“Unreasonable and unacceptable” to demand changes to agreed election date: Commonwealth Special Envoy

The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon has declared it is “unreasonable and unacceptable” for parties to continue demanding changes to the agreed election date.

McKinnon’s comments follow Abdulla Yameen’s refusal to sign the voter lists in a bid to delay Sunday’s run-off vote to November 13.

Early results from today’s revote show Yameen receiving a decisive lead over third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim, receiving approximate 30 percent of the vote – a five percent improvement on his performance in the Supreme Court’s annulled poll. The result pitches him against former President Mohamed Nasheed, who appears to have increased his 45.45 percent vote to approximately 47 percent.

The Elections Commission and the candidates previously agreed to a run-off on Sunday November 10, with polls due to open in just seven hours from time of press.

However as the final boxes began to be counted, Yameen called a press conference and declared “no, the election is not going to happen tomorrow. The simple reason being that the Elections Commission is not prepared for that. The Elections Commission does not have a list that has been pre-signed by the candidates. What they have is a fresh list. So a fresh list for us to review and sign, for verification we need at least 48 hours. So the list they have we are not sure whether that is the list they had for today’s voting. Until and unless we are able to ascertain that this is the same list, we are unable to sign that.”

Yameen said the election can take place “as soon as we are able to verify the list. We have asked for something like 48 hours, because we are talking in excess of about 240,000 people. So soon as the Elections [Commission] is able to provide us this timeframe we are prepared to go to an election. Hopefully any time within the range of November 13 to 15. Any time after November 13 we are happy.”

He added that he would be sitting down with Gasim and the Adhaalath Party tomorrow to discuss their supporting him against Nasheed, and claimed to have already received their endorsement.

Commonwealth Special Envoy Mckinnon responded: “Voters deserve better from their leaders and a greater degree of predictability over something as serious as a presidential election.”

“It is important now that the electoral process move forward swiftly to its conclusion, with the holding of the second round. Any further delays would create uncertainty for the voters, place extra demands on the Elections Commission and lower people’s confidence in the country’s democratic institutions,” he said.

“All initial reports suggest that this was a good election, and I look forward to hearing the more definitive reports of domestic and international observers shortly. The Elections Commission should be commended for its consistency in delivering another well-managed and credible election,” he added.

Speaking at a press conference earlier today, Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek said representatives from the PPM arrived to sign the new voter lists in the early hours of Saturday morning but left at 7:30am and did not return.

While the PPM initially wanted to sign all the lists, Fuwad said they later sent a letter saying they wanted to sign only the changed lists.

Voter lists to be used for the second round scheduled for tomorrow changed after re-registration of about 1,500 voters for the second round, who would be distributed among different polling stations.

“It looks as if they are not so keen on fulfilling their duties and responsibilities. Signing these lists is a duty given to candidates and their representatives by the Supreme Court,” he said.

Supreme Court in another midnight sitting

Meanwhile, shortly before midnight, the Supreme Court began hearing a case submitted by Gasim’s Jumhoree Party demanding that the run-off election be cancelled and rescheduled. However any delay would push the country past the expiry of the presidential term on November 11, a scenario that today drew rumblings of discontent from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

While the Supreme Court today in a separate ruling upheld its previous insistence that Waheed would stay on after November 11, Waheed himself has declared he has no wish to do so.

MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed meanwhile congratulated the PPM on its performance in Saturday’s poll, and said his party was ready to face polls on Sunday.

“My view is that if we don’t have elections [on Sunday]there is a serious risk of indefinite delay as now President Waheed is being asked to stay on by the Supreme Court. Our opponents know that they will lose in a fair fight,” he told Minivan News.

“In my view if the international community says that they will not recognise Waheed after November 11 then we will have elections. Then again it’s very difficult to see the international community doing the right thing – we are in this mess because they recognised a rebel government in February 2012.”


International observers should “help, not hinder” state institutions: Foreign Ministry

President Mohamed Waheed’s government has called on international groups to “help, not hinder the state institutions in exercising their constitutional duties”.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement follows unanimous confidence from international election observers in the credibility of the first round of polling, and calls for the losing parties to accept defeat and allow the second round to proceed as scheduled on September 28.

Presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who narrowly missed a place in the run-off with 24.07 percent of the vote, is pursuing a Supreme Court case to have the results annulled, alleging electoral impropriety. The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Attorney General Azima Shukoor have intervened in the case against the Elections Commission.

The Elections Commission has challenged the veracity of the evidence and argued that even were it factual, it was not sufficient to alter the outcome of the first round.

“The Maldives, as a young democracy, continues to face a number of challenges in its journey towards consolidating democracy and strengthening its independent institutions. For this journey to continue the constitutional framework set up in the Maldives through a democratic process should be respected and the authority of the independent institutions should be upheld,” read the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Elections are the primary means of democratic participation and it is an inalienable right of each individual. Similarly, attempts to resolve questions relating to the electoral process through democratic means, is also part of democracy. These fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law should be accepted by all concerned,” the statement read.

“It has to be recalled that while the local and international observers and monitors did a commendable job in observing the elections, it is the State institutions that are constitutionally mandated to address any question related to the elections and electoral process. The Government, therefore, wishes to call on anyone interested in promoting democracy in the Maldives to help, not hinder, the State institutions in exercising their constitutional duties,” it added.

“Live up to your responsibilities”: UN Secretary General

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged political leaders in the Maldives “to live up to their responsibilities, respect the democratic process, and continue to allow for a peaceful, inclusive and credible vote to take place in the second round.”

Ki-moon “stresses the utmost importance of the will of the Maldivian people being respected throughout the process”, and noted that the conduct of the first round had been “widely recognised as a success by international and domestic election observers.”

European Union: “Respect the electoral process”

The European Union delegation to the Maldives has encouraged “all parties to respect the electoral process” and stated that it “looks forward to the second round on 28 September and a peaceful transition.”

“It is essential to ensure that the outcome of these elections fully respects the wishes of all Maldivians and that the Maldives’ democratic institutions are safeguarded, in order to enable its government to confront the political, institutional, economic, social and environmental challenges the country faces,” the EU stated.

UK Foreign Office: “Crucial that all parties respect the outcome”

Noting that all election observers both international and local and judged the election to be transparent and competitive, “carried out peacefully and in good spirit”, UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has called on all presidential candidates “to respect the result of elections and the will of the people of Maldives.”

“The Commonwealth Observation Mission’s interim statement noted that the voting register ‘appeared to be accurate and robust’, and that party and candidate observers were present in all of the polling stations they had observed,” Burt observed.

“Ahead of the second round of elections planned for 28 September, we encourage all Presidential candidates to respect the result of elections and the will of the people of Maldives, work side by side for a peaceful transition and encourage calm amongst their supporters,” he said.

“We hope that the second round of elections will be held as scheduled, and conducted in a similar free, fair and peaceful manner. It is crucial that all parties respect the outcome of this free and fair democratic process and make progress in further strengthening democratic institutions in the Maldives.”

“There are always losers in every election”: Commonwealth Special Envoy

One of the strongest statements was issued on Thursday by Commonwealth Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon, who was appointed to monitor the Maldives following 7 February 2012’s controversial transfer of power.

“This election marks a renewal of the country’s democratic credentials, with an 88 percent voter turnout. This displays a determination to get the country back on to a sound democratic foundation,” McKinnon said.

International opinion was “firmly behind” the second round of elections proceeding as planned on September 28, he said, noting that “There are always losers in every election everywhere, but the winners here must be the people of Maldives. The results of their votes must be paramount to the process and the result.”

Transparency Maldives: “Don’t undermine results without credible evidence”

Locally-based NGO Transparency Maldives has also called on parties to the presidential election not to undermine the credibility of the results without evidence.

Transparency deployed the single largest team of election observers with 400 monitors across the country.

“In view of the cases submitted and allegations made at the High Court and Supreme Court of the Maldives regarding systematic vote rigging, Transparency Maldives notes that it did not find any evidence that support allegations of systematic election day fraud during the nationwide observation,” Transparency stated.

Transparency Maldives appeals to all actors and institutions to refrain from undermining the integrity of and confidence in the election day processes without credible evidence of fraud.

US State Department: “Respect the democratic process”

The United States issued a statement last week calling for all political parties to “respect the democratic process and continue to allow for a free, fair and peaceful vote to take place.”

“The first round of the Maldivian presidential elections on September 7 was widely hailed as a success and represented a victory for the democratic process in Maldives. The Commonwealth, United Nations, and local Maldivian observers joined the United States in congratulating the Maldivian people and the Election Commission for this successful process,” said Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department Marie Harf.

“We encourage all parties and all presidential candidates to respect the results and work together for a peaceful transition for the benefit of the Maldivian people,” she added.

Statements by election observers “do not carry much weight”: JP’s lawyer Dr Hassan Saeed

Gasim’s running mate and – lawyer leading the party’s bid to annul the first round or delay the second – has meanwhile declared in court that the positive assessments of the poll by local and international election observers “do not carry much weight”.

“Yes, I even agree that the voting process went very smoothly. But those foreign observers don’t know the depth of the issues. Their words do not carry much weight,” Dr Saeed, a former Attorney General, told the Supreme Court during the second hearing last week.


Commonwealth Special Envoy visits following MDP allegations of “coup cover-up”

The Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Don McKinnon, is presently in the Maldives as part of a visit that will conclude tomorrow (January 27).

“A key objective of Sir Donald’s visit will be to discuss efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and processes in Maldives, and how the Commonwealth can further assist in this regard,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma in a statement.

McKinnon’s visit follows the publication last year of a report by the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) into the controversial transfer of power on February 7 2012.  The report concluded that there was no mutiny by police or the military, and that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation was not made under duress.

The CoNI was subsequently disbanded by President Waheed and the website containing the report was taken offline. The report is downloadable here.

“The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) noted the CNI report’s conclusions about the transfer of power. Going beyond that, CMAG highlighted the need to investigate acts of police brutality, and welcomed the government’s commitment to reform and to strengthen the independence and quality of key institutions. These remain core concerns and priorities for the Commonwealth,” Sharma stated.

“The Commonwealth continues to work towards consolidating multi-party democracy in Maldives. The year 2013 will be a critical one for Maldives, given the forthcoming presidential elections,” the Secretary-General said.

“It is essential for democracy in Maldives, and for lasting national reconciliation, that this year’s elections be both credible and inclusive. The Commonwealth expects there to be political space and a level-playing field for all candidates, parties and their leaders.”

McKinnon’s visit follows a recent parliamentary inquiry into the CNI report, during which senior military and police intelligence figures gave evidence to the Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) alleging that the transfer of power on February 7 “had all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat”.  The same sources also claimed that the final CNI report had not reflected their input.

Those figures included Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi, Commander of Male’ area on February 7, Police Head of Intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed, Chief of Defense Force Major General Moosa Jaleel, Head of Military Intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilaam, Chief Superintendent of Police Mohamed Jinah and Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh. All six have since resigned or been suspended from duty.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) subsequently accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of complicity in a “systematic government cover-up designed to subdue testimonies from key witnesses to the coup d’etat”.

“The CNI, established by [President] Waheed shortly after he came to power, was originally made-up of three people – all well-known sympathisers of former President Gayoom – and chaired by President Gayoom’s former Minister of Defence,” observed the MDP in a statement.

“After an international outcry, the government was forced to agree to reform the CNI. The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s special envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, was subsequently sent to the Maldives to mediate an agreement, but eventually gave-in to government demands that President Gayoom’s former Defence Minister must remain as Chair, and that the other two members must remain in-place.

“Unsurprisingly, the CNI’s final report claimed that there was absolutely no wrong-doing on the part of the opposition or Gayoom loyalists in the police and military. This was despite widespread evidence to the contrary,” the statement added.

“The testimonies of all the main witnesses summoned to the Committee demonstrate a remarkable degree of consensus about what happened in early 2012, and a common understanding of the legality of the change in government. All witnesses stated, unequivocally, that the change in government bore all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat.

“All named the same individuals as being central to the coup – with foremost among these the current Commissioner of Police and the current Minister of Defense. All made clear that following a meeting between opposition leaders and the-then Vice President, Mohamed Waheed, in the weeks preceded February 7, those planning the coup swore their loyalty to him and thereafter he was fully implicated in the plot.

“All saw widespread evidence of collusion between elements of the police and army loyal to former President Gayoom and the main leaders of the coup. All had seen evidence that the plot to remove President Nasheed included the possibility that he would be assassinated if he did not leave willingly. And all claimed that the evidence and testimony they presented to the CoNI was either ignored or misrepresented,” the party claimed.

MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the respective accounts from the CNI and the UN concerning the transfer of power on February 7 were “not reflective of the experiences of Maldivians who witnessed and lived through the event both out on the streets and through their TV screens.”

“The letters sent to the government [concerning the transfer of power] represented a real shoddy job by these organisations. It is clear they did not do their homework.  It is embarrassing,” Ghafoor said.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq meanwhile told Minivan News this week that the CoNI report was a “transparent” process undertaken by “qualified Maldivian people”.

“Because of this, the CoNI report is accepted by the government. We have a judiciary, if anyone has a problem with this affair they can go to the courts themselves,” he claimed.


CNI report “turning point for the Maldives to leave the past behind”: McKinnon

The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, has described the report by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) as a “turning point for the country to leave the past behind and move forward.”

The report, focused on the events of February 6 to 8, claimed there was no evidence to support allegations by former President Mohamed Nasheed that he was ousted in a coup d’état, that his resignation was under duress, or that there was any mutiny by the police and military. It also urges action be taken against police for human rights abuses committed on February 6-8.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed accepted the report, subject to reservations, but criticised it as leaving the Maldives “in a very awkward, and in many ways, very comical” situation, “where toppling the government by brute force is taken to be a reasonable course of action. All you have to do find is a narrative for that course of action.”

In a statement, McKinnon said “The Commission’s report provides key recommendations on issues that need to be addressed to strengthen democratic practice in Maldives. I am heartened to hear the commitment of the government to take forward key reforms to strengthen democratic institutions.”

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel has meanwhile said responsibility for investigating and taking action against police lay with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC).

However President of the PIC Shahinda Ismail has publicly expressed concern over the commission toothlessness.

Article 44 of the Police Act states that any parties handed recommendations by the PIC can choose not to act on them if they inform the commission of the decision in writing.

“[Jameel] is not really bound by the act,” Ismail said, stating that this clause had already resulted in the Home Minister ignoring recommendations forwarded to him.

The PIC chair gave the example of a case involving police officer Ali Ahmed, whom she said had been adjudged unfit to continue to serve by the commission. Shahinda claimed the case had been forwarded to the Home Minister.

“I know for a fact he is still a policeman and was promoted after this incident” she said.

“It is really upsetting – a huge concern – for me that the police leadership is showing a trend where unlawful officers are acting with impunity. This can only lead to further violence.”

Amnesty International – which has published its own report into police brutality and human rights violations of February 6-8 – echoed Ismail’s concerns. The report was slammed by Home Minister Jameel as “biased” and “one-sided”.

“Government officials have frequently shrugged off their own responsibility to address human rights violations, saying it is the purview of the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) and the PIC,” said Amnesty’s researcher in the Maldives, Abbas Faiz.

“Without an end to – and accountability for – these human rights violations, any attempt at political reconciliation in the Maldives will be meaningless,” Faiz said.

In his statement, McKinnon urged that “Democracy is not just the responsibility of the government, but also of every institution and all citizens. Democracy is not a destination, but a journey. I hope that every institution, political party and individual citizen will make it their business to be part of that journey.”

The Maldives meanwhile remains on the agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the international body’s democracy and human rights arm. The matter is expected to be reviewed at the group’s meeting on September 28-29.


Habitual protests “hindering Maldives development as a modern democracy”: CNI Advisers

International advisors to the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) – Judicial Advisor Sir Bruce Robertson and Legal Advisor Professor John Packer – have defended the commission’s independence and professionalism in the wake of criticism from the MDP’s representative.

Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed resigned from the commission the evening prior to report’s publication, expressing concern that the CNI had experienced the withholding of evidence, non-cooperation from crucial witnesses, non-examination of witnesses, witnesses being intimidated or obstructed, testimonies and evidence that was not reviewed, and misleading translations.

“Four of the five members acted at all times with independence and integrity in carrying out the important task for the future of the nation,” stated Robertson and Packer, in an appendix to the report. “The other member was not at all times willing or able to act independently and resigned the evening before the report was submitted and published.”

Saeed’s resignation created “discord and mistrust” in a community “in desperate need of reconciliation”, the pair claimed, defending the professionalism of the CNI’s methods.

“We have seen nothing but objective and independent professionalism in the institution. The Commission has sensibly and sensitively heard all who wanted to make a contribution. It has firmly and fairly held participants to telling what they had heard and seen for themselves and deflected them from conjecture and speculation without facts.”

“The nation has been well served by the Commissioners and any assertions of bias or lack of objectivity levelled against those remaining have no justification. They reflect badly on those making unfounded allegations,” Packer and Robertson stated.

“For the evidence collecting exercise to have value all witnesses had to be questioned and challenged about their recollections of events and the basis for them. Equally they had to be confronted with alternative evidence so they had the opportunity to comment on it. Some found this process unsettling. Many were familiar and only comfortable with making assertions and not being required to justify or explain how they had reached their view,” they noted.

As the evidence unfolded, the advisors said they observed “a national obsession with street demonstrating at an alarming level”.

“Some would want to call [this] an example of the rights of freedom of expression and assembly. In reality it is rather more bully-boy tactics involving actual and threatened intimidation by a violent mob,” they stated.

“This perpetual behaviour is sapping public life and hindering the Maldives’ development as a modern democracy.”

The evidence revealed longstanding tensions in the Constitution as a result of a Presidential system being “grafted” on to a parliamentary system.

“The creation of independent commissions will only be the safety valve intended when they are adequately resourced and fulfil their mandates in a timely and decisive manner,” they observed.

Furthermore, “Fundamental to the operation of a modern democratic society is the existence of an operating and absolutely independent judiciary which has the confidence of the entire community. Radical action is required to breathe utility into much of the state framework, especially to ensure the proper administration of justice. This cannot wait.”

Dunya writes to McKinnon

The comments from the international advisers followed a letter sent to Commonwealth Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon., daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In the letter, obtained by Minivan News, Dunya advises McKinnon that Saeed had “put the Commission’s work at risk by publicly questioning the credibility of its draft report, three days before its scheduled publication.

“He has also questioned the integrity of the highly respected senior judge from Singapore, Justice Selvam, the Co-Chair of the Commission, who was recruited by the Commonwealth. This is a disturbing development that could inflame the already heated political environment in the Maldives,” Dunya wrote.

She informed McKinnon that it was “time the Commonwealth puts into perspective the pattern of behavior by former President Nasheed since he resigned from the office of President, and ponders the credibility of his accusations and claims.”

“The government is committed to bringing stability into the country and cultivating the values of democracy in the Maldives,” she claimed.

“You may recall that while accepting Mr Saeed’s name to the CNI, the government made it very clear its strong reservations about Mr Saeed’s impartiality and independence because of his close associations with the MDP.

“We request you call upon former President Nasheed and his supporters in the MDP, as well as Mr Saeed, to stop their intimidatory actions and let the work of the CNI proceed to a successful conclusion. The Commonwealth’s valuable role in resolving the political tensions in the maldives is a critical one, and that role should also be seen to be fair as well,” Dunya wrote.

“Otherwise there is a risk that the country’s young democracy might be pushed into a steep decline where only chaos will reign.”

Former President Nasheed on Friday accepted the CNI’s report, subject to Saeed’s reservations, however he observed that the report had effectively set a legal precedent under Maldivian law for the overthrow of an elected government through police or mob action.

This, he said, left the Maldives “in a very awkward, and in many ways, very comical” situation, “where toppling the government by brute force is taken to be a reasonable course of action. All you have to do find is a narrative for that course of action.”

Minivan News is currently waiting for a response from MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.


MDP challenges conditions for commission nominee, as Commonwealth Special Envoy departs

The government of the Maldives has agreed to strengthen the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) “to make it more impartial, credible and broadly acceptable,” Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon has noted in his concluding statement.

“The Commonwealth wants to support an independent and impartial Inquiry Commission that helps the people of Maldives address the events of 7 February 2012 in a manner that moves the country forward in its democratic journey,” McKinnon said.

“Our efforts today have paved the way for such an effort. I look forward to former President Nasheed confirming a suitable candidate to join this Commission by the time it begins its work on 1 June 2012.”

McKinnon departed Male’ on May 15, after the government agreed to accept a nominee from the ousted President Nasheed’s side on the commission, and a retired Judge from Singapore to serve as co-chair.

Agreement between the government and Nasheed’s party lasted as long as it took for both sides to hold press conferences yesterday evening.

The government has set conditions for Nasheed’s appointee: they must not have served in a political position in the past two years, must not have taken a public stand on the transfer of power, and must “be of good behavior and integrity”.

Following the rejection of nine candidates put forward by Nasheed, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) contended that the conditions were “highly subjective” and “nonsensical”.

If the government required a candidate who had not yet taken a public stand, “then they are saying Dr Waheed will appoint President Nasheed’s representative,” said former Youth and Human Resources Minister, Hassan Latheef. The government has said it will appoint a lawyer to represent Nasheed if agreement is not reached by June 1.

Minivan News is awaiting a response from the Commonwealth as to whether the government’s conditions for the nominee were endorsed during McKinnon’s discussions with the parties.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza meanwhile today dismissed speculation that convenor of the stalled roadmap discussions, Ahmed Mujthaba, would be appointed co-chair of the commission, stating instead that the co-chair should be “someone like Mujthaba, respected, experienced, and acceptable to all parties.”

Ismail Shafeeu, former President Gayoom’s Defence Minister currently chairing the commission, would remain, Riza said.

Gayoom’s party, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), has also requested Dr Waheed give them a seat on the commission.

Speaking to press today, PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer said: “President Nasheed has made the false allegation that our party’s interim president is behind the coup, and if a seat is reserved for Nasheed’s representative, then we must have representation on the council as well.”


No response to requests for Commonwealth assistance with inquiry, alleges Foreign Ministry

The Foreign Ministry has issued a statement in Dhivehi claiming the Commonwealth had not answered the government’s requests seeking expertise for the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

The CNI was set up by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to investigate the controversial change of power on February 7 which the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintains was a coup d’état orchestrated by remnants of the former dictatorship, funded by several resort interests and carried out by mutinous police and military units.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on April 16 challenged the independence of the commission, urging the government “to review immediately the composition and terms of reference of the Commission to make it genuinely independent, credible and impartial. CMAG reiterated the Commonwealth’s offer to provide assistance in this regard.”

However in its statement yesterday, the Maldives Foreign Ministry claimed “when the inquiry commission was set up on February 22, this ministry requested the Commonwealth for expertise. This ministry sent the terms of reference for such an expert to the Commonwealth. However, the Commonwealth has not sent an answer to the request to this day.”

“The Maldivian government has previously agreed to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s call for international expert assistance as per the CMAG statement. Hence, the Maldivian government requests an international expert for the inquiry commission in the near future with Commonwealth’s support,” the Ministry stated.

Spokesperson for the Commonwealth Secretariat, Richard Uku, said that CMAG had noted during its teleconference on March 15 that while the CNI had commenced work, “it had failed to secure cross-party support.”

“[CMAG] Ministers acknowledged that international assistance had been requested, and noted that the Commonwealth could be of potential assistance,” Uku said.

Following a visit to the Maldives by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, the Commonwealth had discussed the provision of a senior judicial advisor to the CNI, Uku explained.

“Draft terms of reference for the adviser were agreed with the Government of Maldives, and preparations made for the selection and placement of a Commonwealth adviser. However, by this time it had become amply clear that the existing composition of the Commission did not enjoy broad political acceptance. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy consequently focused his discussions with parties on attempting to facilitate agreement on this matter,” he said.

“At their meeting on 16 April, CMAG ministers were concerned that the Government had not made any moves to revise the composition of the CNI in a manner that would enhance its credibility. CMAG accordingly asked for the composition and terms of reference of the CNI to be reviewed in order to make them generally acceptable.

“Pending such a review,” he concluded, adding that the Commonwealth remained “ready to assist the Commission as soon as broad-based political agreement is reached on its composition and terms of reference.”

Rising rhetoric

In its concluding statement on April 16, CMAG warned of “stronger measures” against the Maldives “should the composition and terms of reference of the Commission not be amended within four weeks in a manner that is generally acceptable and enhances its credibility.”

Uku told Minivan News last week that while the Secretariat would not speculate about what “stronger measures” might entail, a range of options were available to CMAG “including suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth”.

Figures in the new government and MPs of the new ruling coalition have reacted angrily in parliament and in local media to the deadline, possibility of Commonwealth suspension and accompanying international censure.

Haama Daily reported State Minister for Foreign Affairs and daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Dunya Maumoon, as questioning CMAG’s impartiality, claiming their response was based on “incomplete information” and stating that it was “very apparent that CMAG is not aware of Maldives’ laws and regulations.”

President Waheed’s political advisor, Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq, posted on Twitter that the Commonwealth “has no right to call on Maldivian govt to hold ‘early’ elections against the country’s constitution.”
“CMAG can take whatever action it wants if the Maldives does not hold early elections against its constitution. Go ahead if that is democracy,” Thaufeeq stated.

State Minister for Tourism, Ahmed Shameem, was reported in newspaper Miadhu as accusing the Commonwealth of showing contempt for the Maldives constitution, claiming that “some entities of the United Kingdom are trying to shatter the Islamic unity of the country.”

“Everyone wants their puppet to rule the country. Nasheed ruled Maldives as a puppet of the United Kingdom. Nasheed is ready to destroy the Islamic unity of Maldives,” Miadhu reported Shameem as saying.

State Minister for Fisheries, Fuwad Gasim, also alleged in Miadhu that “Most foreign ministers sitting in CMAG would not even know the colour of the Maldivians.”

“A group like that all of a sudden releases a statement listening to only one party through a teleconversation and comments on issues. This is not how responsible organisations do things,” Fuwad claimed.

Fuwad said that a statement released by the Commonwealth after “thoroughly considering what has happened in Maldives” would “differ a lot from the original statement.”

“There are countries in the Commonwealth that know what happened on February 7, and haven’t said it was a coup,” he said.

Fuwad added that India had been observing the events from the day they unfolded, and that all political leaders were in touch with Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay.

“They were regularly updating Mulay about the events,” he said. “So I believe Mulay had been observing the events of February 7 and he would have said whether it was a coup or not. India was the first country to recognise the new government, so how could we give credibility to a report made by those who were  too far away?”

Meanwhile, speaking in parliament today, Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed called on the government to preemptively withdraw from the Commonwealth.

“There is no reason to have international relations with a group like this, who don’t even know how to ensure justice, he said. “I propose to disaffiliate ourselves from the Commonwealth for now.”

MP Muththalib from the Adhaalath Party accused CMAG of being “a weapon used to destroy the religion of this country.

“I do not believe CMAG has any right to call on us to hold early elections. We should consider the countries that are doing things for us,” he said.

“If the current government feels that disassociating with CMAG or the Commonwealth is the best thing for this country, I am in full support for this Majlis to pass such a motion.”

The MDP released a statement claiming it was concerned that attempts to discredit international bodies locally would lead the Maldives down the path of international isolation – “the route of Myanmar’s junta, or Zimbabwe or Fiji” – and reiterated its calls for Dr Waheed to step down and trigger early elections under the Speaker, or agree to amend the Constitution to provide for early elections before the end of 2012.


Attorney General Shakoor in London for CMAG meeting

Attorney General (AG) Azima Shakoor is representing the government during the latest round of Commonwelath Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) talks being held today, local media has reported.

Speaking to Haveeru, the AG said that she had travelled to the UK following an invitation to attend the event. She added that the Commonwealth’s special envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon would also be in attendance.

CMAG has previously called for early elections and an investigation into the transfer of power on Februray 7 and will give a press conference immediately after the meeting’s conclusion today.

Minivan News was unable to contact AG Shakoor or Special Advisor to the President Dr Hassan Saeed at the time of press.

Dr Saeed is reported as having claimed in local press that the Commonwealth would hold off from further calls for early elections until the Committee for National Inquiry (CNI) had completed its investigation.

The CNI committee, assigned to look into the events of the presidential changeover by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, is due to publish its results by the end of May.

The party of former President Mohamed Nasheed has nonetheless refused to work with the CNI, arguing it lacks impartiality.

International groups, including the Commonwealth, have strongly urged that the committee to feature an international element but progress on this front has been slow.


CMAG “deeply concerned” at lack of progress in all-party talks

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has expressed “disappointment and deep concern” at the lack of progress in the all-party talks, intended to lead to an early election and resolution of the current political crisis.

The MDP has said it remains committed to discussions around setting a date for early elections, however the former opposition parties with strong representation in the newly reappointed executive, including the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Adhaalath Party (AP), Jumhoree Party (JP) and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), withdrew from the talks following the disruption of parliament on March 1, after the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) refused to allow Dr Mohamed Waheed to deliver the presidential address to the opening session. A similar stand-off is expected on Monday, with the MDP maintaining that Dr Waheed’s presidency is illegitimate, and the new government reluctant to set an election date, citing the need for “conditions to be right”.

In a statement issued on Friday, 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].”

CMAG – the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm – “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, and the processes required to do so, including any necessary constitutional amendments and supporting legislation.”

Following a fact-finding mission in February and an extraordinary meeting on the situation in London, the Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from participation in CMAG and called for an internationally-assisted independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the change of government on February 7, which former President Mohamed Nasheed contends was an opposition resort owner-sponsored and police and military-led coup d’état.

The Commonwealth also expressed concern about early efforts on behalf of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s new government to arrest former President Nasheed, following the issuing of an arrest warrant in the immediate days following the change of power.

In its most recent statement, CMAG 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, and the processes required to do so, including any necessary constitutional amendments and supporting legislation.

“The Group also noted that the Commission of National Inquiry in Maldives had commenced its investigation into the events between 14 January and 8 February 2012, but that it had not secured cross-party support. In this context, CMAG acknowledged that international assistance for the investigative mechanism has been requested, and noted that the Commonwealth could be of potential assistance. It reiterated its strong belief in the importance of the work of the Commission and the conviction this should carry in Maldives and internationally.”

A programme of assistance for the judiciary will commence shortly, CMAG stated, and noted the arrival of the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, on March 16.

“During his visit, the Special Envoy hopes to meet all the principal stakeholders to promote the consolidation of democratic culture and institutions and Commonwealth values and principles, to encourage inclusive agreement among political leaders on a way forward from the current situation, and to oversee further Commonwealth support for Maldives, including technical assistance,” the organisation noted.

Meanwhile the Maldives remains on CMAG’s agenda. The group will meet in decided to retain Maldives on its agenda, noting that it would meet in April when further steps could be considered in light of progress over the next month.

The most recent CMAG meeting was chaired by Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Communications of Trinidad and Tobago.

Other Ministers participating in the teleconference included Senator Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia; John Baird, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada; Bernard K Membe, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Tanzania; and Ebun Jusu, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone.