Maldives opposition sets stiff pre-conditions for govt talks

Maldives united opposition on Thursday largely rejected the government invitation for dialogue, by setting stiff pre-conditions for the talks which included the release of jailed opposition leaders.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed as the apex court rejected the government's 'legal and judicial' concerns over the order.

Since emergency state was declared police have made a series of high profile arrests including Gayoom, two lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.

Maldives government, in the face of mounting international pressure made a fresh attempt to start the failed all political party talks last week in a desperate bid to resolve the crisis.

Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chief lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, flanked by representatives from fellow opposition parties flat out rejected the invitation insisting that the opposition had nothing to discuss with the government.

However, the Hinnavaru lawmaker was quick to point that the opposition was always in favour of dialogue and was willing to sit-down with the government but said the parties were acutely aware the government's true intentions.

Solih alleged that the government had refused to obey a Supreme Court ruling and illegally declared a state of emergency to arbitrarily arrest judges and the remaining opposition leaders.

"There's nothing one can discuss with someone who's very nature is corruption and embezzlement. Or someone who actually finds happiness in cruelty. We've nothing to discuss with an Attorney General who has blatant disregard for the law. We've nothing to talk about the refusal to obey a Supreme Court ruling. Or the continued blockade on parliament. Because these are the things that must be done. Things that must be obeyed," Solih explained.

However, Solih admitted that dialogue remains key to solving the political crisis but insisted that it must be sincere. In that regard, Solih insisted that the government must allow the United Nations (UN) to mediate the talks, revealing that the opposition has already sent out the request to the UN.

The other condition was for the government to immediately obey the February 1 Supreme Court ruling, free the jailed top court judges and allow the functioning of the Supreme Court as prescribed in the constitution.

Opposition had also conveyed the condition of the immediate release of jailed politicians including Gayoom, his son Faris Maumoon, South-Machchangoalhi MP Abdulla Sinan, Dhangethi MP Ilham Ahmed, Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim's Ibrahim son and Gayoom's son in law to the UN, he added.

Once the conditions are met, the opposition would be more than happy to sit-down with the government, Solih said.

Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.

Police on Sunday had claimed that new evidence had been uncovered in connection to the plot adding that a total eight people had been arrested thus far over the case.

In the statement, police had claimed to have uncovered document evidence implicating the suspects to the case revealing that over USD200,000 along with over MVR150,000 were found in a bag that belonged to judge Ali Hameed.

Police also said judge Ali Hameed had purchased a flat with the bribe money and an unnamed company had "loaned" over USD2 million to the judge.

The latest accusations came after police had confirmed Gayoom had bribed the judges into issuing the order in a bid to overthrow the government.

The accusations against Gayoom included bribing lawmakers and judges to influence their authority while the deposed ruling party leader has also been accused of creating discord within the security forces to back the overthrow of his half-brother's government.

The two top court judges are accused of accepting bribes to influence Supreme Court rulings, abuse of power and blocking the functioning of the entire justice system.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the now rescinded order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

Former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's uncle Hamid Ismail make up the rest of the list.