“Government is working to improve capacity-building in the judiciary”

Mohammed Waheed Deen

In this exclusive interview with Global, Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Deen presents the government’s case against the actions of former President Mohamed Nasheed, specifically in the areas of media control, politicisation of the armed forces and alleged corruption. He goes on to reveal that elections are unlikely to be held until the end of July 2013, at the earliest, while giving his perspective on the relationship between the current government and the administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who previously held power in the Maldives for 30 years.

Global: The recent report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) identifies a number of issues that it recommended should be addressed regarding the basic institutions of democratic governance. In the short term, do you expect that the next sessions of parliament – the People’s Majlis – will help foster wider political dialogue that includes the former ruling party, the Maldivian Democratic Party?

Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Deen: Yes, I am confident that through an all-inclusive parliamentary process we would be able to introduce reforms identified in the CNI report. We have less than a year to the presidential election and a number of vital legislative and institutional reforms are pending before the parliament. Regrettably, the MDP has so far been non-cooperative in the Majlis. But I am hopeful that they would reconsider their position and put the nation and national interest first.

Which of the policies pursued by former President Mohamed Nasheed is your administration most committed to changing?

Suppression of free media. One of the first things President Waheed [Hassan] did in office was to free the state-run TV and radio stations from executive control. The objective was to provide equal access to state media as required by the constitution and laws, which former President Nasheed had disregarded. We are the first government in the history of our country not to have a TV or a radio station of its own.

Politicisation of security forces. Likewise from his first day in office, President Waheed pledged to free the security forces (police and army) from political influence and not to issue any unlawful orders as Nasheed continuously did.

Bringing an end to corruption. We are also determined to bring an end to corruption, nepotism and cronyism, which resulted in the award of multimillion-dollar contracts and loans to friends and party activists. Equally, we are committed in making government procurement and government contracts transparent. In his three-year rule, President Nasheed handed hundreds of islands to his party members to be developed as resorts.

Another issue that was raised by the CNI concerns the administration of justice. What measures are the government proposing in this respect?

Government is working bilaterally and multilaterally to improve capacity-building in the judiciary while, at the same time, we need to ensure accountability and transparency. The challenge government faces is that it has very little say on the administration of justice. Under the new constitutional and [with] legislative arrangements in place, the judiciary is completely free. Judges are disciplined by a constitutionally independent Judicial Service Commission. Judges are also appointed for life and can only be removed from office by the parliament.

What are your current expectations for the timing and conduct of the next elections in the Maldives?

The earliest date for the next presidential election under the constitution is the end of July 2013. The Election Commission, which is a constitutionally independent body, has the final say on an election date. The Election Commission may take into account the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which falls in early July, before announcing an election date.

What do you say to those who allege that the present government is a reincarnation of the former administration of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom?

Gayoom’s PPM [Progressive Party of Maldives] is just one of seven parties in the National Unity government. We also have to keep in mind that Maldives is a small country and traditionally the government has been the largest employer. Gayoom ruled the country for 30 years, during which most of the educated people, in some way or the other, were part of the Gayoom government. People who served under Gayoom are found in every political party in the country, including MDP. For example, Nasheed’s two foreign ministers (Dr Shaheed and Mr Naseem), his envoy Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, MDP’s former chairperson Ms Mariya Didi [and] MDP’s first two presidents (Dr Munawaru and Ibrahim Ismail) were senior government officials under President Gayoom.

How do you respond to the recent report issued by Amnesty International that noted serious human rights violations by members of the security services?

Amnesty International’s report does not tally with the reports by Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the Police Integrity Commission of the Maldives. Both institutions are fully independent institutions. Their staff are on the ground and on the scene of protests and marches. They monitor the situation daily and take necessary actions – including taking legal action, issuing press releases, holding inquiries and submitting annual reports to parliament. On the other hand, Amnesty officials are not based in the country. Once in a while, when its official does visit the country, very selective meetings are arranged with mostly members of opposition and opposition-sympathising NGOs. As a result, Amnesty is unable to get a comprehensive picture of the situation.

In recent years, the Maldives has been seen as a leader among small nations on the issues of global warming and climate change. As a result, several of the islands’ particular environmental challenges have become well known around the world. What policies is the administration most committed to in addressing these challenges?

President Nasheed undoubtedly did a lot to draw international attention to global warming and climate change. In [the] Rio+20 Summit, President Waheed pledged his government’s commitment to carbon neutrality. The president also announced a major policy decision to make the countrywide biosphere reserve by 2017. Our commitment to the environment is unwavering. Indeed, due to our fragile environment, no president can afford to ignore the environmental cause.

About the author:

Mohammed Waheed Deen is the Vice-President of the Maldives


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