An alleged coup in the island nation is leading to political instability.
A Commonwealth-backed investigation in the Maldives has dismissed claims that a coup forced Mohamed Nasheed from the presidency in February and declared it was a legitimate transfer of power.
The panel’s report on Thursday concluded that Nasheed, who alleged he was removed by a military-and-police coup, had resigned voluntarily – a judgement that was promptly rejected by his party.
The Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), consisting of four nationals named by political parties and a Singaporean judge nominated by the Commonwealth, found the change of president was “legal and constitutional”.
“The resignation of President Nasheed was voluntary and of his own free will,” it said in a 62-page report.
“It was not caused by any illegal coercion or intimidation.”
The Commonwealth initiated the probe and appointed GP Selvam, the Singaporean, to the five-member panel to give it legitimacy.
Nasheed has previously told his supporters that it would be legitimate to challenge the current government through “street action” if the report rejected his claims that he was overthrown in a coup after weeks of public protests.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said it rejected the CoNI’s findings as a “total outrage” and would keep up demonstrations in the capital Male where activists have often clashed with police.
“The report does not reflect the reality on the ground,” Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, MDP spokesman, told AFP news agency.
“Our executive body is meeting to decide a future course of action.”
The streets of Male were quiet on Thursday after a night of rallies by the MDP, a familiar routine since Nasheed left office.
Nasheed’s nominee on the CoNI resigned late on Wednesday, saying that it had ignored vital evidence, including photographs and videos. He did not sign the final draft.
President Mohamed Waheed, who took over from Nasheed and was formerly his deputy, said before the release of the report that he would back its verdict.
The Maldives – a string of islands set in the Indian ocean – relies on luxury resorts that attract wealthy tourists from around the world.
This year’s civil unrest has not directly affected the resorts but has damaged the nation’s image as a tropical paradise.
The CoNI report also noted acts of “police brutality” over the three days in early February when Nasheed left office, and it called for further investigations.
“The unforeseen transfer of power owed much to the challenges for governance of a young democracy which is deeply divided,” it said, highlighting problems with the rule of law, the functioning of parliament and a politicised media.
Nasheed, who became the nation’s first democratically elected leader in 2008, has refused to recognise Waheed’s new government.
Waheed has rejected international calls for early elections, saying it was not practical to hold a fresh vote before July 2013 in the Islamic state of 330,000 Muslims.