CMAG lobbying anticipated to be key focus during Nasheed’s UK visit

Former President Mohamed Nasheed is expected during a visit to the UK this week to lobby the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to keep the Maldives on its agenda and assist in enacting reforms to civil society institutions, his party has said.

With Nasheed this week making his first visit to Europe since February’s controversial transfer of power, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it anticipates the former president will lobby during the trip to keep the Maldives on CMAG’s agenda as well as to help set clear targets for a Commonwealth-backed reform agenda.

The MDP has claimed that it is now advocating for an agreement on “structural adjustments” that would help address concerns raised in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report.  The report, released last month, rejected accusations by Nasheed and his supporters that he was forced to resign from office.

The current government has meanwhile said that it would be difficult to look into concerns raised by the CNI concerning the events between February 6 to February 8 this year without potentially implicating Nasheed for his role in the alleged use of “excessive force” by police during his tenure.

The President’s Office also maintained that any reforms to the country’s judiciary or civil society would have to be made through the country’s independent institutions such as the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC)

Nasheed left today for the UK, where he is scheduled to meet senior UK government officials and MPs as well as top Commonwealth’s figures and human rights organisations. He will be joined during the visit by former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem and the party’s Deputy Chairperson (Finance) Ahmed Mausoom.

As well as speaking both in London and Scotland on the theme of democracy in the Maldives, the MDP today said it anticipated Nasheed, who is presently chosen to represent the party in the next general election, would also be likely to lobby to keep the Maldives on the agenda of the CMAG.

CMAG had placed Maldives on its formal agenda in February, at the time citing ‘the questions that remain about the precise circumstances of the change of the government, as well as the fragility of the situation in Maldives’ as reasons.

The government has maintained that the CMAG ‘lacked mandate’ to place Maldives on the agenda. Following this there has been multiple instances where the government had expressed disapproval in what it termed ‘interference’ by the Commonwealth.

MDP MP and spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that it was anticipated Nasheed would seek to have GMAG retain the Maldives on its agenda in order to pressure the Waheed administration to meet a number of commitments such as those raised in the CNI’s findings.

“I expect there will be strong lobbying for our position [on CMAG],” he said. We have agreed to go ahead with the CNI recommendations, though with the reservations raised by Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed.

Saeed was chosen to be Nasheed’s representative on a reformed CNI panel charged with investigating the events surrounding the transfer of power on February 7. However, he resigned the day before the findings were released over concerns at what he claimed was omitted evidence and witness accounts from the final report.

Ghafoor added that with the CNI report suggesting a need for structural adjustment of certain civil society institutions along with the judiciary – a major concern for the Nasheed administration in its last few months – he hoped the Commonwealth would support such reforms.

“Whilst in government, we had previously participated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a voluntary basis whilst in government to undergo structural reform,” he claimed. “It required bitter medicine, such as in the sacking of some civil servants, but it was vital in trying to cut the state debt.”

Ghafoor added that he hoped CMAG could provide similar assistance in setting up a structural adjustment programme that set clear dates by which key reforms in areas like the judiciary or civil society were to be enacted.

“We have agreed to move ahead with the CNI with reservations, but we want to see wrong doings identified in the report being addressed,” he said, pointing to the actions of some police and military figures in the transfer of power.

While the Commonwealth was scheduled to last week rule on whether the Maldives would be removed from the investigative agenda of CMAG, it announced the decision would be delayed until its next meeting on September 28.

The President’s Office at the time expressed confidence that the country would be taken off the agenda at the next meeting, saying that this move had been supported by all but one of those present for the teleconference. Local media have reported that the delayed decision has been a result of a “technical glitch” during a live CMAG webcast, a situation Ghafoor claimed that he had yet to received clarification on.

“I’m not aware of any hitch taking place during the CMAG meeting. What we hope is that they will would keep us on the agenda and back a structural adjustment programme that would call for certain commitments to be met at specific dates,” he claimed.

Parallel to Nasheed’s UK visit, Ghafoor claimed that the MDP’s national council was also engaged in pressuring the party’s parliamentary group to boycott the People’s Majlis once it reconvenes, at least until the party was given guarantees about certain concerns it held about reforms.

“The national council on Thursday decided to try and pressure the parliamentary group to boycott Majlis,” he said. “We are discussing this today as a party. We are clear that we would wish to disengage from the Waheed regime unless our concerns are addressed.”

Responding to the MDP’s comments, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News that in looking to address the concerns raised by the CNI concerning security forces and the country’s judiciary, it would continue to rely on independent institutions in the country.

“I understand that the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has already looked into some of the matters raised. I don’t know what they are looking at or what stage they have reached right now. Similarly, President Dr Waheed has also promised to refrain from interfering with the judiciary here, even when he has not been made aware of what is going on,” he said.

Masood stressed that the government would not however be able to set up any additional commission or mechanism to oversee reforms.

“Independent institutions can come in and oversee this. We would encourage them to do this and will not interfere with their work,” he said.

However, in terms of addressing the CNI’s concerns about the transfer of power, Masood also claimed that Nasheed himself faced possible criminal action for the events occurring on February 6 and February 7 before his resignation.

“During the events of February 6 to February 8, I wouldn’t say that Nasheed was in power, but he was in office, resulting in excessive force being used by police up to his resignation,” he said.

Masood said that President Waheed has accepted that police had used “excessive force” during protests held on February 8 after he came to power and condemned such acts.

“President Waheed has already said he will take action against those with involvement [in the use of excessive force], due process would be taking place through groups like the PIC,” he said.

However, Masood added that any calls from the EU or Commonwealth to investigate the events surrounding the transfer of power would lead to difficulties over the actions of Nasheed in the build up to his resignation.

“Any investigation would have to focus on Nasheed’s role in this, the Commonwealth and EU countries are asking us not to touch him,” he said.  “While the independent institutions can look into this, the EU and Commonwealth will be unhappy if their boy becomes involved in investigations. This will happen as there are many questions [Nasheed] has to answer.”

Nasheed, who is presently set to face trial over his role in the controversial detention this year of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, has alleged that charges against him are politically motivated in order to prevent him from standing as a candidate for the MDP at the next general election.  Nasheed has alleged that Judge Abdulla had been detained over fears he was a threat to national security.

Independent institutions

Despite the government’s decision to rely on the country’s independent institutions to help oversee any reforms or investigations into the CNI’s recommendations, groups such as the Elections Commission have this month found their work under increased scrutiny following the release of the CNI report (CNI).

Prominent members of both the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) have this month questioned the ability of their own institutions to fulfil their mandates.

Aiman Rasheed of local NGO Transparency Maldives’ suggested that weak and unassertive institutions must take some of the blame for the events of February 7 and the surrounding political crises.

“The independent institutions need to step up their game by standing for and protecting the values for which they were constituted,” said Aiman at the time.