Stressing the importance of building trust between Maldives political actors, the United Nations says it is willing to facilitate Maldives’ all-party talks “depending on the developments on the ground and the willingness of the parties.”
On concluding a two-day visit to Malé, Miroslav Jenča, the UN assistant secretary general for political affairs, said he welcomed President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation to the five major parties for talks and said the UN stands ready to assist.
“He underscored the importance of building trust including through strengthening independent democratic institutions and reforming the judiciary,” the UN said in a carefully worded statement.
Talks however appear dead on arrival with the government and the opposition at loggerheads over the release of jailed opposition leaders.
The Maldivian Democratic Party and the Adhaalath Party, noting the government’s refusal to make concessions during talks last year, have said the government must demonstrate its sincerity by freeing their leaders.
The invitation for talks came shortly before the jailing of a fourth high-profile opposition figure on terror charges.
Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the president’s spokesman, said today that the government will announce its views on the stalemate soon.
He had previously said that the opposition cannot set conditions, and that Yameen was not interested in discussing the status of “convicts,” but “progress, development and national unity.”
Welcoming Jenča’s statement, the foreign ministry said it “will continue to work in a partnership to consolidate democracy in Maldives.”
Speaking on the parliament floor today, Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, a senior MDP MP, said: “We are ready to sit down for talks. But we must see sincerity from all parties involved.”
Ahmed Nihan, an MP with the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, said Monday the MDP could seek former President Mohamed Nasheed’s release by amending laws.
“The legislature is the one of the three powers of the state. If we sit down and decide on certain things, I believe, the government will have to listen,” he said. The MDP must “not run after the president and ministers.”
Ali Zahir, AP’s vice president, was more critical; alleging that the government’s talk of judicial reform and talks was a ploy to stem the tide of international criticism.
Meanwhile former President Mohamed Nasheed, currently in the UK on government-authorised medical leave, is urging the international community to place targeted sanctions on officials responsible for human rights abuses.
A UN human rights panel had declared Nasheed’s imprisonment nearly a year ago as illegal and politically motivated last year. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in September had also urged the government to grant Nasheed clemency as a show of good faith.
But Yameen insists that Nasheed must first exhaust all appeal processes. The Supreme Court began hearings into an appeal filed by the state last month.
Jenča had met Yameen, cabinet ministers, Supreme Court Justices, independent institutions, members of the civil society, representative of diplomatic missions, and all major political parties.
His visit follows that by prominent delegations from the Commonwealth and the European Union.
An overwhelming majority of the EU parliament passed a resolution in December urging member states to impose targeted sanctions on officials responsible for human rights abuses here.
A visiting delegation from the European parliament reiterated earlier this month that the EU will consider imposing sanctions against top Maldivian officials if the government does not release “political prisoners” and convene “genuine inter-party talks” with an international mediator if required.
“That dialogue cannot take place whilst political leaders are in detention. All leaders should be free to engage and the public must be informed,” said Richard Howitt, MEP and vice president of the delegation.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group is also scheduled to review the Maldives’ human rights situation in a meeting in March.
Jenča’s predecessor, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, during a 2013 visit, had also called for judicial reform.