A meeting of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) last night came to blows when Umar Naseer, the party’s Deputy Leader prior to his dismissal by the party’s disciplinary committee, and his supporters gatecrashed the venue.
The meeting was being held in celebration of last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, which saw seven cabinet ministers departing their posts after their reappointments were disapproved by the opposition-majority parliament.
“We don’t really know what happened,” said Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam, of last night’s incident at Ghiyasuddin International School.
“We know the Vice President of the DRP Umar Naseer tried to enter and there was some disturbance inside. People tried to attack each other but police intervened.”
Shiyam noted that while some people were claiming to have been injured in the fighting, “police haven’t received any official reports.”
“There was damage to chairs and a table,” he said, but added that police would not be following the matter “as no one has requested an investigation.”
Local media reported that a glass table in front of DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali was smashed after supporters of Naseer forced their way into the venue while former Attorney General Azima Shukoor was speaking.
According to newspaper Haveeru, Shukoor called an end to the meeting and described the clash as a “dark and regretful” night in the party’s history.
Deputy Leader of the DRP and Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef alleged today that Umar Naseer was attempting to attack and hurt Thasmeen during the meeting, which he said was attended by 3000 people.
“There were two stages – at first [Naseer’s] supporters came in; there were about 25-30 of them. 40-50 including his security detail,” Shareef said.
“There was uproar and both Thasmeen and the Speaker [Abdulla Shahid] were removed by their security detail.”
Naseer’s dismissal from the party was followed by an acrimonious war of words with Thasmeen and allegations that he and Shahid were bribed by GMR – allegations Shareef described as “totally fake”, and “ a dirty tactic to discredit the Speaker and the Party Leader.”
The dismissal of Naseer led DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf to speculate last week that “there will be a split in the party for sure.”
“[Naseer] is someone with a lot of support in the party, and to date he has done a lot of work for us. He is very loyal to the former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom,” Mahlouf said.
Shareef alleged today that the main goal of Umar Naseer and his supporters was now “to dislodge Thasmeen from the leadership of the party.”
“They are urging people not to vote for the official DRP candidates in the local council elections, over SMS and telephone,” he said.
“They are doing everything they can to rebel, and hope to change the party’s constitution in the 2012 congress so they can elect their man to the leadership post.”
He acknowledged that the factional fighting could have a have “a negative impact on our election prospects [in the local council elections], but not that much.”
“”Thasmeen as a leader is cool-headed and wise, and does not use such populist tactics,” Shareef said.
“We know that some of the new government’s policies are not right, such as the airport concession for GMR. But at the same time we would not support a hijacking of the airport – we have to use legal means and not damage the nation’s economy. We will not use terror tactics.”
Shareef observed that Naseer were saying they had the backing of “the Honorary Leader” – former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
“We don’t know how true that is,” Shareef said. “I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest – including that of the Honorary Leader – for us not to unite and win the election.”
Shareef said he had observed among Naseer’s supporters “many activists belonging to the coalition [People’s Alliance] party”, which is led by the former President’s brother in-law, Abdulla Yameen, and together gives the opposition its parliamentary majority.
Despite the coalition partnership, Yameen filed a civil court case against Thasmeen in February seeking repayment of debts, reported in local media to be around US$100,000.
“I don’t know how involved the coalition leadership is in this,” Shareef said, adding that he did not believe the present factional infighting would jeopardise the coalition or its parliamentary majority.
Rather, he said, “I think the dispute comes from a belief that we are not being aggressive enough, that there is not enough direct activism, and that therefore we are not fighting the government.”
“Our view is that if the government is doing something good for the nation, we will back them. We believe we have a role to help govern.”
Umar Naseer and DRP MPs Mahlouf, Ilham Ahmed and Ahmed Nihan were not responding to calls at time of press.