover-up of key details surrounding the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

In a statement released yesterday (January 23), the MDP claimed that parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) had uncovered evidence of a “systematic government cover-up designed to subdue testimonies from key witnesses to the coup d’etat”.

The statement accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of having “close involvement” with the government’s Committee of National Inquiry (CoNI) that reported on the power transfer on February 7, 2012 – making it implicit in any alleged cover-up.

Among the MDP’s allegations, the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon was accused of “giving in” to government demands to appoint certain individuals to oversee the report.

“The CoNI, established by Dr Waheed shortly after he came to power, was originally made-up of three people – all well-known sympathisers of former President Gayoom – and chaired by President Gayoom’s former minister of defence,” the statement read.

“After an international outcry, the government was forced to agree to reform the CoNI. The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, was subsequently sent to the Maldives to mediate an agreement, but eventually gave in to government demands that President Gayoom’s former defence minister must remain as chair, and that the other two members must remain in place.”

The MDP added that the final report of the CoNI had maintained that the transfer of power had been constitutional and rejected allegations of a “coup d’etat” despite what it claimed was “widespread evidence to the contrary.”

Minivan News is awaiting a response from the Commonwealth Secretariat at time of press.

The statement was released the same week in which senior military and police intelligence figures gave evidence to the EOC alleging that the transfer of power on February 7 “had all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat”, and claimed that the final CoNI report had not reflected their input.

The figures included Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi, Commander of Male’ area on February 7, Police Head of Intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed, Chief of Defense Force Major General Moosa Jaleel, Head of Military Intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilaam, Chief Superintendent of Police Mohamed Jinah and Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh.

All six have since resigned or been suspended from duty.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq told Minivan News today that the CoNI report was a “transparent” process undertaken by “qualified Maldivian people”.

“Because of this, the CoNI report is accepted by the government. We have a judiciary, if anyone has a problem with this affair they can go to the courts themselves,” he added.

Asked whether the MDP’s allegations that the suspension of senior military staff who gave evidence to the EOC was an attempt by the government to “subdue testimonies from key witnesses”, Thaufeeq argued that the government “was not in a position to talk about a military matter”.


Maldives studying the extension of its continental shelf

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) is working on the possibility of extending the Maldives’ continental shelf, reports Miadhu.

Major Mohamed Ibrahim said the Maldives had to make its submission to the UN Commission on Continental Shelf on the findings of its studies by 7 September 2010.

He said a study had already been prepared with assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Major Ibrahim said the technical team had studied the Indian Ocean and the Maldives since the 1970s.

He also noted the difficulty of finding experts to conduct the studies.