Commonwealth Envoy expresses concern at “rising political tension” in the Maldives

The Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, has expressed concern at “rising political tension” in the Maldives –  specifically over ongoing street protests and the criminal charges filed against ousted President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has taken to the streets for the tenth consecutive day calling for an early election, alleging the former President was deposed in a coup detat on February 7.  Police have clashed violently with protesters resulting in injury to police and public as well as the arrest of hundreds of protesters. However, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has insisted the earliest constitutionally permitted date in which fresh polls can be held is July 2013.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz on Monday filed criminal charges against Nasheed for his alleged role in the detention of Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed in January.

The Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) has urged for early elections to be held in 2012, and has played a crucial role in the reconstitution of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), set up to investigate the controversial transfer of power.  The composition was changed after the Commonwealth raised concerns over the body’s impartiality during its first iteration. The CNI is expected to release its report by the end of August.

In a statement released yesterday, Sir Donald called for dialogue among political leaders, urging all parties to show “restraint and restore calm.”

“It is absolutely essential that all relevant actors in Maldives refrain from any actions that could jeopardise the stable environment necessary to allow the Commission of National Inquiry to complete its work and produce an outcome within the stipulated time-frame,” he said.

“Restore calm”

Sir Donald added that he has been in contact with President Waheed and Mohamed Nasheed to discuss the MDP’s ongoing protests, along with the response by security forces to these demonstrations and the charges filed against the former president.

“What is very much needed in Maldives right now is for all concerned to show restraint and restore calm. Any actions that create or exacerbate political instability cannot be helpful to the national interest, including in the difficult economic circumstances at the moment in the country and the global context,” Sir Donald said.

The Maldives is facing a foreign currency shortageplummeting investor confidencespiraling expenditure, a drop off in foreign aid and a crippling budget deficit of 27 percent.

Speaking on the need for a stable environment for the CNI to complete its work, and urging all parties to refrain from jeopardising the commission’s efforts, Sir Donald said: “We have all invested a huge amount of time, energy and resources in reconstituting the Commission of National Inquiry, to establish the truth about the events of 7 February 2012 and help Maldives move forward. The international community has been supportive of these efforts.”

Hence, Sir Donald has called on Maldivian leaders to engage in dialogue, stating that “Ultimately, any resolution of contentious political issues in Maldives can only come about through inclusive political dialogue.”

“I therefore urge the leaders of Maldives to engage in genuine dialogue, with the interest of the people of Maldives in mind,” he added.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor welcomed the Special Envoy’s statement, but said that MDP protests would continue. “You must remember our protests are non-violent and are aimed at restoring political stability,” he told Minivan News.


Sir Donald’s comments come at a time when renewed attempts at restarting the All-Party talks appear at a stalemate.

The talks were conceived as one of two internationally-backed mechanisms – alongside the CNI – to resolve the political deadlock in the Maldives following the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

The Convenor of the All-Party talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, on July 12 announced that a series of “high-level” discussions will be held between President Waheed and the leaders of the largest political parties after sixteen previous attempts had resulted in “no breakthrough.”

However, a spokesperson for President Waheed on Tuesday said the president will not hold talks with Nasheed as long as street protests continue, condemning the protests as an “act of terrorism.”

Meanwhile, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – who served as the country’s autocratic leader for 30 years up to 2008 – said he would not negotiate with Nasheed.  Gayoom claimed that Nasheed had made baseless comments about him in both the local and the international community, particularly that the former President had masterminded a “coup d’état” on February 7.

Nasheed subsequently released a statement on Monday arguing that his allegations were based on public statements made by Gayoom and those closely affiliated with him politically, including his family members – many of whom now hold senior positions in government. Nasheed then offered to apologize if Gayoom agreed to participate in the all-party talks.

“Given that not for a single moment would I wish for someone unelected by the people of Maldives to entertain himself as leader to them, I believe now is the time for all parties to come forth in support of the best interest of the nation and its citizens, and as such, if President Gayoom indeed was not party to the coup, I have decided to apologise to President Gayyoom for the fact that I said he was behind this coup,” Nasheed said in his statement.

However, Gayoom told local media today that he believed Nasheed’s apology was “insincere” and has asked Nasheed to issue a formal apology on local and international media.