Opposition’s claim of leadership rift angers Gayoom

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has urged the opposition not to make political statements on his behalf.

The appeal comes after the opposition Maldivians Against Brutality coalition claimed the president of 30 years is unhappy with his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

“Everyone kindly refrain from making political statements on my behalf. I am capable of expressing my views,” the leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) tweeted last night.

Gayoom remains popular despite his defeat in the Maldives’ first multi-party polls in 2008.

Rumours of rifts within the PPM have increased since the imprisonment of PPM MP Ahmed Nazim and ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim, and MP Ahmed Mahloof’s acrimonious split from the party.

The opposition coalition, made up of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, religious conservative Adhaalath Party, members of Nazim’s family and leadership figures of the Jumhooree Party, have been protesting against what they call president Yameen’s attempts to silence dissent.

Speaking at an opposition rally on the island of Kulhudhuffushi on Saturday night, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla said: “President Maumoon is with us.”

Gayoom found the conviction and sentencing of PPM MP Ahmed Nazim on corruption charges “unacceptable,” he alleged.

Nazim, formerly a close associate of president Yameen, now appears to have fallen out of favour with the current administration. Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb blamed Nazim last year for a damning report implicating him in a US$6 million corruption scandal.

Gayoom, however, said Nazim’s “service” to the PPM, the parliament, and President Yameen’s campaign should be valued and appreciated.

“However, we should all abide by and accept court verdicts so I don’t want to say anything about that. Even if Ahmed Nazim had to give up his People’s Majlis seat after such a verdict, we should all acknowledge his service to the People’s Majlis,” he said at a PPM rally on Thursday night.

After Gayoom’s speech, president Yameen reportedly left the rally before it ended, fuelling speculation of a rift between the brothers. But the president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said the president had to leave on an emergency and was not scheduled to speak.

Gayoom told reporters last month that there was no friction between himself and the president.

He also dismissed claims by Imran that he was a victim of the government’s “brutality.”

“Things are going very well with the party working together with the government. There is no discontent at all,” he said.

He suggested that the opposition was using his name for their political purposes.