Comment: Yameen the Meek

So much for ‘Yameen The Strong’, the tough, gunda boss: alleged purveyor of illegal oil to the Burmese Junta and other illegal substances to Male’s youth. Instead, he should be known as Yameen The Chicken, or Yameen The Meek.

For Abdulla Yameen is clearly scared of the Maldivian electorate, and afraid of losing the second round presidential polls. Why else would he conspire with half-brother Gayoom to get the Supreme Court to indefinitely postpone the vote? There can only be one explanation for PPM’s delaying tactics: Yameen knows that in a second round fight, the MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed will kick his ass.

Yameen’s election campaign has been lacklustre at best. He rarely campaigns, his policies sound as if they are made up as he goes along and, as I pointed out in my previous column, Yameen seems incapable of dropping his semi-permanent and voter-off-putting sneer.

Yameen barely scraped second place in the first round on 7 September, despite inheriting the second largest political operation in the country: the PPM. Yameen acquired a paltry 25.35 percent of the vote, to Nasheed’s 45.45 percent. Since then, the DRP has joined forces with Nasheed, likely pushing his vote above 50 percent and leaving Yameen’s campaign in big trouble.

And so, rather than choosing to man-up and fight Nasheed head-on, Yameen has hidden behind a bench of thieves, porn-stars and illiterates otherwise known as the Supreme Court of the Republic of Maldives.

The Supreme Court has entertained a ludicrous case about voter irregularities by third-placed Gasim Ibrahim – another Gayoom stooge. This farcical trial, involving witnesses “who heard from someone there was voter fraud”, has been used by the court to delay the second round indefinitely, despite numerous foreign and local election observers praising the vote for being free and fair.

Yameen’s gambit appears to be to delay the second round for as long as possible – perhaps until the New Year – so, in the words of his lawyer, PPM has “time to campaign.” Or maybe his game-plan is to get rid of the Elections Commission, so his mate Abdulla Riyaz – Police Commissioner and coup d’état perpetrator extraordinaire – can take over the voting process and rig it in Yameen’s favour.

Yameen’s running mate, Mohamed ‘Angry Bird’ Jameel has even muttered dark thoughts about disqualifying Nasheed from the race entirely, by re-starting the politicised trial against him over his decision, when president, to detain a corrupt judge.

Yameen’s undemocratic (and unconstitutional) behaviour might not be surprising. He is, after all, the little brother of a vicious dictator. But it does smack of cowardice. Because leaders – real leaders, that is – don’t hide. They don’t cower. And they don’t duck out of a fight, and get big brother to fight it for them.

Yameen has been accused of many things since the start of the election campaign. Hassan Saeed vowed to put Yameen on trial for the theft of US$800 million of state-owned oil, which Yameen allegedly stole while head of STO. Umar Naseer claimed Yameen peddles drugs, and pays street gangs to attack his political opponents. Mohamed Nasheed has called on people to be “mindful” of Yameen’s dark past and dodgy character.

But now the PPM candidate faces a new charge. One that, for an aspiring Head of State, is perhaps most damaging of all: that he is a chicken and a coward. He is Yameen The Meek.

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Comment: The man behind the sneer

One thing that has always struck me about Abdulla Yameen is that he never smiles. I can hardly remember him ever smiling. I think he smiled once, after being acquitted in some court case, but that was the only time. Sure, on his official campaign posters he sports a fake smile – a sort of upside-down scowl. But he never looks happy.

His eyes betray an angry glint, a contemptuousness of the ordinary man. If he has a trademark look, it is surely that sneer, which he seems to wear at almost every interaction with the general public.

If his second round campaign could be summed up in a facial expression, it too would be a sneer, or perhaps a snarl. Since last Saturday, Yameen has launched a vicious and full scale attack against Nasheed, accusing him of being irreligious and a threat to national sovereignty. Apart from trying to bribe the police and military with free housing and healthcare, Yameen hasn’t had a single positive word to say about what he would do if elected president.

Is Nasheed really that bad? Or is Yameen trying to draw everyone’s attention to Anni because he doesn’t want people focusing too closely on himself? Because when you dig a little into Yameen’s past, and the nature of his character, you tend to end up in a very dark place.

Some of the most shocking revelations come from the people Yameen is now desperately trying to woo onto his side: the Jumhoree Party.

According to JP official Ahmed “Maaz” Saleem, such was the rampant corruption that existed under Yameen’s watch when Trade Minister that major foreign investors quit the country, including Shell Oil and German investors who wanted to build ‘Maldives Media City’.

Gasim’s running mate, Hassan Saeed, said if he came to power he would put Yameen on trial over his involvement in the alleged theft of $800 million dollars worth of oil, money that should have gone into building schools, hospitals and harbours.

The scale of this alleged theft is staggering: the entire annual government budget is only US $1 billion. Yameen is accused of stealing 80 percent of it!

Nasheed’s government hired international experts Grant Thornton to investigate the chares and recover the money. What they uncovered is shocking.

When he was head of STO, responsible for the country’s oil shipments, Yameen allegedly set up a shell company in Singapore called Mocom Trading. Shady characters were involved, such as the former head of Malaysian military intelligence. Mocom would buy oil using STO’s money but instead of bringing it to Maldives, they sold it to the military junta in Burma, which was then under international sanctions because of its human rights abuses.

The huge profits generated from this illegal trade were stashed in secret bank accounts in Singapore. According to revelations published in the Indian media, Yameen was the “kingpin” of this vast criminal operation.

Most concerning, the oil was sold to people in Burma who were involved in the heroin trade. One such person was Tun Myint Naing, otherwise known as Steven Law. The United States calls Law’s father, Lo Hsing Han, the “Golden Triangle Heroin Baron”. Both Law and his dad are banned from traveling to America because of their links to drug dealing.

Yameen’s STO oil racket happened in the mid 1990s – the exact time when Maldives was flooded with ‘brown sugar’ heroin. This raises the question: did Yameen sell the Maldives’ oil to Steven Law for dollars, or did the son of the “Golden Triangle Heroin Baron” give something else in exchange for the oil? And was that something else shipped to Maldives, sold on Male’s streets, and did it end up harming so many of our young people?

Certainly, Yameen’s rival in the PPM primary race, Umar Naseer, seems to think so. Umar – who claims Yameen rigged the contest to become PPM’s presidential candidate – says Yameen “is involved in drug trafficking and commissioning gangs to cut down political opponents.”

The alleged links to Male’s violent street gangs hangs around Yameen like a bad and persistent smell. Along with the allegations of corruption and drug dealing, they point to a dark and sinister man: more of a mafiosi than a politician; a don rather than a democrat.

And then we have Yameen’s role in the abuse of the Sheikhs. Religious conservatives were brutally suppressed under Gayoom’s rule. Many were jailed, beaten and tortured. Gayoom’s security forces would forcibly shave off people’s beards and rub chili powder into their faces. Yameen served in his brother’s cabinet for years. But he never once lifted a finger to stop the abuse or utter a single word of condemnation. His current attack on Nasheed’s Islamic credentials has the distinct ring of hypocrisy.

Perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps all these rumours and allegations are just that: rumours. Perhaps Yameen is as gentle as a doting grandpa. On 28 September, the people will give their verdict. We will find out if we are willing to place our families’ future in the hands of the man behind the sneer.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]