Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has claimed that international calls for early elections are driven by a “special motive” that poses a direct threat to the Maldives’ sovereignty and religious heritage.
Gayoom, currently the leader of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), alleged that during his 30 year reign, international parties had always been attempting to influence the Maldives because of its 100 percent Muslim status.
The comments were made during a PPM rally on the island of Guraidhoo, Thaa atoll, where people had gathered to celebrate a weekend parliamentary by-election victory for the party.
Reporting from the island, Minivan News’ Hawwa Lubna witnessed hundreds of people in the audience for Gayoom’s address, which was made ahead of a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) today.
The ministerial action group is expected to discuss the controversial transfer of power that brought President Waheed into office on February 7 amongst a number of issues during today’s meeting.
CMAG was last month accused by members of President Waheed’s government of showing “bias” towards certain political parties in calling for general elections as early as possible to resolve questions over the administrations legitimacy.
The calls follow allegations by former President Mohamed Nasheed that he was removed from office in a “coup d’etat” on February 7 after sections of the military and police mutinied.
On the back of international pressure for fresh polling, Gayoom has claimed that the PPM – as part of the national unity government bought to power under President Waheed – has been given a public mandate following the weekend’s by elections.
Speaking at Monday night’s rally held to celebrate party candidate Ahmed Shareef’s win in the Thimarafushi parliamentary by-election, Gayoom contended that the “by-elections are the early elections”.
“The results prove PPM has the support of people,” the former president said.
Gayoom therefore argued that there was no room for early elections in the country, adding that the next constitutionally mandated election should be held in 2013.
“We must not not talk about holding an election which the constitution does not allow. However, several foreign parties are calling for this [early elections]. They are talking about it with a special motive,” Gayoom claimed.
“We must protect our sovereignty. We must protect our independence. We must not let anyone [foreigners] to intervene in our internal affairs.”
Gayoom also alleged that “different foreign parties are influencing Maldives because we are a 100 percent Muslim nation” and added that he “knows clearly why the international community is attempting by different means to restore Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s rule.”
“A very reliable person had told me former [President Nasheed’s] government had said that within a year of them coming to power, a church, a Christian church will be built in Maldives. But [Nasheed] could not do it,” Gayoom claimed.
Nasheed’s opponents have repeatedly accused his government of cooperating with “Christian missionaries” and “Jewish parties” to “wipe out Islam” from the Maldives.
Meanwhile, Gayoom further alleged that even during his 30 year rule, several foreign parties had “offered money” in return for implementing their proposals in Maldives, although he did not articulate on those proposals.
“But I put the nation’s interest first. I put the nation’s independence first. No matter how much money was offered, how many things they proposed to do in return, we did not want to give even the smallest part of our land. We did not want to handover any part of our independence to foreigners.” Gayoom contended.
The comments by Gayoom, who served in office for thirty years before being voted out in the country’s first democratic general election in 2008, mirrored earlier claims by the government that presidential elections were not needed this year – despite international calls to the contrary.
The government said that it believed victory for its coalition partners in the weekend’s two parliamentary by-elections was a clear indication of its “mandate” amongst the Maldivian people to remain in power until 2013.
Government spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza additionally called on international bodies like CMAG to take the results of the polls into consideration this week when reflecting on the need for fresh national polls.
From a government perspective, Abbas claimed that the two parliamentary and two island council by-elections should be seen as a “vote of confidence” by the public in the national unity government made up of several national parties.
Following CMAG’s calls last month for early elections to be held in the Maldives at the earliest date possible, the government said it was concerned over the “language” used by the commonwealth in its statement.
The President’s Office said that although it was not for the time being looking to leave the Commonwealth, it added that such a move could be considered if CMAG continued to use similar language in the future.
“If this language continues, we will look to consider our position [in the Commonwealth],” government spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News at the time.
The government later denied it had made such claims, alleging to local media that the report in Minivan News had been “politically motived”.