Tue, Feb 14, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Maldives’ leader welcomes probe

AFP and AP, MALE

New Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed yesterday welcomed a Commonwealth mission to investigate the ousting of his predecessor as fresh clashes broke out in the streets of the capital, Male.

Waheed agreed to a Commonwealth ministerial probe into the dramatic fall of Mohammed Nasheed, the nation’s first democratically elected leader who came to power in 2008, spokesman Masood Imad said.

“The president welcomes the Commonwealth mission,” Imad said. “Please come here and see the exact situation. We want not only the Commonwealth, but others too to come and see what really happened.”

The nine-member Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which deals with serious violations of the 54-nation bloc’s political values, decided on the mission after an emergency teleconference on Sunday.

The Commonwealth Secretariat said the action would “ascertain the facts surrounding the transfer of power, and to promote adherence to Commonwealth values and principles.”

The former president said he was removed in a military-backed coup and on Sunday rejected a US call for compromise and the formation of a unity government.

His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters clashed with police in the capital on Sunday night, as MDP law makers said that one of their colleagues had been arrested and tortured in the southernmost atoll of Addu.

An Agence-France Presse correspondent saw police use pepper spray to break up a group of about 200 people and arrest at least three demonstrators who shouted anti-government slogans.

Nasheed insisted that the way out of the crisis was a snap -election rather than recommending his party consider a coalition with his former deputy, who succeeded him.

“We want an election and we will campaign for it,” Nasheed told large, cheering crowds overnight on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Waheed has expanded his Cabinet to include members of the former autocratic ruler’s party, and Islamic conservatives will be appointed ministers in coming days.

Conservatives have been demanding the introduction of strict Islamic laws in the Indian Ocean nation that relies on high-end tourism.

Waheed said he was forming a coalition government to help restore stability in the Muslim country ahead of presidential elections due next year. Six members from four political parties were sworn in on Sunday as ministers.

They include the Progressive Party of the Maldives, headed by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the former autocratic leader who ruled for 30 years until Nasheed defeated him in the country’s first multiparty election in 2008.

Adhaalat, or the Justice Party, which wants to see the introduction of Shariah law, and several other moderate parties will also receive ministerial positions, presidential spokesman Masood Imad said.

Some slots in the Cabinet were being kept open in case Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party changed its mind about joining the coalition government, he said.

The Constitution prohibits any religion other than Islam from being practiced or preached in the Maldives and specifies that it be governed according to Islamic principles. However, authorities have generally been flexible, mainly to preserve the country’s tourism industry.

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