Monthly Archives: May 2012

Inquiring into the Inquiry

The Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), established under a Presidential decree by Dr. Waheed, has been at the centre of much controversy since its inception. The establishment of an inquiry commission after a national crisis can often be seen as a quick win mechanism to demonstrate that the state is addressing people’s demands for answers and justice in lieu of a well functioning judicial system, or it can be a farce. Waheed, as per usual, went down the farce route. Not so quick nor keen to address issues of legitimacy surrounding his accession to power, but in an effort to subdue national and international pressure (and mainly because of the fact that it wasn’t an early election he was giving into, but a well-staged inquiry) he went ahead with it.

However, if Waheed’s primary motive was to try and placate those ‘questioning’ his position and to stop the MDP from calling for an early election, he has failed. This is due to the individuals he chose to appoint, the terms of reference he assigned, and his coup coalition’s bullheadedness in defending the impartiality of this obviously partial commission. Most of all he failed to note that even those who don’t have the courage to call a coup a coup, -but don’t have anything to lose if it is so concluded- still want to get to the bottom of what happened on 7th February 2012.

Easier said than done, I suppose, when your authority depends solely on the conclusion of the events that took place on a day preceded by a police/military mutiny. While the political bigwigs of the country wheel and deal over the CNI, we must remember that the probable findings of this commission could have huge ramifications for many individuals in involved in this political crisis. The question arises- are we ever going to know what happened on 7/2?

Firstly, for a commission to inquire about a sequence of events as contentious as the ‘questionable transfer of power’, its existence, members and mandate are going to invite controversy. So why shoot it in the foot before it had even got started by appointing Ismail Shafeeu? MDP, CMAG, the wider international community and even ‘Thinvana Adu’ requested Waheed’s administration to ensure that the commission was impartial, and credible. Impartiality, I take to mean as having firstly no political affiliation or as having equal representation by all Parties concerned, and secondly, credibility. The CNI met neither one of these requirements for the almost three months that it was in operation. Time, is no doubt crucial to an inquiry of this nature and while it is of an essence to the MDP, it is in the best interests of the Waheed regime for the inquiry to be delayed for as long as possible.

104 days of coup later, you have to wonder, what made Waheed change his mind over the CNI? If they don’t believe the CMAG has any right to a) put Maldives on the agenda or b) any grounds to make these recommendations, why bow down to them? Were some harsh facts made clear to him on his official visit to India? Either way, the gates of the CNI, no matter how reluctantly, have opened, albeit an inch or two. This has resulted in the appointment of a foreign judge as co chair, Nasheed being ‘permitted’ to propose a member to the Commission, and changes to the mandate of the CNI being strengthened, allowing it to summon individuals, accept statements, videos, photos, and most importantly request telecommunication and financial records. These agreements and the resumption of the all-party talks have been hailed as a thaw in national coup politics, and to be fair it is progress, but how much of it is sincere? I know. It’s a naive question, but humour me.

With regards to Nasheed’s representative to the CNI, the public is aware that he has proposed nine names, all of which have been rejected by Waheed’s regime for being too politicised. Nasheed has now been given two weeks to propose an individual to the CNI, who has not served in a political position in the past two years, must not have taken a public stand on the transfer of power, and must be of good behaviour and integrity. The Commonwealth states that these conditions must apply to all members of the CNI, including ones previously appointed. I wonder what the parameters are for determining good behaviour and integrity, and who in Waheed’s regime decides whether these characteristics are up to par in any individual that Nasheed proposes. Are Waheed and Coup. really not going to budge on the case of Ismail Shafeeu – whose stint as Maumoon’s former Defence Minister, surely places his ‘integrity’ in question. Forgive me, I forgot this approval of Commission members scenario is a one way street. Coup coalition gets to say the yay and the nay, but MDP do it and they are seen as the uncompromising troublemakers.

Also of confusion is the fact that Waheed earlier stated that he had no role in changes to the composition of the CNI. His Commission members then contradicted this by turning the responsibility back to him. Then we have the fact that Waheed stated that the Prosecutor General is responsible for the Commission, yet all the negotiations and public statements have been given by Azima Shukoor, and Jameel. Speaking of which, who is this all-elusive lawyer to be appointed to the CNI, if Nasheed’s nomination doesn’t meet with the coup coalition’s high approval?

There are also pressing concerns over the amendments to the CNI’s mandate and terms of reference. Although it has not yet been made clear whether the concluding report will still be the opinions of the CNI’s members, or whether the findings can lead to criminal cases, the ability of the Commission to now request phone records and financial statements give it more bite. I wonder how the CNI is ensuring the securing of this information. Are legal requirements going to be placed upon service providers, Dhiraagu and Wataniya for their cooperation with the CNI? Are all banks operating in the country- notorious for their non-cooperation with the Police over previous investigations into alleged corruption- now going to hand over their clients’ financial records without a fuss? And what about the intelligence departments of the Police and the MNDF? How does the CNI confirm that information relevant to the dates of interest to the Commission, obtained by these services has not been destroyed? Or what about officers under oath, who’ve signed confidentiality contracts? Does a summons from the CNI, waive them of the restrictions as applied by these documents? I also cannot get my head around how many of those who will be called upon to give evidence will be doing so without any suspension to their current duties as either law enforcement officers, government officials or civil servants.

Questions, questions, questions, my head is milling with them, and I wait with bated breath to find out Nasheed’s nomination. This individual who is going to have to be the incarnation of all things apolitical and integral in the world. Does such a Maldivian even exist? Someone very special to me who claims that Male’ is the cesspool of humanity would say, probably not. On the other hand, is there a point to all the analysis on the mandate and the members of the CNI? Surely, the findings have already been concluded. Hasn’t the unique Dr. Hassan Saeed already alluded to them? There are three possible conclusions – coup/illegal transfer or power, legal transfer of power or the middle.
I cannot imagine the CNI will conclude it is a coup, considering the fact that there are three members appointed by the coup boss himself on the Commission. Also think about the responsibilities of the international community if it is declared a coup. They’re not going to want the fuss of the Maldives, when they still have Syria, the Eurozone and the Olympics on their plates. Let alone the mess of where Indian HC Mulay comes into it. It also cannot be concluded as an entirely legal transfer of power, due to the blurry lines around mutinying politicised officers, resignations under duress, opposition politicians celebrating in the Police HQ, hijacking of state media and so on. The politically easiest conclusion must therefore be the middle.

What will be of further interest is what happens next? What will the conclusions lead to? Criminal cases, blanket amnesties, an exit clause for Waheed, constitutional amendments and of course election dates? No doubt there will be an awful lot of political wrangling over the next few days with regards to the Commission. Political actors on both sides have specific interests. Waheed & Coup. will want to seem democratic and budge on certain measures, whereas MDP will want to demonstrate that they are compromising and coming to the table, in order to drive home the importance of early elections. I hope that in the midst of this, civil society groups which claim to be the alternative, ‘third voice’ persist in emphasising that although political stability is important, a CNI that allows for the greatest level of truth and justice is far more essential to the future of the Maldives.

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Maldives – Not in Splendid Isolation

As a country of just over 350,000 people, the Maldives may not be considered more than a speck of dust on the realist’s international relations’ billiard table, but I believe three years of a MDP government led by Nasheed challenged that. Still small, still relatively minor, but oh so loud. The Maldives punched above its weight on all global platforms, and despite its size, its message was taken seriously.

The Maldives was never known for its political troubles. In fact, one of the reasons Maumoon’s regime survived for so long was because of his ability to present a façade of domestic harmony through a successful tourist industry and questionable UN development goal statistics. Nationally, any one who tried to shake things up was conveniently put away, internationally; his annual static speech to the UNGA was considered adequate enough for diplomats to ask no further questions and nod politely. The world didn’t expect anything from the Maldives apart from colourful cocktails and coral and the Maldives accepted nothing but money in exchange – tourist dollars & developmental aid. A somewhat ‘this is my dance space, this is your dance space’ situation if you like, reiterated by the fact that the majority of foreign citizens visiting Maldives often had no clue what was going on beyond their resort.

Come 2003, the international community were forced to pay attention to wider issues in the Maldives. Missions based in Colombo accredited to Maldives began adding further detail to what used to be quite stagnant telegrams back to base. Custodial deaths, riots in the capitol, dissidents who just wouldn’t stay down, the problems of decades of dictatorship, finally coming to head. With nowhere to go for assistance in Maldives, where else were pro democracy supporters to go but out? MDP in exile and its friends lobbied the international community fiercely, and it is precisely because of this lobbying that international partners began to take notice and exert pressure on Maumoon’s regime. A period of protests, mass arrests, police brutality, a tsunami, international mediation, and constitutional reform finally produced the first multi party presidential election in the country, and the Maldives was the star of South Asia. As the first ‘100%’ Muslim state to have achieved a peaceful transition to democracy, the Maldives was globally hailed as a success story.

The talk of diplomatic missions then turned to supporting the consolidation of democracy. The difficulty of consolidating democracy in a global recession, in a politically polarised society with high expectations and an infantile judiciary is represented by the fact that most diplomatic missions found it almost impossible to know where to start – budgetary support withstanding -, in efforts to help the Maldives.

Less than three years later and the democratic ‘light’ surrounding the Maldives has been dimmed by an attempt at a clever cover up of a coup. Members of the international community who did not bother to take the time to figure out what was happening on 7th February chose only to see a President resigning and his Vice President taking over. They chose not to see the gleeful faces of a brutal yesteryear engineering their way back to power through the instigation of a police/military mutiny combined with politicised brutality. They, global democratic giants, chose to see a façade of stability in a strategic point of the Indian Ocean rather than a forced reversal of democracy.

That’s how the game is played? Yes. Maybe. India will lookout for India, and for that its relationship with the military and the coast guard maybe more important than with the civilian government in Male’ who have so obviously been forced out by these armed forces. The US, although technically wary to recognise a somewhat questionable transfer of power finds it ok to jump on the bandwagon since India has already done so. Helped of course by the many links to the US that Dr. Waheed holds – but a Stanford diploma and a US green card does not a democrat make. If only the US would care to admit it. Lets not even get into the UN. Wait, that was a UN employee photographed at Jumhooree Maidhan on the afternoon of 7th February waving the national flag was it not? Was that also the very same individual who was in charge of the UNDP’s Access to Justice program, and therefore knew the nitty gritty of judicial incompetence and injustice in the Maldives? Also, was that the very same employee who used to reside in Bandos? I digress.

So, we are left with an I imagine somewhat bewildered international community, dealing with a reversal of democracy, mutiny, and a coup d’état without the blood and gore of Mali, Syria, or Bahrain. Maldives’ thunder is so easily stolen though. We are dealing with the new administration claiming that the international community have no right to interfere in the matters of Maldives’ internal affairs and with the MDP and those against the coup pleading for the international community to increase the pressure on Waheed. However, it is obvious that the coup coalition care a great deal about the perception of the international community. If not they wouldn’t have ‘charmed’ Waheed into accepting his role as Commander in Chief of Coup, and they wouldn’t be hiring Ruder Finn to ‘leverage outcomes from relationships with governments, academics and NGOs’. We now have international actors situated on a range of outcomes with regards to the Maldives. The UN unapologetically behind Waheed and the solution through a ‘national mechanism’, India and the US who appear somewhat mollified that they recognised the new regime so quickly and are now raising the issue of early elections and independent inquiries more stringently behind closed doors, the UK/EU saying all the right things safely in the middle, and CMAG in the far corner warning of disciplinary motions if early elections and an independent inquiry are not established.

Like democratic reform in 2004 – 2008 could not have been done without the assistance of the international community; neither can the restoration of democracy in 2012. Firstly, India must step up its game. It has become embroiled in this situation more than it would like, it has been embarrassed, but it can still choose to play the role of the world’s largest democracy and support democrats rather than dictators in its neighbourhood. India, use your leverage. With 9 days to go, I would urge members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to remain steadfast in their recommendations to the Maldives. An independent inquiry is a necessity and the farce of a commission that Waheed has established is a slap in the face of those against the coup when the police and military have already brought them to their knees. Early elections in 2012 – another must, to reiterate that it is votes and not batons, which must determine governance in the Maldives, and in fact everywhere. Help make the Maldives an example again, of the hardships of infant democracy and the importance of its restoration and consolidation.

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