Government alleges continued opposition “harassment”, while MDP slams “terrorism” charges

No date has been set  for President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to participate in all party talks, the government has said, claiming the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) continues to “harass” state officials despite agreements to the contrary.

Speaking following his return from Saudi Arabia, the president spoke with local media about several issues affecting the country,  including financial and political stability.  He also talked of the likelihood for his participation in talks with key parliamentary and opposition representatives.

The comments were made as the MDP this weekend hit out at the government over accusations it is conducting a string of “seemingly politically motivated charges” to destabilise the party, ahead of the publication of findings by the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI). The CNI was established to investigate the events surrounding February’s controversial transfer of power that brought Dr Waheed into office.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza claimed that despite the MDP’s pledge to cease its street protests over the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramazan to facilitate fresh talks, harassment by party members was continuing.  Abbas pointed to an attack on two police officers yesterday (August 17), that he alleged that were politically motivated and carried out by MDP members.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed to Minivan News that attacks on two officers had taken place yesterday evening, but claimed that they were not at present being treated as politically motivated assaults. Investigations are continuing into the matter, Haneef added.

According to police, a group of 20 men reportedly attacked two on duty officers yesterday evening near the Dolphin View Cafe’ in Male’. Two male suspects aged 18 and 19 years of age have been arrested in connection to the incident.

CNI outcomes

Upon his arrival today at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male’ after representing the Maldives at the fourth extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Conference, President Waheed told local media that the government would not discuss any outcome of the CNI until the body concluded its work later this month.

The CNI is scheduled to publish its report by August 29, on the events leading to Dr Waheed assuming the presidency on February 7. The report will first be made available to the authorities and prosecutor general. The public will be given access to the findings on August 30.

Abbas stressed that the government was committed to not “intervene” in the inquiry’s work, as it had been set up, and later amended under international pressure, to operate free from state interference.

“The outcome will be respected by the country’s various institutions such as the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Human Rights Commission and the Police Integrity Commission,” he said.

Abbas also told Minivan New that the president was nonetheless committed to taking part in road-map talks between government-aligned parties and the opposition MDP to try and overcome the country’s political deadlock, but only once he was confident the opposition had stopped its alleged harassment.

“The president has continued to reiterate that this harassment needs to stop. It is not stopping and two police officers have been beaten this weekend by MDP supporters,” he went on to allege. “As long as harassment continues we will not join talks.”

Last week, the government alleged that protests against Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen on the island of Hulhumale’, where he was met with a barrage of offensive language, were directly linked to the MDP, despite the party’s decision to temporarily suspend street demonstrations.

However, the MDP at the time denied any direct involvement in the incident – which saw eight people arrested – claiming it represented the frustrations of individuals against the present political situation.

Ahead of the government’s ongoing accusations that it was being harassed by the MDP, the country’s only opposition party yesterday released a statement expressing “grave concern” at the prosecution of its members, who it alleged were being targeted unlawfully.

“The MDP believes this is a deliberate attempt by the regime to destabilise the country ahead of the Commission of National Inquiry report into February’s transfer of power, which is due to be published on 30 August,” the party stated.

“The regime is pressing charges against MPs for Male’: Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – for obstructing police duty, MP Ibrahim Rasheed for obstructing police duty, assaulting police officers, threatening and creating unrest and MP, Imthiyaz Fahmy, for allegedly assaulting a police officer.”

According to the statement, there was also particular concern over terrorism charges the party said had been filed against MP Mohamed Rasheed and Addu City Councillor Ahmed Mirzad.

“Terrorism charges against these two individuals are being levied under allegations that they incited violence and arson attacks on public buildings and police stations on 8 February 2012 in Addu City. Furthermore, last month the Prosecutor General lodged a case at the criminal court against MP for Thoddu constituency and Deputy Leader of MDP’s Parliamentary Group, Ali Waheed,” the statement read. “The charges against him are also for obstructing Police duty. All the MPs have denied the charges. The MDP believes all of the charges to be politically motivated.”

Coupled with uncertainty over whether former President Mohamed Nasheed will face trial for his role in the controversial arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, the MDP alleged that its members continue to be the victims of a “witch-hunt” orchestrated by the state.

“While politically motivated prosecutions continue, the MDP notes with dismay that no action has been taken against security forces who mutinied and used excessive force on peaceful protesters, although these concerns have been highlighted by international organisations and international media agencies,” the party claimed. “At a time when the people of the Maldives and the international community are also questioning the legitimacy and the impartiality of the government and the courts, it is concerning the government is continuing to press politically motivated charges against pro-democracy activists.”

OIC funding talks

Beyond domestic politics, President Waheed also today discussed the (OIC) that saw the establishment of an institute of dialogue to allow member states within the organisation to collaborate and reach agreement on religious issues.

Abbas said that the president has also had meetings with a number of fellow OIC member states regarding unspecified funding projects.

“The president will in due course reveal the details on these funding projects and how they will work,” he said.


All-party talks reconvene amidst optimism on both sides

Representatives from both sides of the political divide have expressed optimism over the continuation of Indian-sponsored all party talks, which reconvene tomorrow after stalling on several previous occasions.

The talks include representatives from nine political parties and are intended to diplomatically resolve the upheavals experienced since February’s controversial transfer of power. Despite agreeing on an agenda for the discussions, the talks have ended in stalemate on numerous occasions since first being proposed.

The discussions were last halted earlier this month after certain government-aligned politicians questioned the legitimacy of the MDP members present following the passing of a no confidence motion by the party’s national council against its president and vice president.

While former MDP president Dr Ibrahim Didi continues to contest his dismissal along with former Vice President Alhan Fahmy, the Elections Commission (EC) has since said that it found “no evidence” that the vote was unconstitutional under basic regulations.

Ahead of the talks reconvening tomorrow, MDP representatives claim they are “optimistic” that the discussions can still lead to the establishment of dates for early elections, along with other agreements on reforming the fractious political landscape. However, the party has expressed concerns over alleged attempts by some participants to stymie the talks without first reaching any meaningful agreements on early elections.

Speaking to Minivan News today, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza claimed the government was committed to the talks, insisting that all parties needed to agree on the direction of any resolution to the present political stalemate.

However, Abbas added that the MDP, which contends it was removed from office by a coup d’etat and replaced with President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s “illegitimate government”, would be required to guarantee “peace” and “security” if talks were to continue successfully.

“The government is insistent that all parties should agree on certain things for the talks to continue,” he said. “These things include ensuring stability and calm.”

Mosque clashes

Abbas criticised protests conducted across the capital of Male’ over the weekend that reportedly saw some demonstrators interrupting a mosque service on Majeedhee Magu.  He said that the demonstrations, which led to clashes between demonstrators and the people inside, were a particular concern going forward for reaching an agreement.

“Some of these protesters are now attacking mosques. This level of fundamentalism that we have seen over the last two nights is not acceptable,” he said.

Clashes between the protesters and some of those inside the mosque led to the arrest of five people, Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said yesterday. The unrest is said by an eyewitness to have begun when MDP supporters attempted to disrupt a sermon which Male’ City Council had said was unauthorised.

Abbas claimed that the talks had previously been stalled after the MDP boycotted President Waheed’s opening address to parliament.  The speech was eventually given during a reconvened Majlis session, amidst heckling from MDP MPs in the chamber.

With the boycott now in the past, Abbas claimed that the MDP would be required to ensure it conducted itself in a “calm and peaceful manner”. He added that the government was ultimately confident that the issues related to the all party talks’ agenda would be resolved going forward.

Former Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa, who is one of two MDP representatives sitting on the talks, said today that she was baffled by demands for the cessation of ongoing protests that had been held regularly across Male’ and the wider atolls since February.

“We have been accused of creating unrest though legal protests that we have been holding, and they have asked us to stop this,” she said. “We are simply expressing our freedom to demonstrate, so it is baffling that we are being accused of creating unrest.”

“Very optimistic”

Zulfa alleged that issues such as stopping protests, as well as the dismissal of its former president and vice president by national council vote, continued to be used as a means to try and deviate from the previously agreed roadmap talks.

However, she claimed the party was “very optimistic” that the talks could realistically lead to setting a date for early elections, as well as ensuring a broad consensus on other democratic reforms.

While having been previously critical of the intentions of other parties towards “cooking up” stalling tactics to block the talks, Dr Zulfa said that a comprehensive agenda for the discussions under mediator Ahmed Mujuthaba had been outlined.

“What we really hope for right now is that all the parties participate in these talks seriously,” she said. “We need to agree on prioritising items on this agenda, otherwise there will be a problem going forward.

Zulfa contended that the MDP itself had a “natural interest” in moving the setting of a date for early elections towards the top of the talks’ agenda.

She claimed that failure to do so in favour of other reforms would only serve to delay attempts to set early elections this year. Early elections during 2012 are backed by the MDP, as well as by international organisations like the Commonwealth and the EU.

“The whole idea of these talks is to iron out the differences we are having [with other parties]. Originally, it was agreed by all parties that early elections should be held. However, the representatives went back to their parties and suddenly they are now not agreeing on this,” she said.

President Waheed’s government has said that the earliest elections can be held under the constitution would be July 2013. The claims are denied by the MDP, which has said that elections could be held this year upon the resignation of the president.

Despite the government’s stance, Zulfa claimed that certain individual party leaders working within the coalition government such as Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Jumhooree Party (JP) head Gasim Ibrahim were both preparing for fresh polls.

“I am optimistic that these early elections can be achieved. If you look at the individual parties, Mr Thasmeen has maintained he is ready for elections. Gasim Ibrahim has also been talking about himself as a presidential candidate,” she said. “The only party I believe is not ready is the progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – though they are a major power broker right now.”

Zulfa alleged that despite the encouraging level of impartiality shown during the talks by convenor Ahmed Mujuthaba and negotiator Pierre-Yves Monette, discussions needed to be held with each party to assure there was sincerity to reach an eventual agreement.

“We need both the convener and negotiator to sit down individually with all the parties and see if there is any common ground that can be reached, until then they may not be much point in coming together,” she said.

Zulfa alleged that during previous sessions of the all-party talks, representatives for President’s Gaumee Ithihaad (GI) party has said that even in a potential situation where Dr Waheed might opt to resign from his position, they would not allow him to do so.

According to Zulfa, on other occasions delegates in the talks claimed they would not concede to giving the MDP an early election.


Roadmap talks stall as government parties contest legitimacy of MDP representatives

The India-sponsored all-party talks ground to a halt again yesterday, after parties affiliated with the ruling coalition challenged the legitimacy of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s representation.

The ousted party’s President Dr Ibrahim Didi and Vice President Alhan Fahmy were removed from their posts last week in a near unanimous vote by the party’s national council. The pair are contesting their dismissal.

“The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) delegate walked out questioning the legality of the MDP leadership,” explained Dr Mariyam Zulfa, who represented the MDP at the talks, together with party spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“We are of the opinion that they had planned to derail the talks before they had begun. The PPM delegate said legitimacy of the [MDP’s] leadership was in question. I think it was not a matter for them to decide,” Dr Zulfa said.

“Our representatives went through the protocol and processes and were authorised to attend. This is a plan to stall the talks,” she added.

Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef, of the new ruling coalition which the MDP contests came to power in a coup d’état on February 7, said the DRP was now waiting for the Elections Commission (EC) to make a decision on the legality of the MDP’s current leadership, and its authority to appoint representatives to the all party talks.

“[The representatives] must be properly endorsed by the party. Somebody with the authority to nominate the representative of the party, such as President or Vice President,” he said, noting that the DRP was “unhappily” not present during yesterday’s talks.”

Dr Zulfa described the roadmap talks as “a bit of a farce”.

“[President] Dr Mohamed Waheed is purporting to the international community that he is bringing all the parties to the table, but on the weekend he went out in public and said the earliest he would hold elections was July 2013. He is saying one thing and doing quite the opposite. It is very revealing to us,” she said.

“The PPM is behind the coup-led government, and the longer they can stay in power the better it is for them. They have not taken into account the people’s vote – our agenda is to restore the legitimacy of government,” Dr Zulfa said.

The talks previously stalled in March after parties were unable to agree on a priority for the five item agenda, which includes early elections.

“The MDP at first chose to not take part in the talks, and there was such a big outcry from the opposition parties that we were not acting in good faith,” Dr Zulfa said. “Now we are participating, early elections are on the agenda, and they are saying the talks are designed so that MDP will benefit the most from them. It is quite amazing.”


MDP calls for compromise amid ongoing political standoff

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is open to compromise in its position on the opening of parliament, the party has said, in its pursuit of an early election date.

“[The MDP] have to compromise as well. It should not be expected that during negotiations that only one side will make all the efforts to compromise,” said the MDP’s Parliamentary Group Leader Ibu Solih yesterday.

In a conciliatory statement, Solih said: “Just look at what happened last week. [The government] said that a date for an early election will not be settled until the parliament is opened, while we maintained that the parliament cannot be opened until a date is set. Both sides wanted their way.”

He continued to posit national welfare as the paramount concern during the current political upheavals: “Finding a way to co-exist should be of fundamental importance right now.”

President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza said that the all-party talks would continue when the convener Ahmed Mujuthaba returns next week. Riza himself represented the Jumhoree Party (JP) of resort owner Gasim Ibrahim at the recent round of talks, and spoke of the need to find common legislative ground before fresh elections.

“Let parliament function and politicians be politicians,” said Riza. “We cannot allow extreme elements to take control.” Riza stated that the JP wanted assurances that the democratic processes that many people had worked hard to cultivate “would be allowed to function properly before it could support fresh elections.”

“We must not return to square one,” he continued, as he emphasised the need for clearer methods, situated on common ground, to resolve procedural deadlocks. He cited the PPM’s displeasure with the Electoral Commission and the MDPs unhappiness with the Judicial Services Commission as examples of this systemic conflict.

“Having nearly brought the democratic process to a standstill… let us legitimise the process,” he said.

Committee of National Inquiry (CNI)

Transparency Maldives Project Director Aiman Rasheed reported that a meeting between NGOs and the CNI today was candid and contained much “positive energy”.

Today’s meeting was attended by a number of local groups including the Maldivian Democracy Network, the Maldives NGO Federation and Democracy House.

“The inquiry is an opportunity for unity… It is a collaborative civil society effort,” Rasheed said. He emphasised the popular theme of better dialogue between parties.

Several parties on the side of the new government, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Adhaalath Party (AP) last week walked away from the India-mediated roadmap talks  after MDP MPs blocked the entry of Parliamentary Speaker, Abullah Shahid, to the People’s Majlis. The CNI has been presented by India as an important of  path to political reconciliation in the Maldives.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan earlier in the week wrote to all parties urging a renewal of their commitment to the all party talks “in the best interest of the nation.”

During the meeting between the CNI and the representatives of Maldivian civil society,  the issue of time constraints on the newly formed investigative body were also highlighted. Whilst time is needed to adequately staff and establish working procedures, Rasheed said he believed time was “a luxury” that could be ill-afforded.

The CNI has asked the Foreign Ministry to expedite its normal procedures in contacting the United Nations. International participation has been strongly advocated both domestically and internationally to safeguard the transparency of the inquiry process.

Following the MDPs recent claims of witness intimidation – including of police officers willing to speak to the inquiry – CNI members were candid about the challenges faced, acknowledging that witness protection would be an important issue.

The President spoke to local television station DhiTV this week, stating his intention to work tirelessly to unite the divided country.

In a subsequent statement on the President’s Office website, Dr Waheed said “satisfactory results could not be achieved if I attempted to work alone.”

“What we have witnessed over the past three years was the decisions of a single individual being imposed on all,” Dr Waheed claimed.


Has India lost the mango and the sack in the Maldives?: South Asia Monitor

Democracy is rough road littered with potholes. Either you avoid them and play safe, or you fill them up for a smoother ride in the future. Mohamed Nasheed did both, writes Sumon Chakrabarti for the South Asia Monitor.

“First, he played safe and then he changed gears to take the problem head-on. But in doing so, he failed to avoid a collision that led to the toppling in a coup of the first-ever democratic government in the Maldives that he headed.

Clearly, Nasheed’s order to arrest Abdulla Mohamed, Chief Judge of Criminal Court, on January 16 was a political blunder. It brought a rainbow coalition of opposition politicians, mega-rich resort owners and radical Islamists out on the streets – united only by their opposition to a nascent, liberal democracy and the reforms it had brought about that are under genuine threat today.

Chief Judge Mohamed, appointed for life by former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was facing investigation by the Judicial Services Commission for political bias and persistent refusal to prosecute cases of corruption and human rights abuses against his mentor and members of his former regime.

Hassan Saeed, Gayoom’s attorney general and now special advisor to new President Dr Mohammed Waheed, had accused him of making derogatory comments against women and even requesting an underage victim of sexual assault to re-enact her abuse in an open court.

Strange bedfellows are not unknown in politics. Judge Abdulla’s arrest galvanised the opposition led by Gayoom’s brother Yameen (who faces charges in a $800 million oil scam, the biggest corruption case in the island nation), the country’s richest businessman Gasim Ibrahim, and radical islamists led by Sheikh Imran of the religious Adhaalath Party.

Emerging details of the lead-up to the coup now point to a political deal struck on the night of January 31 between the former Vice President – and now President – and these forces. On that night, in a press confererence, they had pledged support to Waheed and asked the army and police not to take any orders from Nasheed.

But the big question is: Why did these strange bedfellows come together? The answer, many believe, lies in Malaysia, where former dictator Gayoom – who was defeated by Nasheed in the country’s first democratic elections in 2008 – has conveniently been based since the coup was in the throes of being executed.

That Gayoom, who ruled the country with an iron-first for 30 years, is the uniting force behind the coup-plotters was evident in the initial appointments that Waheed made on taking over the presidency within hours of Nasheed’s forced resignation.

The first two were loyalists of the Gayoom regime – former Justice Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who was named Home Minister, and Mohamed Nazim, a former military officer under Gayoom, who is the new Minister of Defence and National Security.

Within days, he also appointed Gayoom’s spokesperson, Mohamed Hussain Shareef (Mundhu), as his Minister for Human Resources, Youth and Sports. Gayoom’s lawyer, Azima Shakoor, was named his Attorney General, while the former dictator’s daughter, Dhunya Maumoon, was appointed State Minister for Foreign Affairs.

There was more. Ahmed Mohamed ‘Andey’, CEO of the State Trading Organisation during the Gayoom administration, was named the Minister of Economic Development, while Ahmed Shamheed – a Director at Villa Shipping and Trade, owned by one of the coup plotters Gasim Ibrahim, and the Ministry of Planning and Development in the Gayoom administration – became the Minister of Transport and Communication.

Analysts are asking whether India misread the ongoing political struggle for the second time in four years. On the eve of elections in 2008, the then Indian High Commissioner reported that Nasheed was hardly a force. He recommended continued support to Gayoom. Nasheed won.

Many say that, this time too, reports from the Indian High Commission shaped initial decisions – New Delhi recognised the new regime on February 8, within 24 hours. This was considered a show of undue haste, something the government indirectly hinted at later. Questions are also being asked about what Gayoom’s half-brother Abdullah Yameen, a long-time critic of India, was doing inside the Indian High Commission for over an hour on the morning of the coup, even as Nasheed was being forced by security forces to resign at the headquarters of the Maldives National Defence Force.

Interestingly, an Indian naval ship, INS Suvarna, was in Maldives from February 3. Strangely, the ship was allowed to leave on the morning of February 7, just four or five hours after information of the serious standoff and the plotting of the coup was received. Just the presence of the ship and some marines in the city could have stopped events from unfolding the way they did.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai soon arrived to Maldives to salvage the situation and called for early elections. The deal was that the new president, Waheed, would announce elections within 24 hours. Nothing happened.

On February 28, Mathai again flew down to the Maldives. This time he proposed to all political parties in Maldives that the amendments to the constitution should be made within one month to pave the way for an early presidential election before December this year. But during the two-hour meeting, he was repeatedly reminded by many from the new government, including Yameen’s party, that the involvement of an outsider in what was an internal matter was not warranted. Even Gayoom’s daughther Dhunya and President Waheed’s spokesperson made some uncharitable comments.

This, after India had handed over $20 million on the evening of February 27 to Mohamed Ahmed, Controller of Finance of the Finance Ministry. Apparently, an additional $50 million is on its way so that Maldives can avoid a sovereign default. All this was happening even as the new government, including the President himself, has backed out from its promise to the Foreign Secretary on holding early elections. The President, Home Minister and State Minister for Foreign Affairs have openly said in the past two days that there is no question of early elections, and that no foreign interference would be tolerated in the matter.

But with lost credibility and a history of dumping friends – from Burma to Bangladesh and now Maldives, the reality is stark – India has, as the saying goes, lost the mango as well as the sack in the Maldives. It has lost the goodwill of every democracy-loving Maldivian and has not gained anything from the new dispensation – backed and aided by a cocktail of the military, police, mafia and radicals.

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Roadmap parties agree on agenda, order of preference to follow: Mujuthaba

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s nine-party “Roadmap” talks – an attempt to diplomatically resolve the current political crisis – have resulted in a series of agenda items, mediator Ahmed Mujuthaba told media today.

“We held the first meeting on February 20, but unfortunately because one of the relevant parties (the Maldivian Democratic Party) was not present we could not continue with the meeting. So we just had some informal consultations on that day,” he said.

The MDP initially boycotted the first round of talks – initiated by Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai – “when it became clear that the talks were to include political parties with no democratic mandate, and that they would focus on procedural issues such as the timing and venue for future talks – a clear effort to delay substantive discussions,” the party said at the time.

MDP’s Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has since represented the MDP at the talks.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mujuthaba said agenda items had now been agreed, although the order of preference remained under discussion. The items, he said, were:

  • Which laws have to be amended, and what new laws are needed.
  • Discuss and determine the changes that need to be brought to independent institutions and independent positions in the Constitution
  • To discuss amendments that need to be brought to the Constitution
  • To determine a date for the next Presidential elections
  • Find out the present condition of the budget
  • How to have the March 1 Majlis opening proceed in a peaceful manner
  • How can to tackle and solve the present discord in Maldivian society

Speaking to the press, Mujuthaba acknowledged frustration at the speed of the talks.

“I am not happy at the speed of this. I would wish today or tomorrow that there would be some kind of agreement,” he said.

Asked his opinion as to whether early elections – the MDP’s primary demand – were a likely outcome of the talks, he replied that “until a time when I can say really there is a deadlock I don’t want to give up hope on any option in this agenda.”
He acknowledged concerns from the MDP over the composition of the talks and whether the other parties in attendance had a democratic mandate, but said this had only been raised with him minutes before commencement of the first meeting on February 20.

“I said look, you can come to the meeting and say these reasons. It would have been better if you had told me [earlier]. What you say is probably right, but I wish I knew about it before the first meeting,” Mujuthaba said.

Mujuthaba was a former Tourism Minister and was the first chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), appointed by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Dr Waheed appointed him to chair both the roadmap talks and to the government’s independent inquiry into the circumstances of the change of power. Mujuthaba subsequently excused himself from the latter.

“From the way these discussions were going I thought there would be a terrible conflict of interest if I was involved in both at the same time,” he noted. “Better to concentrate on one.”

Solih said Tuesday evening after another round of talks that no agreements had been reached.

The MDP has meanwhile maintained that it will escalate protests until an early election date is declared. Despite the present calm, both the resultant political stalemate and the prospect of chaos when parliament resumes remain a key source of tension in the capital Male’.

Minivan News understands that Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai briefly visited the Maldives today for the second time since the political crisis erupted on February 7.


MDP boycotts first roadmap meeting: “clear effort to delay substantive discussions”

The first talks of the political parties on the “Roadmap for a Possible Way Forward”, initiated by the President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, were cancelled on Monday night after the former ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) boycotted the meeting calling it “a clear effort to delay substantive discussions”.

The first meeting was set to start at Nasandhura Palace Hotel at 8.30pm last night with representatives from nine parties, with former Tourism Minister Ahmed Mujthaba appointed as convener by Dr Waheed to mediate the talks.

Representatives of all parties aside from the MDP attended the meeting. After a 15 minute wait for MDP members to appear, Mujthaba told the press the meeting was cancelled due to the absence of MDP.

He noted that unofficial talks however continued between the parties and that date for the next meeting would be set when MDP’s participation was confirmed.

Meanwhile, in a press statement the MDP said it had planned to participate in the talks, and expressed the party’s “commitment to serious talks between responsible political parties to ensure a smooth transition towards early elections, as per the roadmap mediated by the Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.”

However, according to the statement, MDP decided not to take part “when it became clear that the talks were to include political parties with no democratic mandate, and that they would focus on procedural issues such as the timing and venue for future talks – a clear effort to delay substantive discussions.”.

MDP said the talks must focus on substantive issues such as the timing and conditions for early elections and related transitional arrangements – topics which MDP officials claim were not on last night’s agenda.

“Yesterday’s events – together with comments by Dr Waheed reported in the media – create doubts as to whether he is agreeable to early elections at all,” MDP claimed in the statement.

“The Maldives is in the midst of a serious political crisis. A crisis which can only be resolved by free and fair elections at an early date. In a democracy, only the people have the right to decide who should govern them. It is therefore vital that all serious political parties meet as soon as possible to address the real issue – the date and conditions for early elections. MDP stands ready to participate in such talks for the good of the country,” said MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

The party also said it had made it clear that the talks must only involve parties which either have a seat in parliament or in a local council.

Minority opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) headed by the Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, which was present in last night’s talks, does not have official representation in the parliament or on an elected council. Under parliamentary regulations, MPs who joined Gayoom’s PPM from the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) technically count as independent MPs until elected on a PPM ticket in the next parliamentary election.

Minivan News asked Mujthaba about the MDP’s allegations and sought details on the talks, however he responded that the Roadmap Secretariat had decided to temporarily cease giving interviews to the media.

“We have decided to not to give any further interviews to the press at the moment as we are trying to set up the next roadmap meeting,” he explained. “But we will continue to invite MDP to participate in the meeting.

However he added that last night’s meeting had an “open agenda” and members were allowed to discuss all elements of the roadmap.

Meanwhile, speaking on Tuesday morning, Nasheed said the MDP’s position remained that disputes should be resolved through peaceful dialogue and negotiations.

He added that “MDP and most Maldivian citizens” agreed with the DRP’s position that in the event of an early presidential election this year the constitution should be amended to ensure there would not be another election in 2013.

Discussions should therefore involve political parties represented in parliament as a two-third majority would be needed to approve the constitutional amendments, Nasheed continued, suggesting that smaller parties without any seats in Majlis “would find it difficult at the moment to help with deciding a date for an election.”

Minority parties could however participate in talks on reforming the judiciary and security services, Nasheed suggested.

MDP would enter discussions today on amending the constitutional provision requiring an election in 2013, Nasheed revealed, inviting other political parties to join the talks.

“In my view, what we lost was democracy,” Nasheed said. “What we lost was not the rule of Galolhu Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed. His rule isn’t important either. Nor is he a very important person. What we have lost are principles and conventions we have long-desired for this country – these were essential for our development and progress.”