The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has issued a statement condemning an article published in the New York Times, in which journalist by Matthew Saltmarsh described former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as a “looter” and alleged he had misappropriated state funds.
The article further claimed that the present government was working with the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), a joint initiative of the World Bank and the United Nations, to recover US$400 million allegedly stolen by the former administration.
The DRP stated that the repeated accusations of embezzlement leveled at Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom “are the MDP government’s last ditch efforts to resuscitate its waning public support and confidence in the face of its failure to manage the Maldivian economy.”
“The MDP government, in an year and a half of searching through its ‘presidential commission’, has failed to find anything that they can pin against President Gayoom to defame his character. The MDP government will continue to fail in their sinister plots,” the DRP statement read.
“This latest accusation is no different from that by MDP official Hassan Afeef in the run up to the 2008 Presidential Election. A defamation suit was filed against him. It is notable that Afeef has to date ignored the verdict of the court of the set compensation,” the statement noted, adding that “local MDP-controlled newsletter ‘Miadhu’ has also published an article repeating the many lies in Matthew Saltmarsh’s article.”
The party observed that the allegations in the NYT article were largely based on a 2009 report by Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, who “was sacked recently following serious acts of corruption and misappropriation of state funds.”
“It is common knowledge that Naeem’s audit reports were both politically-motivated and riddled with inaccuracies. References from such documents are unbecoming of professional journalists, albeit the MDP government utilises them as handbooks to achieve their political objectives. Furthermore, the fact that Finance Minister Ali Hashim had himself provided the quotes for the article is notable,” the DRP statement said.
“The DRP will take all necessary action to alert the international community to the government’s sinister motives behind the allegations against the Former President. We condemn the government for its continued attempts to shroud its incompetence in running the country behind cheap propaganda gimmicks.”
Speaking to newspaper Haveeru, Gayoom dismissed claims in the audit report as “politically-motivated” and “lies from A to Z”, and vowed to “protect myself from defamation” by taking both Saltmarsh and Hashim to court.
“He [the former Auditor General] issued the reports during the 2008 presidential election with certain political motives,” Gayoom told Haveeru.
“The reports were directly targeted at me with an agenda to attack my dignity, just a day before voting began. Moreover, the reports are definitely questionable, since he was sacked by parliament through a no confidence motion,” Gayoom said, insisting he had “never abused state funds.”
Government could be seeking US assistance
Meanwhile, newspaper Miadhu carried unverified claims this morning that Hashim, along with Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed, Home Minister Mohamed Shihab and Attorney General Husnu Suood, had rendezvoused in Europe to meet with FBI officials “at an unidentified location in the European continent.”
Hashim told Minivan News he had nothing to clarify as he had “never met FBI officials anywhere in the world.”
The Foreign Minister appeared to be in no hurry to dispel the rumours, however.
“Should that meeting have taken place, obviously we wouldn’t be talking about it,” Dr Shaheed said. “What I can say is that the government is serious about reclaiming stolen assets, and we’re very confident it will happen really quickly.”
He said he doubted Gayoom or the DRP had a viable case against the NYT.
“The DRP should consider the distinct international legalities governing past and present politicians, particularly heads of state. Mr Gayoom should recognise that people in such positions will face criticism.”
“I don’t think they are serious,” he said. “In defamation lawsuits the onus is on public figures to prove malicious intent or reckless disregard for the truth. One must have a lot of money to hire a hotshot lawyer capable of proving that against a particular article by the NYT.”