Government calls for ‘balanced’ statements from international partners

Government calls for ‘balanced’ statements from international partners
April 11 14:02 2017

The government has urged international partners to ensure that statements issued about the Maldives are “balanced and reflect the actual situation prevailing in the country”.

Following the arrest of Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim on bribery charges, the EU and the embassies of Canada, Norway, Switzerland and the US had called on the government to respect fundamental freedoms and to allow opposition politicians “to conduct their activities without fear of intimidation or incarceration.”

Taking note of the joint statement, the government said it “fully concurs that legitimate, organised, and most importantly, a credible opposition is a vital part of any healthy democracy to thrive”.

However, the opposition should act in accordance with Maldivian laws and regulations, it added.

“Finding amicable solutions to the issues facing the country today should not be a responsibility that falls exclusively on the government. All political actors, including the political parties, have an equally important role to play in this regard,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The statement stressed that the government has renewed invitations for all-party talks.

“After nearly a decade of stagnation due to political disagreements, today, the people of the Maldives are finally starting to experience and enjoy the true potential of the unprecedented economic transformation taking place in the country,” the statement contended.

“Attempts to disrupt this process, either directly or indirectly, especially for the purpose of achieving political ends, would be detrimental to the people of the Maldives.”

A newly formed opposition coalition, comprised of Gasim’s JP, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s faction of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, sought unsuccessfully to impeach Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed in late March.

But opposition MPs have since vowed to resubmit a no-confidence motion with the signatures of 42 MPs, a simple majority of the 85-member house.

The opposition alliance is seeking to challenge President Abdulla Yameen’s previously secure parliamentary majority and hoping for defections to former President Gayoom’s faction of the divided ruling party.

The government’s call for re-engagement in dialogue came amidst an intensifying crackdown the aftermath of the no-confidence vote.

On Friday, the United Nations reiterated the need for inclusive dialogue to resolve the Maldives’ protracted crisis. But the opposition has questioned the government’s sincerity and suggested that the all-party talks are a diversionary tactic.

Last week, local anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives also condemned the “the intimidation of political opponents and those critical of the government by state institutions and the curtailing of the fundamental right to hold differing political opinions and ideas.”

The local chapter of Transparency International warned that the Maldives is undergoing an “authoritarian reversal” with all opposition leaders “either currently in jail, in exile or under arrest”.

“Despite Article 17 of the Constitution disallowing discrimination based on ‘political thought’, we are witnessing political opponents facing unfair reprisals as a result of their political views,” the NGO said.

“Holding dissenting political opinion has become a dangerous prospect in the country.”

Hours after the failed bid to impeach Maseeh, the Yameen faction expelled Gayoom from the PPM, a party he founded, and the police removed the national flag and the PPM logo from his office.

The former president is currently in India.

Nasheed, who lives in exile in the United Kingdom after being sentenced to 13 years in prison for terrorism, was summoned to court on fresh terror charges and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, who was under house imprisonment after being sentenced to 11 years in prison on weapons smuggling charges, was abruptly taken back to jail.

MP Abdulla Riyaz, the JP’s deputy leader and a former police chief, had his mobile phone confiscated and was placed under investigation on charges of spreading false rumours and attempting to influence the security forces.

Gasim was arrested on Thursday on charges of attempting to bribe lawmakers to remove the speaker. The police said he may tamper with evidence if he remained free and contended he poses a danger to society.

However, defence counsel for Gasim says the police have no evidence.

Earlier this week, the police also raided the home of two Gayoom supporters and confiscated their phones, accusing them of involvement in the alleged attempt to bribe lawmakers.

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