Despite facing major political upheavals, political parties in the Maldives continue to fight over the validity of the recently released CNI report
On January 16, 2012, MDP founder Mohamed Nasheed, also the former president of the Maldives, instructed military forces to arrest the criminal court’s Chief Justice, claiming he was blocking corruption and human rights cases filed against former President, Abdul Gayoom. Soon after, weeks of rioting and unrest in the Maldivian archipelago, forced the police and civilian masses on the streets, some to quell the chaos and others to instigate it. In the face of this situation, President Nasheed publically stepped down from office on February 7, 2012 claiming, “It would be better for the country in the current situation if I resign. I don’t want to run the country with an iron fist.” On the same day, his Vice President, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, sworn in as the head of state, duly promised that he would run the country, “by rule of law.”
In a short span, the Maldives underwent numerous developments, promoting Nasheed to discredit his nationwide resignation address, claiming that he resigned under military duress. He insisted that the current government came into force by a coup d’état initiated by Waheed and vowed to fight for his reinstatement. Mr. Nasheed’s statement was backed by the Maldiv- ian Democratic Party as well as his supporters, who made their growing dissent known by seizing control of various police stations across the archipelago, along with various other forms of violent demonstrations.
The current President responded by denying that the military took any such action to oust his former counterpart from power. He maintained that there “was no plan”, and that he assumed office after the voluntary resignation of his predecessor, and after Nasheed’s failure to uphold the constitution and keep the coalition unified.
Months afterwards, both political figures remain steadfast to their statements. Both Waheed and Nasheed welcomed an investigation into the events of February - the former even pressed that he would quit if his role in the coup was proven.
In this vein, the Council of National Inquiry published its findings on August 29, 2012 echoing largely the statements of President Waheed. It stated, in summary, that the change of presidents on February 7 was legal and constitutional; that the resignation of former President Nasheed was not due to illicit coercion or intimidation by armed forces; and furthermore, that the events of February 6 and 7 were mainly “reactions to the actions of the president.”
Just like the validity of the presidential succession, the validity of the report itself became subject of controversy.
Initially, the CNI Report was to be determined by a three-member panel consisting of Dr Ibrahim Yasir, Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef and Chairman Ismail Sheefu. The catch was that the panel was selected entirely by President Waheed himself. The MDP immediately challenged the objectivity of the CNI panel and it was thus reformed. The reformed second panel consisted of retired Singaporean judge, G.P. Selvamand Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed (personally handpicked by Nasheed) as well as the original members.
Representing the Commonwealth was Sir Bruce Robertson, Retired Court of Appeal Judge from New Zealand. Meanwhile the UN was represented by Professor John Packer. Together both of these officials were appointed as international advisers to the Committee.
The MDP’s enthusiasm at the investigation turned into disappointment on September 29 when the report was released. Ahmed Saeed resigned from the Committee, alleging that it failed to take into account the statements of key witnesses, as well as crucial pho-
to, video and audio evidence in the drafting of the report.
Amidst accusations by the MDP regarding the credibility of the CNI Report in bringing to terms the controversial transition of power, the Council detailed the legitimacy of the new government, “In terms of the democratic intent and legitimacy of the authority of the Presidency as foreseen in the constitution, President Waheed properly succeeded President Nasheed”. The report elaborated that the Constitution was not changed in any form but “precisely followed as prescribed.”
Regarding the claim that Nasheed’s resignation was forced, the report stated, “Because of the seriousness of the charge [the] person who alleges illegal duress or intimidation carries the legal burden as well as evidentiary burden of proof.” It noted that the only firearms surrounding the President on the day he resigned were carried by his guards, and even those were not proven to be a threat to him.
It is perhaps this very criticism that prompted the MDP to further criticize the CNI Report’s findings, stressing that were ‘significant gaps’ in the evidence investigated. The party has maintained that these gaps amount to noncompliance of the Commonwealth regulations.
Meanwhile, in April 2012 Mr. Waheed announced that the next Maldivian Presidential Elections would take place in July 2013, stating that earlier elections would be impossible under the Constitution. Mr. Waheed maintains that elections will be held as soon as legal issues facing the country are sorted out. Until then, the coun- try would follow its constitution. The MDP, rejecting the validity of the government has been quite vocal of its demands to hold elections as soon as possible and let democracy decide who would govern the country. As the CNI has rejected the claims of MDP’s founder Nasheed, it is advisable for Nasheed’s party to organize themselves to gain a good following and win the upcoming elections.
For the MDP, this would be the most democratically sound attempt at gaining back the government, as opposed to constant rioting and the use of violence all over the Indian Ocean archipelago. Mashal Usman is a researcher at the Economics and Political Science Department at Lahore University of Management Sciences.