By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
In the current tense situation prevailing in Male, one would have expected President Waheed to make the initial move towards reconciliation during the national day address last week on the 47th year of independence. It was not to be.
In his speech President Waheed appealed to the people to offer full cooperation to the State’s relentless peace efforts while maintaining high regard for the country’s laws and legislature. While highlighting the need to safeguard the religion, consolidating the military forces and further unifying people, a conciliatory gesture on his part would have gone a long way in defusing the current tensions.
On the other hand his position is seen to have hardened. On 17th July he said that he ( he meant his party) will not participate in the All Party talks while the MDP continues to going back to street protests in Male. Earlier the President’s spokesperson condemned the MDP protests as “acts f terrorism.”
President’s Adviser Dr. Saeed who holds a very important post and who is expected to show some restraint declared very categorically that there is no benefit in continuing the “All Party Talks” and does not believe that Nasheed’s participation would reap any benefit!
Earlier the chairman of the All party talks- Ahmed Mujuthaba announced that 16 previous attempts at talks among the top political leaders had not resulted in any breakthrough! It looks that the talks have been given a decent burial. So much for the Indian initiative!
The Government is planning to remove the structures in the Usfagandu area in Male that was being used regularly by the MDP to conduct the daily protests in the name of developing the area. A Gazette notification has been issued calling on people to remove their private belongings before the dead line of 30th July. This area had been legally assigned to the MDP for meetings by the Male City Council. This unnecessary provocation could have been avoided.
The Police have summoned former President Nasheed to its headquarters to question him on a leaked tape which showed the Police in an adverse light.
In the last few days, over 200 protestors have been arrested and this included many MDP MPs and even a former cabinet minister. Many of those released after arrests have been ordered to remain indoors in the evening and the night till the next morning! Quite a strange order!
Not all the protests have been peaceful either. In many instances the protestors are seen to have broken the barricades and rushed towards the security forces. The security forces have also been subjected to verbal and filthy abuses.
The Police are also seen to be using “pepper spray” indiscriminately. There is a video footage doing the rounds showing the security forces aiming the spray at Nasheed! The government has publicised the statements of the body guards provided by the government from the forces that they did not see any spray being aimed at Nasheed. They have to say this if they are to keep their jobs!
The MDP has also declared that the ongoing protests will continue even during the ‘Ramadan’.
With the government pushing for prosecution of Nasheed, the latter has called on all the population to be present at the trial to witness what happens in the court while alleging that he whole case is being politically motivated.
The MDP has already declared that it will not participate in an election where its presidential candidate ( here Nasheed) is prevented from contesting.
An unfortunate incident of a killing of a lance corporal of Maldivian police by a criminal while he was being arrested is being given a political twist by none other than the Home minister himself that the MDP protests and abuse of Police by the demonstrators have led to the killing!
UK Foreign Office Spokesman Alistair Burt made a very balanced statement. He said -” I call on all sides to show restraint in the interest of achieving a sustainable political solution to Maldives’ recent problem. Protests must be peaceful and security forces’ response should be professional and proportionate. Violence and any cases of excessive use of force should be investigated and those responsible held to account.”
The Special Envoy of the Commonwealth made a similar call for restraint. He expressed his concern at ‘rising political tension’ in Maldives and specifically over the ongoing protests and criminal charges filed against Nasheed. He called for dialogue among political parties urging all parties to show restraint and restore calm.
The European Union made a similar observation. Their High Representative said -“Continued political unrest, heavy-handed response of security forces and charges filed against political leaders will only lead to further deterioration of the political climate of the country and will adversely affect the lives of all Maldivian citizens.
India on its part has also called for restraint and dialogue. These appear to have fallen on deaf ears of both sides!
What is needed is restraint on all sides. In my view, only two persons can bring the country back to normalcy or near normalcy. One is former President Nasheed and the other? – it should not be a surprise- former President Gayoom. Will they? India could still use its back channels to talk to them.