President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik will become the presidential candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) with the backing of its leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, former President Mohamed Nasheed has predicted.
Speaking at a rally in Shaviyani Foakaidhoo on Saturday night during the on-going ‘Journey of Pledges’ northern tour, Nasheed alleged that his former vice president held secret consultations with PPM interim leader and figurehead, former President Gayoom, before the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7.
“Dr Waheed has been scheming with President Maumoon for about two years, that I know of,” Nasheed said. “Sometimes in an uninhabited island in Baa Atoll, other times in Alivaage [Gayoom’s former residence]. They have been discussing and talking in different places. Anyone who thinks of carrying out a coup d’etat will know that one thing you need for it is a disloyal vice president.”
Nasheed noted that the post of vice president was not included in the old constitution that was twice revised during Gayoom’s 30-year rule.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate reiterated his allegation that Gayoom orchestrated a “coup d’etat through Dr Waheed” on February 7.
A week before Nasheed’s resignation in the wake of riot police assaulting MDP members and ransacking the party’s meeting hall followed by a police mutiny at Republic Square, Dr Waheed met with opposition politicians at his official residence at 1:00am, after which they pledged allegiance to the then-vice president and called on the security forces not to obey then-President Nasheed.
“In my view, Maumoon is trying to make Dr Waheed PPM’s presidential candidate,” Nasheed said on Saturday night.
He added that Gayoom’s intention was to rule by proxy, alluding to a sultan who wielded power through a sibling on the throne while residing in Egypt.
Nasheed suggested that PPM’s presidential primary was being pushed back because PPM parliamentary group leader, presidential hopeful and half-brother of Gayoom, Abdulla Yameen, would not accept Waheed becoming the party’s candidate.
Addressing party members at a rally on Thursday night to celebrate PPM’s first anniversary, Yameen reportedly claimed that PPM was the only party within the ruling coalition that was defending the government and expressed disappointment with the coalition becoming “fractured.”
Yameen also called on the government to “immediately” terminate the controversial border control system agreement with Malaysian company Nexbis and contended that the project was detrimental to the state.
The parliament’s minority leader also criticised the government’s hesitancy to cancel the agreement despite the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (AAC’s) findings of alleged corruption in the deal.
Local media meanwhile reported that parliament’s Finance Committee decided during a closed-door session on Thursday to instruct the executive to halt the project. The decision would however have to be approved through a vote on the Majlis floor following consideration of a report by the committee.
In September, the ACC informed the committee that the deal would cost the Maldives MVR 2.5 billion (US$162 million) in potential lost revenue over the lifetime of the contract.
Following its investigation into alleged corruption in awarding of the contract to Nexbis, the ACC requested the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) press criminal charges against former Controller of Immigration Ilyas Hussain, brother-in-law of President Waheed.
Almost a year after the case was forwarded to the PGO however, no charges have been pressed against the former immigration chief to date. The ACC alleged that Ilyas Hussain had abused his authority for undue financial gain.
Ilyas – a senior member of Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ihtihad Party (GIP) – was transferred from the post under President Nasheed when the corruption allegations first surfaced.
His successor Abdulla Shahid expressed concern over both the cost and necessity of the project, calculating that with continued growth in tourist numbers Nexbis would be earning US$200 million in revenue over the 20 year lifespan of the agreement.
Following Dr Waheed’s swearing-in as president on February 7, Ilyas was reappointed controller of immigration. He was however replaced in May with Dr Mohamed Ali and appointed State Minister for Defence.
Former President Nasheed meanwhile alleged in his speech on Saturday that Dr Waheed’s GIP’s Deputy Leader Mohamed ‘Nazaki’ Zaki was complicit in the corrupt dealings in his role as Ambassador to Malaysia.
“Before the [border control] system was established, before there was even a contract in effect, I later heard that equipment was kept in some warehouses in Male’,” he said, claiming that the warehouses were owned by Nazaki Zaki.
Nasheed added that he “agreed completely with Yameen” that the allegations should be investigated.
Meanwhile, PPM announced in October that its first national congress has been postponed for a third time. The party’s charter however stipulates that a congress must be held within six months of its formation to elect leaders, after which a primary would take place to select a candidate for the upcoming presidential election.
Local daily Haveeru reported a source within the party citing “political turmoil” as the reason for the delay.
The party held its inaugural convention in October 2011.
“What I have said is that our administration supports the earliest date for Presidential elections allowed under the Constitution. That in my mind will be July, 2013. I am hoping that the election will be at that time,” he was quoted as saying.
In the same month, former President Gayoom publicly welcomed the prospect of Dr Waheed competing in a primary for the party’s ticket.
In May, PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer told local media that Dr Waheed could potentially become the party’s presidential candidate. Naseer however claimed earlier that Waheed would not stand for re-election.
Dr Waheed is currently leader of the GIP, which has no representation in either the People’ Majlis or local councils and just 2,515 registered members, according to the latest figures from the Elections Commission (EC).
By comparison, PPM currently has 17,486 members and is the minority party in parliament. The party has also won nine out of 12 by-elections held since its inception last year.
Speaking at the PPM rally last week, Gayoom urged senior leaders of the party to be mindful of the party’s unity during the upcoming primary. The party’s national congress is now scheduled for January 2013.
In his speech, Nasheed meanwhile urged MDP members to begin the presidential campaign with the consideration that PPM’s candidate will be Dr Waheed with Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Leader Dr Hassan Saeed as his running mate.
“This is how I see the picture,” he said. “I am someone who tries to study how President Maumoon does thing. I don’t believe that things could transpire differently after this.”
Nasheed went on to say that the MDP would “easily” beat Dr Waheed as the PPM’s presidential candidate in 2013.
The former President observed that PPM’s strength was in “small islands” and the “the smaller the island, the more support it has,” which was akin to “a disease” that causes the tormented to defe the tormenter.
However, Nasheed noted that in the local council elections in February 2011, MDP won nine out of 11 seats in the Male’ City Council, all six seats in the Addu City Council and made clean sweeps of a number of larger inhabited islands such as Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal atoll and Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll.