Whilst our own period of reflection comes to an end shortly, we will all then await with interest the results of the reflection on the events of earlier this year conducted by the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI).
by Dr Hassan Saeed
The consideration of those events did not just start with CoNI, nor will it end with CoNI's view and recommendations. Expressions of support and opposition to the what comes out of the Inquiry will no doubt generate lots of articles throughout September and subsequent months.
For those of us closely involved with the politics of this issue, we have been considering what happened for the whole of the last 6 months. As I said in my last article; whilst the Government's priority has always been the about focusing on real issues of relevance to the day to day lives of the people of the Maldives; nevertheless in view of the contradictory statements issued 24 hours apart by the former president in February, we have also helped facilitate the Inquiry so we can ensure that what we believe to be a constitutional transfer of power has full transparency within the country and to the international community.
Shortly after Nasheed resigned I, along with senior DQP members met a visiting UN team. After the exchange of the customary greetings, we got into the serious business of discussing the events of February 7th.
The team made it very clear to me that they were not looking at the past but were mainly focused on the future. In response I told them that as a citizen I was very interested in finding out what happened on 7th February. I explained to them that I wanted to know why a president we elected for a five year term had to leave office halfway through it. More importantly, I told them that I too was focused on the future and wanted to know the reasons so that we could avoid it happening again in future. That is why I was so pleased when the team suggested that an investigation on the transfer of power was necessary.
From the start all our international partners suggested that the Inquiry had to be a domestic process to find a domestic solution to a domestic problem. I think they were right to say to us that as a functioning democracy with lots of political debate we had to be mature enough to take ownership of that process. Halfway through they suggested some helpful changes to the composition and mandate to make it more acceptable to everyone involved. The Government happily complied with that. Transparency was important and so was wide legitimacy for the process.
Many in the Maldives and our international partners thought they have found the magic solution to a very complex problem. But with less than one month to CoNI’s public announcement of its findings, some people have started to press the panic button. Having finally cleared their heads a little by moving away from the overpowering emotions expressed on the streets and at demonstrations; now they want to avoid any doomsday scenario and are seeking some sort of prior agreement on what to do with the Report.
However I think some people may be getting confused about the the purpose of setting up such a Commission. In a previous article I described the CoNI as a process. It is a process of identifying what went wrong. A process of addressing the concerns and avoiding similar mistakes in future. At the end it is a process – a process of healing and national reconciliation.
If one were to look for a purely legalist black and white solution, the courts would have been the perfect forum to deliver this instead. But in this case even the supposed 'aggrieved party' (ie Nasheed and his supporters) have avoided the courts even though many of the current Supreme Court Bench - including the Chief Justice – are handpicked members from Nasheed's time as President.
It's therefore important to remember this point about a process. Regardless of the outcome of the CoNI life will go on.
Our people will still have the same needs for better educational services and healthcare the day before and the day after the announcement. There will be still some people living in fear of crime who need justice. Our political debates will also continue. Let us hope they can focus on some of those issues that most concern our people.
The court system will still be in place. So will a functioning legislature. A wide web of independent institutions like the Prosecutor General will also still be in place to uphold the rule of law. Regardless of the outcome of the CoNI, crimes committed before the 7th February and thereafter will still be crimes. CoNI’s outcome will not make them just disappear.
Some may still cling to the hope for a simple magic solution, but the reality for us all is the need to engage with all parts of this ongoing process.
Note: Dr Hassan Saeed is currently the Special Advisor to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik