The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held one of the largest political rallies in the country’s recent history on Friday (April 19) to celebrate the signing of Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid as a member.
Shahid announced he was joining the opposition MDP Thursday (April 18), after resigning from the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) earlier in the week.
He yesterday addressed thousands of supporters gathered at the Alimas Carnival area of Male’ in his first address since signing with the party at a special rally entitled ‘A New Strength’.
“I am here today with renewed resolve to give new hope to the Maldivian people. I am here with you brave warriors to do all I can to find the best means for the people of the Maldives,” said Shahid,
“In 2008, a flicker of hope was kindled in the hearts of the Maldivian people. A window to democracy was opened. Maldivians used the light of this flame and the opportunities of this window to experience the beautiful gardens of democracy,” Shahid continued.
“As our hearts yearned to stay in these gardens for good, an attempt was made to try and close this window. An attempt was made to extinguish that glow of hope in people’s hearts. It was the courageous members of MDP who obstructed the powerful forces that tried to close this window to democracy.”
“Today, I am here with all of you brave, steadfast warriors to prevent that window from being closed,” Shahid stated.
In his first speech at a MDP podium, Shahid stated that many of his supporters, as well as “many young, assertive technocrats” who have worked with him, were now in the process of joining MDP alongside him.
“People from all over the Maldives called me upon hearing that I have joined the Maldivian Democratic Party. They told me that this decision of mine is in the best interests of the nation at this moment, and assured me that they will join this party with me,” he added, to loud applause from party supporters.
Will not them enslave us in the name of religion and nationalism: Shahid
“The strongest tool used to oppress citizens is to instill fear in their hearts, to make them weak psychologically, to create mistrust between each other, to create a culture of doubt and unrest. It is not surprising that these tactics are being used in our Maldives today,” Shahid said, criticising the present government and its coalition parties.
“The aim of these tactics is to make people lose faith in the democracy that rose in the Maldives, to delude people into thinking that democracy is a useless concept. And along with this, to utilize the ensuing chaos to usurp the power of the people, and to prevent the establishment of an administration that will work for the betterment of the people.”
“I want to say to those orchestrating such actions, that today, the Maldivian people will not give you the opportunity to pull that off. Today, Maldivians will not move away from democracy. They will not give up the powers of the people,” Shahid stated.
Shahid, who has previously spoken out against the MDP and its supporters, stated his reasons for now joining the party on Friday. He claimed that he had taken the decision as the MDP was the only party that can move the country forward and bring development through its policies and democratic values.
“Allegations that [MDP] is working to undermine the religion of Islam, and the independence and sovereignty of the country are made with the intention of spreading such fear,” Shahid said of the criticisms, which continue to be levied against MDP by its political opponents.
“The easiest way out [for them] is to talk about the fear of losing independence or sovereignty. The minute anybody says a word, they are labelled a traitor, or an enemy. That’s all there is to it. In a space like this, we must question why this happens. In some other countries which are now developed, we saw people being enslaved under the name of religion and nationalism. We will not give them the opportunity to do that to us here,” he stated.
Shahid said that at a time when the Maldives had “more scholars than ever before seen in Islamic history”, rather than spread fear, it is vital to disseminate information that Islam is the religion of science, progress and development.
“Be it independence, or sovereignty, they only exist because of us citizens. They are things that exist for the sake of citizens. Those that speak of protecting sovereignty and independence today, without shedding light on the significance of the citizens, do so because they have nothing more they can speak of, because they do not have any plans or policies for the people. This is something that the Maldivian people will no longer accept,” he continued.
“We are now interconnected with the world. We will not let them isolate us from the world, and take us backwards.”
In conclusion of his speech, Shahid echoed the words of MDP leaders and stated, “The Presidential Elections are right in front of us. I can assure you with certainty that we will win that election from the first round itself. The reason why I am so sure of this is because of the immense support for this party that we see today.”
“Taking off at high speed”
Gesturing at the thousands of supporters which filled the rally grounds on Friday night, Nasheed stated that this was the sight of victory that was being witnessed at that moment.
Welcoming Shahid to the party, Nasheed stated that he is one of the most experienced politicians the country has ever seen.
“This day will be marked in history. This country’s historians and researchers will emphasize the reason why Shahid joined MDP,” Nasheed stated.
“We will not stay still or take half steps. Tighten your seatbelts. We are taking off at high speed and will stop only after taking oath as President once again this coming November. Shahid has left a campaign that proceeds in slow-motion to join one that moves much faster. We won’t go in slow motion. We take 3 feets steps and move with speed,” he said.
Among other speakers at the rally were MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, MP and former Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi and Raa Atoll Councillor Mohamed Waheed.
Shahid’s switch comes almost exactly one year to the day that the opposition MDP submitted an unsuccessful no confidence motion against the speaker, accusing him at the time of making decisions relating to significant parliamentary issues without discussing them with various political parties.
Speaking following the announcement of speaker’s switch on Thursday (April 18), DRP Deputy Leader Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News at the time that the party had no present plans to pursue a no-confidence motion against the speaker as a result of him defecting to the opposition.
However, he claimed that in cases where any politician – whether a speaker or cabinet minister – was deemed to be compromising national issues, then the party “would not hesitate” to take action against them.
Meanwhile, Abdulla Yameen, Parliamentary Group Leader of the government-aligned PPM – the country’s second largest political party after the MDP and minority party of parliament – had his phone switched off today.
Earlier this week, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said he had worked with Shahid for many years and personally found him to be very capable in his position as speaker.
However, he added that he was not sure how his fellow party members or other government-aligned MPs might view his decision to switch to the opposition.