Former Maldivian President Maumoon Gayoom’s daughter, Dunya Maumoon presently the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, after the recent change in the country’s leadership, was in Colombo last week to meet with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as brief the diplomatic community resident here and accredited to the Maldives, on the current situation there.
Her visit came as the former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed too arrived in Colombo, his first overseas visit since resigning from the post of President in early February, which has since led to regular street protests in the capital Male, with calls by supporters of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) of the ex-President, for an early election.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, State Minister Ms Maumoon said that, while the call for an early election would need a constitutional amendment, the lack of cooperation by the former president, with new President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, has led to a stalemate in the political sphere in the country.
“The government of President Waheed refuses to be bullied by the MDP into any particular position. We are open to talks about an early election if required, and if all parties agree, and for that to happen the MDP must attend the all-party conference we have proposed, as well as allow the Majlis (the Maldivian Parliament) to function without disruption, as they have been doing up-to-date,’ she said.
In the 77-member Maldivian Parliament, the MDP has 33 members, while an independent group which consists of members of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) headed by former President Gayoom, has 22 members. The PPM, along with several smaller parties, backs the Government of President Waheed and hence, has a majority in the House (Majlis) at present.
However, MDP members have so far managed to disrupt two attempts made to hold parliamentary sittings since the change in the country‘s leadership, insisting that a date for a fresh election be first announced. Nasheed resigned on February 7 after several days of protests against him, after a senior judge was taken into custody on his directive.
The State Minister said that the MDP is blocking parliament sittings, as the former President feels aggrieved and was resorting to violence by way of street protests and obstructing Parliament from functioning. “Our constitution states clearly that, if the president resigns, then the Vice President takes over, and this is what has happened. The MDP has to make some conciliatory moves and learn to listen to others and come and sit at the all-party conference,” she said.
The Maldivian Minister admitted that several members of the diplomatic community she met with in Colombo, were keen to know about an election date. “Most of the diplomatic community understand and believe the commitment of the government to strengthening democracy and protecting human rights, but some countries are very focused on the election date. But this is not the starting point for the dialogue process. Many other steps we have to take before that, and one, is to let parliament progress,’ she added.
She said, at present, the country faces a “Catch 22” situation of sorts with the MDP adamantly sticking to its bargaining point of an election, while the government is determined not to give into threats and bullying. “The MDP says they are not going to let anything proceed unless a date is given for an election. We are adamant that they don’t bully us by holding on to that election date. The government is in command. The President has considerable support. It is not right to allow a single party or a single individual to hold the country to ransom,’ she added.
The Maldivian Minister briefed President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the current situation, during her stay here, and said the government of President Waheed wanted to reaffirm the close relationship between the two countries.
“My father wants to be behind
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for 30 years before being voted out of office in 2008in the country’s first multi-party election will play an advisory role in the new government but has no plans tore-enter active politics, his daughter Dunya Maumoon said.
“My father has extended his support to President Waheed and he has offered his services in an advisory role but he wants to be behind the scenes,” Ms. Maumoon who is now the State Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Maldives said.
She said that her father, who was the President of the Maldives from 1978-2008, still commands the respect and support of the large number of a people in the country. Gayoom left the country after the Mohamed Nasheed was elected President in 2008 but has returned to the country since Nasheed resigned and the new president took over.
Early polls a must to prevent dictatorship in the Maldives: Nasheed
Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed who was in Colombo for his first overseas visit, since being ousted from office in February this year, said that an early election is a must, to stop an emerging dictatorship in that country, from consolidating itself in power.The former President who briefed members of the diplomatic corps who are accredited to the Maldives and resident in Colombo, during his brief visit, said that, many in the international community back the call by the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) for the need to hold an early election.
He was not against the idea of holding a referendum to decide on the legitimacy of the new government, if it would break the present stalemate. “The MDP commands the support of the people in the Maldives, and I am definite that we will win in the next election,” Mr. Nasheed said.
The former President also said he is ready for talks at any time with the government, but said that, claims by new President Mohamed Waheed, that a constitutional amendment is needed to hold an early election is incorrect.
“If the present President steps down immediately, the Speaker of Parliament can take over, and hold an election within two months,” Mr. Nasheed said.
He confirmed that he would be the MDP’s, candidate at the next elections. “One reason they may be hesitant to announce a date for the election is because they can’t decide on their candidate. There is infighting already between them,” he said.
Mr. Nasheed later said he had been forced to resign at the behest of rogue elements within the Police and the military, who are now backing the government of President Waheed. Mr. Nasheed added that his Party does not condone violence in any manner. Supporters of Mr. Nasheed have been staging daily protests in the streets of Male, calling for early elections, with the government accusing them of resorting to violence.
The former President was also of the view that security in the Indian Ocean could not be ensured without stability in the Maldives, and hence, the need for India to play an active role to ensure that early elections are held in the Maldives.