Government renews invitation for political party talks

Government renews invitation for political party talks
August 30 15:50 2017

The government has extended invitations to opposition parties and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to revive failed all-party talks amid a deepening political crisis.

Briefing the press at the president’s office Wednesday morning, Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, the government’s chief negotiator, blamed the opposition’s “preconditions” demanding the release of jailed leaders for the lack of progress since the first attempt to hold talks in July 2015.

“But lately we’re seeing through the media opposition parties or opposition leaders calling for and very much encouraging positive changes or reforms,” he said.

“So the government believed that the opposition is once again ready to sincerely participate in this without preconditions.”

Letters were sent out Wednesday morning asking the opposition to propose reforms within seven days, Shainee said, after which the government would consult with parties in the ruling coalition to reconvene talks.

“We invited former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as he is a very experienced politician, with 30 years of experience, who has been very vocal in opposition platforms,” Shainee added.

According to a statement from the president’s office, “the administration will not allow parties to talk about a particular individual’s welfare.”

The “main goals of the talks should be to bring a solution to the issues raised by the opposition parties,” it added.

The government previously urged the opposition to re-engage in talks after the new opposition alliance sought unsuccessfully to impeach the speaker in late March.

But the opposition at the time questioned the sincerity of the offer and accused the government of using the all-party talks as a diversionary tactic whenever it was faced with international pressure. 

The latest appeal for dialogue comes amid renewed political turmoil after the opposition coalition secured the parliament’s majority with defections from the divided ruling party.

The previously unassailable pro-government majority collapsed after several lawmakers switched to former President Gayoom’s faction of the divided ruling party.

Since the opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against the speaker in early July, six former ruling party lawmakers have been contentiously unseated, a dozen lawmakers put on trial, and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim sentenced in absentia to more than three years in prison.

The military was meanwhile deployed the military to lock down the parliament and protect the embattled speaker whilst Gayoom’s son, MP Faris Maumoon, who led a bloc of lawmakers loyal to his father, has been detained for more than a month.

After the first attempt to hold talks failed in mid-2015, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and ally Adhaalth Party had accused the government of reneging on commitments and refused to re-engage before the release of their jailed leaders.

A UN-sponsored effort to spur dialogue in early 2016 meanwhile failed after proximity talks with a UN envoy. A follow-up visit in July last year by Tamrat Samuel, a special advisor at the UN’s department of political affairs, also ended with no meaningful sign of progress.

The government also renewed invitations for all-party talks shortly after the Commonwealth’s democracy watchdog placed the Maldives on its formal agenda in September last year.

However, faced with the threat of suspension, the Maldives quit the Commonwealth in October.