Fight­ing for

De­spite fac­ing ma­jor po­lit­i­cal up­heavals, po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the Mal­dives continue to fight over the va­lid­ity of the re­cently re­leased CNI re­port

Southasia - - Maldives - By Mashal Usman

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.

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