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Nasheed Leaves Indian High Commission Building: What next?

Paper No. 5412                                    Dated 1-Mar-2013

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

After 11days' stay inside the Indian High Commission, former President Nasheed walked out on 23rd to a cheering crowd that had assembled near the High Commission building.

Nasheed made a statement to the waiting press that he had come out with the understanding that he will be able to conduct his peaceful political activities and his normal social life. The Indian High Commission expressed the same sentiment that it ‘hoped’ that Nasheed will again resume his social and political life.

There was no indication that Nasheed had cut a deal with the authorities on the question of the ongoing trial at Hulhulu male or about his contesting the next presidential election unhindered. In fact the Government went out of its way to deny any deal on this issue and maintained that the judiciary is an independent body and that the government cannot interfere with its decisions. People who have closely followed the developments in Maldives know very well how weak the judicial institutions are in Maldives and this was confirmed by the UN Rapporteur too.

Before Nasheed walked out of the High Commission building, a four member Indian team lead by a Joint Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shingla visited Male for four days and met most of the stake holders. They met the Foreign Minister, the Attorney General, Defence Minister, Police Commissioner, Home minister and Gayoom’s brother and a leader of the PPM Abdullah Yamin.

The important point to be noted is that the Maldivian President who is the real executive head of the government did not meet the delegation. Though it is being made out that no formal approach was made for a meeting, the President would normally have met as in the past any delegation coming from India. The President’s refusal to meet the delegation is in my view a clear "snub" to India.

It is good that Nasheed left on his own and not as a result any deal or due to the efforts of the Indian delegation. In India there is a media spin that the high drama in Male was solved thanks to the Indian mediation and that the National Security Adviser was constantly ‘monitoring’ the developments etc. This is not true and is not justified either!

One thing that should be made clear. It is not that India took the initiative to mediate. It was forced into it when Nasheed sought refuge in the premises of the Indian High Commission to evade on an arrest warrant issued by the court. Having made the initial mistake of recognising a regime that was hoisted by a coup, it looks that India is realising its folly now and trying to make amends!

It is still not clear whether Nasheed will be allowed to contest the elections. Just a few days ago, former President Gayoom declared that the will not be contesting the party’s primary (PPM) for selecting the Presidential candidate. With Gayoom out of the race, Nasheed appears to have a better chance in the coming Presidential elections than others like Abdullah Yameen, Gasim Ibrahim or Thasmeen Ali of DRP. Almost all countries except China have hoped that the elections will be fair, credible and inclusive. But it looks that every effort will be made directly, indirectly and even covertly to ensure that Nasheed is not allowed to contest.

On the ongoing trial Nasheed’s Lawyers have questioned the legality of the special court formed by the Judicial Service Commission. The UN Special Rapporteur Gabriel Knaul who is on a visit to the country to examine the independence of the judges and the lawyers, in her press briefing has particularly raised the legality of the judges bench constituted by the JSC. This applies to the bench created by the JSC for the trial of Nasheed.

It is the responsibility of the international community to ensure that free, fair and an inclusive Presidential election is held in Maldives to strengthen the fledgling democracy that is under serious threat now.