Dunya Maumoon commits Maldives to CMAG recommendations, tells BBC no elections “in foreseeable future”

State Minister for Foreign Affairs and daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Dunya Maumoon, has met Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma and reaffirmed the Maldives’ government’s “commitment to working closely with the Commonwealth to implement the recommendations made by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)”, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website, Dunya and Sharma also “spoke of the technical assistance the Commonwealth was providing to the Independent Commission of Enquiry.”

The Commonweath in February suspended the Maldives from CMAG, the organisation’s human rights and democracy arm, and called on President Waheed and former President Nasheed “to commence an immediate dialogue, without preconditions, to agree on a date for early elections, which should take place within this calendar year.”

Despite the statement on the Foreign Ministry’s website apparently in support of CMAG’s recommendations, Dunya told the BBC that elections could not be held “in the foreseeable future”.

Institutions such as the judiciary, the election commission and the human rights commission needed to be strengthened before a vote could take place, she claimed, Dr Waheed’s commission of national inquiry had to submit its report, and the constitution needed to be amended, she said.

“We are open to discussions about when elections should take place, but the opposition is not interested in talking to us about the future of the country,” Dunya alleged.

Former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK, Farah Faizal, told the BBC that calling for institutions to be strengthened before elections were held was  “disingenuous” as the Maldives had successfully held free and fair presidential, parliamentary and local council elections in the last three years.

The Commonwealth was strongly criticised by several Maldivian politicians last month after the organisation issued a statement expressing concern at the lack of progress made towards resolving the country’s political crisis.

Despite welcoming some of CMAG’s findings, Dhunya herself accused the international organisation of “showing bias” by calling for early elections, that she alleged served to promote the interests of specific parties.

President Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza also told Minivan News that although the government was not currently looking to re-assess the country’s role as a member of the intergovernmental organisation, it was concerned over the language used in a statement by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on Friday.

“The government is concerned at the language that has been used by the Commonwealth [in the latest statement] and we condemn it. The foreign minister has conveyed this as well,” he said. “If this language continues, we will look to consider our position [in the Commonwealth].”

Speaking during her UK visit, Dunya thanked the Commonwealth Secretary General for the appointment of the Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon.

“The Government viewed the appointment of Right Honourable Sir Donald McKinnon as an opportunity to strengthen its democratic institutions; with such a distinguished background in diplomacy, we worked closely with Sir Donald, benefiting from his expertise.” she said.

The United States announced in a press conference held in Male’ on Thursday that it was working alongside international partners including the Commonwealth to promote free and fair elections, and pledged US$500,000 in technical assistance that would be “available from July 2012”.

But MDP supporter and former Maldives High Commissioner to London Farah Faizal told the BBC that the current Maldives government was illegal.

“If they wanted to get rid of the government they should have used constitutional and lawful means to do so rather than use the army and police to stage a coup,” she said.

She said that the commission of inquiry set up by the government was a “red herring” because it is not impartial and is led by a former minister who for 19 years served under the government of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – Ms Maumoon’s father – which she said had imprisoned Mr Nasheed 12 times.

Ms Faizal also said that the government’s argument that it needed to strengthen the country’s institutions of state was “disingenuous” because presidential and parliamentary elections were held without any problems in 2008 and 2009.