The opposition denounced today claims by the government that it had waived a condition for the release of jailed leaders and agreed to sit down for all-party talks, branding the move an attempt to fool the Commonwealth ahead of a crucial review of rights abuses today.
Ministers Dr Mohamed Shainee and Azima Shakoor told the press at noon that they welcomed the opposition’s acceptance of talks. The pair said the government would not dictate the agenda and remains open to discussing the opposition’s demands.
However, senior officials of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and the Adhaalath Party maintained that they would not agree to talks until their leaders are freed.
The parties accused ministers of attempting to deflect attention ahead of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s meeting in London, where action against the Maldives over human rights abuses is being discussed.
The CMAG had placed the Maldives on its formal agenda following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster in 2012, and had discussed similar action last year when the opposition leader was jailed for 13 years on a terror charge. No action was taken after the government announced plans for talks and released Nasheed to house-imprisonment.
The long-awaited talks failed when Nasheed was returned to jail.
Yameen’s regime went on to become mired in others scandals involving embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers.
A delegation from CMAG, which was reconstituted in November, visited the Maldives earlier this month.
Shainee said: “I am happy to announce that political parties have accepted the invitation for all party-talks and have indications that they will be participating in the talks. I am especially happy that the two main opposition parties have sent their confirmations to us in writing, telling us to go ahead with the consultations, which is a decision we commend.”
When reporters noted the opposition had requested release of political prisoners, Shainee said their official communication was different to their comments in the media.
“We don’t have any conditions expressed by the parties about taking part in the talks. They have expressed dissatisfactions and I believe we will be able to find solutions to these dissatisfactions at the sessions. They haven’t disagreed to this… what is visible in the media media and the official letters differ somewhat in that regard.”
The first round of talks would be held on March 2, he said, adding that parties have been invited to submit names of representatives.
MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz and Adhaalath Party Vice President Ali Zahir immediately called a press conference and accused the government of lying to influence the CMAG’s decision.
The MDP also said in a statement: “The MDP and AP believe that the most recent invitation for all party talks with the government are under the same conditions as the talks that failed as a result of the government’s impositions.
“Both MDP and Adhaalath Party further call on President Yameen to establish a more conducive environment ahead of talks.
“Political leaders who have been unlawfully arrested, subjected to politically motivated trials and sentenced with long-term imprisonment must be released. The MDP and AP believe that as long as this is not the case, even discussing the issue of all party talks with the Government is being party to their unlawfulness.”
Meanwhile Yameen, speaking on a remote island today, indicated today that he expected the Maldives to be placed on the Commonwealth’s watch.
He said: “Today might not be a very happy day for the Maldives. Commonwealth members will decide today how much they will review events in the Maldives… It is not far off that action will be taken against us because of our policies. But it will not effect a change in our thinking.”
If the Commonwealth takes action “we may not receive as much aid for [development] projects and we may face other difficulties too,” he said.
He went on to say that he would accept the CMAG’s decision.
The Maldives threatened to leave the Commonwealth repeatedly last year.
Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and Attorney General Mohamed Anil are in London to brief CMAG.
Additional writing by Zaheena Rasheed
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