Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef has said that the party’s “honorary leader”, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has not disclosed how he aims to campaign for them ahead of next month’s local council elections upon returning to the country last week.
Shareef said that following the return of the former president to the Maldives on Friday night the party had not discussed the role Gayoom might play for them during the upcoming contest.
“He [Gayoom] is our honorary leader and enormously popular right now,” said Shareef. “While we will appreciate his help during campaigning, we have not been informed of his plans right now.”
Thousands of supporters holding posters of the former president and banners gathered near the presidential jetty to welcome Gayoom on Friday after it was announced last month that he would return to campaigning for the party during the local council elections.
At Male’ International Airport’s VIP lounge, the former president gave a brief interview to the media on his return along with his views on the latest political issues like the war of words between current DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and former Deputy Umar Naseer. Naseer was dismissed from the party by its disciplinary committee late last year.
The animosity between the two political figures appeared to come to a head last month amidst reports of violence at a meeting held at DRP headquarters between rival supporters loyal to either Thasmeen and Naseer over gaining entry to the event.
Gayoom told the media that there were no fractions forming within the DRP and added that he would describe the developments more as disputes. He also denied completely retiring from political life.
”I am still in the position of honorary leader of DRP, and it is also the highest position in the party, therefore, it is the responsibility of the head of the party to work for the unity of the party and for the progress of the party,” he said.
Gayoom was also questioned about allegations that the party’s deputy leader and leader – Abdulla Shahid and Ahmed Thasmeen Ali respectively – had travelled to India to meet senior officials of infrastructure giant GMR in relation to their opposition of a privatisation agreement with the government to manage Male’ International Airport.
Gayoom said that he received the information that Shahid was in India and when he enquired about the Deputy Leader’s location, Shahid replied to him via text message that he was in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The DRP is itself involved in a coalition of opposition parties like the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Jumhooree Party (JP) and the People’s Alliance (PA) against the privatisation agreement with GMR on the grounds of nationalistic interests.
Gayoom arrived in the Maldives whilst the DRP was holding the official launch ceremony of its Local Council Campaign, a function that the former president said he was unaware of.