The Edition


Maldives opposition aims to free jailed leaders in govt talks

Mohamed Visham
28 September 2016, MVT 11:38
Mohamed Shifaz (L) and Ali Zahir pictured during the joint press conference held by MDP and Adhaalath Party (AP) on Tuesday. MIHAARU PHOTO/FAZEENA AHMED
Mohamed Visham
28 September 2016, MVT 11:38

Despite renouncing pre-conditions for talks with the government, Maldives' main opposition parties would push to free jailed opposition leaders during the sit-downs.

Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) had agreed to sit-down with the government in a bid to honour the Commonwealth led push to resolve the protracted political strife in the Maldives.

After placing Maldives on its formal agenda on Friday, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) had called on both sides to compromise and sit-down for dialogue without any pre-conditions.

The government had moved quickly to invite opposition parties to designate representatives for the talks but shifted blame to the opposition after the UN led all party talks failed to make much headway.

In addition to the Commonwealth, the United Nations had also initiated proxy talks after the main opposition parties refused to sit-down with government demanding the release of all jailed political leaders as a pre-condition for the talks.

MDP deputy leader Mohamed Shifaz said his party would cooperate reiterating that the Commonwealth was pushing the government to free jailed political leaders including former president Mohamed Nasheed and AP president Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last year but was given asylum in Britain after traveling there for back surgery while Imran was found guilty of terrorism over a speech he gave at the May Day rally and sentenced to 12 years in prison in February.

Imran was accused of inciting violence with the prosecution arguing that he must bear responsibility for the violent clashes.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has come under heavy international criticism after most of his opponents have either been jailed or forced into exile since March last year.

MDP had said this was an ideal time to engage in dialogue with the government with international attention firmly on the archipelago.

The main opposition party is seemingly is pressing for Nasheed's candidacy in the 2018 presidential elections saying that the Commonwealth's call for 'inclusive' elections meant the government must allow the MDP leader to contest.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in a statement stressed on a conducive environment for credible and inclusive elections in 2018.

However, the government has ruled out Nasheed's chances in the polls dismissing MDP's interpretation of CMAG's statement on Friday.

“CMAG is asking for equal opportunity to contest in a lawful election. That opportunity is open. But that doesn’t mean one can go against the laws governing this nation. CMAG won’t ask us to change the laws in order to accommodate an individual candidacy,” Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee who is also the chief government representative in the all party talks had said.

CMAG, a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers, had laid out a six-point reform agenda in February, which includes the release of political prisoners and judicial reform.

During the body’s sit-down on Friday, the ministers expressed deep disappointment at the lack of progress in the priority areas.

“… in the absence of substantive progress across the priority areas, the Group would consider its options, including suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth, at its next meeting, in March 2017,” a statement after the sit-down read.