The United States would commence an election program by July 2012 through USAID to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring free and fair presidential election, Charge d' Affaires ad interim of the US embassy to Maldives and Sri Lanka, Valerie Fowler said today.
“We have allocated $500,000 to start that process and anticipate that we can begin as soon as July 2012,” she revealed.
Speaking in a press conference held at the American Centre in the capital Male today, Fowler stressed that US has been actively engaged with various interlocutors of the Maldives, and have further intensified engagement in the past two months.
During the visit by the US Special envoy to assess the situation following the controversial resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed, Robert Blake had announced that the current state of affairs of the elections commission, judiciary and most other government entities was not ideally suited and currently not equipped to ensure that free and fair elections would be held.
Charge d' Affaires of the US embassy stressed that the best way forward was through dialogue and capacity building measures to create conditions conducive to early presidential polls.
To that end, she noted positively that the Parliament was back in session and operating as intended and highlighted that important legislature was being discussed at the committee level.
“I was pleased to hear that the Penal Code, Criminal and Civil Procedure Codes and Evidence Act are now being debated at committee level. Consideration is being given to amending the Police Act and the Armed Forces Act, each of which pre-dates the constitution,” she noted.
She further expressed hope the All Party Roadmap Talks would resume in the coming days and urged all parties to engage with an open mind as it represented a positive avenue for progress.
Fowler also added that a comprehensive unprejudiced investigation into the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Nasheed was necessary and urged all parties to support the Commission for National Inquiry (CNI) established by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik to conduct a probe into the transfer of power.
Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have repeatedly questioned the impartiality of the CNI and have called for more active international participation in the investigation.
She intimated the support of the US government to the Commonwealth’s recommendations to the composition of the commission, which suggested international representation in the probe rather than just observers.
In relation to the upcoming bi-elections for the Parliament seats for Kaashidhoo and Thimarafushi constituencies the first since the change in government, Fowler stated that both the US and the international community would pay close attention to the polls and stressed that it must be free and fair to avoid to deteriorating the political situation in the Maldives.
“Maldives has a well-earned reputation of international standing as a moderate, progressive young democracy,” she highlighted.
“Further domestic conflict and instability will hurt that reputation and has the potential to do significant damage to international tourism to Maldives.”
In response to a question from the media that elections had been previously held with the same institutions and why it was suddenly deemed incompetent to facilitate an election, Fowler said that the concerns of the state of the relevant institutions that could compromise an election had been noted by the various stakeholders of the Maldives.
Asked whether the US recognized the legitimacy of President Waheed’s government, the US diplomat stressed that the US always recognized States and not individuals and would work with the present government to resolve the political impasse in the Maldives.
Fowler further highlighted the work of other international partners were undertaking to mediate the political standoff in the Maldives.
She added that the US has been in constant contact with India, Commonwealth and the United Nations to help the Maldives work through the current situation to elections.
Former President Nasheed has repeatedly expressed disappointment that the governments of India and the US had recognized the present government which he accuses is in power through a "coup d'etat".