The government has held secret discussions with former president Mohamed Nasheed over a political crisis dating back to 2015, a minister said on Monday.
Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee said an agenda for talks was drawn up during discussions and that documents were shared between the opposition and government.
Political party talks were first held in 2015 after months of turmoil brought on by the arrest and imprisonment of Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, with the opposition and government attempting to bolster their position through a series of demands.
“We held separate discussions with some opposition leaders with the help of foreign experts and extensive talks were held with Nasheed,” Shainee told reporters, adding that Nasheed assured the government that discussions were being held with the consent of the joint opposition.
Shainee said the discussions were kept confidential, as requested by Nasheed, but that the government was forced to go public after the opposition violated an agreement and began discrediting the administration.
“We maintained confidentiality before this,” the minister said at a news conference. “We were hoping for the talks to be successful. Even after they breached the agreement, we have sent another proposal,” he said.
But Shainee refused to give details of the agreement and proposal when reporters asked for them. He said documents would be disclosed at the right time.
The United Nations and European Union were also aware of the discussions, during which Nasheed asked for the release of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed under bail, Shainee added.
Shainee said the government could not grant the release of judges as the government “does not influence court decisions.”
When asked why discussions were held with Nasheed after the government’s repeated refusal to negotiate with “convicts”, Shainee said that decision was overturned despite objections from coalition parties because the government wanted successful negotiations.
He claimed that Yameen was the first to invite the UN to mediate the talks and said the decision remains unchanged.
The minister called on the opposition to sit down for talks without any preconditions, noting that their demands have so far been unlawful.
Imthiyaz Fahmy, a spokesman for the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, was not responding to calls for comment at the time of publication.
Nasheed has yet to respond to the government’s claims.