Rival factions of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) have announced concurrent protest marches in Male’ tonight to demonstrate against the government’s decision to allow the rufiya to be traded within 20 percent of the pegged rate of Rf12.85 to the dollar.
Mohamed Hussein Shareef “Mundhu”, spokesman for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, told press yesterday that the ‘Gayoom faction’ will choose a different route to DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction to avoid possible clashes. The largest opposition party has been engulfed in factional strife following its dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.
The march will begin at the tsunami memorial area at 9:00pm, “and we are consulting with police to determine the roads we’ll take,” Mundhu said.
At a rally last night to launch “DRP’s Main Office” near the artificial beach, dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer echoed Mundhu’s appeal earlier in the day for opposition supporters not to join Thasmeen faction’s march.
Both Mundhu and Umar dismissed the rival faction’s planned protest as “a walk by Thasmeen’s family.”
Mundhu further claimed that Thasmeen had refused to authorise DRP protests in the past.
Unlike previous protests, said Umar, tonight’s “peaceful march” would not involve gathering outside presidential residence Muleeage or the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) headquarters, both restricted areas under freedom of assembly regulations and which have previously resulted in violent clashes between authorities and opposition supporters.
Addressing supporters at last night’s rally, Umar accused the DRP Leader of splitting the party, claiming that DRP members were behind former President Gayoom and calling on “everyone working with Thasmeen to get behind Zaeem [Maumoon].”
If DRP members shun activities planned by the Thasmeen faction, Umar said that support for the embattled leader would “wither away.”
Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed argued that if the party’s presidential candidate for 2013 had been chosen through a primary during the DRP’s third congress in March 2010 the current split could have been avoided.
“If it had been done through a primary we wouldn’t have this dissatisfaction among us,” said the Gemanafushi MP. “Therefore, I would say, even if some people are unhappy, we will have a primary. God willing, we will do that before too long.”
Vowing to “cut them down to size,” Ilham alleged that senior DRP members were “making secret deals with the government.”
Thasmeen and his allies should be “ashamed” to talk about the dollar shortage, said Ilham, as a deal had been stuck to raise the value of the dollar “inside [Speaker] Abdulla Shahid’s chambers” when the 2011 budget was passed.
Thasmeen faction’s concurrent rally was announced at press conference yesterday by Deputy Leader Ali Waheed.
While Gayoom factions members have been boycotting its meetings, the DRP Council reportedly passed a resolution last night to require the party’s secretariat approval before using the DRP logo or official seal.
However a defiant Ilham has since told local media that the council did not have the authority to ban a practice not explicitly forbidden in the party charter.
“I am a Deputy Leader elected by ordinary members of the party,” he said. “There is nothing in the party’s charter that says a Deputy Leader can’t use the party’s logo and seal.”