The government has announced that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom will receive the country’s “highest honour” – the Nishaan Ghaazeege Izzaiytheri Veriyaa (NGIV).
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad confirmed to Minivan News that the decision to bestow former President Gayoom with the NGIV was approved at a cabinet meeting held yesterday (July 16). He stressed however that the timing of the award was not related to recent political events such as criticism of President Waheed by the Gayoom-led Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
According to Masood, previous recipients of the NGIV have included former Maldives President Ibrahim Nasir and present British monarch Queen Elizabeth II.
Gayoom presently serves as leader of the PPM, which is part of the coalition government and the second largest party in the country in terms of MP numbers.
While aligned with the government, the PPM has on numerous occasions in recent months publicly criticised President Waheed and some of his decisions as head of state. The party has most notably accused the president of using state resources to gain an unfair campaign advantage ahead of this year’s presidential election, as well as not listening to the advice of his coalition partners on key foreign investment issues.
The PPM confirmed earlier this week that it was yet to make a formal decision on whether to discuss retracting support for the coalition government, despite receiving a number of complaints from members about the conduct of President Waheed.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood rejected any suggestion that the decision to award the NGIV honour to Gayoom was related to the party’s recent criticisms of the government.
He said figures chosen to receive the honour were nominated by members of the public and then processed through the country’s bureaucratic system, before being forwarded to the cabinet for approval.
Masood added that very few dignitaries had so far been presented with the award, though he suggested that former President Mohamed Nasheed, who controversially resigned from government in February 2012 on the back of a mutiny by sections of the police and military, may also be in contention for the honour at some point.
“I hope and pray Mr Nasheed will one day get [the NGIV] as well,” Masood said.
Minivan News was awaiting a response from former Home Minister and current PPM vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed at time of press.
Not a “major issue”: opposition MDP
Responding to news of the honour today, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said it did not see former President Gayoom receiving the NGIV as a “major issue” at the present time. The MDP accuses Gayoom during his autocratic rule of numerous human rights abuses such as the imprisonment and torture of his opponents.
Speaking at a rally today, the MDP’s candidate for this year’s election, former President Nasheed, noted that the NGIV was traditionally given to figures in honour of efforts to protect the independence of the Maldives.
Although he questioned Gayoom’s role in protecting national independence, Nasheed said that as one the most prominent “elder statesmen” in Maldivian politics, the former president was an appropriate candidate for the honour.
Gayoom oversaw 30 years of autocratic rule in the Maldives, before losing to a coalition backing former President Nasheed in the second round of the country’s first ever multi-party democratic election in 2008.
The MDP has previously maintained that Gayoom has been a key figure behind the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, which the party has claimed was a “coup d’etat.”
The allegations were rejected last year by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry.