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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08COLOMBO385 2008-04-11 05:58:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

MALDIVES: CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY STALLED OVER

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM MV 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000385 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS AND SCA/RA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/11/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM MV
SUBJECT: MALDIVES: CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY STALLED OVER
TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS

REF: COLOMBO 250

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires James R. Moore, for reasons 1.4(b,d).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Intense debate continues between the
opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and ruling
Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) on the draft constitution's
chapter on transitional arrangements. Drafting is stalled
after DRP MPs walked out of the Special Majlis on April 6,
protesting Speaker Gasim Ibrahim's refusal to put two DRP
proposals to an immediate vote. The proposals would allow
President Gayoom to stand for a seventh term. Separately, an
intervention by the Ambassador has led to increased
government cooperation on media coverage of opposition
candidates. Last week the opposition defeated a government
bid to dilute the Civil Service Act, which appears to have
put the government on the defensive. The DRP is unlikely to
agree to any form of transitional arrangement until it
receives a guarantee from the Special Majlis that Gayoom will
be allowed to contest again. We will continue to encourage
both sides to remain engaged in the reform process and to be
flexible about the transitional arrangements. End Summary.

Constitutional Drafting Stalled


--------------------------





2. (C) Intense debate continues on the draft constitution's
chapter on transitional arrangements. The opposition
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and ruling Dhivehi
Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) have been unable to find common
ground. Embassy contacts say a proposal by an independent
member of the Special Majlis (constitutional assembly) is now
gaining some traction. This proposal would allow Gayoom to
remain in power through November 11 and then provide for an
interim government for six months to oversee presidential,
parliamentary and local elections.



3. (U) The government's DRP MPs walked out of the Special
Majlis on April 6 after Speaker Gasim Ibrahim refused to
confirm that two DRP proposals, put forward by Minister of
the President's Office and head of DRP Parliamentary Group
Aneesa Ahmed, would be put to an immediate vote. The
proposals would allow President Gayoom to stand for a seventh
term by specifying that the two-term limit on the presidency
goes into effect with implementation of the constitution
currently being drafted. The opposition has supported
Gasim's decision, but the DRP instructed its members to walk
out of the session if the proposals were not put to a vote,
and threatened disciplinary action if members did not support
the proposals. Gasim argued that the proposals could not be
brought forward for immediate vote because their validity
might depend on other clauses due to come up for a vote
first. The MDP has charged that the DRP is using its
majority in the Special Majlis to hijack the proceedings.



4. (U) Gasim referred the term limit proposals issue to the
business committee of the Special Majlis. The committee
decided that the proposed clauses are not eligible for debate
or a vote because they do not deal directly with the issue of
transitional arrangements, adding that the issue of term
limits was already covered in previously approved sections of
the draft constitution. The DRP, however, argues that the
committee has no mandate to decide on this issue.



5. (U) The Special Majlis has not been able to achieve
quorum or hold session since the DRP walked out on April 6.
The DRP has refused to attend sessions until its proposals
are brought to a vote. No date has been set for the next
Special Majlis meeting. On April 7, the MDP issued a press
release noting the DRP's refusal to attend Special Majlis
sessions and calling on the international community to urge
the government to re-engage in the reform process. The
Special Majlis has missed the March 31 completion date set by
Information and Legal Reform Minister Mohamed Nasheed in
February. The assembly previously missed May 2007 and
November 2007 completion dates.

Bio Note on Gasim

COLOMBO 00000385 002 OF 002




--------------------------





6. (C) Gasim is currently a DRP Vice President and the
Finance Minister. He was part of the opposition reform
movement until 2005, and retains close ties to the
opposition. Gasim previously ruled that the current draft is
an amended constitution and not a "new" one, a decision the
government did not favor. Gasim appears reluctant to produce
a definitive ruling on the term limit clauses which would be
seen as yet again deciding against the DRP. Media have
recently speculated that as relations between Gasim and the
President deteriorate, it becomes more likely that Gasim will
break away from the DRP and pursue his own presidential
aspirations, perhaps by teaming up with various members of
the opposition.

Opposition Seeks Help Getting Equal Airtime


--------------------------





7. (C) On March 31, MDP representatives contacted PolChief
to ask for assistance in getting airtime for opposition
candidates on state run television. They reported that the
main television station in Maldives, TV Maldives (TVM), was
refusing to air debates between the MDP's presidential
candidates. Ambassador contacted Foreign Minister Abdulla
Shahid to inquire about the incident and remind the GORM that
free media is an essential component of free and fair
elections. Within hours, TVM contacted the MDP to schedule
airtime for the debates. Our MDP contacts say the TVM
officials noted American concern about the issue. The MDP
reports that since the Ambassador's intervention, the
government has been extremely cooperative regarding media
coverage of opposition candidates.

Opposition Defeats Government Bid
to Dilute Civil Service Act


--------------------------





8. (U) The opposition claimed a major victory last week when
15 amendments to the Civil Service Act of 2007, put forward
by the DRP, were voted down in parliament. The opposition
says the amendments would have undermined the Civil Service
Act, giving the president more control over certain
positions, such as island chiefs, and giving him too much
influence over civil servants in the run up to the election.
The opposition credited Maldives' fledging civil society
groups for the active role they played in lobbying against
the amendments.



9. (C) COMMENT: The government appears to be on the
defensive since the defeat of the civil service amendments.
This defeat, despite the DRP's majority in parliament, calls
into question the government's ability to support its
preferred options on transitional arrangements. The battle
over term limit proposals probably reflects a major fallout
between Gasim and the President. The DRP is unlikely to
agree to any form of transitional arrangement until it
receives a guarantee from the Special Majlis that Gayoom will
be allowed to contest again. We will continue to encourage
both sides to remain engaged in the reform process and to be
flexible about the transitional arrangements.
MOORE