Time to end third class justice for the Maldives

Sep 06, 2012 - 11:08 7 comments
  • Foreign observers watch the mayhem inside the Parliament chambers during the opening of Parliament on March 19. FILE PHOTO

As the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) has clearly set out, on 7th February 2012 former President Nasheed resigned as the President of the Republic of the Maldives. His Vice President Dr. Waheed was then legitimately sworn in as the President.

by Dr Hassan Saeed

But in less than 24 hours after his resignation Nasheed claimed that he resigned at gun point. This has now been comprehensively rebutted.

Whilst we might gain some satisfaction at seeing Mr Nasheed exposed as an inveterate liar and fantasist, the harsh reality is that substantial damage has been done to the Maldives International reputation as a result of his claims. And of course certain countries rushed to judgment and infringed our sovereignty in the weeks and months that followed the 7th February.

The torrent of negative publicity also impacted on our economy:

•    Lenders became reluctant to invest.
•    Some lenders even demanded from the borrowers to take up political insurance (which could go as high as 5% of the total borrowings) making whole projects financially unfeasible.
•    Some banks completely closed their doors to us.
•    Threats by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and adverse statements from powerful nations within the Commonwealth affected the confidence of tour operators.
•    It forced resort owners to sell rooms at highly discounted rates, which also had an impact on employees at resorts.

Now that CoNI has reported on the domestic issues of the crisis it is important we now address these international issues that have had such an impact on our nation.
International opinion needs to be alerted to the circumstances in which a small nation can be unfairly bullied. Countries and the international institutions of which they are members demanded things of the Maldives which they don't practice at home.

Within hours of Nasheed’s claim to have been removed from office at gunpoint, a former foreign minister from a Commonwealth country was describing the events of last February as a ‘coup’. He pressed for the Maldives to be placed on the CMAG agenda and only then was a ministerial delegation dispatched to establish if the transfer of power was legal. However the team could not reach a conclusion. 

Further international visits followed. Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Blake, the Indian Foreign Secretary, and a team from the EU visited the country. Except Blake, they along with other diplomats gave mixed signals. Their initial approach was that “there are no external solutions” to the country’s political problems.

Since the legitimacy of the government was the issue, the Commonwealth and UN were right in suggesting an investigation into the transfer of power. But everyone at the time thought it should be a domestic process.

This led President Waheed set up a Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) consisting of three highly respected and qualified citizens. Before they were appointed, their names were shared with the former President and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). They had nothing to say in response, so the President proceeded to formalise the Commission.

Half way through the Commission’s work, international partners changed their mind about how they wanted it to operate. By this stage the international community was more interested in appeasing Nasheed. For them the primary question was whether the composition was acceptable to him, rather than the question whether the members of the Commission were objective in their approach and capable of uncovering the truth.

Our international partners then suggested appointment of senior advisors from the Commonwealth and UN to the CoNI. Our government agreed. Details were ironed out with the Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon.
However the CMAG rejected the amended arrangements (without giving any reason or suggesting any further amendments) and came up with a totally new set of demands – to change the composition of the commission or face more severe consequences. Further the CMAG demanded once again early election, thus prejudging the inquiry process.

Despite all these provocations that many other larger countries would not have tolerated, the government, seeking to be co-operative, accepted the CMAG proposal and changed the composition of the CoNI. Once again details were worked out with Sir Don. A co-chair and a representative from Nasheed were added to the CoNI along with advisors from the Commonwealth and the UN. As events have shown this representative has been destructive to the work and outcome of the commission.

It is my belief that the Commonwealth and its institutions have treated us very badly.

The Maldives has not received the sort of justice a sovereign nation has every right to expect. Indeed, it has been third class justice, which would provoke a justifiably angry reaction if experienced by any other countries. 

The Commonwealth made it incumbent on the new government to establish its innocence and the universal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ was ignored. Nevertheless we cooperated.

We endured being judged by people who had already publicly proclaimed our guilt. But still we cooperated.

Whilst the CoNI process was on-going some CMAG member countries made public statements pre-empting its deliberations and outcomes. We continued to cooperate.
 And finally without waiting for the outcome of the CoNI report we were pressed to amend our three-year-old constitution for the convenience of the international community.

In spite of all these challenges the CoNI report established our innocence and discredited Nasheed.

And notwithstanding our cooperation with this whole process, the CMAG seems in no hurry to remove the country from its agenda. This is a continuing infringement on our sovereignty and is tantamount to holding us hostage.

Since the publication of the CoNI report there has been absolutely no justification for keeping the Maldives on CMAG agenda –not even for a single day.

In view of this I would now argue that if CMAG does not remove the Maldives from its agenda in its next teleconference on 11th of this month, we should end our relationship with the Commonwealth and look to other relationships that reflect modern realities of the world.

Note: Dr Hassan Saeed is currently the Special Advisor to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik

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