The farewell address of President Dr Mohamed Waheed was aired across Maldivian television today, as the nation prepares to choose his successor in tomorrow’s run-off.
In a pre-recorded speech, Waheed discussed his rise to power, his record in office, and the future of the country.
Waheed is currently in Singapore, having left the country yesterday evening with no definitive date set for his return despite drawing MVR 525,000 (US$34,000) from the state treasury for an official visit to Malaysia and Hong Kong.
After deciding to remain in office beyond the expiration of his presidential term on Monday, Waheed promised his resignation would follow tomorrow’s polls had determined his successor.
“As the elected vice president of this country, my constitutional duty was to take over the wheel of this country in that turbulent moment. To direct the nation’s ship to a safe harbor amid the fear of strong winds, strong currents, and rain,” he said.
“To make use of a torn social structure and to dig out the Maldivian economy from a deep pit. To put out the fires at the state’s most sacred institutions and straighten the nation’s ranks. To straighten the nation and establish chain of command.”
Discussing his decision to remain in office this week, Waheed argued that it would have been difficult from a legal perspective for him to have handed the power of the state over to the speaker of the majlis – as a motion in the chamber and the constitution had called for.
“Hence, even though I do not want it, as head of state, I continued in the position because maintaining the rule of law ascertaining that the security forces ranks are in order is my responsibility. But I repeat, continuing the government on a court order is not my wish.”
Regarding the circumstance of his rise to the presidency following months of unrest and the sudden resignation of his predecessor President Mohamed Nasheed, Waheed used his farewell speech to defend his actions.
He argued that himself and Nasheed – contesting in tomorrow’s run-off against Abdulla Yameen, half-brother of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – had taken office together with the aim to move beyond the Gayoom era.
“However, due to the manner in which the vice president’s role was stated in the constitution, and the manner in which President Nasheed conducted his government, I did not have much responsibility as vice president. I did not have a role in decision making.”
“I was not happy with some of the decisions made by the government in times of rivalry and turmoil. No matter how difficult, I believe decisions must be taken within the law. My conscience believes decisions must be resolved through discussion and consent.”
“Hence, I cannot agree with things that have been done outside the law in the spirit of jealousy and revenge. I was not informed of how the government wanted to proceed as President Nasheed and I had not spoken after January 31.”
The outgoing president went on to describe a number of unconstitutional acts allegedly carried out towards the end of Nasheed’s tenure, including the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Waheed also alleged that the government ordered the military to use rubber bullets against mutinying police on February 7.
“It is not justice when the head of state resigned following the escalation after a matter that could have been solved through talks or giving in went unresolved and then accused the police and military of unlawful acts. It is not fair.”
“When the man who took hold of the wheel to carry out his constitutional duties makes out his ministers and others who came out to serve to be traitors, there is no way falsehood can become truth. And there is no way that truth can be changed.”
Waheed defended his government’s record, pointing to the return of civil servants salaries reduced under Nasheed, the extension of health insurance to expatriate Maldivians, and the ‘rescue’ of the recently publicly listed Maldives Airport Company Ltd from Indian investors.
“MVR 2 billion was paid for the previous government’s unpaid bills. 6 new resorts were opened, and 871 beds were added. A total of 2034 students received loans in 2012 and 2013 under the student loan scheme and were given the opportunity to gain higher education,” he argued
He also defended his record in improving the country’s international foreign relations, focusing on his rejection of foreign influences.
“The previous government had changed the long-standing non-aligned, independent and Islamic character of foreign policy. Hence, in global currents, our ability to raise our own voice was limited and we were in a situation where we were facing pressure to change our constitution and do things our legal framework does not allow.”
“Foreigners must not be invited to influence the Maldivian state’s powers. This must not be something that has any political weight,” he continued.
Looking to the future, Waheed called for an inclusiveness government to succeed his.
“The division and anger of the past must be set aside and we must work together united to ensure a prosperous future for our children. Our country is too small to marginalize certain groups and proceed. Our population is too small and we are too interconnected.”
“At the same time, we should keep in mind that our actions today are an example for our children and hence we must lead by example. We must show them that differences and disputes cannot be resolved through force and that compromise is not a weakness.”