By Daniel Bosley
Two hundred and four days will have passed by the time the Committee of National Inquiry – or CoNI – delivers its report on the events surrounding the resignation of the Maldives’ first democratically elected President, Mohamed Nasheed, on February 7.
The controversy of the transfer of power led Nasheed’s successor, and former Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, to assemble the committee within two weeks of his promotion.
On August 30th, with one timeline of events already released, one re-shuffle of its membership, testimony from over 300 witnesses, multiple delays and endless criticism; the commission will distribute its final report to the public.
Last week, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) suggestion that the government sit down with it to determine a post-CoNI gameplan was met with a flat refusal to discuss any issues related to the ongoing investigation.
“There’s no need to make the report a political carnival,” said President’s Office spokesman Abbas Adil Riza.
Unfortunately, with anticipation growing each day, other members of the government appear more than happy to speculate on the report’s outcomes and its results. Like it or not, politicians of all stripes cannot resist discussing their potential victory parades.
The MDP appear to be placing their to hopes on the report’s finding of illegal activity on the part of the security forces, an outcome Nasheed has said he is “certain of beyond doubt”, resulting in irresistible pressure on President Waheed to schedule early elections.
Meanwhile, government-aligned politicians seem content to console themselves with the fact that the CoNI’s investigation is not a criminal one and so its findings will not come with any specific legal obligations.
The report will be distributed to the relevant governmental departments the day before its release to the public, giving the independent institutions still learning to find their feet after thirty years of autocracy, a twenty-four hour grace period before the nation’s expectant gaze falls upon them
Perhaps inevitably, this has led some to lay the ground for dismissing the report’s findings entirely. Former President/dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom emerged from giving his testimony to the commission to announce his refusal to accept any conclusion describing Nasheed’s departure from office as a coup.
Following the rebuttal of its advances, the MDP has resolved to call a meeting of its National Council to thrash out its own post-CoNI strategy. With the potential of 48,000 registered party members gathering from across the atolls, the council meeting will be as much a show of strength as an exercise in inter-party democracy.
Sporadic clashes between protesters and security forces over the past six months, most notably on the day after Nasheed’s resignation, have brought fears of further violence in the wake of CoNI’s long-anticipated outcome.
The MDP’s decision this month to cease all anti-government demonstrations in order to encourage meaningful dialogue between parties feels like the calm before the storm rather than an easing of tensions.
“There is no more anxiety among the ranks of MNDF pending the CONI report than there is among the general public,” said Minister of Defence, Mohamed Nazim.
“We are only concerned about the safety of the public. We do not want to see any violence against anyone, we certainly do not wish to see any arson or other damages to public property,” he continued.
Talks intended to resolve the political impasse have ebbed more than flowed over the past six months. Roadmap talks, initiated with Indian encouragement and UN mediation, have struggled to gain traction.
A discernible lack of political motivation can be felt as both sides appear to be placing all of their eggs in the CoNI basket, with the inevitable result that one will end up with some on their face at the end of this month.
Similarly, the international community, after playing an active role in burnishing the impartiality and independence of CoNI, will be using the report’s findings as a cue for its next move.
Regardless of the decisions of Maldivian institutions, should CoNI find evidence of illegal activities prior to Nasheed’s resignation, calls from the international community for early elections would become deafening.
This is something the MDP, packed with veterans of non-violent pro-democracy campaigns, are acutely aware of.
Whatever the outcome of the report, its release undoubtedly marks the beginning of a new chapter in the Maldives’ current political drama. Traditional rules of theatre suggest that things will always get worse in the second act, before eventual resolution in the third.
After six months of polarisation and internecine dispute, many will be hoping that the Maldives can skip forward a few pages after CoNI concludes its work on August 29th.
Daniel Bosley is a journalist currently writing for Minivan News in the Maldives. He can be contacted at [email protected] or via Twitter @dbosley80.