When Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed appeared as the first-ever guest on VTV’s new show Hoonu Gondi (Hot Seat) on 12 April, he took the opportunity to say he was “not completely satisfied” with his job.
The aftermath of the Vice President’s interview has brought his comments to television shows, newspapers and blogs, with headlines exploiting his words as criticisms directed to President Mohamed Nasheed and his leadership.
Speaking to Minivan News, Dr Waheed said although he usually does not do interviews, but in a small community like Malé “people know when someone is not happy” and he felt he needed to speak out.
“I made a fairly measured response [to the question], careful not to be too critical of the government,” Dr Waheed said. “It is time to get rid of that fear of speaking out.”
He said people had been waiting for him to say something about his role as the country’s first elected vice president, and felt he needed to express “what is good, and what is not working” in the current government.
“This is also my government. Clearly there are ways it could be stronger,” he said.
Dr Waheed said he felt the government should be “shaped in the spirit of democracy and good governance,” adding that “we still have a lot to learn.”
He said he held the responsibility to tell the people who elected him how he felt about the government, their over-all performance and his role in it. “It’s my responsibility to express my feelings,” he said, “I think people in power should express themselves.”
Dr Waheed’s feelings were that the “way we function in [this] government is not too different to what it used to be. It’s still one man running the show,” he said, but assured he was “not picking issues” with the government, but “talking about democratic process.”
One of the main reasons for his dissatisfaction was that he doesn’t feel he is sufficiently involved in the decision-making process. “I don’t feel I am able to contribute, that consultation is not there.”
He said that while it was the president’s privilege not to consult him on everything, he thought the core of a democratic government should be “more inclusive and participative.”
“The people of the Maldives didn’t elect me to sleep for five years. I believe I am part of the leadership of this country and it is necessary for me to be involved,” Dr Waheed said. He added “the government will be stronger if the president consults with us.”
He also expressed concern over the fact that the current government won the 2008 elections on a coalition-party platform, but is now being run by a single party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
However Dr Waheed said this was “nothing that can’t be fixed”, as the government “is going through a learning process.”
He also believes the government is doing a good job in delivering their promises to the people.
“For any government, the first few months have to go into planning,” Dr Waheed said. “There has been a lot of work laying those foundations and results will be seen shortly.”
As the Maldives has not yet celebrated its second year under a democratic government, the vice president is sure these issues can still be resolved.
He said the government must be “much more consultative. We need to be more clear on what is being assigned and how that can be achieved.”
Dr Waheed defended his statements on ‘Hot Seat’ by reiterating that “I don’t see why we should be hiding our feelings now. We did not bring about this change to work in despair.”
He noted that despite the headlines today, “everything is OK” between him and the president.
Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the vice president’s interview “was not in an official capacity [as vice president], but as a party leader.”
“If he was going in official capacity we would get a notice, but this time it did not happen,” Zuhair said.
Dr Mohamed Jameel, president of the Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP), one of the parties that joined the MDP-led coalition that elected President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration in the 2008 elections, said he “agrees with Vice President Waheed completely.”
“I think [lack of consultation] is the very reason why many politicians from the coalition went away,” he said, adding “this is the final blow in the coffin.”
He said the problem was the government’s attitude: “Ever since they were elected, they have been saying it was a win for the MDP only.”
Dr Jameel said he thought the MDP had been “hijacked at gun point by their activists” and now the government was “conveniently giving into their demands.”
President of the Adhaalath party Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed, another coalition partner, said all the coalition parties had been having problems for a while “due mainly to political competition.”