Minivan News spends 15 Minutes with Shaheem, spokesperson for the newly-registered Adhaalath (Justice) Party.
MN: Weâ€™ve heard that youâ€™re boycotting the all-party meetings to discuss the Political Parties Bill. Is this true?
Shaheem: The invitation to attend these meetings was extended with the understanding that these meetings would include the three registered political parties. However we failed to see the delegates from one party. Hence we notified the chair [Attorney-General Hassan Saeed, head of the Law Commission who held the meeting] of that. We did not wish the meeting to go on. It is the MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party] delegates who have failed to attend. In reality the MDP is one party who are doing a considerable amount of work to establish a fair democracy in the Maldives. Hence we do not wish the meeting to continue in their absence. Once we notified the chair they decided not to continue with the meeting. They stated that they would try to hold an all-party gathering on the 22nd of this month. They left the door open until the 22nd for written comments about the regulations pertaining to political parties to be submitted.
MN: Will you be prepared to participate in the meeting on the 22nd if MDP Chairperson Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) remains under arrest?
Shaheem: We have always stated that the government should release Anni. Thatâ€™s the Adhaalath Partyâ€™s position. Those arrested in connection with the events of August 12/13 were arrested for political reasons. If they were arrested for going against the law then it isnâ€™t legal. Thatâ€™s the way we interpret it. Hence we have always called upon the government to release them with immediate effect. About your question â€“ we have not yet reached a decision on it.
MN: Are you prepared to submit in writing to the Attorney-General your thoughts on the Political Parties Bill as he has suggested or will you also boycott this as the MDP is doing?
Shaheem: In reality whatâ€™s happening now is our senior-most people are presently in Fua Mulaku to open a branch. Theyâ€™ll be coming to Maleâ€™ today. We are having a committee meeting tomorrow to discuss this. So weâ€™ve not reached a decision on that issue. As soon as we reach a decision we can inform you or anyone else in the media.
We hope to discuss these issues [the Political Parties Bill] in a meeting in a friendly atmosphere in the presence of delegates from all three parties. Considering that we are trying to establish an entirely new system we will need the assistance and co-operation of everyone at this juncture. We do not wish to go ahead while sidelining one party.
MN: Can you tell us about the main point of discussions held during yesterdayâ€™s Adhaalath Party press conference?
Shaheem: At 10.15 last night we had a press meeting at our temporary office yesterday. We wished to enlighten the public and the press about our previous meeting with the Law Commission as the government media had misinterpreted what we had said. That was the reason for last nightâ€™s press conference. We answered the questions posed by the press in a fit manner. Our answers would cover the meeting as well as policy issues.
MN: Did you call for President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom or the governmentâ€™s resignation during the press conference?
Shaheem: Yes. We, on behalf of our party had strongly voiced that all political prisoners be released. We do not feel that we would be able to continue this peacefully otherwise. Hence in the interests of the reforms we are pursuing we call upon the government to dissolve/resign and appoint an interim government.
MN: How do you feel about the way your party has been reported in the government press, such as Haveeru and Aafathis?
Shaheem: It is quite clear to us that the press coverage by the media is very much one sided. And Haveeru had not given a complete report of the Law Commission meeting. They barely touched the surface. There was no mention of the Adhaalath party. Everything is very biased. We want a free and fair press. How else can the truth be told? It is very wrong for newspapers to be in supportive of a certain group. We donâ€™t support it. We want a free and fair press. When the reporting is biased you cannot in all fairness say itâ€™s reporting.
MN: According to the Constitution, it is the President who holds the mandate on defining issues of religion. Does the Adhaalath Party think Gayoom is able to fulfill this duties in a fit manner?
Shaheem: According to article 38 of the constitution it is the President that is fully empowered to define issues of religion. In the Maldives the current status is such that religion has slid back a long way. There is a great loss of respect for the tenets of religion and society is riddled with corruption. Our youth are addicted to drugs; theft, robbery and other criminal activities are common. There are so many massage parlors. The one thing we can deduce from all this is that the powers empowered to the President in defining issues of religion are not utilized in an apt way. He is to be held accountable.
In our meeting we had expressed this reality. Hence we call for broader powers for the Supreme Council dealing with issues of Islam. And the character of the Supreme Council should be free and protected and should be empowered to act in the service of Islam throughout the Maldives.
We have called for the Supreme to appoint the most learned people in the Maldives as members. And we have also called for the Supreme Council to be made the 4th power in the separation of powers. It has to be made a separate power. It has to be a separate, free and sovereign power of the stateâ€¦ While we talk of the separation of 3 powers I propose that this be made the 4th power. It does not mean that religion is separated from the state. Our call is for an Islamic state to protect religion by giving it a separate character.
MN: Can you tell us how close the Adhaalath Party and the Maldivian Democratic Party are policy-wise?
Shaheem: Actually the Adhaalath Party is an independent and sovereign party. The Adhaalath Party does not necessarily conform to the views of others. Adhaalath Party will only back anyone working to institute fairness and justice. Whether it is the DRP or the MDP, the Adhaalath Party will assist anyone from not deviating from the path of righteousness.
In the same manner if Adhaalath Party deviates from the path of righteousness, other parties have the right to work to get Adhaalath to conform to the path of righteousness. Therefore we will maintain friendly relations with all parties. That is the relationship we have with everyone who seeks reform. There are no connections with any party â€“ political or otherwise â€“ up to now. We do not belong to any particular party. We are an independent sovereign power.
MN: Would you be prepared to work with the MDP to quash the injustices in the Maldives?
Shaheem: Yes. Against all injusticesâ€¦ We will co-operate in any work done to quash injustices. We will support anyone â€“ whether it is the MDP or the DRP â€“ working to institute fairness, justice and democracy in the Maldives. We applaud them. We call upon everyone to work to bring about reform within the framework of the Constitution; while abiding by the law.
MN: if the government were to change would you be prepared to work with the MDP during a changeover?
Shaheem: We have not entertained such thoughts yet â€“ to partake in a coalition. If the nation should come to such a juncture, then we will think about it.