DRP plays down warnings of political violence, but concerned over parliamentary “climate of fear”

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has claimed that “bullying” by front-line activists of its coalition partners has created a “climate of fear” not conducive to holding “free and fair” votes in the People’s Majlis on key upcoming matters.

Speaking to Minvain News, DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef stopped short of backing claims by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) concerning “threats of political violence against their lives and property by rivals”, believing the government was not directly involved in such acts.

However, Shareef claimed that rhetoric by front-line supporters of fellow government-aligned supporters like the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had affected its decision yesterday to support a secret vote for a no confidence motion against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Other senior government figures are also set to face no-confidence motions in the next few weeks, including present Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who today dismissed the MDP’s allegations as a politically motivated attempt to try and “paralyse” the running of the government.

“Such allegations are purely politically motivated and [serve] to cover up [the MDP’s] efforts to bring government to a halt. I do not believe that [the MP’s] allegation have anything to do with a threat of violence, rather, some members assert it as a cover up to hide their attempt to paralyse government,” he told Minivan News by SMS. “The state has already offered security to all members of the parliament.”

The MDP’s parliamentary group visited the Indian High Commission in Male’ yesterday to register concerns over alleged political violence facing MPs. The visit was made of ahead of its attempts to pursue no confidence motions against President Waheed and his deputy, Mohamed Waheed Deen.

Parliament voted yesterday 41-34 to approve amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach the President and remove cabinet members through secret ballot.  The vote passed after a similar proposition was narrowly defeated 39-34  last month.

Meeting with Indian high Commissioner D M Mulay yesterday, the MDP said it had been given assurances that its concerns of MPs facing violence towards themselves and their property had been forwarded to the Indian government.

India is itself presently involved in a diplomatic dispute with the Maldives over the government’s decision to terminate an US$511m contract signed with India-based Infrastructure group and reclaim the site despite an injunction from the High Court of Singapore.

“Prior to the motion to make the ballot for confidence motions secret, leaders of alleged usurper President Waheed’s political supporters, including fundamentalist Islamists with extremist intentions, had made a number of threats against MPs who would dare vote against the alleged usurper government,” the MDP claimed in a statement.

“In this regard, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla threatened physical force against MPs publicly saying that they would ‘chase and pursue MPs on the roads’.“

Registering its concerns with the Indian High Commission, the party alleged that MPs had also been targeted with violent acts including “baton beatings” and “surprise raids of their privacy”.

The MDP also raised the issue of the murder of PPM MP Dr Afraasheem Ali, who it claimed had allegedly been murdered for his “moderate religious views” and been previously threatened the government-aligned Adhalaath Party.

However, investigations are continuing into Dr Afrasheems death, with police having not yet officially confirmed any motive behind the murder.

The Maldives Police Service today refused to comment on media reports concerning the arrest of Abdulla Jaavid, son in law of MDP Chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik, in connection with the investigations into Dr Afrasheem’s murder.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef said he had no comment on the matter, adding that police were holding a press conference this afternoon.

Responding to the MDP’s allegations about increased political violence against MPs, DRP Deputy Ibrahim Shareef said that there was a large amount of “confusion” within the political arena at the moment. However, Shareef said he did not believe the government of President Waheed was directly attempting to “bully” MPs over how they chose to vote on key issues.

“I do not believe President Waheed or his government has such a plan,” he claimed. “There are of course threats of violence taking place on the streets right now.”

Shareef criticised both the MDP and PPM – the majority and minority representatives in parliament – for what he alleged were their use of tactics such as “activist” methods and violence to try and influence MP voting.

“We are a new democracy and people seem to believe that violence is part of the democratic way, they simply don’t believe they are acting in an unusual way,” he claimed.

Shareef maintained that recent rhetoric from some government-aligned parties towards parliament was tantamount to bullying, which he said had been the reason behind the party’s decision to encourage its MP to back a secret ballot against removing the president from office.

“Right now, we are under tremendous pressure and have sacrificed a lot. Under this bullying, parliament cannot conduct a free and fair vote, “ he claimed, pointing to rhetoric from some members of the PPM and other parties regarding parliament’s conduct and voting.


Shareef also slammed the partisan nature of media in the Maldives for furthering to create distrust among the public over the work of MPs and “poisoning” the atmosphere in parliament.

Despite supporting the push for secret voting, Shareef said he hoped such votes would not become the normal course of procedure for parliament.

“[Secret ballots] should not be the norm, but in the current climate of fear we are seeing, this is an emergency situation,” he said. “We would of course prefer open votes, and I hope that [secret ballots] are only a temporary measure.”

Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid, PA MP Ahmed Nazim, and PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf were not responding to calls at time of press.


Global trade union rubbishes Maldives port operator’s claims on rights abuse resolution

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has rubbished claims by the state-owned Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) that the company has allayed the organisation’s concerns over the alleged infringement of employee rights.

The ITF, a global trade union representing 4.5 million transport workers across 154 countries, said it continued to share concerns raised by the Maldives Ports Workers Union (MPWU) over alleged rights abuses by MPL management.  As a result the ITF has begun calls for international solidarity action by its worldwide members after a perceived failure by the MPL and the government to address the alleged rights issues.

Earlier this year, the MPWU, which represents staff employed at the MPL, accused the state-owned company of violating employee rights over, alleging amongst other concerns, that it had unfairly dismissed four employees due to their political activism.

Disputes between the MPWU and the MPL later escalated to a point where the trade union back in September accused the state corporation of forming a “paper union” to shove aside the alleged violations of employee rights.

MPL has denied all the accusations, claiming that the staff members in question were disciplined on the basis of “disobedience” and “punctuality” in line with national employment regulations.

MPL CEO Mahdi Imad told Minivan News on Wednesday (November 7) that the state-owned company had also responded to the ITF, which it said later “apologised” over having raised the issue without checking facts.

However, the ITF has rubbished the claims, maintaining that it had so far had no reply from the MPL regarding the concerns. The global trade union said therefore it dismissed the state-owned company’s assumption it had “won us over”.

“That’s rubbish. There has been no attempt by MPL and the government to address what’s happening to dockers in the Maldives, and in fact what’s happening in the country at large,” an ITF spokesperson told Minivan News.  The trade union group said it would now be stepping up pressure on the MPL and the Maldives government should negotiations with the MPWU not be forthcoming.

After having sent two letters to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the ITF announced Thursday (November 9) that it was now calling on the government to intervene over “union intimidation” or “face embarrassment wrought by widespread international solidarity action”.

ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said the organisation was calling for a real “dialogue and conciliation process with MPWU” that can lead to a negotiation settlement with the union’s members.

“Members of the union have been fighting off victimisation by the MPL in a campaign to prevent them from participating in union activities; union leaders have also been dismissed,” the ITF has claimed “These actions run counter to the government’s own employment legislation and constitution as well as International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions.”

MPWU representatives, alongside a delegation from the national union centre, were said to have held a meeting with President Waheed last Monday (November 5), though the ITF added that the ports union had failed to receive any “adequate assurances”.

“As a result the MPWU, with support from the ITF, has vowed to step up its campaign,” a statement on the trade union’s website read.

President’s Office spokesperson Masood Imad told Minivan News today that as the MPL was a public company, the government “don’t look into issues like this”.

“These companies are totally independent, we appoint a managing director and the CEOs, but it is the board that makes decision,” he added, referring enquiries on the matter to the MPL.

Workplace disruption

Despite the stance being take by the ITF, MPL CEO Mahdi stressed that workers alleging to have been dismissed on political grounds were actually punished for creating “disruption” in the workplace.

He contended that the workers behind the allegations still had the options of taking their cases to the country’s employment tribunal to resolve any grievances that the company would then have to abide by.

Mahdi claimed that workers dismissed under previous MPL management in 2009 and 2010 had under similar circumstances been reinstated under his stewardship, as well as receiving compensation.

“These people who have been disciplined, they know a tribunal would not come out in their favour,” he said.

Mahdi also vehemently denied that he operated the MPL in a politically motivated manner, adding that the company was run in a “very technical” manner that respected due process.

“I will challenge anybody who says we are politically motivated, I believe no one has a bigger right than anyone else,” he added.

Mahdi alleged that one of the dismissed workers who had gone onto make accusations about political motivation had come into his own office and shouted at him, adding that billions of companies allowed the world would discipline such actions by staff of a senior representative.

“This is work disruption, no one is allowed to break work regulations like this. Belittling and scolding me when I’m on the street in public is ok. But here in the work place they must show me respect,” he said. “I can understand that because of the lower education of some of these people that they don’t understand this.”

Mahdi said that in the present time, the entire country had become deeply politicised even seemingly down to a person’s choice of branded bottled water.

However, he rejected accusations the MPL management were politically motivated in their roles.

Mahdi accepted that with the change of government in February, top positions within state owned companies had changed, though this was the nature of political positions under each successive government and would continue to remain so.

“These are not dismissals,” he said.

Madhi said that despite sending several letters to the President’s Office, all concerns raised by the ITF had been resolved and were solely the result of the efforts of a handful of dismissed staff to try and

“There are no issues with ITF, these have been resolved, it is just two guys going to [Minivan News] and you coming to us,” he said.

“Fabricate the truth”

Earlier this year, sacked MPL employee and President of the MPWU, Ibrahim Khaleel, alleged that the MPL was trying to “fabricate the truth” about the violations of worker rights.

In a letter on July 12 to MPL CEO Mahdi Imad, Chairperson of the MPWU Ibrahim Khaleel said: “Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, it is now common within MPL to stop employees from expressing certain political views, and violate the Employment Act by unfairly dismissing employees and transferring employees to different departments without prior warning or explanation of any offence committed.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Khaleel said the company mainly targeted employees who supported the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“They send people with cameras to MDP protests to check which MPL employees take part in the protests,” Khaleel said.

In addition to the four employees who have been dismissed at the time, 30 had intially been suspended and 10 have been transferred from their position at the Malé port to Thilafushi Island port, Khaleel claimed.


MDP’s Ali Waheed “confident” Majlis will remove President and Home Minister

Deputy Leader of Maldivian Democratic Party’s Parliamentary Group Ali Waheed has expressed his confidence that his party will get the votes it needs to secure no-confidence motions against the President and the Home Minister.

“We have full confidence in this. That is why we proposed it in the first place,” he said. “We want things to go in a democratic way and we accept the decision of the Maldivian people.”

The opposition MDP announced its intentions to submit the motions earlier this month.

Regarding President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the MDP alleged that he had destroyed the sensitive economy of the nation and that his handling of the economy had destroyed foreign investor confidence in the Maldives.

Justifying the move against Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, MDP members have criticised what they see as Jameel’s failure to probe human rights abuses surrounding the February 7 transfer of presidential power.

The party also cited this year’s increase in murders and assault as the reason behind the move.

Majlis regulations state that 26 votes are needed to get a no-confidence motion onto the floor of the house, with a two-thirds majority of the full assembly (52 of 77) required to impeach the president.

Ali Waheed said that he was unable to reveal the stage at which negotiations with other parties had reached, saying instead.

“I’m not in a state to disclose that. However, we believe that the truth will be revealed in time. Let’s work with the positive things and success will follow.”

An official from the Majlis confirmed today that the necessary votes had been received and that the Counsel General had advised the Speaker of the Majlis that the motion can be tabled.

Figures received from the Majlis show that the MDP currently holds 30 seats in the Majlis, with government-aligned parties holding 39 seats and 7 independents remaining.

One seat in the Majlis is currently empty after the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali earlier this month. A by-election for his Ungoofaru constituency has been scheduled for December.

Speaking at a press conference outside the Majlis yesterday, Ali Waheed said that discussions within the Majlis had indicated potential divisions within the governing coalition, reported local media.

Nasheed’s Allowances

At the same press conference Ali Waheed expressed his concern over the withholding of office allowances to President Nasheed, suggesting that Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad may be summoned before the Majlis if these privileges continue to be withheld.

“This is just another obstacle put up in front of us and we will tackle it accordingly,” he told Minivan News today.

Local media this week gave conflicting statements regarding the reasons for the withholding of Nasheed’s office allowance.

Sun Online reported Jihad as saying that the issue was related to the unknown location of Nasheed’s office whereas Haveeru said that the suspension of privileges was related to a disagreement over whether former presidents were required to conduct charitable activities.

“In reality, the office should be involved in holding social activities. However, the concern of these members is that there is no social work to be seen by the (Nasheed’s) office,” Jihad was quoted by Haveeru.

“It has to be clarified. Hence the financial allowances have been halted for the time being. We still haven’t been provided with the information we sought in relation to the office,” Jihad told the paper.

Jihad was not responding to calls at the time of press when contacted for clarification.

Article 8 of the Protection and Privileges for Former Presidents Act (Dhivehi) states, “In the event that a former president wishes to conduct social work beneficial to the community, the state shall provide up to MVR175,000 a month to arrange for an office, employees and other matters.”

Article 128 of the constitution states that a former president “serving his term of office lawfully without committing any offence, shall be entitled to the highest honour dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges entitled to a person who has served in the highest office of the land.”

Nasheed is currently on trial for the alleged illegal detention of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed shortly before his controversial resignation in February this year.

However, Jihad was reported as saying earlier this week that  Nasheed would be provided any allowances forthcoming from the 2009 Former Presidents’ Privileges and Protection Act .


President cleared to submit bills to Majlis

An amendment has been passed to the People’s Majlis’ Rules of Procedure enabling the current government to submit bills to the legislature.

Since February’s transfer of presidential power, there has been dispute regarding the power of current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to submit bills to the Majlis as his party, the Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP), has no representation in parliament.

Yesterday’s amendment, which was approved by 42 of 67 MPs present, changed the procedure to allow the president to designate a party to represent the government. The amendment was submitted to the floor by a report from the General Purposes Committee.

Article 217 of the parliamentary rules of procedure had previously interpreted the president’s party as that which he was a member of. The new amendment defines the president’s party as any designated by him.

This, in turn, impacts upon article 71 which states that government bills must be submitted by the party in power.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has maintained that they remain the party in power, although this is not defined in the rules of procedure.

“This is the perfect example of the democratic changes we are losing every day,” said party spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor who argued that, after being elected on an MDP ticket, Waheed was now allowing the opposition to dictate policy.

When asked by a reporter from Al Jazeera on February 8 about his relationship with other political parties, Waheed responded: “I come from a different party, and the [former] president knew very well that I was not from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) when he asked me to be his running mate to win the election,” he said.

The status of the MDP has been queried, particularly following the publication of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report which ruled the February transfer of power to have been legitimate.

The MDP and Waheed’s GIP formed a coalition just days before the 2008 presidential elections which Mohamed Nasheed won, with Waheed as his running mate.

Nasheed’s February resignation was followed by wholesale changes to the cabinet and the formation of a coalition government in which the MDP refused to participate – maintaining that Nasheed was ousted illegally.

Waheed has also claimed, however, that his government is “a continuation of the previous one under President Nasheed.”

“There should be no doubt on this score,” he was reported as telling Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May.

The MDP still holds 30 seats in the Majlis, although it is outnumbered by the pro-government coalition, which currently includes 39 of the assembly’s 77 members.

Local media have reported that the government intends to submit 12 bills to the Majlis within the next month following yesterday’s amendment.

The bills are said to concern human trafficking, prevention of sexual harassment, extradition as well as a bill that will govern the implementation of the death penalty, amongst others.

The Majlis has been beset by the political gridlock enveloping the country over the past eight month. Attempts to open the Majlis session in March saw violent clashes between protesters and security forces, while tensions within the chamber saw sessions suspended throughout August and September.


Belgian ambassador presents credentials to President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has today received the credentials of Belgium’s new ambassador to the Maldives, Pierre Vaesen.

The ambassador, who is based in the Embassy of Belgium in New Delhi , took part in a ceremony at the President’s Office this morning.

Vaesen discussed measures to increase bilateral ties between the two countries, whose diplomatic relations were established in 1977. The Maldives joint embassy to Belgium and Mission to the European Union was established in Brussels in 2010.

Belgium, which has sent around 3,500 tourists to the Maldives this year, provided over $1.3million to the country in financial assistance following the 2004 tsunami.


President received Indian and Danish dignitaries

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan was visited yesterday by both the Danish Ambassador to the Maldives, Freddy Svane, and the General Officer Commanding in Chief of Southern Army Command of India, Lieutenant General A K Singh.

The President’s Office website reported that Waheed had discussed human rights, the rule of law, the environment and democracy during his meeting with the Danish ambassador.

Both local media and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) stated that the Danish Ambassador was scheduled to meet former President Mohamed Nasheed on his southern trip yesterday before Nasheed was arrested and taken to Dhoonidhoo before today’s court hearing.

Former Minister of Finance and Treasury Mohamed Shibab confirmed that there was a meeting between the ambassador and the party yesterday evening in Male’, although he could not reveal any specific details.

Lieutenant General AK Singh was said, by President’s Office spokesman Masood Imad, to have met with Waheed to explore those areas in need of assistance regarding security and disaster management.

Masood also said that some plans for exercises and training were to be carried out in collaboration with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

MNDF Colonel Abdul Raheem said that the senior delegation from the Indian military will be travelling to the southern atolls, and will today visit Gan.

President Waheed underlined the importance of cooperation and sharing of resources in order to maintain security in the region.


DRP favours court resolution to GMR dispute as coalition partners prepare to “take to the streets”

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) will not join its fellow government coalition partners at a gathering in Male’ to oppose an airport privatisation contract with India-based infrastructure group GMR, claiming any resolution to the dispute must be made through the courts.

DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef has told Minivan News that while the party itself questioned if the GMR deal was in the best interest of the public, “due process” had to be followed through proper legal channels in order to establish if any wrong doing had occurred with the airport contract.

“Right now we do not feel that the best option is to take to the streets on this matter. We do not know what the purpose of this [coalition] gathering is, so we will not be taking part,” he said.

Shareef added that the party’s position remained that the government was bound to the agreement should it fail to prove through due process that the contract to develop and manage Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) was invalid.

The comments were made as key financial figures within the former government maintained this week that the deal was vital to not only modernise and boost efficiency at the airport, but also to address concerns over present state expenditure through a focus on privatisation.

Under the terms of the agreement – a US$511 million deal representing the largest ever case of foreign investment in the Maldives’ history – GMR agreed to a 25 year concession agreement to develop and manage the site, as well as redevelop the existing terminal by the end of this year.

The document was overseen by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on private sector projects in developing countries.

However, the Maldives government earlier this month accused the IFC of negligence during the bidding process for INIA – allegations there were rejected by the organisation amidst continued calls from government-aligned parties to renationalise the airport.

Both the government and GMR are presently involved in an arbitration case in Singapore over the airport development.

Coalition gathering

With the arbitration ongoing, six government-aligned parties are set to hold a gathering from 9:00pm on Thursday night at the Artificial Beach area of Male’ calling for INIA, as the country’s main airport, to be “returned to Maldivians”.

Through a movement called “Maldivians’ airport back to Maldivians”, the coalition – excluding the DRP – told local media this week that the gathering represents the first in a series of activities aimed at regaining management of the airport.

According to local newspaper Haveeru, Sheikh Imran Abdulla of the government-aligned religious Adhaalath Party (AP) said the gathering was aimed at showing the coalition would take a “united stand” on opposing the GMR deal until the airport was “liberated”.

“Our hope is on the night the true feeling of the Maldivian people would be revealed on the airport issue,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

The coalition movement is also expected to detail what it has claimed are losses sustained to the local economy from the awarding of the company to the Indian infrastructure group.

Sheik Imran was not responding to calls at the time of press. However, fellow AP member and Maldives’ Islamic Affairs Minister, Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, said he had “no idea” about any such gathering being held.

Meanwhile Dr Hassan Saeed, head of fellow coalition member the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), referred a query by Minivan News about the gathering to the party’s Secretary General, Abdulla Ameen. Ameen was not returning calls at the time of press.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Yameen meanwhile referred enquiries about the gathering to Secretary General Yumna Maumoon – daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Yumna was not responding to calls at the time of press.

DRP Spokesperson Shareef claimed that even should the validity of the agreement between GMR and the former government be found to be questionable, it remained for the courts to decide on such a matter.  Shareef added that senior members of his party had been penalised for holding such views by political opponents.

“Both [DRP Leader] Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid have been accused of taking bribes on this matter and trying to obstruct efforts to take the airport,” he said.

Shareef claimed the allegations had been devised by a faction formed in the DRP by members loyal to former party head and national President Gayoom, which later branched off to form the PPM party last year.

“Gayoom’s supporters had wished to take the airport back by force,” he said. “I’m not saying the deal is fair, but first we can look to renegotiate terms and get a new agreement. Also the government has the resources to investigate the deal and make the best decision on how to move forward to benefit the Maldivian people.”

Shareef added that the party had therefore decided against “taking to the streets” with other parties in President Waheed’s coalition government.

“We are not saying that the former government were not involved in something improper with the agreement,” he claimed. “But we do not see the previous government as an MDP government, or the current government as a DRP or PPM government, it is always the government of the Maldives, so if an agreement made by the government is found to be valid, than it must be honoured under the law.”

Privatisation pursuit

Speaking yesterday on private broadcaster Raaje TV, former Economic Development Minister Mahmoud Razee said the GMR deal reflected a commitment by the former government to pursue privatisation as outlined in the MDP’s manifesto.

“Firstly, if or when anything is run like a business, private people are more skilled and efficient. They are far more competent and they work for profit unlike the government,” he claimed.  “This means it requires less cost for the government, but needs more outside investment or capital. Private people are more skilled and efficient in terms of managing. The end product thus is more beneficial.”

Addressing criticisms from some local politicians that privatisation provided no benefits to the nation, Razee conceded there was an element of truth to the assumption, but stressed it did not reflect longer-term economic benefits.

“Because the investment is huge, the project is big; the first beneficiaries are always the investors. True. The benefits go to the foreigners,” he said. “In foreign countries, they make a consortium, which means the profits are being shared within multiple parties. For example, if a Turkish company is investing here, it doesn’t mean they do everything themselves. If they are developing a property, the construction, or other necessary work is done through local companies.”

Also speaking during the programme was MDP member and former Minister of Finance and Treasury Mohamed Shihab. Shihab claimed that in cases where there was limited national budgets such as in the development of a new airport terminal, then finance should be sought from outside sources.

He added that as within the case of technology and other expertise, and pointed to local resort groups such as Universal Resorts Maldives as examples in the country’s past where foreign partnerships had benefited the country’s economy.

“Resort owners do [private partnerships] because they profit from it. Let’s conduct a survey among resorts. Definitely the salaries and service charges are higher in foreign managed companies. It is a fact that, countries where foreign investment has been made are far more developed.”

Speaking earlier this year, INIA Chief Executive Officer Andrew Harrison claimed that INIA would remain a Maldivian owned enterprise that would be continuously developed by the company for the duration of the tender.

“We are just the caretakers here,” he said.  ”The airport remains and has always been owned by Maldivians.”

Harrison contended that to ensure profitability for its investment in the airport, GMR was itself committed to strengthening the wider Maldivian economy by working with local businesses, industry and contractors.


MDP confident MPs will support a parliament boycott as party seeks international pressure for reforms

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said its parliamentary group is expected to support proposals to boycott the People’s Majlis, alleging the government is failing to secure agreement on early elections or reforms to key national institutions.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said today that despite delaying a decision this week on whether the party’s parliamentary group would back its calls for a boycott, support would be forthcoming for “disengagement” from a political process he claimed was failing to secure reforms highlighted in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report.

However, a number of government-aligned parties speaking with Minivan News have slammed any such boycott, claiming that with the release of the CNI’s findings last month, parliament was now the only place where agreement and concession on the nation’s political “differences” can be made.

MP Ghafoor said that talks scheduled for Sunday (September 16) between the MDP Parliamentary Group and its national council had failed to come to a decision on whether such a boycott would be supported.  Ghafoor added that a number of MPs were unavailable to participate either through travelling or being in their constituencies.

“Yesterday we didn’t have adequate numbers to make a decision so we wanted some more time on this matter,” he claimed.

Ghafoor said he was confident there would ultimately be support to move ahead with the boycott, which was claimed to be vital in maintaining international pressure in securing hosting early elections as soon as possible.  Several recommendations were raised through the conclusions of the CNI concerning the capacity of the country’s judiciary and “excessive force” used by elements of the police between February 6 and February 8.

The MDP has maintained that as well as highlighting a need for reforms of the country’s judiciary and certain civil society institutions, the CNI’s conclusions also called for action to be taken against key defence and military officers suspected of instigating acts of violence in the build up and aftermath of the transfer of power.

Ghafoor claimed the government had failed to show any substantial commitments meet it obligations in addressing these concerns, as well as rejecting a role for the MDP in the new president’s coalition government.

“The boycott should be viewed as a total disengagement from the process of engaging with opposition parties both through talks and the Majlis,” he said. “We hope to create a vacuum that would bring an international third party into the process.”

Ghafoor added that the party had been “engaged” since February 7 in dialogue to try and secure agreement on moving forward with the national unity coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, which it accuses of coming to power in a “coup d’etat”.

The MDP’s claims of a “coup d’etat” were dismissed by the CNI report, which was published last month and later accepted by the MDP.  This acceptance was said to be made with several reservations that were raised by the appointee of former President Mohamed Nasheed about an alleged failure to commit certain key evidence and witness accounts from the report’s findings.

Ghafoor contended that a number of concerns remained including the the government rejecting allowing the MPD to join the national coalition government as well as the inclusion of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in the executive following the transfer of power.

“What we have right now is a structural problem here. We are told that no coup has occurred yet, we have opposition parties in the executive, while we have now become the country’s opposition according to the Majlis,” Ghafoor said. “The onus right now is on parliament to carry forward on these talks and ensure agreements can be reached. We are not confident this can be done [through dialogue with the government and coalition parties],” he added.

Ghafoor claimed that the MDP’s strategy was aimed at ensuring a renewed role for the international community to help push for reforms, something the party earlier this week stated be a key focus for former President Nasheed during an ongoing visit to the UK.

“The international community still has a responsibility to engage the situation here and try and find a solution to the issues being faced,” he said.

Responding to the proposed Majlis boycott, Jumhoree Party (JP) Deputy Leader Abdulla Jabir said that any party – no matter their political allegiance – opting to boycott the Majlis was a regrettable development as the country sought political and economic stability.

“I would regret any party, be it the MDP, PPM or DRP deciding to disrupt the People’s Majis. We are a small country after all,” he said.

Jabir claimed that in line with “many mistakes” made by former President Nasheed whilst he was in office, the MDP’s proposal to block the work of the Majlis was a similarly “regretful” decision.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Ameen, Secretary General of the government-aligned Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) told Minivan News that he believed that the Majlis remained a place of “engagement” for political parties, as well as the only place where any “concessions” between politicians could be made.

“There are definitely issues that need to be addressed on all sides and parliament will remain the best place to discuss issues such as early elections or any changes to the constitution,” he said.

Ameen added that while international assistance was welcome in trying to resolve political matters, local independent institutions already existed to address any issues that arose.

“If it becomes too difficult to find resolutions through the Majlis, then international assistance is welcomed, but it is best practice to try working through the Majlis first,” he said.

“As a nation we need to sit down and talk. If you wish to pressure the government the streets are not the place to do so. The government and coalition parties are here to speak. It’s very sad that people are not choosing to do so.”

According to Ameen, Dr Waheed’s coalition government had already conceded to what he claimed were MDP demands to reform the CNI with international participation to address concerns about its independence.

“The MDP demanded international observers and we addressed these concerns. I don’t know what more we can do,” he added.

The original three member CNI was reformed under pressure from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to include a co-chair in retired Singaporean judge, an appointee to represent former President Nasheed and international observers. The reformed body began its work back in June.

Minivan News also sought a response over the proposed boycott from DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and PPM Interim Deputy Leader Umar Naseer, whowere not responding to calls at the time of press.


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.