The newly elected presidential candidate of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdulla Yameen on Tuesday night delivered his first address to supporters following the conclusion of the primaries.
“Our motto is ‘nation first’”, Yameen stated. “Any other parties who genuinely want to join us can come knock on our door anytime. You are welcome at any time, whether it be day or late at night.”
“I am not trying to be elected President for want of a castle. I don’t want such a palace. It is also not with the intention of challenging competitors. This is why I’m telling my opponent in the party itself, too, to stop competing with me. I do not intend to compete with anyone. I am here to fight the battle of solving the many issues our country is facing now,” Yameen said.
“I want to repair the damaged social fabric of this country. I want to bring Maldives out of this failing democracy, save it from the impeding dictatorship and establish a modern democracy as facilitated by the systems set in place by our Constitution. We do not want a phobiocracy. We want development and modernisation.”
While the losing candidate who contested against Yameen, Umar Naseer, held his own rally on Monday night, PPM announced Tuesday’s rally to be “the first gathering held by the party after the primaries”.
The statement was made after Naseer aired serious allegations against Yameen during Monday night’s rally, accusing him of a variety of offences including forming alliances with drug cartels, vote buying and various other forms of corruption.
Meanwhile, the party’s council released a ruling after an emergency meeting held Tuesday afternoon, ordering Umar Naseer to offer a public apology for the comments he had made and for holding a gathering ‘against the party’s regulations’ before the commencement of Wednesday night’s official rally.
The council further ruled that should Naseer fail to put forward an apology within the assigned duration, the council would take further disciplinary action against him.
Umar Naseer was not responding to calls at the time of press. Local media has meanwhile reported that he refused to comment on the matter.
Playing in defence
“Many attacks have come at me from inside and out. I do not wish to defend myself, but I will make some comments here for your sake, as you should know the character of the person to whom you have pledged support,” Yameen told the crowds.
“I swear upon Allah that none of the things I have been alleged of doing can be proven against me. I am here with much more stability than that. If I had such actions on my conscience, I would not have stepped out for public service.”
“Just so as to offer consolation for you all, I am saying this. I am not a rich man. I do not own apartments in other countries. I do not control gangs. I am not involved in the illegal drug trade. I do not have even a small connection with the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali,” Yameen said.
“I would like to add that for the sake of our party, let us stop making allegations like this. We are far more responsible and well-established to be making comments of this nature.”
“Most democratic primaries ever held”: Gayoom
PPM Party Leader former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom addressed the hundreds of party supporters at the rally, stating that the recently concluded party primaries were “the most responsible, free and fair, transparent primaries ever held by a political party in the country to date.”
“Both candidates who competed in the primaries showed high competitiveness in the spirit of democracy,” Gayoom stated.
“These historic, free and extremely fair primaries were won by Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. I congratulate him in your name and mine,” Gayoom continued.
“At the same time, Umar Naseer, who could not win the primaries, also contacted me via phone after the results were announced. He said to me that he accepted the results, and extended congratulations to Abdulla Yameen. He further said he believed the primaries had proceeded in a very fair manner. Naseer also said that the campaign office he had built was from that moment on gifted to PPM, and hence I would like to thank him for the democratic example he has displayed with these actions,” he stated.
Both Gayoom and Yameen have claimed that the party has 31,000 “genuine” members now, and called on the members to each find two new members by the end of May.
“This is not difficult. If we each get two more members, we will soon have 93,000 members and with a little more effort we can easily achieve 100,000,” Gayoom said.
“Our party has the highest number of genuine members now. By that I mean that all 31,000 of our members have submitted complete details of themselves to authorities, including even their fingerprints. The other parties have not done so,” Gayoom alleged.
Official figures on the Elections Commission website show that PPM currently has 22,383 members, with an additional 1671 forms awaiting clearance.
“Our loyalties should be to the party, not to Maumoon”: Gayoom
“Our party always acts in accordance with law and regulations, and it must continue to do so,” Gayoom said. “All party members must follow the party’s regulations. No one is above these regulations. We are obliged to act in accordance with the regulations, or else people will start acting as they please, which would lead us astray from our objectives.”
Gayoom referred to the breaking up of his previous party Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) into factions, stating that he had made a stand for Umar Naseer when DRP had tried to dismiss him from the party in breach of their regulations.
“I stood up for his rights, but then DRP started acting towards me in a very demeaning manner. They went on TV and said they did not need me, my advice or opinions. And so, I had to leave that party. This is an experience I have had related to the importance of following regulations.”
“Article 69 of our regulation states clearly that all PPM members must pledge allegiance to the presidential candidate. We cannot say that we will support him if he acts in any particular way. That is simply not an option,” Gayoom said.
“Our loyalties should not lie with an individual. It should not be pledged to a certain Maumoon, or to anyone besides Maumoon. It should be towards the party itself, with our policies and principles,” he stated.
Furthermore, Yameen called out to Naseer to work with him to lead the party to further successes.
“We were able to win 17 of 20 recent by-elections. This is because of the strength of having worked together, which is why I call out to Umar Naseer to come work with us,” Yameen said.
“The primaries were a test of character of the whole party and its individual members,” Yameen said. “We must not let any weakness seep into the party. Our brother Naseer, who was unfortunate this time and lost the primaries, must also display his test of character now. Our party is larger than any of us individuals,” he continued.
“My biggest strength is that our fountain of wealth, fountain of experience, party leader Gayoom, is here to guide me and our party and lead us. This is my ultimate happiness,” Yameen stated.
Autism Awareness Day
With April 2 declared Autism Awareness Day and marked widely throughout the Maldives, many speakers at the rally pledged support to families with autistic patients.
“Today is the internationally marked day for families with autistic kids to raise awareness in countries of the challenges that they face. Thus, in commemoration of this day, I really wish to extend my heartfelt sympathies, love and support to such children, and so I have now done that,” Gayoom stated.
Presidential candidate Yameen said in his speech, “This is the Autistic Day, isn’t it? If one is not autistic, whichever way one looks, one would doubtless see the development that has been brought to this country in the 30 years.”
Yamin’s comments, though applauded at the rally, were criticised in social media as being offensive and insensitive.
Responding to criticism and demands for an apology, PPM Spokesperson Ahmed Mahloof initially tweeted “Yameen’s comments on autism are being twisted by MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party) members after watching our rally and not being able to digest it.”
He then tweeted an apology on behalf of Yameen, stating “Yameen apologises if there was any misinterpretation of his comments with regard to autism.”
Yameen has since released an official statement on Wednesday, echoing Mahloof’s allegations of political opponents distorting his words and apologising if there was room for misinterpretation.
He also pledged to advocate for the rights of persons with special rights, and offered assurance that such persons will be given equal opportunities in the instance that PPM wins the September 7 elections.