A COMMONWEALTH-backed investigation in the Maldives has dismissed claims that a coup forced Mohamed Nasheed from the presidency in February and declared it was a legitimate transfer of power.
A Commonwealth-backed investigation in the Maldives on Thursday dismissed claims that a coup forced Mohamed Nasheed from the presidency in February and declared it was a legitimate transfer of power.
The panel’s report concluded that Mr Nasheed, who alleged he was ousted in a coup, had resigned voluntarily – a judgment promptly rejected by his party which vowed to keep up protests to press for early elections.
The Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), consisting of four nationals named by political parties and a Singaporean judge nominated by the Commonwealth, found the change of president was “legal and constitutional”.
“The resignation of President Nasheed was voluntary and of his own free will,” it said in a 62-page report which was also signed by a Canadian and New Zealander who functioned as observers for the UN and the Commonwealth.
Mr Nasheed’s departure “was not caused by any illegal coercion or intimidation,” the report said.
Mr Nasheed has previously told his supporters that it would be legitimate to challenge the current government through “street action” if the report rejected his claims that he was overthrown in a military and police coup.
His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the CoNI report was a “total outrage” and that its supporters would hold a demonstration late Thursday in the capital Male where activists have often clashed with police.
“We will keep up our campaign to press for early elections,” MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said by telephone.
Streets of the congested capital island were quiet on Thursday with a heavy police presence in places.
The Commonwealth and the United States both welcomed the report.
“We urge all parties to respect those findings, to exercise restraint, obey the rule of law, and continue to express themselves in a peaceful and non violent manner,” the US state department said in a statement.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said that “the task ahead for all Maldivians must be to strengthen democracy.”
“An atmosphere of peace and public order is essential for that to happen,” he said.
Mr Nasheed’s nominee on the CoNI panel resigned late on Wednesday saying that it had ignored vital evidence, including photographs and videos.
The Maldives – a string of islands set in the Indian Ocean – relies on luxury resorts that attract wealthy tourists from around the world to its palm-fringed beaches, pristine seas and renowned diving.
This year’s upheavals have not directly affected the resorts but have damaged the nation’s image as a tropical paradise.
The CoNI report also noted acts of “police brutality” over the three days in February when Mr Nasheed left office, and it called for further inquiries.
President Mohamed Waheed, who took over from Mr Nasheed and was formerly his deputy, had earlier announced he would back its verdict.
One of his ministers, Mohamed Hussain Shareef, said that the government respected the panel’s work and added that police would ensure that no civil unrest erupted at any demonstration by opposition activists.
Mr Shareef said several unnamed countries had cut off aid to the Maldives and shunned high-level contacts over Mr Nasheed’s coup claims.
“The CoNI process is the catalyst for further engagement with the international community,” Mr Shareef, who is visiting Sri Lanka, told reporters.
President Waheed has rejected international calls for early elections, saying it was not practical to hold a vote before July 2013 in the Islamic state of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.