“All-party talks cannot take place until political leaders are freed”

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (R) with Jumhoory Party's (JP)leader Qasim Ibrahim (L) at a gathering held in JP's official party camp Kunooz. PHOTO / MIHAARU

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (R) with Jumhoory Party’s (JP)leader Qasim Ibrahim (L) at a gathering held in JP’s official party camp Kunooz. PHOTO / MIHAARU

If President Abdulla Yameen is sincerely keen on restoring stability to the nation, he should first free the opposition leaders, the new opposition coalition said on Monday.

The opposition parties said this in response to President Abdulla Yameen’s all-party talks invitation last Wednesday. He had requested members of the opposition to submit in writing their suggestions and amendments for their desired reform.

In a press release that was issued on Monday, the opposition coalition had called the all-party talks initiated by the president a “cunning move” to deceive the international community that has been pressuring the Maldives as of late. It further alleged that the president is disingenuous in his intent to hold the talks.

The opposition coalition had prepared a list of reasons why they do not want to adhere to the president’s call to hold civil talks between the ruling party and the opposition.

These reasons include the government:

  • Disregarding the Constitution and jailing opposition leaders.
  • Levying unnecessary and baseless charges against opposition parliament members in an attempt to unseat them.
  • Using excessive force on opposition supporters who gather at rallies.
  • Asserting undue influence on the Prosecutor General and other state institutions, which prevent them from carrying out their duties.
  • Using the military to seize the parliament and barring parliamentarians from carrying out their duties.
  • Diffusing political activities using the police and forcefully diminishing the role of political parties in the country.
  • Withholding the allocated sum of money for political parties from the State Budget.
  • Overlooking regulations and procedures, and leasing and selling Maldivian islands to foreign investors.
  • The deteriorating relationship with one of the Maldives’ closest and oldest allies – neighbouring India.

The opposition also alleged that the president is personally involved in mass corruption scandals, and noted that they do not want to be affiliated with corruption.

“We do not believe that the aforementioned issues are up for discussion with political parties; these are points that the government will have to amend themselves,” the statement said.

The government has on multiple counts taken the initiative to call for all-party talks previously. However, the talks had fallen through due to prior conditions put forward by opposition parties, which the state had refused to meet.

The main condition put forward by opposition parties in the past was to allow their convicted leaders, who are serving jail sentences, to be allowed to participate in the talks. However, the state had refused to meet the condition and this time was no different. State representative Dr Mohamed Shainee declared explicitly last week that no prior conditions must be placed on the table by any party prior to the talks, and that any political leader that is incarcerated or convicted and about to begin a prison sentence will not be allowed to participate.

Currently, three opposition leaders are convicted; former President Mohamed Nasheed of main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Imran Abdulla of religiously conservative Adhaalath Party, and Qasim Ibrahim of Jumhoory Party. Several senior officials of the joint opposition, including a number of lawmakers, are also being prosecuted.

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