The President’s Office has claimed all-party talks held last night at Bandos Island Resort and Spa concluded with senior representatives for the government and the nation’s political parties agreeing to move ahead through parliament to address the discussion’s key aims.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News that the all-party talks – the last of which, held in June, failed to reach a consensus on an agenda that included setting dates for early elections – saw representatives agreeing on revising the aims of the talks to reflect the findings of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).
However, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which continues to criticise the CNI findings – alleging they lack key witness testimonies and evidence – has today said it remained committed to pressing for early elections at the earliest possible date in line with calls from the European Union.
The comments were made after the CNI, charged with investigating the circumstances around the controversial transfer of power on February 7, concluded that the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan came to office constitutionally.
The Commonwealth, which backed the CNI under a reformed mandate and composition, yesterday called for report’s outcome to be respected – a stance shared by the US, India and the UN.
Following the CNI’s conclusion yesterday, Masood claimed the talks, which were attended by President Waheed, MDP Chair and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, “successfully” agreed to amend the aims of the talks. He added that these amended aims would now likely be addressed through the People’s Majlis rather than through continued external discussions.
Masood added that in light of the CNI’s findings, representatives at yesterday’s talks agreed on a new agenda, such as addressing legislative issues through parliament. He contended that this work could potentially be dealt with through the formation of a special all-party parliamentary committee.
Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, DRP Leader Thasmeen said ahead of the talk that he believed the focus of discussions, which had previously outlined an agenda including potentially agreeing early elections for this year, “should now change”.
“There had previously been serious contention over the transfer of power. At this point we had been willing to discuss early elections. I think these questions have now been answered [with the CNI report]. It is now time for national reconciliation,” he said.
Thasmeen contended that the talks would likely no longer focus on agreeing a date for early elections, which President Waheed has previously said under the constitution can be scheduled for July 2013 at the earliest.
“I think it should be possible to move on and try finding common platforms for agreement,” he said at the time.
Both Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Interim Deputy Leader Umar Naseer and MDP Chair Manik – who were both representing their respective parties at the talks – were not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.
MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said today that in spite of the CNI outcome, early elections remained a “key” focus of the opposition party going forward.
According to the MDP, the Commonwealth had not yet announced a change in its policy of pressing for early elections to be held this year to address the current political stalemate in the country.
Ghafoor added that he had also been encouraged by comments made by President Waheed in local media to hold talks between the leaders of the country’s parliamentary parties and himself, discussions he contended that would be limited to five key Majlis representatives.
In outlining the future focus of the party’s plans, former President Mohamed Nasheed was on Friday expected to hold a conference at 4:00pm in Male’ at the Mookai Hotel on Meheli Goalhi.
Addressing the party’s conduct following the CNI report yesterday, the MDP claimed that it believed 60 people were arrested during yesterday’s demonstrations as a result of an ongoing special operation launched by police in attempts to reduce unrest in the capital and wider atolls.
According to Ghafoor, the party was itself concerned with the large number of officers wearing balaclavas as they patrolled the capital, making it impossible to identify them individually.
“They were singing at MDP protesters and mocking them to try and provoke the public,” he claimed. “I myself observed spontaneous protests yesterday that were not organised offcially by the party. These were people who walked out of our national conference meeting yesterday. This situation saw a large number of arrests late into the night.”
According to official police figures, 50 people had been arrested as of yesterday afternoon. Of these suspects, seven were female and one person was classed as a minor.
By midnight, authorities confirmed that a further 13 people had been taken into custody. All suspects were charged with obstructing police in performing their duties.
Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef today confirmed local news reports that police would be arresting any member of the public heard calling officers “traitors” or alleging they had played part in a “coup”.
Haneef did not clarify if any arrests had been made on these grounds at the time of press.
Police said earlier this week that they will provide full support and security services to the demonstrations held “peacefully and within the contours of laws”.