Commonwealth envoy returns for pre-election visit

Commonwealth Special Envoy for the Maldives will arrive in the Maldives today for a pre-election visit.

“Sir Donald McKinnon, will visit Male’ from 3 to 7 November 2013, as part of his continuing engagement with Maldives to promote the consolidation of democracy, and Commonwealth values and principles,” read a statement on the Commonwealth Secretariat’s website.

During the Supreme Court’s investigation of alleged voter fraud during the first round of the presidential election on September 7, McKinnon advocated strongly for the second round to proceed as scheduled.

“This election marks a renewal of the country’s democratic credentials, with an 88 percent voter turnout. This displays a determination to get the country back on to a sound democratic foundation,” McKinnon said.

International opinion was “firmly behind” the second round of elections proceeding as planned on September 28, he said, noting that “There are always losers in every election everywhere, but the winners here must be the people of Maldives. The results of their votes must be paramount to the process and the result.”

The complaints lodged by third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party eventually resulted in the decision to annul the first round and to repeat the poll on October 19.

Further complications related to the court’s prescriptive verdict resulted in the eventual delay of the re-vote, with the latest date set for this coming Saturday (November 9).


President meets Commonwealth special envoy, US ambassador in Male’ yesterday

The Commonwealth Secretary General’s special envoy Sir Donald McKinnon met President Dr Mohamed Waheed in Male’ yesterday as part of a “courtesy call” to discuss issues including efforts to ensure free and fair elections later this year.

The meeting was held the same day that the president also met with Ambassador of the United States accredited to the Maldives Michele J Sison to discuss political and economic stability, as well as the importance of having international election observers in the country.

According to the President’s Office website, during yesterday’s meeting with McKinnon, Dr Waheed also spoke of the need for “political reform” in the Maldives. The Commonwealth meanwhile said it would look to extend its support to the Maldives’ electoral process.


MDP accuse Commonwealth Secretariat of complicity in “coup” cover-up

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of being involved in an alleged cover-up of key details surrounding the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

In a statement released yesterday (January 23), the MDP claimed that parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) had uncovered evidence of a “systematic government cover-up designed to subdue testimonies from key witnesses to the coup d’etat”.

The statement accused the Commonwealth Secretariat of having “close involvement” with the government’s Committee of National Inquiry (CoNI) that reported on the power transfer on February 7, 2012 – making it implicit in any alleged cover-up.

Among the MDP’s allegations, the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon was accused of “giving in” to government demands to appoint certain individuals to oversee the report.

“The CoNI, established by Dr Waheed shortly after he came to power, was originally made-up of three people – all well-known sympathisers of former President Gayoom – and chaired by President Gayoom’s former minister of defence,” the statement read.

“After an international outcry, the government was forced to agree to reform the CoNI. The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, was subsequently sent to the Maldives to mediate an agreement, but eventually gave in to government demands that President Gayoom’s former defence minister must remain as chair, and that the other two members must remain in place.”

The MDP added that the final report of the CoNI had maintained that the transfer of power had been constitutional and rejected allegations of a “coup d’etat” despite what it claimed was “widespread evidence to the contrary.”

Minivan News is awaiting a response from the Commonwealth Secretariat at time of press.

The statement was released the same week in which senior military and police intelligence figures gave evidence to the EOC alleging that the transfer of power on February 7 “had all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat”, and claimed that the final CoNI report had not reflected their input.

The figures included Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi, Commander of Male’ area on February 7, Police Head of Intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed, Chief of Defense Force Major General Moosa Jaleel, Head of Military Intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilaam, Chief Superintendent of Police Mohamed Jinah and Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh.

All six have since resigned or been suspended from duty.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq told Minivan News today that the CoNI report was a “transparent” process undertaken by “qualified Maldivian people”.

“Because of this, the CoNI report is accepted by the government. We have a judiciary, if anyone has a problem with this affair they can go to the courts themselves,” he added.

Asked whether the MDP’s allegations that the suspension of senior military staff who gave evidence to the EOC was an attempt by the government to “subdue testimonies from key witnesses”, Thaufeeq argued that the government “was not in a position to talk about a military matter”.


CNI draft “embarrassing for the Commonwealth”: MDP spokesperson

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has hit out at the Commonwealth over the work of Singaporean Judge G.P. Selvam, whose initial draft report on the Committee of National Inquiry’s (CNI) findings was yesterday denounced by the opposition party.

The criticism, backed by an MDP resolution, was first raised by former President Nasheed’s representative on the CNI panel, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed.

“I think it is embarrassing for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). This is a bad show – it is not worthy of such an institution,” said MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

After concerted pressure from the Commonwealth and the MDP to reform the CNI, Selvam – a retired Supreme Court Judge from Singapore – was installed as co-chair of the body charged with investigating the events surrounding former President Nasheed’s resignation on February 7.

The Commonwealth’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, released a statement today regarding the report’s scheduled publication on August 30.

“I look forward to the imminent completion of the work of the reconstituted Commission of National Inquiry and to its being able to agree on its report. As we approach the release of that report, I would encourage all stakeholders to respect the commission’s findings, and to take time to reflect carefully on how to act upon them in a manner that maintains harmony in Maldivian society and helps strengthen democratic practice and institutions in the country,” he said.

The changes to the commission also included the addition of a Nasheed nominee Saeed, who yesterday revealed his deep dissatisfaction with Selvam’s initial draft of the body’s report.

“The report that Judge Selvam has drafted and brought is a draft that somewhat refutes or denies what we Maldivians saw and experienced – or a draft that somewhat confuses things, the way it is now,” Saeed told the press.

“While this is happening, for me to stay here, at Muleeage, would I believe be a betrayal of my country and the Maldivian people. I see the draft report as having been written without considering the witness testimony of many, many people to CNI as well as the many scenes we saw,” he added.

Ghafoor, who today described the situation as “unacceptable” and “embarrassing” for the Commonwealth, suggested that Sir Donald McKinnon ought to be asked “who the hell this guy [Selvam] is.”

“Mr Selvam’s integrity is at a critical level,” he claimed. “Yesterday he got caught out.”

McKinnon’s statement today acknowledged that many issues would undoubtedly arise after the report’s release.

“I encourage political leaders to increase their efforts towards engaging in genuine dialogue, in order that consensus may be achieved, in a constructive and peaceful manner, on the path forward,” said McKinnon.

Meanwhile, local television station Raajje TV – linked closely with the MDP – yesterday aired a video of Singaporean-born lawyer and long-time critic of Judge Selvam, Gopalan Nair, in which he describes Selvam as a man “totally devoid of integrity”.

Nair has been writing about Judge Selvam on his ‘Singapore Dissident’ blog since 2010.

Moreover, in January this year, Malaysian media reported that Judge Selvam was accused of lying by chairman of the Malaysian Democratic Action Party (DAP), Karpal Singh.

Singh accused the retired justice of “lying to clear the air on an alleged plagiarism case involving a Malaysian Court of Appeal judge.”

A letter from Selvam to the Malaysian Chief Justice, clarifying that there was no case for plagiarism against the court of appeal judge, reportedly contradicted a statement from Selvam published in the Singaporean Straits Time.

Selvam was quoted as saying that the Malaysian judge had obtained a copy of his judgement through a lawyer, and “copied chunks from me without acknowledging”.

Meanwhile, MDP MP Mohamed Shifaz was also reported in local media as labeling Selvam “Singapore’s Abdullah” in reference to Maldivian Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed, whose controversial detention earlier this year by the military has been the subject of investigations by numerous independent institutions.

Abdullah was arrested in January, with the former Home Minister Hassan Afeef accusing the judge of having “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist”.

The incident proved to be a major turning point in anti-government protests against the Nasheed administration, leading to sustained periods of unrest in the run up to the former President’s resignation on February 7.

However, President’s Office spokesman Masood Imad was dismissive of attacks on Selvam’s credibility.

“Selvam is a man of stature chosen by the Commonwealth,” said Masood, who also criticised Saeed’s outburst as “lacking professionalism”.

Masood noted that both Selvam and Saeed had been added to the commission at the MDP’s request.

The MDP’s National Council, yesterday evening, unanimously backed a resolution refusing to accept the report in its current format.

In the evening, the MDP recommenced its campaign of protests, which had been suspended for the final period of Ramazan in order to encourage political negotiations.

In response to questions over rising tension in the country, Ghafoor said that the party was not seeking confrontation.

“We are demanding two things – early elections and an agreement on a post-CNI scenario,” he said.

The MDP forwarded a list of suggested outcomes to the government earlier in the month to which the President’s Office responded that it would not discuss the findings until their official release on August 29.

Ghafoor accused President Waheed of “cunningly destabilising the country” by refusing to make arrangements for the report’s release.

He also said that the party remained hopeful that the commission’s final report would reflect its opinion that President Nasheed was removed in a coup.


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.