President Mohamed Nasheed has dismissed Minister of Trade and Economic Development Mohamed Rasheed from his post.
Rasheed belongs to the Gaumee Iththihaad Party (GIP), the same party as Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who has publicly voiced criticisms of the government and recently led a political rally to boost support for his party.
The President’s Spokesman Mohamed Zuhair said Nasheed has made the decision “based on the existing political realities on the ground.”
“It is nothing personal against the economic minister, and nothing to do with his performance,” Zuhair emphasised, although he noted that a likely outcome would be restructuring of the Ministry to be more “result-oriented”.
The decision to remove Rasheed from cabinet was made over the weekend but announced this morning, he said.
Meanwhile, staff at the ministry were “in shock” this morning, reported Permanent Secretary Yousuf Riza.
“[Rasheed] is no longer coming to the office, but the Ministry will continue to function,” Riza said.
“We will continue issuing trade and investment permits, however the Minister’s dismissal will hamper decisions about policy.”
DRP Spokesman and Deputy Leader Ibrahim “Mavota” Shareef meanwhile claimed the dismissal was because of the “obvious friction between the President and his Vice President. I heard [Rasheed] was dismissed because he was asked to sign with the ruling party and refused.”
“Rasheed is one of the most qualified people in the government, and he has been dismissed for no apparent reason. As long as a minister does his job properly there is no reason to dismiss him,” Shareef said.
“I think this is very sad this is happening. We might be the opposition party but we do not have any ill will towards the government.”
Amid speculation that Rasheed’s removal was due to the icy drop in temperature between GIP and MDP, a senior government source suggested it was more likely that the dismissal was part of a “larger picture – something to do with [MDP’s] declining support in the Majlis to the point where it has become ineffective. They need support.”
The recent scuttling of MDP’s provinces bill in parliament is a sore blow to one the party’s key pledges, the decentralisation of government.
No replacements have yet been put forward: “The president has time before choosing a new minister to put forward for parliamentary approval,” Zuhair claimed.
Mahmoud Razee, currently Minister for Civil Aviation and Communications, is one potential candidate, given his proven palatability with parliament and work on the privatisation committee. Razee was promoted to his current role after the dismissal of another minister, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.
However, MDP Spokesman Ahmed Haleem revealed that the party had begun talking to the People’s Alliance (PA), currently in coalition with the opposition DRP, seeking the party’s support in passing a new economic minister through parliament.
“DRP are always against us and they have control of a lot of the media,” Haleem said. “But [PA leader] Abdulla Yameen has some commitment to the people – he was trade minister in 1998, he is an economist and he is well educated. I think he is OK.”
The Maldivian economy was sorely troubled “and a lot of people are suffering very badly and are very poor,” Haleem said. “[MDP and PA] have the same goal, we want to stabilise the economy and we are looking for support. Yameen’s seven members could support the parliamentary approval of a new minister.”
Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan declined to comment on the matter, and Mohamed Rasheed did not responded to calls at time of press.