Maldives seeks India's help to strengthen democracy

Maldives has sought India's assistance in its ongoing democratic transformation in areas like reforms of judiciary, police and media.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2006 18:48 IST

Maldives has sought India's assistance in its ongoing democratic transformation including in areas like reforms of judiciary, police, media and electoral machinery.

A letter, written by Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in this regard, was handed over to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when visiting Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed met him for discussions on bilateral and regional issues Wednesday.

Shaheed briefed Manmohan Singh on the package of political reforms introduced by Gayoom - Asia's longest-serving leader who has ruled the island nation known for its idyllic resorts for nearly three decades.

"The Maldives is confident of holding multi-party elections in 2008 and we are revising our constitution for that purpose. The process should be completed by next year," Shaheed, who is on a five-day visit to India, told reporters on Friday.

"We also plan to hold a referendum on the model of governance people of the Maldives want early next year," said Shaheed, who represents New Maldives, a group of young reform-minded core group in the Gayoom regime.

Shaheed, a former foreign secretary and the government's chief spokesperson, underlined the importance of creating what he called "organic democracy" which is rooted in the country's traditions and value-systems.

"We must ensure that the structure for democracy is understood by people. The gap between the Westminster model of democracy and the Maldivian model is narrowing. We can't transplant a foreign model in our country," he said.

Shaheed blamed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for creating chaos and anarchy that could obstruct the island's march towards liberal democracy.

"The opposition's tactics are trying to create an atmosphere of incitement and hatred. They have to choose between constitutional force and being revolutionaries. The best way forward is through dialogue," Shaheed said.

The Maldivian government and the opposition are engaged in discussions to evolve an understanding on critical areas of democratic reforms.

The Opposition wants elections to be held as early as next year whereas the ruling dispensation believes it would be held in 2008 as per the roadmap unveiled by Gayoom three years ago.

The reforms package includes a parliament with real teeth, an independent judiciary, a free press, a modernised electoral system that empowers the people and economic policies that promotes the welfare of the poor and the deprived.

First Published: Oct 30, 2006 18:48 IST