Maldives resumes CMAG participation ahead of presidential elections

The Maldives government said it has been “welcomed” back as a fully participating member in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) during the group’s 39th meeting held in London yesterday (April 26) following its suspension last year.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dhunya Maumoon stated this week that the invitation for the Maldives to attend the CMAG meeting reflected the “recognition” of the work by President Dr Mohamed Waheed government’s in “strengthening democracy in the Maldives”.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile said it understood the country’s participation in CMAG was a diplomatic attempt to ensure free and “inclusive” elections went ahead in September of this year. The opposition party contended that the elections were also expected to be scrutinised by a number of international groups including the Commonwealth.

The Maldives was suspended from CMAG – the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm – back in February 2012 following the controversial transfer of power that saw former President Mohamed Nasheed resigning from office after a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

By September 2012, the suspension was revoked after a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) concluded the previous month that the transfer of power was legitimate, that former President Nasheed was not under duress, and that there was no police mutiny.

The findings were later accepted by former President Nasheed, albeit with reservations over evidence and witness statements he claimed had not been considered in the final report.

The stance was claimed to have been taken by the former president in order to facilitate the CNI’s recommendations concerning judicial independence and a strengthening of democratic institutions.

According to the Maldives government, CMAG is charged with reviewing “serious and persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values”.

Return to CMAG

Taking his place at the CMAG meeting on Friday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Abdul Samad Abdullah joined his counterparts from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago and Vanuatu to review developments in Fiji as part of the group’s formal agenda.

According to a commonwealth statement, CMAG’s latest meeting was focused predominantly on ensuring democratic developments in Fiji, including calls for constitutional reform to uphold the rule of law, while also ensuring structures were in place for hosting “credible elections” where all political parties and candidates can contest fairly.

CMAG alos used the meeting to welcome the adoption of the Charter of the Commonwealth by various heads of government, as well as other key figures in the intergovernmental organisation.

“The charter reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s commitment inter alia to democracy, human rights, the rule of law, separation of powers, freedom of expression, good governance, tolerance, respect and understanding and the role of civil society,” read an official statement. “As the custodian of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values, [CMAG] pledged to continue to promote these commonly agreed goals.”

Political solution

Following yesterday’s meeting, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News that considering national democratic developments, he believed the Commonwealth continued to expect three key requirements of the Maldives ahead of elections.

Ghafoor claimed that along with conducting the CNI last year, the Commonwealth has also required free and “inclusive” elections that would allow former president Mohamed Nasheed to stand as the MDP’s candidate. He added that September’s elections were also required to be monitored by experts such as a Commonwealth team in the run up to, and during polling.

Nasheed’s participation in the elections has been in doubt over his ongoing trial for the controversial of a Criminal Court Judge while he was in power – charges that could see him unable to contest in polls this year should he be found guilty. The trial is presently suspended pending a court ruling on the legitimacy of the establishment of the court and panel of judges chosen to overhear the case.

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP, despite previous concerns about the CNI, welcomed the Commonwealth’s commitments for “inclusive” elections, especially considering findings by a number of international legal experts disputing whether Nasheed could expects a free trial as a result of alleged politicisation in the country’s courts.

However, he added that the party also hoped for a transitional administration to replace President Waheed’s government ahead of September’s voting.

“The Commonwealth’s three requirements are welcome, but we would also like to see an interim arrangement that would see this coup administration out,” he alleged. “This is something we believe that can be achieved.”

Ghafoor said that he remained unsure if the Maldives, which last September was retained on the CMAG agenda under its “Matters of Interest”, was still being monitored by the body in terms of the nation’s commitments to human rights.

Ahead of the Maldives removal from suspension of CMAG last September, former Foreign Minister and current UN Special Rapporteur to Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed said at the time that the country’s removal from the agenda would be “a travesty” – accusing the government of committing “reprehensible actions” following the CNI report’s release.

“Things are not going well in the Maldives – the government is intent on persecuting Nasheed and the MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party)”, he claimed at the time. “They seem hell bent on repressing the people.”

Ahead of Friday’s CMAG meeting, several NGOs complied a so-called joint human rights brief accusing the Maldivian government of failing to create conditions conducive to free and fair elections

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) alleged there were “clear signs indicating that the coalition government in power since February 2012 has so far failed to set the conditions for free and fair elections in which ‘all parties and leaders are able freely to conduct election campaigns’.”

Meanwhile, Back in January this year, the Maldives was one of two countries to have been dropped from NGO Freedom House’s list of electoral democracies following the release of an annual survey of political rights and civil liberties.

Freedom House is an independent, non-government watchdog organisation dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world. The NGO assesses and scores countries for political rights and civil liberties each year, and labels them ‘free’, ‘partly free’, or ‘not free’.

Contested inclusion

The Maldives government has continued to contest whether the Maldives should have ever been included on the CMAG agenda.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dhunya Maumoon has previously claimed that the country’s inclusion has been a result of a “lack of understanding of the true events that transpired in the Maldives.”

“Some countries” had realised this error and accused Nasheed of influencing CMAG members, she alleged.

In April 2012, Maldives’ permanent representative to the EU Ali Hussein Didi criticised the Commonwealth’s involvement in the Maldives, telling the European Parliament that CMAG lacked a clear mandate to place the Maldives on its agenda.


“Radical Islam” undermining Maldivian civil rights: Helios Life Association

“The growing political and institutional influence of radical Islamic groups has undermined the Maldives’ progress towards realisation of rights guaranteed under [The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)]”, according to a report compiled by the Helios Life Association (HLA) NGO.

The claims were made in a report entitled: “Maldives: Sudden Reversals in the Implementation of ICCPR Commitments”, which alleges an “alarming increase” in the violation of human rights outlined within the ICCPR that was adopted by the Maldives back in December 2006.

The report by HLA – a non-profit NGO from Switzerland- will be among several documents submitted to a hearing of the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday (July 12).

The UNHRC has already identified key issues to be taken up with the Maldives concerning its commitments to the ICCPR. A document outlining these issues – drawn from the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) (with submissions from government, HRCM and civil society), was published in August 2011 – prior to the controversial change of government and fresh allegations of police brutality and attacks on journalists.

The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, which came to power through a controversial transfer of power on February 7, responded to the list of issues earlier this month, ahead of its session with the committee this week.

Representatives of the Waheed administration including  Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel , State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dunya Maumoon and the Maldives’ Permanent Representative in Geneva, Iruthisham Adam, will be present during Thursday’s session to discuss the country’s human rights commitments.

ICCPR in the Maldives

In discussing the role of the ICCPR and human rights issues in the Maldives, the HLA report said that a new constitution adopted in the country on August 8, 2008, paved the way to implement “most of the rights” outlined in the covenant.

However, the report did note some exceptions to the ICCPR, including sections of Article 18, – “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” – that it alleged had directly impacted a number of other articles in the covenant.

“The fall of the old autocratic regime following the first free and fair elections in the Maldives in October 2008, provided a further boost in the observation of the rights protected under the Covenant,” the report claimed. “An example of this was the agreement during the Maldives’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to address a number of concerns relating to non‐compliance with Article 18.”

In responding to issues raised with the UN on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the Maldives government said that “the reservation states that the application of the principles set out in article 18 will be without prejudice to the Constitution of the Maldives. Chapter II of the Constitution on fundamental rights and freedoms does not include, among the rights guaranteed, freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

The HLA report also highlighted “concerns relating to the competence, independence and impartiality of the judiciary,” an issue central to the events leading up to February’s transfer of power following the controversial detention of a serving Criminal Court Chief Judge. The detention saw former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government criticised around the world.

December 23

Drawing attention to what the report called the “institutional influence of radical Islamic groups”, HLA claimed that the law on Religious Unity, implemented back in September 2011 under the Nasheed administration, had impinged on parts of Article 19 of the ICCPR relating to human expression.

“This growing radicalisation resulted in the creation of a coalition of political parties in December, called the 23rd December Coalition for the Defence of Islam. As well as extremist religious elements, the 23rd December Coalition comprised of a range of political groups and individuals linked to the country’s former autocratic leader, Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayoom,” the findings added.

“The Coalition had been formed in direct opposition to the observance of international human rights law, particularly to the undertaking given at the UPR process that a national debate will be held on ending forms of punishment not consistent with Article 7.”

HLA also drew attention to the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to the Maldives and calls she made for debate on the issue of public floggings, particularly for women. The calls were derided by the December 23 coalition at the time.

“The [December 23] Coalition proceeded to carry out a coup d’etat on February 7, which was executed by elements of the army and police loyal to Mr Gayoom, his close allies and former members of his government, and other parts of the 23rd December Coalition, following a call by the then Vice‐President, Dr. Mohamed Waheed, to ‘defend Islam and the Constitution’”, the report alleged.

“The coup saw elements of the police and army threaten the Maldives’ first democratically‐elected President, Mr Mohamed Nasheed, his family and colleagues from the ruling Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), with physical harm or worse unless he resign by a certain time.”

Dr Waheed has always denied accusations that his coalition unity government came to power illegally, claiming his appointment to the presidency was constitutionally mandated upon the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Shortly after his resignation, Nasheed contended that he had been forced to resign under duress – calling for fresh elections.

“Undue control”

Since February’s transfer of power, the report added that former opposition parties involved in demonstrations and activities associated with the December 23 movement were now part of the coalition government, while only one major political party in the form of the MDP stood as opposition in parliament.

HLA’s findings alleged that the coalition now exercised “undue control” over the national judiciary, whilst occupying the executive and holding a combined parliamentary majority in the People’s Majlis.

“It also asserts undue influence over over‐sight bodies such as the Human Rights Commission (HRCM), the Police Integrity Commission and the Anti‐Corruption Commission (ACC). Consequently, the opposition and its supporters find themselves victimised without proper recourse to redress,” the report claimed.

HLA claimed that a “significant rise” in political violence had also followed the transfer of power amidst accusations that law enforcement agencies were not investigating crimes by bodies of gangs linked to government-aligned politicians, focusing instead on potential felonies committed by opposition figures.

“The perpetrators of these violent crimes remain at large whilst the courts are filled with political protesters who face criminal charges,” the report added.

Public order

In looking at the present government’s commitments to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of expression, the report noted that “legitimate public order concerns”  regarding ongoing demonstrations had been raised during a series of All Party Talks that last convened back in June. However, HLA claimed that a number of other issues raised during the talks appeared to target negating certain “fundamental rights” in this regard.

“It has become routine, once again, for the president and senior members of the government to equate dissent with terrorism, as in numerous public speeches made by the president,” the report stated.

HLA added that allegations of torture as well inhuman or degrading treatment were also on the increase following February’s political upheavals, pointing to claims made by female anti-government protesters.

As well as the use of high power water canons by police during March 2012, allegations were also raised by that some women had been sexually molested or suffered other “degrading punishments” following arrest in the first few months following the transfer of power.

The allegations in the report were based on testimonies from several women aged between 22 and 49 years of age.

Meanwhile, HLA’s findings claimed that the issue of debating flogging, a practice also conducted during Nasheed’s administration, had been deemed by MPs, the judiciary, local NGOs and representatives of the former government as “unconstitutional”.

“On November 25, 2011, the Chief Justice himself publicly rejected a call to implement the commitment given during UPR with regard to ending flogging as a form of punishment,” the report claimed.

The present government has responded that, while corporal punishment was not explicitly prescribed in the penal code, it was administered for “certain offences prescribed in Sharia.”

“The government is, however, looking at ways to ensure that the punishment is not applied in a discriminatory manner. At present, women are far more likely to be publicly flogged than men – mostly because of outdated court procedures such as reliance on confessions rather than forensic evidence – though as noted above this is changing,” the Waheed administration stated in its official response to the UN.

Arbitrary arrest

Considering Article 9 of the ICCPR, which relates to “liberty and security of person” and the prevention of arbitrary arrest or detention, the report also discussed the actions of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) under the Nasheed administration to seize Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed.

The detention, which the the government claimed had been made over concerns about “national security” owing to allegations that Judge Abdullah was involved in perjury and “blatant collusion” with the previous administration, was widely criticised by international bodies at the time.

Since February, the HLA claimed that some 400 protesters had reportedly been “arbitrarily detained”.

“There is serious concern that nearly everyone who has been charged is facing fabricated charges. A pattern has developed whereby people are arrested without any explanation being given as to the grounds of their detention,” the report claimed. “They are then asked to provide a urine sample and accused of having taken drugs or drunk alcohol. They are also often presented with a pre‐prepared confession and asked to sign it. All of this takes place while the detainees are denied access to a lawyer. “


HLA also stressed concerns over a “lack of independence and professionalism” within the country’s judiciary, which was claimed to be setting back the country’s obligations under the ICCPR.

Along with criticisms of the effectiveness of watchdog body, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) – particularly in the regards to Criminal Court Chief Judge Adbullah Mohamed – the capacity of the country’s Supreme Court was also questioned.

“The Supreme Court of Maldives consists of seven judges. Six of whom, including the chief justice, are only trained in sharia law,” stated the report. “They do not have a well‐grounded understanding of international human rights law. They have articulated positions that are contrary to the fundamental rights guaranteed under the ICCPR.”

“Religious hatred”

HLA alleged that there had also been an increase in the reporting and incitement of acts of “religious hatred” including anti-Semitism.

The NGO’s report pointed to incidents including attacks on participants of a silent protest calling for religious freedom in December 2011. One of the participants attacked in December, Prominent Maldivian blogger and journalist Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed, was stabbed in the neck just last month before fleeing the country after partly recovering from his injures. He later alleged the attack was the work of Islamic radicals.

HLA also singled out the publication of a pamphlet by the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), whose members now hold some senior government positions, entitled: “President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians” and an attack on pre-Islamic period Maldivian artefacts in a Male’ museum as further examples of the spread of religious hatred.

“In January 2012, efforts by the police to investigate incitement to religious hatred were blocked by the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, triggering a sequence of events that resulted in the displacement of the elected government by the members of the December Coalition in a coup d’etat,” the report added.

Media freedom

Helios reported that despite a period of “relative improvement” in the right to freedom of expression in the country, there were concerns that such developments had been set back in recent months.

“After a period of relative improvement in the right to freedom of expression, there has been serious retraction in this regard in recent months. Subsequent to the coup, there has been harassment of journalists and media outlets that criticise the new Government,” the report alleged. “This has led the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression to place the Maldives on his watch-list of countries where there has been a rise in harassment and attacks against journalists.”

Aside from reports of sections of the police and military seizing and re-branding state television and radio on February 7 without any judicial warrant, concerns were also raised that artists, musicians and users of social networking websites allegedly continue to face threats from law enforcement authorities for expressing dissent against the government, the report added.

“The president, speaking on 24 February 2012, branded those who ‘defame the Government’ as ‘traitors’. His Press Secretary, Mr Abbas Adil Riza, has condemned on several occasions those who have called for international sanctions on regime leaders,” the report claimed.

HLA also raised issue with claims that the Ministry of Education back in March issued a “compulsory directive” for curriculum textbooks to class the transfer of power as a legitimate act – without the conclusion of a Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) set up by the government to probe the circumstances of February 7.

The Waheed administration has nonetheless denied the harassment and intimidation of journalists. Instead, it contended that “media freedom has remained steady with the constitution protecting freedom of expression but also restricting freedom of speech contrary to the tenets of Islam.”

While the government blocked websites controversial to Islam, it “is working to ensure the media is free to tackle any subject. It was by the current administration of President Dr Waheed Hassan who took office in February 2012 that Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation was handed over to the Parliament-created Maldives Broadcasting Corporation that had ended executive control of the media.”


Gayoom attends Saudi Crown Prince funeral as President Waheed’s Special Envoy

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom attended the state funeral of Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz on Sunday as the Special Envoy of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

According to the Foreign Ministry, former President Gayoom attended the funeral at the Masjid al-Haram in the holy city of Mecca and expressed condolences on behalf of the government and people of the Maldives.

“During his stay in Saudi Arabia, His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom met with His Majesty King of Saudi Arabia Khadim Al-Haramain Al-Sharifain Al-Malek Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud and conveyed to him sincere regards and best wishes from Maldives President His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Waheed,” reads a statement by the Foreign Ministry.

Following the contentious transfer of power on February 7, former President Gayoom’s daughter, Dhunya Maumoon, was appointed State Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Gayoom was visiting Saudi Arabia to address the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League earlier this month, where he called for assistance from Islamic Arab countries in developing education and other services in the Maldives, as well to protect the country’s faith by “groups” he alleged are trying to weaken it.

The former president reportedly claimed that the present economic downturn, a loss of peace and order in the country and efforts “by groups of people to weaken people’s Islamic faith”, were among the most pressing challenges presently facing the Maldives.


“Consensus” now to appoint foreign expert to inquiry panel: government

As the European Union reiterates calls for “urgent agreement” on a process for political reconciliation and elections in the Maldives, the government has said it would welcome international independent assistance on ratifying its legitimacy – but only by an organisation accepted by all parties.

The inclusion of international experts in the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) has been urged by numerous international actors as well as the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former President Nasheed.  The CNI has been charged with looking into legality of the transfer of presidential power last month to ascertain the legitimacy of the current government.

It currently consists of three members: Ismail Shafeeu, former minister of defence and national security during President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s administration; Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Maldives National University; and Dr Ibrahim Yasir, former Director General of Health Services.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News today that there was now “consensus” among politicians for a foreign expert to sit on the panel of the CNI to ascertain the truth over the controversial transfer of power. However, Abbas claimed that the government was presently seeking UN assistance for the inquiry panel following allegations of bias by former opposition MPs and government ministers against  “British interference” within the Commonwealth.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed in response that efforts by certain MPs and government members to discredit the Commonwealth in favour of the UN were nothing but a stalling tactic to delay appointing international assistance.

The Commonwealth, whose ministerial action group (CMAG) last week backed early elections in the country has been criticised by some former opposition MPs and government figures in the Maldives for the comments. The organisation has nonetheless been backed by the EU in its decision to send Special Envoy Sir Don McKinnon to the country over the last few days to hold dialogue with all parties and several former presidents.

Although, not directly echoing the Commonwealth’s calls that “the earliest possible expression of the will of the people was required to establish universal faith in the legitimacy of those who govern the [Maldives],” the EU stressed concern over the continued political unrest in the Maldives.

“I believe it is of utmost importance that political parties and authorities abstain from taking any action that could further complicate matters. Moreover, the security of the leaders of political parties has to be guaranteed,” stated Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

“Agreement on the holding of early elections, on the independent investigation of the transfer of power of February 7 and on the re-establishment of the correct functioning of government and parliament is now more important than ever.”

International assistance

Responding to the comments, Abbas Adil Riza said that President Waheed and his government appreciated the consideration of international bodies like the Commonwealth and EU regarding the current political situation in the country.  He added that the government had therefore pledged to do everything they could to follow their advice.

The president’s spokesperson said the government was presently trying to work in line with international calls to host fresh presidential elections and a independent enquiry into the events leading to Dr Waheed coming to power on February 7.

“We are working hard to put together the most independent commission for the enquiry so we can have all parties to agree on its outcome,” Abbas stated. “Sadly MDP MPs have made accusations questioning the pointed panels independence so we have called on the UN to assist with this matter.”

When asked about the nature of this UN “assistance”, the government spokesperson said that discussions has so far related to securing an international expert to be appointed to the CNI panel.

However, Abbas stressed that the government favoured UN assistance – a body which has been noticeably silent amid the country’s growing political crisis. Abbas said some of the former opposition political parties, now in government, had accused the Commonwealth of being bribed by the MDP in local media.

“Since the MDP accusation questioning the independence of the current panel, the PPM and indeed some in the government have raised issues of British involvement in the Commonwealth. The international party has to play a role that is unbiased,” he said.

“The PPM, which is a major political party in this country, has outright accused the Commonwealth of bias.”

Abbas told Minivan News that amidst these allegations, acquiring the direct assistance of the UN, which represented a much wider scope of countries was a more preferable “solution to ensuring legality” of the government.

To this end, the spokesperson added that the foreign Ministry has been in touch with the UN over obtaining international assistance with the independent investigation and that responses had so far been “positive”.

However, he stressed that ensuring true independence in the Maldives was extremely difficult.

“The government is trying to find a balanced solution that all sides can agree upon. However, in a third world country like the Maldives the solutions are often very complex,” Abbas claimed. It is very complicated to maintain neutrality.”

However, MDP spokesperson, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party remained cautious over the government’s commitments to secure an international expert to oversee the independent investigation.

“What we have noticed is evasiveness by the government to finalise international involvement in the enquiry,” he said. “I believe the UN talks are a deviation.”

Ghafoor claimed that this alleged “reluctance” by the Waheed government to involve international experts in its affairs was reflected in what he called the disproportionate response from some MPs towards dismissing and insulting the Comonwealth.

To support this claim, he pointed to comments made by Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon, who dismissed calls by the Commonwealth for early elections as showing bias towards one particular party – presumably the MDP and former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Despite these concerns, Ghafoor said he was very encouraged by the latest EU statement issued by Catherine Ashton.  The MDP spokesperson claimed the statement raised additional concerns regarding the current political situation from its previous statement last month, such as in the manner that government and parliament was presently functioning.

“We believe that this shows the situation has deteriorated further,” he claimed.


Maldives may reconsider Commonwealth membership

The Maldives government has said it may “consider” its membership in the Commonwealth in the future after the body’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) repeated calls for early elections in the country.

President Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News today that although the government was not currently looking to re-assess the country’s role as a member of the intergovernmental organisation, it was concerned over the language used in a statement by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on Friday.

“The government is concerned at the language that has been used by the Commonwealth [in the latest statement] and we condemn it. The foreign minister has conveyed this as well,” he said. “If this language continues, we will look to consider our position [in the Commonwealth].”

Riza added that the government would also forward its concerns about the language of the CMAG statement to the Commonwealth’s Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, who arrived in the Maldives on Friday.

Commonwealth role

Debate over the role of the Commonwealth in the Maldives has intensified over the last week following the political uncertainty generated by the ongoing controversy over the transfer of power that saw Dr Waheed replace Mohamed Nasheed as president on February 7, 2012.

In Friday’s statement, CMAG said it “continued to be strongly of the view that the earliest possible expression of the will of the people was required to establish universal faith in the legitimacy of those who govern the [Maldives].”

The government has since responded that discussions, road map talks, and other constitutional amendments designed to set out plans for any early elections remained an “internal issue”. Riza therefore called on the Commonwealth to refrain from issuing further statements with “language like that”.

Speaking yesterday about the elections calls, Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon said that CMAG, which serves as the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm, had shown some bias in its comments. However, she added that the statement had been positive about some of the government’s initiatives to try stabilise the country’s fractured political structure.

“The statement somewhat promotes the interests of a certain party or a certain individual. But I don’t want to say that exactly. Because there are many statements that are positive towards the government,” the foreign minister told reporters.

Majlis concerns

Meanwhile, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it will continue to try and prevent the Majlis from functioning until a date for early elections is set.

The CMAG had raised concerns regarding the obstruction of parliament by MDP MPs during the opening on March 1. It expressed regret over the disruption of parliament on March 1 and urged “all parties to engage in dialogue without delay, in earnest and in good faith with a view to achieving agreement on the date of early elections”.

MDP spokesperson, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said continuing to try and block the Majlis was a “thorny issue,” but believed the party could viably continue its attempts to block parliament.

He added that from the party’s perspective, it had little choice but to continue to try and prevent parliament from holding its opening position to “protect” the integrity of the Majlis.

“The moment we allow a coup leader to address parliament, the public will begin to question the integrity of the Majlis,” he claimed.

Former President Nasheed told his supporters that he himself planned to be on the front lines of the protests outside the reconvened Majlis session tomorrow and claimed that authorities “would have to shoot him” before they could proceed with the opening.

Constitutional requirement

The government maintains the allowing the Majlis to open and Dr Waheed to speak to parliament was a constitutional requirement and not related to calls for Waheed to concede early elections.

In addressing the MDP’s comments, Abbas Adil Riza said that the Majlis operated as a separate entity from the president and therefore calls to hold fresh elections were not related to allowing parliament to function.

Riza added that the government was therefore calling on former President Nasheed to “stop advocating violence” particularly among young people, in regards to blocking the Majlis and opposing the government.

“More than 200 youths currently face charges for torching public buildings since February 8,” he added.

Though Riza said that the public would be free to gather on some of the capital’s roads to protest, he added that inside the parliament chamber, it was for the Speaker of the Majlis, Abdulla Shahid, and not the government to ensure parliament functioned correctly.

The government spokesperson added that just as under the government of Mohamed Nasheed, the speaker had control of 60 Majlis guards that had the power to remove disruptive elements from the parliamentary floor.

Despite CMAG’s criticism of efforts to block parliament from functioning, Ghafoor claimed that international calls from groups like the Commonwealth for early elections and constitutional reforms showed that there were questions to be answered over the legitimacy of the present government.

“We do not believe Dr Waheed to be a legitimate leader,” he said. “The MDP’s position is to try and find a political situation to agree on an election date and the corresponding constitutional reforms required to do this before opening parliament. This was highlighted and agreed by MDP members, but rejected by the opposition.”

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP has been working with the government and opposition politicians to try and secure an end to the current political deadlock. However, the spokesperson claimed that Parliamentary Group leader Ibrahim Mohamed ‘Ibu’ Solih, has previously expressed concern that Dr Waheed was not open to finding a potential solution on a timetable for elections.

Opposition parties including the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) have so far withdrawn from the roadmap talks aimed at finding a political solution to the current upheaval in protest at the MDP blocking parliament earlier this month.


Z-DRP claims texts of Gayoom’s illness from Dhunya’s number are malicious prank

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s faction of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has held a press conference calling on the public to be aware of false text messages circulated in the name of Gayoom’s daughter, Dhunya Maumoon.

Faction member MP Ahmed Nihan said the texts are being sent to different persons using mobile phone applications that can send texts under false numbers without the knowledge of the owner of the number.

“The texts say that Zaeem [an honorific for the former President] has fallen ill and is in a very critical condition.’’

‘’Since yesterday morning the persons who are doing this have been texting to different numbers using Dhunya’s mobile number, and people have been very concerned thinking that it was Dhunya who texted them,’’ Nihan said.

Nihan claimed the fraudsters “have been doing this either to mislead the public or to infuriate senior officials of the Z-DRP.”

‘’We don’t know who is doing this. The [ruling] Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters re most likely to do things like that,’’ he claimed, “But considering the current situation we can’t say, it might even be someone amongst us.’’

Furthermore, Nihan called supporters of Z-DRP faction to clarify with senior officials if they received any sort of concerning text.

‘’We will try to identify those responsible for this and will take action against them,’’ he said, adding that Gayoom was currently in a very ‘’fit and healthy condition.’’


DRP criticises government for not consulting Parliament on new SAARC Secretary General nominee

Leader of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Women’s Wing and daughter of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Dhunya Maumoon, has said the government did not consult with Parliament before nominating former Auditor General Dhiyana Saeed as the new South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretary General, reports Miadhu.

The DRP has welcomed the new appointee for SAARC Secretary General but have criticised the government for not consulting the appointment with Parliament.

According to Miadhu, the government did not have to consult with Parliament before announcing their nomination for Dhiyana to serve as secretary general. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, said her term will begin 1 March 2011.

Dhiyana was in office as attorney general for a short time and was previously a DRP MP during Gayoom’s government.

She is married to local businessman, Abdulla Jabir, who has been linked to a corruption case currently under investigation.