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Common-Sense After CoNI – OpEd

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By Daniel Bosley

“I call upon Dr Waheed to immediately step down from the seat he is sitting in and call for immediate elections… I will never back down until a lawful legitimate government is sworn in.”

“I am ready to face any traitor police or army officer that confronts me. And I urge all of you to do the same, confront them and change this country’s government tonight.”

Both of these quotes are from former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed. One came the day after his resignation in February – a resignation which he maintains was forced. The second came on Wednesday evening.

Maldives
Maldives

The similarity of the two makes abundantly clear the fact that six months of failed negotiations and furious demonstrations have achieved very little.

Speaking at a press conference to mark the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, appeared to recognise the atrophying effects of political deadlock.

“We should now ask ourselves how we have spent the last six months. What have we spent our energy on?” he told the press gathered at the Presidential Office.

As the best hope of unravelling the tangled events surrounding Nasheed’s resignation on February 7th, the failure of the CoNI ought to put to rest attempts to determine what happened on that fateful day.

CoNI represented the light at the end of the tunnel that has been the country’s attempts at political reconciliation since February. Assembled by Presidential decree and reconstituted by international request, the inquiry has become increasingly important as parallel all-party talks failed to get off the ground.

The revelation that Nasheed’s representative on the commission, Ahmed Gahaa Saeed, was unhappy with the report on Monday suggested that its public release on Thursday would be a disappointing anti-climax. His resignation on Wednesday confirmed it.

It also confirmed the reality that no legal document, governmental report, or political opinion will ever change the differing versions of events that are indelibly scored into the hearts and minds of Maldivians.

After six months of going round in circles, it is time to face reality and find the best way to heal the nation – starting from where it is today – on the edge of a precipice.

Former Foreign Minister of the Maldives and current United Nations Special Rapporteur to Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed said Friay that “turbulent times” lay ahead.

“This report was the best opportunity to get out of the current situation in a peaceful manner. It is a huge disappointment that will come at great cost to the Maldives,” Shaheed told local newspaper Minivan News.

The government will use this report to further enhance its legitimacy and to claim that it is not obliged to cede power, nor call for early elections. However, whilst this argument may be convincing on paper, to use a popular analogy from the Maldives’ favourite sport, football, the game isn’t played on paper.

To try and understand the government’s mind-set. Why should they allow a man who clearly resigned before to hold the nation to ransom? What of the silent masses who supposedly support the current government? We are the government of a sovereign nation and the international community can’t make us do anything.

Whilst these are plausible points in theory, democracy does not function in laboratory conditions. The opposition are not asking for Nasheed’s reinstatement, they are just asking for elections. If thousands of Maldivians quietly support the government, let them quietly make their way to the voting booths.

What is democracy if not the showing of hands when two sides cannot agree?

As for the suggestions that the country does not need international approval, with the economy reliant on foreign tourists for more than seventy percent of GDP, this stubbornness appears decidedly ill-advised.

As it is, peremptory backing from the international community appears to have been granted to the government, but it is hard to see this lasting long without significant reform of vital institutions.

Stubbornness will not make the country’s legislature function, nor make its security services respected by their fellow countrymen.

As the government feathers its nest with a bevy of reports that appear to support its legitimacy – the country’s legislature hasn’t met in over a month, the security forces have lost all credibility, and the economy continues its steady spiral towards the plughole.

Forget morality, legality, or international relations – the country is struggling to function in these circumstances. Now is time for common sense – now is the time for early elections.

Whether the CoNI report rules the transfer of power a coup or not; whether it determines the actions of current government leaders were right, wrong, or somewhere in that uncomfortable grey area in between – the reality remains the same.

This reality was best described yesterday by Michael Mann, the Spokesman for Catherine Aston, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Chief:

“It is now more than ever essential that genuine efforts be made by all political actors to work together in the interests of the country to ensure that the democratic system is upheld; to allow the normal business of government to continue; and to prepare for free and fair elections, which should be held as soon as possible.”

The CoNI report has revealed some institutional weaknesses that may offer avenues via which the country can move forward but, without early elections, the country could spend another six months looking in the rear-view mirror rather than at the road ahead.

Daniel Bosley is a journalist currently writing for Minivan News in the Maldives. He can be contacted at [email protected] or via Twitter @dbosley80.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

6 thoughts on “Common-Sense After CoNI – OpEd

  • September 2, 2012 at 8:07 am
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    “Whether the CoNI report rules the transfer of power a coup or not; whether it determines the actions of current government leaders were right, wrong, or somewhere in that uncomfortable grey area in between – the reality remains the same”.
    Well commented, and the reality remains, it remains with the people and with in the country where it occurred,
    Just watch a Umar Naseer’s interview to ABC report, the same week of the Coup now on Youtube, where he voluntarily tell that he was in control of the commanding center, asking Nasheed to resign unconditionally is enough to prove it as a coup and the resignation under a duress. But it is unfortunate justice is not done, as most of key player like Umar to not questioned by the CONi. So the blank spaces in the report and the conduct such as the Singapore Co-chair’s ipads and cash presents to other members of the commission unacceptable.
    President Nasheed’s accepting of the report is the best he can do save the country from the mess, it is in.

    Reply
  • September 2, 2012 at 11:39 am
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    As Dr. Shaheed said the CoNI report was an opportunity missed. Sadly CoNi was meant to be a farce, to be another feather in the govt nest, to cover up so many things. How can the report be acceptable if the commission did not have access to the CCTV footage from the MNDF and Police cameras directly recording the events on 7 February? How can it be credible when it did not get the backing from the govt to go through phone call recordings? A report based on people’s account, and that after a few months after the event, surely cannot be the jury? The international community might go with the report but it will not be acceptable to most maldivians. The drama was played out live on TV, and seeing is believing. The way to go forward is to admit wrong doings and then only we can go forward. Sadly nobody is willing to do that. CoNI with its international flavour was flawed.

    Reply
  • September 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm
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    this daniel bosley is not a journalist. he is paid publicist for nasheed.
    and no, we cant hold early elections. the maldivian constitution clearly states when elections are to be held. without changing the constitution if we hold elections it will be illegal. it will be similar to the illegal actions by nasheed during his regime. following the constitution and rule of law is the way to move forward..

    Reply
    • September 3, 2012 at 3:59 am
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      @ainth

      Bias and opinion are two different animals. They look alike, they smell alike, but the latter is housebroken.

      I appreciate your passion, but wild and baseless accusations already seem to have caused many problems over the past six months.

      You should act more responsibly.

      Reply
  • September 3, 2012 at 8:41 am
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    Good to see the journalist fight back for a change. Ainth is a serial commentator with a full time role of invalidating the Democratic cause in the Maldives. He is not bad at his consistant lies and spin.. The international audience could easily buy it, not the truth. Well organised liars and spin doctors…. That the on lookers can just accept without considering thei criminal past of the coup regime…
    Sound familiar??? Looks like that is exactly what happened to the CoNI report!

    Reply
  • September 4, 2012 at 5:08 am
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    Sensible article, in my view! The arguments about a coup and duress will continue until a Government is put in place by a vote of the people!

    I agree that “The reality is the country’s legislature hasn’t met in over a month, the security forces have lost all credibility, and the economy continues its steady spiral towards the plughole”! Further public confidence for the Judiciary, Police and Independent Institutions (perhaps with the exception of Elections Commissions)is very low.

    Nasheed has shown leadership by accepting the recommendations of the CoNI report and agreeing to move on. I hope for the sake of Maldives the rest of the key Political players show a similar level of commitment!

    Even if we start the process today it will take years to repair the damages done on 7 February 2012!

    Reply

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