Following high-level visits by the Commonwealth and United States Embassy this week, a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP claimed the party will resort to militancy if the international community does not do more to help restore democracy in the Maldives.
The United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Michele J Sison arrived in the capital Male’ today (March 26). Earlier this week (March 24), the Canadian Special Envoy for the Commonwealth, Senator Hugh Segal met with the Maldives parliamentary Committee on Government Oversight.
Parliament Oversight Committee Chairperson and MDP MP Ali Waheed implored the international community to take immediate, decisive actions to help restore democracy in the Maldives.
He explained militant and radical forces – which included presidential candidates – within the Maldives were becoming more powerful.
“The current situation within the country is going from bad to worse and heading towards chaos. Everything is politicised,” Waheed said.
“Umar Naseer is militant, but the international community are promoting more diplomatic candidates like [DRP] leader Thasmeen Ali, who is failing.
“Why can’t they see this reality? The security of the Indian Ocean region and the Maldives is threatened,” he exclaimed.
MP Waheed also claimed that the MDP will resort to behaving like the militants if the international community does not provide help to ensure free and fair elections in September.
“MDP will not give away our presidential candidate [former President Mohamed Nasheed]. We already gave the government away because of the coup.
“MDP urges diplomacy and dialogue, but will but will step toward radicalism. MDP will be like the militants if the international community does not take action. MDP will be on the ground if Nasheed is not on the ballot paper. We will fight to the last drop [of blood].
MPs are very concerned the international community will continue to only focus on diplomatic discussions, which appear to be failing, claimed MP Waheed.
“We cannot wait for more talk. Nothing is moving, it has been ‘stuck’ since the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report.
“We urge them to act now. Inclusive elections are the way forward. We call on other countries to help find a solution,” MP Waheed implored.
MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor further explained the MDP’s frustration to Minivan News.
“With the relative passivity of the international community on pending issues such as CoNI, action on errant forces and judicial reform, taken together with the ‘bash up’ attitude of mutineers towards MDP members, emotions are naturally bound to be heightened.
“[Therefore] the party top echelon would provide leadership, especially as it looks like the MDP shall have to go it alone towards elections,” said Ghafoor.
During the Parliament Oversight Committee’s meeting on Sunday, MPs briefed the Commonwealth’s Canadian Special Envoy, Senator Segal on the events surrounding February 2012’s controversial transfer of power, the current political situation in the Maldives, and the police services’ impunity from prosecution.
“He was very shocked,” claimed MP Waheed.
According to MP Waheed, the Commonwealth has pledged to give all the support necessary to bring back democracy and push for a solution regarding [the presidential candidacy of] Nasheed.
“We hope the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will seriously consider these things and discuss them,” he said.
“We thank the Canadian government and asked the Senator to pass along a letter to the Prime Minister. We requested he meet us and really keep an eye on the situation here,” he added.
The US Embassy stated the visit by Ambassador Sison today was routine.
“The Ambassador is in Maldives as part of our normal bilateral relationship. She will meet with government, military, and civil society leaders,” said embassy official Christopher Elms.
International commitments to reform
The Commonwealth has played a key role in terms of the international community’s stance towards the Maldives, particularly following the controversial transfer of power in February in which the present government came to office.
Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Don McKinnon, visited the Maldives in January 2013.
“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 followed the publication of a report in August 2012 by the Commonwealth-backed CoNI 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.
During McKinnon’s visit the MDP accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of being complicit in a “systematic government cover-up designed to subdue testimonies from key witnesses to the coup d’etat”.
In December 2012, the Commonwealth said it would work with the Maldivian government to push ahead with strengthening and reforming “key public institutions” as it reiterated calls for “inclusive and credible” presidential elections to be held next year.
In a statement issued December 7, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said the intergovernmental organisation would continue to work with international partners and Maldivian authorities on a programme of reform and “practical collaboration”.
Meanwhile, the US delegation that visited the Maldives in February this year gave no “definitive answer” to political issues raised by former President Mohamed Nasheed, the MDP has said.
Nasheed informed the delegates that the present government had failed to act upon the recommendations made in the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report, claiming there had been a “lack of effort” to reform the judiciary.
However, MDP Spokesman Ghafoor said the US delegation were unable to answer the issues raised by Nasheed, and that their interest was focused on the implementation of free and fair elections later this year.
In April 2012, the US government pledged US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) for an elections programme to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.
The European Union (EU) declared this March that it would be “difficult” to consider the Maldives’ upcoming presidential elections credible unless former President Mohamed Nasheed is allowed to contest.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has highlighted “free, fair and credible” elections as the “best course” for overcoming political uncertainty in the Maldives.
In a statement issued this March, Singh – referring to last year’s controversial transfer of power – noted that “there have been unfortunate problems in the Maldives after the February 2012 event.”
The Elections Commission of India (ECI) and the Elections Commission of the Maldives (EC) agreed on a roadmap for cooperation this March that includes jointly developing an assistance project to enable free and fair elections later this year.
During the protests that erupted during Nasheed’s stay in the Indian High Commission this February, the UK issued a statement calling for “inclusive” presidential elections as well as calm and restraint.
“During FCO Minister Alistair Burt’s recent visit to Maldives, he said it was vital that the country move decisively towards free, fair and inclusive Presidential elections. He also stressed the importance of all parties being able to participate in elections with the candidate of their choice. It is important for all parties to avoid taking action which could lead to doubt over the integrity of the electoral process and contribute to continuing instability,” the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated.
At the time, the UN Secretary General’s office stated that it was “monitoring the developments with concern”, and urged “all political actors to exercise restraint, renew their commitment to the constitution and work toward creating conducive conditions for fair, peaceful and inclusive elections.”
“All parties contesting the September 7 presidential elections should be able to field the candidates of their choice in accordance with the rule of law and the constitution,” the UN stated.
Many of these prominent international actors initially supported the legitimacy of President Waheed Hassan Manik’s government following the controversial transfer of power February 7, 2012.
The CoNI report that followed six months later was welcomed at the time by the United Nations, Commonwealth, and United States.