President Waheed invites presidential candidates to discuss election issues

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has invited the three presidential candidates for a meeting at the President’s Office to “discuss important issues regarding the presidential election.”

All three candidates have reportedly accepted the invitation for the meeting due to take place at 11:30am on Wednesday (November 6).

The President’s Office has informed local media that discussions will focus on “a political solution” for interim arrangements in the absence of a president-elect at the end of the current presidential term on November 11.

Last month, parliament approved a proposal by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for the Speaker of Parliament to assume the presidency if there is no president-elect by midnight on November 10.

The resolution was proposed in response to a letter to Speaker Abdulla Shahid from President Waheed requesting parliament “to take initiative in finding a solution to any legal issues that will arise if a new president is not elected by the end of the current term.”

As a possible second round of the presidential election has been scheduled by the Elections Commission (EC) for November 16, President Waheed’s letter (Dhivehi) noted that “there is a possibility there might not be a president elected in accordance with article 111 of the constitution.”

While President Waheed has insisted that he does not wish to “stay in this position even a day beyond November 11,” the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate Gasim Ibrahim have publicly appealed for the president to remain in office until the presidential election could be concluded.

PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen reportedly said last month that it would be “irresponsible” for President Waheed to resign before a new president was elected.

The PPM parliamentary group leader called on Waheed to remain in the post and cease making statements about resigning.

Gasim Ibrahim meanwhile recently suggested that handing power over to the military would be preferable, claiming that the EC was biased in favour of the MDP and wanted Speaker Shahid – who joined the MDP in April – to assume the presidency.

“Is it better for a man who is selected to assume the presidency? Or the military? What is the difference? On one side they are stealing [the presidency] and doing things outside the law. Isn’t it better that our military takes over the country to save the country and maintain peace?” the business tycoon told the press last week.

The presidential election on September 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court after Gasim contested the results alleging widespread electoral fraud while the revote scheduled for October 19 was obstructed by the police after the JP and PPM refused to approve the voter registry.

Election or Dhoonidhoo

Former President Mohamed Nasheed meanwhile told reporters yesterday that he would attend the meeting but questioned President Waheed’s sincerity.

“After instructing [the police] to stop the election, preventing the election from taking place, and facilitating the unraveling of a legitimate state so that he could remain in the presidency without an election, he has said he wants to talk to us for a superficial show to hoodwink the international community,” the MDP presidential candidate said.

The United Nations, the Commonwealth, the European Union and several foreign governments including the United States, the United Kingdom and India have all expressed concern with the election delays and urged expedition of the polls.

Special Envoy of the Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Don McKinnon, visited President Waheed yesterday and was “assured that the government would provide any assistance and support required by the Elections Commission.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a campaign event in Male’ last night, Nasheed said the consequences of not having an election would be “unimaginable.”

“Today we are saying we can’t buy oil because there is no money. Tomorrow we will hear there is no one willing to sell us oil even if we have the money,” he said, adding that the country would face severe difficulties in securing imports.

On tomorrow’s meeting, Nasheed said he was willing to have a “friendly” discussion even with a person who wanted him dead, adding that his former vice president should know that he could not “deceive” either the Maldivian people or the international community.

Nasheed said he would tell Waheed to resign before midnight on November 10. “I have nothing else to talk to you about,” he said.

Speaker Shahid would then assume the presidency and facilitate an election within a week, Nasheed said.

“I do not wish to remain a free man if we cannot vote on the 9th. Staying home to sleep is not something I’ve ever been able to do. I will definitely not do that on the 9th, I will be in Dhoonidhoo jail,” he said.


Lack of international cooperation could force MDP to militancy: MP Ali Waheed

Following high-level visits by the Commonwealth and United States Embassy this week, a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP claimed the party will resort to militancy if the international community does not do more to help restore democracy in the Maldives.

The United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Michele J Sison arrived in the capital Male’ today (March 26). Earlier this week (March 24), the Canadian Special Envoy for the Commonwealth, Senator Hugh Segal met with the Maldives parliamentary Committee on Government Oversight.

Parliament Oversight Committee Chairperson and MDP MP Ali Waheed implored the international community to take immediate, decisive actions to help restore democracy in the Maldives.

He explained militant and radical forces – which included presidential candidates – within the Maldives were becoming more powerful.

“The current situation within the country is going from bad to worse and heading towards chaos. Everything is politicised,” Waheed said.

“Umar Naseer is militant, but the international community are promoting more diplomatic candidates like [DRP] leader  Thasmeen Ali, who is failing.

“Why can’t they see this reality? The security of the Indian Ocean region and the Maldives is threatened,” he exclaimed.

MP Waheed also claimed that the MDP will resort to behaving like the militants if the international community does not provide help to ensure free and fair elections in September.

“MDP will not give away our presidential candidate [former President Mohamed Nasheed]. We already gave the government away because of the coup.

“MDP urges diplomacy and dialogue, but will but will step toward radicalism. MDP will be like the militants if the international community does not take action. MDP will be on the ground if Nasheed is not on the ballot paper. We will fight to the last drop [of blood].

MPs are very concerned the international community will continue to only focus on diplomatic discussions, which appear to be failing, claimed MP Waheed.

“We cannot wait for more talk. Nothing is moving, it has been ‘stuck’ since the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report.

“We urge them to act now. Inclusive elections are the way forward. We call on other countries to help find a solution,” MP Waheed implored.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor further explained the MDP’s frustration to Minivan News.

“With the relative passivity of the international community on pending issues such as CoNI, action on errant forces and judicial reform, taken together with the ‘bash up’ attitude of mutineers towards MDP members, emotions are naturally bound to be heightened.

“[Therefore] the party top echelon would provide leadership, especially as it looks like the MDP shall have to go it alone towards elections,” said Ghafoor.

During the Parliament Oversight Committee’s meeting on Sunday, MPs briefed the Commonwealth’s Canadian Special Envoy, Senator Segal on the events surrounding February 2012’s controversial transfer of power, the current political situation in the Maldives, and the police services’ impunity from prosecution.

“He was very shocked,” claimed MP Waheed.

According to MP Waheed, the Commonwealth has pledged to give all the support necessary to bring back democracy and push for a solution regarding [the presidential candidacy of] Nasheed.

“We hope the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will seriously consider these things and discuss them,” he said.

“We thank the Canadian government and asked the Senator to pass along a letter to the Prime Minister. We requested he meet us and really keep an eye on the situation here,” he added.

The US Embassy stated the visit by Ambassador Sison today was routine.

“The Ambassador is in Maldives as part of our normal bilateral relationship. She will meet with government, military, and civil society leaders,” said embassy official Christopher Elms.

International commitments to reform

The Commonwealth has played a key role in terms of the international community’s stance towards the Maldives, particularly following the controversial transfer of power in February in which the present government came to office.

Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Don McKinnon, visited the Maldives in January 2013.

“A key objective of Sir Donald’s visit will be to discuss efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and processes in Maldives, and how the Commonwealth can further assist in this regard,” said Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma in a statement.

McKinnon’s visit followed the publication of a report in August 2012 by the Commonwealth-backed CoNI into the controversial transfer of power on February 7 2012. The report concluded that there was no mutiny by police or the military, and that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation was not made under duress.

During McKinnon’s visit the MDP accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of being complicit in a “systematic government cover-up designed to subdue testimonies from key witnesses to the coup d’etat”.

In December 2012, the Commonwealth said it would work with the Maldivian government to push ahead with strengthening and reforming “key public institutions” as it reiterated calls for “inclusive and credible” presidential elections to be held next year.

In a statement issued December 7, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said the intergovernmental organisation would continue to work with international partners and Maldivian authorities on a programme of reform and “practical collaboration”.

Meanwhile, the US delegation that visited the Maldives in February this year gave no “definitive answer” to political issues raised by former President Mohamed Nasheed, the MDP has said.

Nasheed informed the delegates that the present government had failed to act upon the recommendations made in the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report, claiming there had been a “lack of effort” to reform the judiciary.

However, MDP Spokesman Ghafoor said the US delegation were unable to answer the issues raised by Nasheed, and that their interest was focused on the implementation of free and fair elections later this year.

In April 2012, the US government pledged US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) for an elections programme to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.

The European Union (EU) declared this March that it would be “difficult” to consider the Maldives’ upcoming presidential elections credible unless former President Mohamed Nasheed is allowed to contest.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has highlighted “free, fair and credible” elections as the “best course” for overcoming political uncertainty in the Maldives.

In a statement issued this March, Singh – referring to last year’s controversial transfer of power – noted that “there have been unfortunate problems in the Maldives after the February 2012 event.”

The Elections Commission of India (ECI) and the Elections Commission of the Maldives (EC) agreed on a roadmap for cooperation this March that includes jointly developing an assistance project to enable free and fair elections later this year.

During the protests that erupted during Nasheed’s stay in the Indian High Commission this February, the UK issued a statement calling for “inclusive” presidential elections as well as calm and restraint.

“During FCO Minister Alistair Burt’s recent visit to Maldives, he said it was vital that the country move decisively towards free, fair and inclusive Presidential elections. He also stressed the importance of all parties being able to participate in elections with the candidate of their choice. It is important for all parties to avoid taking action which could lead to doubt over the integrity of the electoral process and contribute to continuing instability,” the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated.

At the time, the UN Secretary General’s office stated that it was “monitoring the developments with concern”, and urged “all political actors to exercise restraint, renew their commitment to the constitution and work toward creating conducive conditions for fair, peaceful and inclusive elections.”

“All parties contesting the September 7 presidential elections should be able to field the candidates of their choice in accordance with the rule of law and the constitution,” the UN stated.

Many of these prominent international actors initially supported the legitimacy of President Waheed Hassan Manik’s government following the controversial transfer of power February 7, 2012.

The CoNI report that followed six months later was welcomed at the time by the United Nations, Commonwealth, and United States.


Government rejects latest Nasheed appointee to inquiry commission

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintains a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) is “on track” to commence its work, despite the government rejecting the latest nominee forwarded to represent former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The government has announced that the latest nominee, Lt Colonel Zubair Ahmed Manik, was not deemed fit to serve on the Commission. All of Nasheed’s previous nine nominees for the revised commission were immediately dismissed.

Lt Colonel Zubair was said to lack an “undergraduate degree as per the agreed terms of reference”, according to the government. The President’s Office told Minivan News today that it was unsure as to why Nasheed could not come up with a candidate “acceptable to the government and the people.”

The CNI was set up by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan following the controversial transfer of power that saw him succeed Mohamed Nasheed into office on February 7. The now opposition MDP has alleged that Nasheed was forced to resign under duress in a “coup d’etat” staged by opposition politicians, businessmen and sections of the military and police.

On April 16, The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (GMAG) warned it would consider taking “stronger measures” against the Maldives government should it not revise the composition and mandate of the CNI within 30 days over concerns about its impartiality.

A day before CMAG’s deadline, the government agreed to allow a retired Singaporean judge to co-chair the CNI, and also permit former President Mohamed Nasheed to appoint a representative to the commission. These revisions were endorsed by Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Don Mckinnon.

Following the visit of Mckinnon to the Maldives earlier this month, the government gave a press conference during which Attorney General Azima Shukoor outlined the conditions for Nasheed’s appointee.  These conditions were that an appointee must not have served in a political position in the past two years, must not have taken a public stand on the transfer of power, and must “be of good behaviour and integrity”.

The initial nine candidates fielded by Nasheed include MP and former MDP chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi, former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, former Youth Minister Hassan Latheef, former Education Minister Shifa Mohamed, former President’s Member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Aishath Velezinee, Nasheed’s cousin Hudha Ahmed, former Airports Company board member Ibrahim Saleem, and former President’s Office political appointee Fareesha Abdulla.

The Commonwealth has requested a “suitable nominee” from former President Nasheed be appointed to the CNI by June 1, 2012, so that the revised commission could begin its work by the beginning of the month.

“On track”

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said today that the party had no comment on the government’s rejection of Lt Colonel Zubair as a nominee to sit on the CNI, whilst processes were “ongoing”.

Ghafoor did raise some concern that it did not “make sense” that the government, whose rise to power would form part of the CNI’s mandate, was allowed to impose conditions on an independent panel.

“I believe that CMAG will work under the assumption that the terms of reference for the CNI has to fit in with the wider guidelines for an independent investigation,” he said. “I therefore see that CMAG’s resolution [for an independent investigation into the transfer of power] will be completed and that everything is on track to ensure this.”

Having rejected the appointment of Lt. Colonel Zubair Ahmed Manik to the CNI, the government said it was also confident that work to appoint a Commission composition acceptable to itself and the Commonwealth was “on track”.

In a statement on the President’s Office website, the government claimed that former President Nasheed had continued to propose “generally unacceptable” candidates under a criteria it said had been agreed with the Commonwealth and CMAG.

“The administration agreed to the terms of reference of the CNI with Sir Don McKinnon, Commonwealth Special Envoy, including the criteria that all nominated candidates have to meet, to serve on the commission. The administration has invited former President Nasheed to nominate a candidate for the commission”, the statement read.

“The latest nomination is Lt Colonel Zubair Ahmed Manik who is a serving officer in the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and does not meet the basic requirement of having an undergraduate degree as per the agreed terms of reference.”

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad today told Minivan News that it was “unacceptable” for Nasheed to send his “family members and cronies” as nominees to represent him on the CNI.

“Can [Nasheed] not come out a someone who is acceptable to this government and the people of the Maldives? At this point, Nasheed has not sent someone with the basic degree qualifications agreed on,” he claimed.

With the Commonwealth’s preferred date of June 1 to have the new CNI in place approaching, Masood added that the government would not itself be forwarding any potential candidates to represent Nasheed.

“We have decided at present to give the benefit of doubt to Mr Nasheed,” he said.


Alongside the representation of a retired Singaporean judge and Nasheed’s own potential representative, President Waheed has himself appointed three people onto the CNI.

The president has appointed Dr Ibrahim Yasir, Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef and Chair Ismail Shafeeu, Defence Minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The Commonwealth has previously said that the criteria outlined for members of the CNI must extend to all members, including the government’s own appointees as part of an agreement reached earlier this month.