Maldives and Canada in diplomatic spat

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon has accused the Canadian government of hypocrisy after it called on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to place a deteriorating human rights situation in the Maldives on its formal agenda.

“Canada should address the cultural genocide it is alleged to have committed against native Canadians before trying to teach other nations about values of democratic principles and human rights,” Dunya said in a statement on Tuesday.

Canada has condemned the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and police crackdown on several mass protests organized by the allied opposition parties.

In a statement on Tuesday, Canada said it supported the June 12 protest in which protesters called for the release of political prisoners, an independent judiciary, and respect for freedom of expression.

Dunya said Canada’s “selective application of [democratic] principles is a highly hypocritical approach to adopt” after a Canadian truth and reconciliation commission said rules that required Canadian aboriginals to attend state funded church schools was responsible for “cultural genocide.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a historic apology in parliament in 2008, acknowledging the physical and sexual abuse that took place in the schools.

Dunya said the Maldives welcomes constructive engagement and acknowledged that democratic principles, including accountability, is an obligation on all states.

“We would encourage Canada to show good faith and engage positively with the government,” she added.

The CMAG in 2012 suspended the Maldives and placed it on the body’s formal agenda over Nasheed’s ouster in 2012. A Commonwealth inquiry later concluded that the transfer of power was constitutional, but the opposition now says the inquiry was flawed.

Dunya in March slammed unnamed foreigners for working with local opposition politicians of pushing for CMAG action against the Maldives over Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

She has previously said Canadian statements on the ongoing political crisis are “blatantly untrue.”

The Maldives is grappling with increasing international criticism over the prosecution of opposition politicians. In addition to Nasheed, ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim is also in jail over charges of weapons smuggling.

Rights organizations have said the trials lacked due process.

Earlier this month, Dunya criticised the EU, UK, Canada and US over tweets in which diplomats raised concern over fresh terrorism charges against three more opposition leaders.

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial while US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that Nasheed was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.

Last week, US senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives.

President Abdulla Yameen has called for separate talks with the three opposition parties. The Jumhooree Party has held two meetings with government representatives, but there has been no progress with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

In October 2013, then-President Mohamed Waheed wrote a letter of complaint to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accusing Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird of posing “several harshly worded questions… concerning domestic politics in the Maldives” during a CMAG meeting on September 27.


Goverment will enforce death penalty, declares President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has declared that the Progressive Party of Maldives-led (PPM) coalition government will implement the death penalty despite international pressure.

Speaking at a campaign event for PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof in Male’ last night, President Yameen said his administration’s decision to enforce the death penalty was a “historic day” in the Maldives’ democracy.

“Enforcing the death penalty is not something I will do because I want to. This is a very difficult thing. This is not an easy thing to do for any president or [public] servant. But our society cannot bear the loss of a life as well as the opportunity for further loss of life as a result of not respecting [the value of a human life],” he said.

“For that reason, no matter how much I don’t want to do it or how difficult it is, I have to do this on behalf of the people as they have placed that trust in me.”

President Yameen revealed that the government had formulated regulations implementing capital punishment on Thursday, based on the advice of the cabinet.

The government decided to enforce the regulations to ensure the safety and security of the community, he said, adding that the public wished to see action taken to stop the “slaughter of innocent citizens.”

Moreover, a majority of the Maldivian people were in favour of introducing the death penalty despite opposition from international partners, Yameen contended.

He stressed that a convict would only be put to death in accordance with Islamic Shariah following due process through the courts.

At the final stage, he explained, the Supreme Court would decide whether capital punishment was warranted as qisas (retaliation).

Under the new regulations specifying procedures for enforcing the death penalty, President Yameen said that both the victim’s and the convict’s family would be consulted after the Supreme Court decision to see whether the former demanded the death penalty and not blood money as retaliation.

Following an order issued by Home Minister Umar Naseer in January to the Maldives Correctional Services for implementation of the death penalty through lethal injection, Amnesty International called upon the government to halt any plans to end the current moratorium on the death penalty.

The international human rights organisation described the possible reintroduction of capital punishment as a “retrograde step and a serious setback for human rights in the country”.

Meanwhile, President Yameen – on a state visit to Sri Lanka at the time of Naseer’s announcement – subsequently promised “broad discussions” on the issue in his cabinet.

Death sentences have traditionally been commuted to life sentences by presidential decree since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954 for the crime of practising black magic.

The Maldives currently has 20 prisoners sentenced to death by the Criminal Court.


Government “would consider” clemency for ex-president Nasheed following trial outcome

The government has said it will have no involvement in the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, adding it would consider the possibility of offering clemency should he eventually be found guilty.

Nasheed, who yesterday announced he had started his campaign for re-election, has called for the trial over his role in the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed earlier this year to be expedited. The former president has alleged that the trial against him is politically motivated to prevent him from contesting in presidential elections scheduled for 2013.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad claimed that the government was committed to its pledge of not interfering in the Maldives judicial system and played down fears of the trial being politicised.

“We would regret any parties or international organisations trying to politicise this trial,” he said. “However, after a judgement on the case has been given, if there is an opportunity to do so, I’m sure President Waheed would consider the possibility of clemency [for former President Nasheed].”

The comments were made today as Department of Judicial Administration Spokesperson Latheefa Qasim confirmed to Minivan News that the decision had been taken to appoint three judges to hear the former president’s trial. Qasim added that a date for the hearing or the identities of the three judges presiding over the trial had yet to be decided.

Last week, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was cleared to hold the trial that will see Nasheed along with several senior military figures under his command face charges for the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

During Nasheed’s administration Judge Abdulla was accused by the government of demonstrating political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.

Nasheed himself gave a speech to supporters in Male’ yesterday playing down the likelihood of his prosecution for the detention of the judge, while additionally launching his campaign for re-election despite no date for elections having been set.

Speaking from the Usfasgandu area in Male’, which is presently being used as a protest area by the now opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Nasheed alleged that he was not concerned of being prosecuted,  according to local media reports.

During a speech outlining his plans to continue to pursue early elections through the MDP’s ‘direct action’ protests and political pressure, the former president claimed that he was confident of securing re-election.

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that Nasheed’s comments were focused on the party’s continued efforts to secure “early elections” ahead of the proposed date of July 2013.  President Waheed has said July 2013 is the earliest date for fresh polls as allowed in the country’s constitution

The MDP back in July approved a resolution that the party would choose to boycott elections should Nasheed not be able to stand as its presidential candidate after winning.

Ghafoor claimed that despite preparing for early elections, both Nasheed and the MDP had agreed to respect the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report that last week concluded the government of President Waheed had come to power constitutionally and not through a “coup d’etat” on February 7.

“We have been respecting the report, but we also have very strong reservations about the concerns raised by [Nasheed’s appointee on the commission] Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed and we would like these shortcomings to be looked into,” he said. “There are obviously issues that we have with the findings and I do not believe that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will just choose to ignore Mr Saeed’s own reservations about the report.”

Saeed last week resigned from the five-member CNI panel approved by the government, MDP and Commonwealth, a day before the release of its findings over what he alleged was a failure by the commission to consider certain evidence and witness statements presented to the Commission.

Nasheed was also reported to have used his speech to claim that no country had so far accepted the CNI’s findings, according to local news service Sun Online.

Following the release of the CNI report last week, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma welcomed the completed publication, urging “all concerned to respect the findings of the commission so that, moving forward, all actions and reactions reflect the sense of responsibility and restraint necessary in the best national interest.”

The US, India and the UN also called for the outcome of the CNI’s report to be respected in light of its publication.

However, Ghafoor said that Nasheed had in fact questioned the responses of various international players claiming they had been “unclear” on their views of the report.

Ghafoor added that the party would continue to lobby to have the reservations raised by Saeed concerning the CNI report addressed.

Beyond reservations with the CNI, the MDP claimed that it had been willing to work with the government of President Waheed in what it called the “common interests” of the public by offering to join his coalition government.

“We do not want to be working with this government, we ourselves want to see early elections as soon as possible,” he said.

However, President Waheed yesterday announced he had opted against including the MDP in his national unity government.

While the MDP – in light of the CNI’s findings – had called for clarification on whether it was presently the ruling or opposition party, the President’s Office responded that the matter was irrelevant under the country’s presidential system of governance.


Gayoom claims “special motive” behind international calls for early elections

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has claimed that international calls for early elections are driven by a “special motive” that poses a direct threat to the Maldives’ sovereignty and religious heritage.

Gayoom, currently the leader of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), alleged that during his 30 year reign, international parties had always been attempting to influence the Maldives because of its 100 percent Muslim status.

The comments were made during a PPM rally on the island of Guraidhoo, Thaa atoll, where people had gathered to celebrate a weekend parliamentary by-election victory for the party.

Reporting from the island, Minivan News’ Hawwa Lubna witnessed hundreds of people in the audience for Gayoom’s address, which was made ahead of a meeting of  the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) today.

The ministerial action group is expected to discuss the controversial transfer of power that brought President Waheed into office on February 7 amongst a number of issues during today’s meeting.

CMAG was last month accused by members of President Waheed’s government of showing “bias” towards certain political parties in calling for general elections as early as possible to resolve questions over the administrations legitimacy.

The Commonwealth has since been supported by both the EU and US in calling for programs to be put in place to facilitate early elections before 2013.

The calls follow allegations by former President Mohamed Nasheed that he was removed from office in a “coup d’etat” on February 7 after sections of the military and police mutinied.

On the back of international pressure for fresh polling, Gayoom has claimed that the PPM – as part of the national unity government bought to power under President Waheed – has been given a public mandate following the weekend’s by elections.

Speaking at Monday night’s rally held to celebrate party candidate Ahmed Shareef’s win in the Thimarafushi parliamentary by-election, Gayoom contended that the “by-elections are the early elections”.

“The results prove PPM has the support of people,” the former president said.

Gayoom therefore argued that there was no room for early elections in the country, adding that the next constitutionally mandated election should be held in 2013.

“We must not not talk about holding an election which the constitution does not allow. However, several foreign parties are calling for this [early elections]. They are talking about it with a special motive,” Gayoom claimed.

“We must protect our sovereignty. We must protect our independence. We must not let anyone [foreigners] to intervene in our internal affairs.”

Gayoom also alleged that “different foreign parties are influencing Maldives because we are a 100 percent Muslim nation” and added that he “knows clearly why the international community is attempting by different means to restore Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s rule.”

“A very reliable person had told me former [President Nasheed’s] government had said that within a year of them coming to power, a church, a Christian church will be built in Maldives. But [Nasheed] could not do it,” Gayoom claimed.

Nasheed’s opponents have repeatedly accused his government of cooperating with “Christian missionaries” and “Jewish parties” to “wipe out Islam” from the Maldives.


Meanwhile, Gayoom further alleged that even during his 30 year rule, several foreign parties had “offered money” in return for implementing their proposals in Maldives, although he did not articulate on those proposals.

“But I put the nation’s interest first. I put the nation’s independence first. No matter how much money was offered, how many things they proposed to do in return, we did not want to give even the smallest part of our land. We did not want to handover any part of our independence to foreigners.” Gayoom contended.

The comments by Gayoom, who served in office for thirty years before being voted out in the country’s first democratic general election in 2008, mirrored earlier claims by the government that presidential elections were not needed this year – despite international calls to the contrary.

The government said that it believed victory for its coalition partners in the weekend’s two parliamentary by-elections was a clear indication of its “mandate” amongst the Maldivian people to remain in power until 2013.

Government spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza additionally called on international bodies like CMAG to take the results of the polls into consideration this week when reflecting on the need for fresh national polls.

From a government perspective, Abbas claimed that the two parliamentary and two island council by-elections should be seen as a “vote of confidence” by the public in the national unity government made up of several national parties.

Commonwealth membership

Following CMAG’s calls last month for early elections to be held in the Maldives at the earliest date possible, the government said it was concerned over the “language” used by the commonwealth in its statement.

The President’s Office said that although it was not for the time being looking to leave the Commonwealth, it added that such a move could be considered if CMAG continued to use similar language in the future.

“If this language continues, we will look to consider our position [in the Commonwealth],” government spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News at the time.

The government later denied it had made such claims, alleging to local media that the report in Minivan News had been “politically motived”.