Commonwealth envoy holds talks on new Maldives constitution

A special Commonwealth envoy held talks with political parties in the Maldives on Wednesday on drafting a new constitution, as the main opposition group accused the government of orchestrating attacks on five of its members.

The chief government spokesman, Mohamed Hussain Shareef, called the meetings with Commonwealth envoy Tan Sri Musa Hitam "a major step forward in the country's political transition."

In separate meetings, the envoy sought the opinion of each party about what should be contained in a new constitution, which the Commonwealth will then help draft, Shareef said.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has governed the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago, since 1978 with tight control. He promised political reforms in 2004 in response to international pressure sparked by anti-government riots and allegations of torture of political prisoners, but the reforms have been slow.

The main opposition group, the Maldives Democratic Party, said the talks with the Commonwealth envoy would only succeed if the government genuinely supports democracy and stops harassing political opponents, reports the AP.

I.L.