Commonwealth endorses CNI, MDP claims report “legitimises coup”

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has welcomed the release of the report by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), and urged “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 report, delivered by Singaporean judge G. P. Selvam to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan on the morning of August 30, claimed there was no evidence to support claims by former President Mohamed Nasheed that he was ousted in a coup d’état, that his resignation was under duress, or that there was any mutiny by the police and military.

Regarding the resignation of Nasheed’s member on the Commission Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, on the grounds that the commission had failed to consider key evidence, testimonies and phone recordings, Secretary-General Sharma said it “was unfortunate that Mr Saeed felt he must dissociate himself from the findings of the Commission.”

“I commend the members of the commission for the intensive work they did to produce the report. I also note the report identifies a number of important issues that need to be addressed regarding the basic institutions of democratic governance, notably the rule of law and administration of justice, the People’s Majlis (Parliament), and the media. This report provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to reflect calmly and carefully, and find a way forward based on dialogue, consensus and reconciliation.

“The task ahead for all Maldivians must be to strengthen democracy in the Maldives. An atmosphere of peace and public order is essential for that to happen,” Sharma said.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, will shortly return to the country “to explore how the Commonwealth can assist Maldives to move forward in a peaceful and consensual manner, and how democratic institutions can be further strengthened,” he added.

Government now legitimate: Waheed

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan at a press conference declared his presidency “clearly legitimate”, following the report’s release: “It is time to stop questioning the legitimacy of the government. It is time to stop illegal activities and activities that go against generally acceptable social norms,” Waheed said.

“The Commission’s findings are clearly stated. I do not believe there is any room to raise any questions about the transfer of power.”

“Most of my time and that of my colleagues in government have been consumed in finding ways to contain the loss and minimise damage to people and country. With serious harm inflicted on our tourism industry, we had to work in partnership with the industry to find ways to overcome serious challenges. We had to respond to allegations made to discredit the government and its officials. Much work had to be done to explain the truth to the people of the Maldives and members of the international community,” Waheed stated.

“We should now ask ourselves how we have spent the last six months. What have we spent our energy on? How much have we damaged our economy due to the harm inflicted on our main industry? How have we lived as a people with fear in our hearts and no peace in sight? How much suffering have we endured as a people due to actions by some only to further their own interests? The damage to our economy and social fabric within the last six months cannot be easily recovered.”

Waheed further condemned public criticism of Selvam’s integrity, stating that “I would like to highlight that the personal attacks by some against members of the commission, especially the attacks on co-chair Justice Selvam’s character, are not acceptable in a civilised society.”

“May the Almighty Allah bestow upon the people of Maldives a better tomorrow. May Allah keep our country a peace loving nation. May Allah keep this land of ours independent and peaceful forever.”

Following the press statement given by President Waheed, the MDP called on an emergency National Executive Council Meeting in the Dharubaaruge conference hall.

A large number of MDP supporters gathered in and outside of Dharubaaruge after the report was released.

During the meeting, several members condemned the actions of Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) for the release of its “inaccurate” report on the controversial transfer of power that took place on February 7.

MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, speaking at the meeting, said that the people would “forever remember” that what happened on February 7 “was a coup”, and said the party would not stop its calls for a “legitimate government”.

“Remember this: the Maldivian people will as long as they live remember that what happened on February 7 was a coup d’etat. What the CNI did was try to legitimise the coup, but truth will prevail. We will remain determined in our calls for a legitimate government,” Fahmy said.

Another attendee called on members of the party to launch “immediate direct action” and protest against the government until it gave way and held democratic elections.

Former Minister of Environment Mohamed Aslam observed that the CNI’s report implied that “anyone who wishes to become President can become so if they gather the support of the police and military.”

“What we saw was a coup d’etat. If we let such an offence go by without justice, this is a very bad precedent we are setting here, and the MDP will not let that happen. I ask all our members from among the islands to come to Male’ and join us in our cause,” he added.

Outside Dharubaaruge police entered into the amassing crowds, leading to verbal confrontations and some scuffles.

Minivan News observed one young woman being arrested for what nearby protesters alleged was “for taking photos of the police”.

After the confrontations, Special Operations (SO) officers stationed themselves at the two ends of Ameenee Magu in front of Dharubaaruge.

International response

The US State Department also issued a statement on August 30 calling on Maldivians “to respect the findings of the CNI.”

“Now that the commission has released its report we urge all parties to respect those findings, to exercise restraint, obey the rule of law, and continue to express themselves in a peaceful and nonviolent manner,” said State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

“Now is the time for all parties to work together through dialogue to chart a positive way forward that respects the Maldivian constitution, democratic institutions, human rights, and the will of the Maldivian people,” Nuland said.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs MEA issued a statement ahead of the report’s release saying that it was “essential for all stakeholders to demonstrate a sense of responsibility in respecting the outcome of the Commission’s report, and to express views on the report of the CNI with calm and restraint.”

“Actions that might adversely impact on the atmosphere of peace and tranquility in the Maldives need to be avoided. India hopes that all political parties in the Maldives would take up the issues arising out of the CNI report through a peaceful political dialogue, to make a way forward for resolving the political situation in the country,” the MEA statement read.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also issued a statement saying he “welcomed the start today of high-level political dialogue, and hopes that this leads to national reconciliation and a way of moving forward”, while at the same time expressing “concern at the prospect of renewed political tensions should any side not accept the outcome of the inquiry.”

“The secretary-general calls on the parties to respect the constitution, create a peaceful and transparent environment conducive to dialogue and take steps to strengthen democratic reform and institutions,” the statement read.

The EU meanwhile said it had “taken note of the release of the report of the Commission of National Inquiry on the events surrounding the transfer of power in the Maldives on 7 February.”

“It recalls that all political groupings had previously undertaken to respect the CNI’s findings, although the report would certainly have been controversial whatever the outcome. It is now more than ever essential that genuine efforts be made by all political actors to work together in the interests of the country to ensure that the democratic system is upheld; to allow the normal business of government to continue; and to prepare for free and fair elections, which should be held as soon as possible,” said Michael Mann, spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

Next move

Former Foreign Minister to the Maldives and UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, said the results of the Commonwealth’s “shoddy” work was “very disappointing”.

“The problem appears to have been simple – they relied on the work of the former three member commission appointed by Waheed, including the timeline, which received no input from the MDP,” he said.

“This is a setback, largely because the MDP was too willing to make concessions to the government in terms of the CNI’s structure. The MDP should not have accepted Shafeeu [as co-chair], shouldn’t have accepted a judge from a specific country, and should have demanded two representatives. In our eagerness to cooperate, we underestimated Waheed’s lack of sincerity,” Dr Shaheed said.

Key witnesses, such as Deputy Leader of the former opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Umar Naseer, refused to attend when summoned.

“This was a commission of inquiry and it places the burden of proof on Nasheed, as if he is the plaintiff,” said Dr Shaheed.

“The report is also very contradictory – it says Nasheed used too much force to try and arrest the police, and then says he should have used the force he was legally allowed to. There is no reference to discontent in the army in any way – evidence that was given [to the commission] by very senior people in the armed forces, and it notes that the Police Act does not refer to ‘mutiny’ by police, which is the same as saying it does not refer to ‘rape’.”

“International members on the commission were not provided access to vital evidence such as CCTV footage from police and army headquarters, or of the MNBC takeover,” Dr Shaheed said. “The draft also  came after the three weeks [Selvam] was on leave, missing interviews which would have provided a different picture.”

“This is what you see when you put the light only in one place – you do not see full picture. The report’s shortcomings are evident in its contradictions. It supports the government’s claims, but does not vindicate what happened. It is very hard to justify what is missing from the report.”

By way of example, Dr Shaheed referred to the Commission’s questioning of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Mr Saleem, over an SMS concerning the distribution of MVR 2.4 million (US$155,640) to the ‘mutinying’ policemen.

“The Commission summoned Mr Saleem. He debunked the message effortlessly, claiming that he did not recall sending such a message,” the report stated.

“He says it didn’t happen and they accept it instantly,” Dr Shaheed challenged.

He  suggested that with the publication of the report, international groups would now “be eager to wash their hands of the Maldives,” – [For example, the Commonwealth is now facing challenges in Gambia].

The MDP would be unwilling to accept the report which would lead to further political turbulence, he predicted.

“This report was the best opportunity to get out of the current situation in a peaceful manner. It is a huge disappointment that will come at great cost to the Maldives,” Dr Shaheed said. “As written, the report endorses direct action and sets a precedent that anyone can overthrow the legitimate government.”

“The report speaks of the need to build institutions, but it condones the violent overthrow of the government which does not set the stage for peaceful reconstruction. This is a setback, but they cannot use a report of this nature to paper over what happened. The MDP is rightly outraged, and we will soon see the true nature of the regime. There are very turbulent times ahead.”

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza dismissed the MDP’s allegations that the CNI failed to consider key evidence, including phone calls and testimonies – allegations that led Nasheed’s representative on the commission to resign, and the party to challenge its credibility.

“The Commonwealth and UN observers, as well as the members and Judge Selvam, did not agree with Saeed on that point. They said all evidence was taken into account, and the report was compiled according to formal structures they organised,” Riza said.

“The observers met with president and conveyed the message that whatever formalities were performed was international best practice,” he said.

“The government has always maintained its stand that Nasheed will not accept the report or its outcomes, whatever they may be. Nasheed made an agreement with Mckinnon to accept the outcome, whatever the outcome was. Even though he removed his representation, it is already done.”


CNI report to be delayed until end of August

The final report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) into the controversial transfer of power on February 7 will be delayed, after hundreds of people have come forward offering new information.

The CNI held a press conference on Thursday morning to update the media on its progress. The next update will be in a fortnight, July 19.

CNI Co-Chair – retired Singaporean Judge G P Selvam – stated that the new date for the report’s completion would be the end of August, which would be discussed with the government. The original deadline was July 31.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s member on the Commission, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, said that 244 people had registered to provide information to the commission following the reforming of the CNI.

“There has been a lot of interest. We will speak to each and every single one,” he said.

The new names will join the 87 spoken to by the government’s original three member panel, taking the total number of contributors to 331.

“That’s one contributor for every 1000 of population,” Saeed remarked.

The commission has so far spent 103 hours conducting interviews with 139 people, working from 9:00am to 7:00pm every day. The new commission started work on June 17, 16 days behind schedule.

“Ramadan may upset the apple cart a bit,” Saeed acknowledged, suggesting that the CNI would need to take into consideration that people would be tired and drained during the day: “We intend to make [the hours] more flexible,” he said.

The first three-member CNI was appointed by President Mohamed Waheed, following a police and military mutiny and Nasheed’s resignation, in what he and his party have described as a coup d’état.

Facing pressure from the Commonwealth and civil society NGOs, the government eventually agreed to reform the commission to include a retired Singaporean judge and a representative for Nasheed.

The former CNI subsequently released a ‘timeline’ into events that took place between January 16 to February 7. The MDP accused the commission of trying to prejudice the work of new commission, and then released its own version of events in response – the ‘Ameen- Aslam’ report based on interviews with the security services. The government described the publication of this report as a “terrorist act”.