The Commonwealth has expressed disappointment at attempts to stifle parliament yesterday in a week that has seen the international organisation facing allegations it had been bribed by anti-government supporters.
Having witnessed the chaotic protests that occurred inside the Majlis yesterday as Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs heckled and unsuccessfully tried to prevent President Waheed from giving an address, Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon issued a statement criticising the developments.
As well as stressing disappointment at the “manner” in which the opening session of parliament was conducted yesterday, the special envoy also raised concerns over the “security situation” in the nation.
McKinnon therefore called for maximum restraint from all sides of the political spectrum after violent clashes between civilians and security forces gripped the capital.
The statement comes on the back of a controversial few days for the Commonwealth and its relationship with the Maldives, with the organisation accused of political bias and even taking bribes by the MDP.
Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed has claimed the opposition MDP have bribed the Commonwealth after the body’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) called for early elections on Friday.
CMAG—the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm—said elections were necessary to legitimise the executive after former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged his deposition on February 7 was through a bloodless coup d’état.
Speaking on local television Dhi TV’s “From the News” programme on Saturday, Riyaz also accused the CMAG of intimidation, called the British Queen “physically challenged” and said the United Kingdom was “not a democracy.”
Riyaz was joined by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof, who threatened the country could potentially leave the Commonwealth should the intergovernmental organization repeat its call for early general elections.
Riyaz’s DQP is among the alliance of seven parties that support President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.
Bribery and Intimidation
CMAG—authorized to assess infringement of the Commonwealth’s political values—has come under intense criticism following its call for early elections. The Maldives government called the CMAG’s statement “biased” and said it may reconsider its membership in the commonwealth.
Riyaz said the CMAG representatives in the Maldives “were slaves who have been bought by the MDP”, and only wanted to “reinstate the MDP to power”.
British citizens had supported and financed the MDP’s rise to power in return for permission to establish churches in the Maldives, he claimed. He also said the British hated the Maldives for having gained independence.
“What have the Commonwealth done for us? Why do we have to comply with them? That is the question. The English hate us. Why? Because Ibrahim Nasir saved us from slavery and brought us independence, since then what have the English done for us?” he said.
The CMAG’s elections calls were an act of intimidation, Riyaz said. “They come here and intimidate us, intimidate the president, intimidate the political parties, we will not be intimidated. This government will not be intimidated. The political parties will not be intimidated”.
“We know what the commonwealth is concerned about,” he said, “We know the current president [Waheed] will not drink alcohol from the same cup with them [as Nasheed did]”.
Riyaz repeated the government’s stance that early elections can only be held after constitutional amendments.
“Has the Commonwealth lost all sanity?”
Riyaz claimed the MDP was a terrorist organisation and condemned CMAG’s allegd lack of criticism at the time regarding MDP’s continued protests. “Has the Commonwealth lost all sanity? Are they sane? Are they sane? Is the Commonwealth sane? Who gave them visas to come here? They must not be allowed here,” he said.
The CMAG’s lack of action over the detention of senior then-opposition leaders during Nasheed’s administration were further evidence of their bias, he suggested.
He also appeared to threaten the CMAG saying, “I say very firmly and clearly, if they want to have security and leave safely, there are certain sovereign issues that they must not interfere with, if they were to, we are Maldivians, we will not be submissive.”
The Commonwealth Secretary General’s special envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon arrived in the Maldives on Friday to resolve the current political crisis. He met with former President Nasheed on Saturday and met with President Waheed on Sunday.
The body suspended Fiji in 2009, after the country’s military seized power in 2006.
The Queen is “Physically Challenged”
Riyaz attempted to discredit the Commonwealth’s commitment to democracy by slandering the British Queen and claiming the UK was not a democracy.
“Look, the Queen has been in power for 50 years. Is that good? No, that’s inappropriate. If we wanted to point fingers, we can,” he said.
“Ater 50 years, the English Queen, she is physically challenged. But she is still Queen, and if she wants she can remove the Prime Minister. Where is democracy? Where is democracy? That is not a democracy,” he added.
Ironically, he also said he planned to submit a bill to parliament to give former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom the same status and respect as the Queen since Gayoom had ruled the country for 30 years and was responsible for all development the country had seen.
Gayoom’s PPM MP Mahloof said he also “shared Riyaz’s frustrations.” However, he appeared to be more diplomatic highlighting the Commonwealth’s assistance during the drafting of the new constitution.
He echoed Riyaz in saying early elections would destroy the constitution.
“Their help and support is very important,” he said. “But if they tell us to destroy the constitution, we can only say sorry! For example, if the Commonwealth’s final decision is that we need to hold elections before 2013, then we will leave the Commonwealth before they suspend us! Why not?”
Mahloof said he believed the MDP’s only hope now was the Commonwealth with the party stepping up its protests over the past week to influence the CMAG’s decision.
“If the Commonwealth’s decision is to suspend Maldives, then I believe the Maldives should not join the Commonwealth ever again. We saw why the Commonwealth suspended countries such as Pakistan. [Military] went out with guns and shot [people], that was the level at which government was changed. It did not reach that level here,” he said.