Maldives heads for ‘proxy’ talks in UN led push to end political strife

Chief government representative in the all party talks Dr Shainee speaking to reporters on Monday. MIHAARU PHOTO/NISHAN ALI

Chief government representative in the all party talks Dr Shainee speaking to reporters on Monday. MIHAARU PHOTO/NISHAN ALI

The United Nations envoy is set to begin proxy talks with the government and the opposition amid continued political strife in the archipelago.

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 as the with the government and opposition at loggerheads over the release of jailed political leaders.

The chief government envoy in the talks, fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee said the UN envoy would commence the talks with all concerned parties on Tuesday.

However, Shainee refused to comment on how the talks would proceed.

When asked if the opposition and the government would come to the same negotiating table, Shainee said the decision would be made by the UN envoy.

“I cannot comment on the strategy the envoy wishes to employ,” Shainee flanked by two of the other government representantive said.

Defence minister Adam Shareef and Home Minister Ahmed Zuhoor are the other two government representaitive 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.

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 government however, has refused to recognize the opposition alliance.

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.

All these convictions have been decried for a lack of due process.

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