MonitorsPublished on Aug 13, 2010
With the Opposition-dominated Parliament passing the Judges Bill and the Government coming up with a consensus list of seven Supreme Court Judges that too was passed, there is now hope about an early end to the constitutional deadlock that had engulfed Maldives over the past weeks.
End in Sight to Political Crisis in Maldives?
< class="heading1">Analysis

With the Opposition-dominated Parliament passing the Judges Bill and the Government coming up with a consensus list of seven Supreme Court Judges that too was passed, there is now hope about an early end to the constitutional deadlock that had engulfed Maldives over the past weeks. Almost simultaneously, Parliament, or People's Majlis, near-unanimously passed the Government's list of members for the all-important Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the high-profile Maldivian Human Rights Commission (MHRC), the latter with some rejections. The Government is now expected to come up with acceptable fresh names to replace those rejected by Parliament.

The patch-up that emerged on the eve of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan is expected to pave the way for a balanced, negotiated approach to solving larger issues requiring constitutional amendments. In between, Parliament has before a Select Committee, the President's list of 13 Cabinet nominees for approval. Indications are that Parliament may be willing to delay the process until a wayout is found for the constitutional issues. Alternatively, the Government may have to withdraw some names. The worst case scenario could be for President Nasheed to name fresh ones if and when Parliament rejected some of his nominees. It is thus not a surmountable issue, particularly if the current mood of give-and-take continues.

Larger issues remain. Prior to the current pact, Government ordering the police to block entry to the Judicial Services Commission, and later the armed forces not to hand over the keys of the Supreme Court to the staff at the conclusion of the constitutionally-mandated, two-year, August 7 deadline for creating a permanent court in its place. This had derailed the peace process, initiated at the instance of Parliament Speaker Abdullah Shahid, but the parties have since picked up the thread and worked their way. The constitutional issues are complex in a way, but are governed more by sentiments.

The two sides had earlier begun negotiations on finding a political solution to constitutional issues that are inevitable in any 'cohabitation scheme' between the Executive President and Opposition-led Parliament. At different stages in the current crisis, the two sides had variously demanded fresh elections to the presidency and/or Parliament. Lack of mutual trust and consequent political desperation rather than conceptual or schematic fault-lines were behind the constitutional deadlock.

Any permanent solution would thus rest on a conscious and conscientious national effort at working whatever system that is now evolved and the collective leadership, compromises and accommodation that the existing polity is willing to lent. Leaders, starting with President Nasheed and not excluding Thasmeen Ali, leader of the Opposition Dhivehil Rayyathunge Party (DRP), will get opportunities to demonstrate their sense of patriotic duty and statesmanship at every turn. The nation should and will remember them for it ? and not otherwise.

If the MDP and President Nasheed had not happened at the turn of the pro-democracy movement five years ago, when DRP founder Maumoon Gayoom was in power already for close to 30 years, they would have happened, anyway. Maldives was ready for it, after years of education and enlightenment. It is the then rulers who did not read the writing on the wall. Today, with multi-party democracy already a reality and MDP too in power, Parliament will have to respect the mandate that the people gave President Nasheed.

For its part, the Government will have to respect the democratic institutions by which the MDP swears. Even in erstwhile colonies in the neighbourhood and elsewhere, the exit of European powers did not mean that the entire civil service and other constitutional institutions of governance had to go with them. After all, they are all Maldivians like the ruling party of the day. Both would need time for learning to live with the changes and for adapting to those changes. It would take time ? both for evolving a democratic scheme and to imbibe the same in the existing class of officials.

As a part of the constitutional review process, the Government and the Opposition would have to sit together and understand the weaknesses in the existing system, which had remained so for no fault of the players concerned. In the Judiciary, for instance, the existing gap in the educational qualification of presiding officers at various levels need not necessarily flow from partisan appointments by the previous regime. It could also owe to the general lack of higher education, particularly professional educations in the country, and the simultaneous replacement of madrasas-centric Shariat learning by English-centric modern, secular high school education over the past decades. Just as Maldives does not have qualified doctors and higher secondary teachers for A-Level classes, it does not have professionally competent judges. The solution lies elsewhere.

There is also an overall need for the two sides to accept the ground realities and act accordingly. The MDP cannot cling on to the acknowledged modus of street rallies to effect change, as it has only proved to be loud and counter-productive. The party needs to accept that it was now in power, and its methods should adapt to institutional mechanisms, old and new. The Opposition, likewise, has to remember that their 30 long years of honeymoon with power was over ? and in a democracy, they could still hope to return to power through the ballot.

Maldives and Maldivians may not be ready for fresh elections to the presidency and/or Parliament, yet. Not certainly their parliamentarians, to whom both multi-party elections and parliamentary practices are a new experience ? the former proving to be expensive, too. Two years and two schemes of governance is too complex for a nation unfamiliar with democracy to pass value-judgment on. Other Third World democracies that became independent at the conclusion of the Second World War are still passing through the learning curve but it is patience, perseverance and a visionary zeal that have helped them.

It is all about building mutual trust and confidence, and together all parties should strive together to make democracy work in the nation. That is also the lesson from the past weeks. At no time did any one in any political party or outside even remotely suggested that democracy had failed Maldives or Maldives had failed democracy, in the two years since multi-party elections became mandatory. If after they had put the constitutional issues and 'constitution differences' behind them, the political stake-holders still want to test the electoral waters, the much-delayed local government elections are still there. It would also help the political parties to reach out to the grassroots-level in a democracy, before they are ready to take the nation to electoral battles at higher levels.

N Sathiya Moorthy is a Senior Research Fellow at ORF

< class="heading1">Country Reports

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">MNDF holds Supreme Court keys

With Speaker Abdullah Shahid abruptly adjourning the Parliament session that was to debate the Judges Bill, owing to apprehensions of disorderliness, the Government ordered the Maldivian National Defence Forces (MNDF) to hold back the keys to the Supreme Court, when the mandated two-year term of the 'interim Bench' ended on 7 August. Coming in the footsteps of the previous week's order of President Mohammed Nasheed asking the Police to block the entry into the offices of the Judicial Services Commission, it created consternation in the Opposition. With the Supreme Court locked and the 'interim judges' stripped of their responsibilities, yet another constitutional vacuum was created. The additional complications added to the constitutional deadlock meant that there was only a negotiated way to sort out issues.
Source: Miadhu News, August 8, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">President's panel resigns

The four-member panel appointed by President Mohammed Nasheed to look after the administration of the Supreme Court resigned even before it had commenced its functioning. Three of the panel members who were in the country quit forthwith while the fourth one, who was away, followed suit.

This may have encouraged the President to call in Speaker Abdullah Shahid for further discussions to end the parliamentary stalemate and the consequent constitutional deadlock. At the end of the meeting, hopes emerged as to a possible solution to the Supreme Court-related issues with those for others following in due course.
Source: Miadhu News, August 9, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Parliament approves Judges Bill

In a quick turn of events, the Opposition-controlled Parliament passed the Judges Bill, after due consultations and possible commitments from the Government. The President gave his assent to the Bill soon after, paving the way for the appointment of permanent Judges to the court. Parliament cleared the list, which was headed by the President's nominee as Chief Justice. Outgoing Chief Justice was among those sworn in as Judges, who have now been given seven years' time to improve their professional skills. Earlier, Parliament also passed an agreed list of nominees for the Judicial Services Commission.

This has since led to Parliament approving the lists of presidential nominees for two other constitutionally-mandated institutions. While Parliament approved the list for the Civil Service Commission (CVC) in toto, it rejected a few names for the Maldivian Human Rights Commission. It is expected that President Nasheed would replace those names in the spirit of bonhomie that has guided the two sides since the interim closure of the Supreme Court.
Source: Miadhu News, August 11, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Zardari expresses willingness to negotiate with Taliban

President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed willingness to negotiate with the Taliban, suggesting that talks take place from a position of strength for the Government. The last time such a deal was struck in the Swat Valley, the militants expanded their operations to another region, prompting an Army offensive. The Government had tried to strike deals with militant groups earlier also, but all had failed.

Pakistan is facing increasing pressure from the US to act against these groups. At the same time, the Taliban has stepped up its terrorist activities inside the country. The future of US 'Af-Pak' policy will depend to a great extent on the outcome of President Barack Obama's third review of the Afghan strategy.
Source: Dawn, August 7, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Bilawal denies intention to enter politics in the near future

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and late Benazir Bhutto, has denied any immediate plans to enter politics. In a statement in London, Bilawal clarified that his intention was to study further. This statement is a response to recent media reports predicting Bilawal's launch into active politics during President Zardari's UK visit.

However, given the long history of dynastic politics in Pakistan, it is only a question of time before Bilawal entered politics. The successful transition would be largely dependent on how President Zardari carves out a political space for his son.
Source: Dawn, August 6, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Karachi investigations slow

Investigations into the alleged killing of 99 persons in the southern port town of Karachi have been slow-paced. Although a special investigation team was constituted to investigate the assassination of Syed Raza Haider of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), investigators have made little progress so far.

The police have been accused of refusing to register FIRs. There were also reports that most of the killings took place in the streets where security forces were not deployed. Use of licensed weapons has also been reported. The police have so far arrested two members of a political party
Source: Dawn, August 13, 2010

Sri Lanka
< class="heading12boldGeorgia">LTTE weapons for armed forces

The Sri Lankan army is using some of the functional weapons recovered during search operation in the North and East, the military said. Colonel Duminda Gamage of the Army Media Directorate said the Ministry of Defence would decide on whether the rest of the weapons would be sold or handed over to the army.

Some of the weapons recovered were extensively damaged while some were with minimum damage. Some were outdated. "We send the recovered weapons to the Central Armoury. They will decide what should be kept in reserve and what should be dismantled," he said.
Source: Daily Mirror Online, Colombo, 9 August 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Fonseka rejects UNP offer

Retired army chief and jailed leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Sarath Fonseka has declined the main Opposition UNP's offer to join them. UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya had invited Fonseka at a public function in which another Opposition leader and former Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, merged his party, SLFP (Democratic), in the UNP. Reports also indicated that the UNP had sent feelers to Fonseka in this regard.
Source: Daily Mirror Online, Colombo, 10 August 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">UNP revives talks with Govt

The United National Party (UNP), the main Opposition, has agreed to revive talks with the Government. The decision followed a meeting between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The UNP had earlier this week withdrawn from the talks after the ruling combine admitted two Opposition Upcountry Tamil Members of Parliament into its fold, in the presence of President Rajapaksa.

The UNP also urged the Government to come out with a set of proposals for the amendment to the Constitution, in the absence of which the negotiations could become futile.
Source: Daily Mirror Online, Colombo, 13 August 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Pranab witness credit deal at Dhaka

On August 7, India's Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee undertook a brief visit to Dhaka, where he called on Prime Minister Shiekh Haisna, held discussions with Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Finance Minister A M A Muhith, and also reviewed the implementation of the bilateral agreements signed in New Delhi earlier in the year. However, the spotlight was on the signing of a bilateral credit agreement between the EXIM Bank of India and Bangladesh's Economic Relations Division to operationalise the earlier Indian offer of $ 1-billion loan for infrastructure projects in the country, the highest ever from any source.

The current credit agreement was an outcome of the promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during Sheikh Hasina's India visit in January. The opposition BNP said that the deal was against the interest of Bangladesh. However, the Prime Minister lambasted the Opposition for playing politics over the issue.
Source: The Daily Star, August 9 & 11, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">India-Bangla Transit

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni has said that her country would provide transit for India to access the country's north-eastern region. Bangladesh will likewise get transit through India for reaching Nepal and Bhutan

The Minister said that Bangaldesh aspired to become a regional hub when South Asian connectivity becomes possible. She clarified that no fresh agreement or protocol or amendment to previous protocol was required to open Bangladesh's transit way to Bhutan and Nepal; exchange of letter would be sufficient.
Source: The Daily Star, August 11, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Another Indian envoy in Nepal

Barely a week after veteran Indian diplomat Shyam Saran visited Nepal and held parleys with most top political leaders of the country, another Indian envoy K V Rajan arrived here on August 11. Though the purpose of Rajan's mission was not known, it is believed that India was uneasy about the continuing instability in Nepal and the prospects of Maoists leading a consensus government.

The Maoists are blaming India for holding such a view, based on their growing proximity with China. This view is not unanimous throughout the party. Maoists' Vice-Chairman Baburam Bhattarai's one-to-one meeting with PM's special envoy Shyam Saran was a case in point. In turn, Rajan met with King Gyanendra, the former ruler.

The meetings as well as the arrival of Indian visitors have not gone down too well with many Nepalese as such events are being interpreted as Indian interference in the internal affairs of their country. The next round of voting for Prime Minister's post on August 18 will put to further test India's ability to influence events in Nepal.
Source:, August 13, 2010

< class="heading12boldGeorgia">Consensus still elusive

Despite five rounds of voting, the search is still on for a new prime minister for Nepal. No single political party has been able to secure the required votes in Parliament to form a majority government. Attempts are now being made to bring about a consensus between the three major political parties, viz. the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-UML and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist.

In the sixth round of voting to be held on August 18, the UML has decided to remain neutral. They withdrew the candidacy of Jhala Nath Khanal after the third round. The Maoists too are in favour of withdrawing their candidate and party leader Prachanda. However, they have linked their decision to the Nepali Congress nominee Ram Chandra Paudel too withdrawing from the contest. The NC is said to be keen on having its party-led majority government.

UML factions like those led by K P Sharma Oli are against the party's decision to stay neutral. They want the UML to support NC, so as to prevent Maoists from coming to power as long as they were attached to their militant wing.
Source:, August 13, 2010

(Contributors -- Pakistan: Akhilesh Variar, Nepal: Dr. Anjali Sharma, Bangladesh: Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee), Maldiv: N Sathiya Moorthy)
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N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.

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