Fulfill early poll date promise: Nasheed to govt

Male: Maldives` ousted President Mohammed Nasheed today asked the new regime to fulfill its promise to fix an early date for polls under an India-brokered deal, a day after a Commonwealth ministerial team arrived here to probe the circumstances of his resignation.

As his MDP party`s mass rally demanding snap elections entered the second day today, 44-year-old Nasheed, who was the first democratically-elected President of the country, said the people of the country wanted early polls.

"They (Maldivians) want to know the date for the elections and how will they be held," he told thousands of his supporters at the `Tsunami Monument` here, adding the protest "will not be stopped tonight or tomorrow."

Nasheed`s MDP had earlier said that it was grateful to India for its "timely intervention" to help resolve the political impasse here, a view shared by the new regime headed by 59-year-old Mohammed Waheed Hassan.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, who was here on a two-day visit, had met all stakeholders, including Hassan and Nasheed, and helped the government to come out with a roadmap to ease the political crisis triggered by the last week resignation of Nasheed in what he claimed was a coup d`etat.

After his talks here, Mathai had announced on Thursday that consequent to his discussions all the parties had agreed on a formulation to get the country out of the crisis.

Under the agreed formulation, the government of national unity would hold discussions with all relevant parties to conduct elections by an early date. It would work towards the conditions that would permit such elections to take place, including any necessary Constitutional amendments, Mathai had said. All parties of the country are expected to meet tomorrow to discuss a date for early polls.

In Washington, the State Department welcomed efforts of "all sides" to find a peaceful way forward in Maldives and said the US was working closely with India in resolving the political impasse in the island nation.

"We also welcome the ongoing dialogue among Maldivians regarding the role of a unity government in addressing these issues and possibly creating the conditions for early elections. We`re continuing to urge all parties to work together to find a way through this," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.

Nuland said the US has been closely coordinating with India, which has "traditionally played a strong role". "Our understanding is that we are pretty well in lockstep with India in terms of calling for unity and calling for a democratic, peaceful path forward," she said. Her comments came as a ministerial team from the 54-member Commonwealth arrived here yesterday to probe the circumstances of Nasheed`s ouster.

The team is headed by Suraj Ratan Rabachan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communications of Trinidad and Tobago, and includes Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Australian Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Dennis Richardson.

The probe mission is expected to meet Nasheed as well as incumbent Mohammed Waheed Hassan. It will be assisted by a Secretariat team from Commonwealth headed by Director of Political Affairs, Amitav Bannerjie.

On February 12, the Commonwealth had announced its decision to send a mission to the Maldives to probe circumstances of Nasheed`s ouster, after the grouping held an emergency telephone conference of its nine-member Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).

It had stressed that the way forward must be determined by Maldivians themselves, through inclusive political dialogue in an atmosphere of non-violence, restraint and stability.

The Commonwealth mission`s visit here coincided with the MDP`s rally. Among other things, the party is demanding "cleaning up" of judiciary. Besides Nasheed, MDP MP Maria Ahmed Didi addressed the gathering and asked the Hassan government to set a date for snap polls. Mayor of Male City Council Maizan Ali Manik too made the same demand.

Significantly, Maldivian Police Services issued a statement, saying nobody should disturb the MDP gathering. They said they had been informed that the rally would be peaceful.

Meanwhile, David Hardingham, the chief of UK-based `Friends of Maldives`, has asked people to boycott the resorts owned by Mohammed Waheeduddin, a businessman nominated as Vice President by Hassan, and those belonging to Gasim Ibrahim.

Nasheed and his followers claim that Ibrahim had financed the opposition during Nasheed`s presidency to overthrow him. Already, the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry has said that over 500 bookings for Maldives by tourists have been cancelled, leading to the loss of over USD 100 million.