The Edition


Maldives govt invites self-exiled leaders to return for talks

Mohamed Visham
19 July 2016, MVT 11:13
Government representatives for the all party talks headed by fisheries minister Dr Shainee (C) pictured during the press conference on Monday. MIHAARU PHOTO/NISHAN ALI
Mohamed Visham
19 July 2016, MVT 11:13

Government on Monday invited all political leaders in exile to return to the Maldives to join the all party talks assuring that there was no danger for opposition figures.

Tamrat Samuel, a senior advisor to the UN department of political affairs arrived in the Maldives on Sunday in a bid to revive the all-party talks which has remained stalled with the government and opposition at loggerheads over the release of jailed political leaders.

The talks are to commence on Tuesday but the UN envoy is expected to mediate the talks separately.

The chief government envoy in the talks, fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee said the government had facilitated all the requests made by the opposition in relation to the dialog.

The government had been willing to "take the talks to  prison" when the opposition had demanded the inclusion of jailed political leaders, Shainee said.

The minister had invited key opposition figures currently in exile in the UK to return to the Maldives to lead the talks.

"I don't think there is any danger to prevent their return. We are all out on the streets," Shainee told reporters.

The opposition meanwhile has announced a united front to oust president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom from office and form an interim government until the next presidential elections in 2018.

The Maldives United Opposition (MUO) brings together the Maldivian Democratic Party, the Adhaalath Party, two of president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s former deputies and his former defence minister.

The MUO was established in London where key members of the opposition are in exile including Yameen’s first vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed’s jailing on a terror charge last year was a key trigger of the current political crisis. He was allowed to leave the country in an internationally brokered deal in January.

Jameel had meanwhile fled to the UK last July, days before he was impeached in a controversial vote. At the time, the Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim were already in jail.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last year but was given asylum in Britain after traveling there for back surgery. Nazim is serving an 11-year jail term for possessing a firearm, and former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor was sentenced to 25 years in prison last week on two counts of terrorism charges, including an assassination attempt on the president.

MUO had announced that it would represent all political opponents in the talks.

However, Shainee reiterated the government's stand by refusing to recognize the opposition alliance.

"I don't know a political party named Maldives United Opposition. So I think that party needs to come to the negotiating table for us to decide what we can discuss with it," Shainee flanked by two of the other government representatives said.

Defence minister Adam Shareef and Home Minister Ahmed Zuhoor are the other two government representatives in the talks.

The Commonwealth has meanwhile threatened action if there is no progress on dialogue by September.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers, laid out a six-point reform agenda in February, which includes the release of political prisoners and judicial reform.

Samuel’s visit to the Maldives in April last year failed to kick-start the talks.