MDP proposes imprisoned ex-president to represent party in talks

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has proposed imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed, chairperson Ali Waheed and MP Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih as representatives for talks with the government.

The main opposition party’s national council adopted a resolution today to accept the government’s calls for dialogue to resolve the ongoing political crisis.

“The [MDP] believes that the anxiety and distress in the country can be resolved by all the opposition parties sitting down at the table for discussions with the government,” reads the resolution.

President Abdulla Yameen’s proposed agenda for talks focuses on three aspects: political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and legal system and political party participation in economic and social development

However, the government has ruled out negotiations over the release Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, insisting the president does not have the constitutional authority to release convicts before the appeal process is exhausted.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

However, Muaz told Haveeru before the resolution was passed that the government will go ahead with the talks even if the MDP declines the president’s offer.

During the national council debate on the resolution, MP Eva Abdulla stressed the importance of talks involving all political parties, including the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

“MDP is the first party that called to solve the political crisis. So we are happy the government took the initiative to hold talks and we accept it. But we want to hold the discussions together, not separately as the government has suggested,” she said.

President Yameen had sent invitations to the three allied opposition parties separately and assigned two ministerial teams for the talks.

Eva also argued that the agenda for the talks should be up for discussion.

“We are not going to discussions to talk only about what the government wants. The discussions will include what the government wants, but also what we want. The agenda of the talks also should be set at the discussions,” she said.

Eva also suggested MDP should not join the discussions without the proposed delegation: “I don’t think there is anything we can solve without the delegation MDP proposed.”

Nasheed is currently serving a 13-year jail term at the high-security Maafushi prison following his conviction on terrorism charges in March.

The MDP has maintained that the trial was a politically motivated attempt to bar the party’s president and presumptive candidate from the 2018 presidential election.

Foreign governments and international bodies including the UN have criticized the trial for apparent lack of due process, while the EU parliament has called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was meanwhile released from police custody this afternoon. He had been held in remand detention since his arrest in the wake of the mass anti-government demonstration on May 1.

Police have concluded an investigation on charges of inciting violence and forwarded a case against Waheed to the prosecutor general’s office. A seven-day extension of detention granted by the criminal court expired today.

While the Jumhooree Party (JP) has accepted the invitation for talks, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party proposed its detained president, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, among the party’s representatives.

Imran was also arrested on May 1 and remains in police custody.

Speaking at today’s emergency meeting of the national council, MP Ibu, MDP parliamentary group leader, noted that the acceptance of the government’s invitation does not mean the party trusts the government.

“We are going to sit down with the government not necessarily because we trust them. We should always learn from what has happened in the past. Recently we saw the Ukrainian government sitting down for talks with Russia despite the distrust,” he said.

Ibu said the planned mass protest for June 12 – organised by the MDP –  is also a call for discussions.

“The June 12 protest is also a symbol of negotiations and talks. So I call on the people of Maldives who support our cause to come and join us in discussions,” he said.

Other members of the national council questioned the “sincerity” of the government’s invitation for talks.

“The deputy leader of JP, Ameen Ibrahim, was set free by the High Court but the state once again appealed his case in the apex court to detain him again. So the intent of the government is questionable,” said MP Rozaina Adam.

Ameen is among the five-member team to represent the Jumhooree Party. Some opposition politicians contend the police’s attempt to detain Ameen is an attempt to prevent him from representing the JP.

The resolution was passed with the support of of 42 members with one vote against.

The dissenting member objected referring to Nasheed as the party’s president, arguing that the government might reject the resolution on the grounds that he no longer holds the post.

In late April, the pro-government majority voted through amendments to the Prison and Parole Act that prohibited inmates from holding high-level posts in political parties.

The revised law effectively stripped Nasheed of the MDP presidency.


Comment: Political parties will not resolve current conflicts

The killer headlines these days are about the standstill to Maldives political party peace talks.

The UN has spent more than US$40,000 to recruit a peace negotiator, and the resources allocated towards this are justifiable. There have to be efforts made to resolve the bickering and barking of the political parties.

In my graduate studies in human rights and peace studies, I was asked in one course to research a paper on how to connect human rights and peace. It was challenging as these were two varied disciplines and the advocates of both notions have different discourses.

Oftentimes during conflicts, the human rights advocators desire to settle scores with the human rights violators and bring justice. If the human rights violators are the past regime or the government, the government will reject all peace talks.

At the same time, peace keepers may show some indifference to human rights violators as their main aim is to resolve disputes and conflicts so that peace processes and peace talks can resume. When you study the history of peace negotiations in conflicting countries, each country has undergone dissimilar transformations.

We can consider the examples of good peace negotiations and try to adapt a workable methodology that may be appropriate to Maldives.

No external expert can resolve the case without internal and domestic willingness to resolve the political differences to accord peace to the citizens of the Maldives.

Maldivian context

The international community has been adamant that the Maldivian politicians would be able to settle their differences for the sake of the Maldivian people. I was skeptical and shared my views with the international diplomatic missions, statesmen or whoever came during the past few months to influence the Maldives politicians to resolve our domestic political affairs.

At the beginning there were reservations by Maldivians and politicians that the good name of the peace talks could be stolen by external experts and foreign countries. When Assistant Secretary of US State Robert Blakes met us in July, I was critical and open.

I shook my head negatively at his hypothesis that political parties will resolve the conflict.

There was a series of successive visits by foreign diplomats before his visit and afterwards. Another visit was a mission from UN Department of Political Affairs who met stakeholders but kept nodding off through nearly all the meetings.

I predicted at the time that the peace talks will be boycotted sequentially. I predicted that the sudden quick agreements will stall if there are no international negotiation facilitations. I suggested having an international negotiation facilitation team of 2-3 members with local consultants.

It will be a costly affair but I felt it has to be done.

Psychological warfare

Do you know what happens when two kids starts fighting over a toy? Each kid will tug at the toy, trying to gain control and power. The stronger kid will always win.

A smart kid knows how to cajole, and sweet talk will win over the other kid. Nice is manipulative and always wins. We need this kind of approach in the resolution of politics in the Maldives.

Nobody wins at all rounds, some lose and some win. We have to learn to accept defeat sometimes.

Immature political games

The deadlock in parliament’s deliberations has been challenged several times, at a cost in public spending of Rf400,000 a day. When the deadlocks are at climax, the pressure rises from the public. The general public starts calling for the resignation of MPs through radio and television channels, which are their only outlet.

Local television polls have shown that the public believes the MPs are not doing their jobs, although the political parties do not take these polls seriously are claim this is work of the opposition or government.

Again, are there any laws where the public, ultimately the highest authority in the Maldives, can make the MPs accountable?

Unfortunately, there seems to be no such laws and the MPs seem to be above law. They have failed many times to pass the required laws as per the Constitution. The public has witnessed the MPs name-calling on the parliament floor, accusing everybody of corruption without citing credible sources, accusing each other of fraud, vulgarity and theft.

Many times we have seen the MPs committing criminal offenses in parliament by hitting each other, but none of these cases have been put to trial.

Each MP – not to be outdone – presents that he talks on behalf of the public. This is an old story we are sick of hearing.

How many MPs can truly say that they have talked and understood the voices of the public? The general public elected the MPs with high expectations and hopes for a better democracy.

Way forward

Dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue.  We understand the Maldivian context, we are going through a democratising process and there will be many political hurdles, but not at the cost of public spending, our public life, and political peace.

The MPs are paid large amounts of public money for their salaries and they have to fulfill their obligations. How can, the ruling Government, the opposition or the independent candidates say that they are not ready for dialogue or peace talks?

The only way forward to any political solution in the Maldives is to keep up the dialogue. Ask any Maldivian citizen and you will hear same thing: we need the politicians to talk and bring solutions to the political conflicts.

Also, the peace expert should climb down from his chair and talk to the average citizens to hear our grievances. To the politicians, if you are not ready to dialogue, please resign from the political scenario and give peace to average citizens.

We have bigger issues in trying to make ends meet and earn a living, what with the high rents, spike in food prices and living costs. In addition to this, we have to deal with drug and gang warlords, fear, and sadly a society disintegrating moral values.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]