Government Must Deliver On Its Side of Talks Bargain – MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called on President Abdulla Yameen to make good on commitments his government made during recent negotiations with the MDP.

Government officials, negotiating on behalf of President Yameen, made a number of promises during the talks. These include the release of high profile political prisoners, including President Nasheed, and the quashing of criminal charges against some 1,700 people who have been targeted for their political activities.

The MDP believes that the Government of Maldives must follow through on its commitments before the Independence Day celebrations on July 26.

– MDP negotiated in good faith –

The MDP entered talks with the Government in good faith. The talks began on July 1, 2015.

From the MDP’s perspective, the main objectives of the talks were to see the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives, and the dropping of criminal charges against people who merely engaged in peaceful political activity. Some 1,700 Maldivians are currently in jail, awaiting trial, or have charges pending against them for their political activities.

The MDP further hoped the talks would lead to a mechanism that would see meaningful reform to the country’s judiciary and independent institutions, which remain hopelessly politicized and corrupt.

Moreover, the MDP wished to press for a change that would do away with the presidency and usher in a parliamentary form of government in the Maldives.

For its part, the Government of Maldives asked for three things from the MDP:

1. Constitutional changes to age limits for presidential and vice presidential candidates.

2. Impeachment of Vice President Jameel.

3. Legislative support for specific projects.

The MDP delivered on its side of the bargain:

1. On the issue of age limit, the MDP supported lowering the age limit for the President and Vice President to 18 years of age. The MDP initially had reservations for imposing an upper age limit on the Presidency and Vice Presidency. But the party relinquished its reservations after JP leader Gasim Ibrahim – who would be personally impacted by the change – asked the MDP to support the government. Prior to the parliamentary vote on age limits, the MDP issued a three line green whip to support the Government’s amendment (which passed).

2. The MDP had no issue on the impeachment of Vice President Jameel, and therefore was willing to support the Government’s request. As such, the MDP issued a 3 line whip to impeach Vice President Jameel (who was duly impeached).

3. On the issue of selecting a new Vice President, the MDP had no position and therefore issued a free whip to its MPs (the MDP notes that President Yameen’s choice for Vice President, Ahmed Adeeb, was duly selected to be the new Vice President).

4. The government also requested the MDP to support it in parliament for specific projects. The MDP later found out that the Government wanted to introduce a constitutional amendment that would allow foreigners to buy land in the Maldives.

The MDP is a right of centre political party, which believes in free markets. In principle, the MDP believes in the free ownership of land and property. Nevertheless, the MDP had reservations that the Government’s constitutional amendment could lead to foreign, non-commercial logistical installations being built in the Maldives.

MDP Parliamentary Group Leader, Hon. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Ibu), speaking on Tuesday 21 July, therefore set out MDP’s call that, in any constitutional amendment, the Maldives’ national security and the peace and security of the Indian Ocean must be guaranteed. This statement formed the MDP’s position and the party subsequently issued a free whip line on the vote (the MDP notes that the Government’s constitutional amendment passed).

Finally, the government asked the MDP to issue a moratorium on street protests and actions, which the MDP complied with.

The MDP delivered on all counts. In return, the Government agreed to release political prisoners, begin dropping charges against 1,700 other political activists, and make progress on reforms to the judiciary and independent institutions.

The MDP believes that the Government should not proceed with its planned Independence Celebrations without delivering on its side of the bargain.

The MDP calls on the Government and the international community to proceed with the Independence Day celebrations while showing good faith in delivering on the pledges made during the talks.