Maldivian President Waheed Hasan Manik named a resort owner of no claimed political affiliation, Mohamed Waheeduddin, as his Vice-President, even as Foreign Secretary Ranjan K. Mathai rushed to Male to hold urgent consultation with all stakeholders to find a way forward.
President Dr. Waheed had made it clear to all parties in the coalition that he wanted to pick a Vice-President of his choice to steer clear of the mistakes the former President, Mohamed Nasheed, made, a source close to Dr. Waheed told The Hindu. Mr. Waheeduddin was the Atolls Minister in the earlier Gayoom regime, and is regarded as one of the fathers of modern tourism in The Maldives. While those in government claim he has stayed clear of politics since, his detractors claim he is yet another chip off the Gayoom block. The appointment has to be approved by the People's Majlis (Parliament).
Dr. Waheed's representatives have also been talking to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in a bid to form the national unity government that he promised. On Wednesday, Dr. Waheed made it clear that the number of Ministers in his Cabinet could exceed that of the Nasheed Cabinet. He has kept apart the key Ministries of Finance, Fisheries, Agriculture, Housing and Environment, Islamic Affairs and Foreign for discussion with the MDP.
But the path forward is not easy. Even those in the MDP — to which the former President, Mr. Nasheed belongs — who had toyed with the idea of talking to the new government are reportedly holding back as they want to watch the MDP rally that Mr. Nasheed has called for February 17 before making their moves. With the new government's every move watched by both the international community and the media-savvy MDP men, there appears to be a fair amount of confusion within the government on how to keep MDP men from reaching Male, the venue for the Friday rally.
The Indian Foreign Office augmented its personnel in the Male mission soon after the changeover. Though The Maldives is of great strategic importance to India, its mission strength is the least in the South Asian region. One of the first steps that the MEA took was to re-detail a senior Joint Secretary, who was on a tour of Jaffna, to Male. The Joint Secretary, Malay K. Sinha, has been making his own assessment and has been working in tandem with the Indian High Commission.
After the ground analysis made by Indian envoy M. Ganapathi, who is Secretary (West) in the MEA, one more officer of note was pulled from another posting and brought to Male. The officer — Narayanaswamy, credited with making the Maldives chapter of India Club and many other social fora active in the archipelago — is back in The Maldives to augment the strength of the High Commission and provide more accurate assessment of the ground situation.
Mr. Mathai, who has been in constant touch with the situation, arrived in Male late on Wednesday. He met Mr. Nasheed and Mr. Waheed and is also slated to meet the Chief Justice and the Speaker, ahead of flying back to New Delhi on Thursday afternoon.
The Commonwealth Ministerial delegation will reach Male on Friday for its assessment on the changeover. One Maldivian National Defence Force source said the MNDF was willing to depose before any panel if it would help clear the air on the changeover. Meanwhile, Western missions are veering around to the view that an independent Maldivian investigation, with handholding from missions abroad — in the role of observers or people who guide it — might be the best way forward. They are also looking at a compromise date for elections — between what Mr. Nasheed has demanded (immediate, in two months time), and Dr. Waheed's position (end-2013).
The assessment of the Indian and a few other delegations seem to indicate that the stalemate has no easy solutions. Mr. Nasheed, with his comments against the resort owners, has alienated any remaining friend he has had in that group. The Opposition has formed a rainbow coalition that consists of fundamentalist Islamist elements and sober centre-right parties. Hence, barring MDP politicians, all senior politicians are on the same page. The police and the MNDF, both repeatedly accused of helping the coup, are largely behind the new government.