New Delhi: Stopping just short of suspending the Maldives from the Commonwealth, the inter-governmental organization of 53 member states-mainly former British colonies - has declared that the island nation on Indian Ocean would no longer be part of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) while it remained on the Commonwealth's watch list. CMAG also called for "early elections, which should take place within this calendar year", urging former President Nasheed and his successor Dr Mohammed Waheed to commence an immediate dialogue, without preconditions, to agree on a date for the elections.
In a press conference in London on Wednesday evening, after an extraordinary session to consider its response to the situation in Maldives, CMAG has called for a "formal" independent and impartial investigation with the involvement of international partners into the alleged coup that led to the resignation of the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed, on February 7.
"We strongly feel that there should be international participation in any investigative mechanism, as may be mutually agreed by political parties in Maldives. CMAG recognised the need for healing in Maldives. It called on all concerned to show restraint and mutual respect in their statements and actions, and to take immediate steps in the national interest to seek an inclusive agreement on the way forward," CMAD said.
The CMAG has asked Maldives to hold early elections within this year and appealed to political parties to hold dialogue.
The CMAG received a report from a three-member ministerial mission that visited Maldives from February 17 to ascertain the facts surrounding resignation of Nasheed and the transfer of power to Dr Waheed. The Commonwealth mission was led by Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Communications of Trinidad and Tobago and comprised of Dr Dipu Moni, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and Dennis Richardson, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia.
CMAG also "expressed strong concern at the continuing impact of the warrant of arrest" against former President Nasheed and urged that this issue be addressed in order that his "ability to participate fully in the electoral process is not prejudiced."
The move comes as a big boost for ousted President Mohamed Nasheed, who has also demanded early elections and an international investigation, after saying that he was forced to quit at gunpoint. It also came within hours of the new government in the Indian Ocean archipelago announcing the formation of a "Commission of National Inquiry" to investigate the events that unfolded in the Maldives during the period from 14 January to 8 February.
But the composition of the commission immediately raised several eyebrows - President Waheed nominated three members to commission Ismail Shafeeu (a former minister of defence and national security during dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's regime)' Gayoom's former minister of tourism and the first president of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Ahmed Mujthaba, and Dr Ibrahim Yasir.
Questioning the impartiality of the commission, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesperson for International Affairs, MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor asked: "How can [the government] carry out an impartial investigation, when they themselves were involved in the actions during that time period?"
"The MDP has repeatedly made clear that due to the highly politicized nature of Maldives society at present, in order to be credible the investigation mechanism must include international experts as well as Maldivians of proven and unquestionable independence and integrity," he added.
Among the international community, the call for an early election was first mooted by India after initially giving legitimacy to Dr waheed's government. It took a visit from foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai and intensive discussions with all the political parties for India to salvage what many analysts say was a 'diplomatic blunder' to dump 'friend' Nasheed after an alleged and visually much documented Coup. But after committing to New Delhi to announce election dates "immediately", Dr Waheed has not declared any dates for polls so far.
On Tuesday, the European Union had also called for early elections, asking the police and army to "exercise maximum restraint in the execution of their duties which must remain strictly within their constitutional mandate." Former President Nasheed had accused the top bosses and elements within his security forces of executing the coup against his government.
Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, said in a statement: "Following the transfer of power on February 7, I have been following recent events in the Maldives closely and EU Heads of Mission have visited Male for discussions with major political actors. The EU calls on all parties to refrain from violence, inflammatory rhetoric and any provocative actions which could threaten the future of democracy in the Maldives. The EU further calls on all political parties to immediately engage in dialogue, to commit themselves to early presidential elections and to determine the legislative and constitutional measures required to ensure that these are free and fair."
The EU also emphasised that "the legitimacy and legality of the transfer of presidential power in the Maldives should be determined by an impartial, independent investigation as agreed by all parties in the Maldives."
Meanwhile, Nobel Laureat President Jose Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste (East Timor) has strongly condemned the ousting of Nasheed under military pressure. Of democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed of the Republic of Maldives.
"It is now obvious that President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign by military elements and the move has the support of former Maldivian dignitaries bent on retaking privileges and political control they enjoyed during the former regime. It should be of concern to the World that extremist elements abusively invoking Islam were instrumental in stirring up violent demonstrations, religious intolerance and social upheaval as the coup d'etat set in motion," the Nobel peace prize winner said.
"Therefore, it is all the more strange and unsettling the silence with which big powers and leading democracies respond to the undemocratic developments in the Maldives. It has been a sad day for democracy in the Maldives. I met Mr Mohamed Nasheed in 2009 during a State visit, my first and only visit to the Republic of Maldives. A former political prisoner and first directly elected President of the Maldives, Mr Nasheed impressed me as a forward looking leader concerned with challenges his Nation of hundreds of coral islands face, from social justice to climate change.At the time, Mr Nasheed also alerted me to tensions in Maldivian society and the unabated activity of beneficiaries of the old political order directed at toppling the new democratically elected authorities," Ramos-Horta said in a strongly worded statement.