Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb and Acting Foreign Minister Mariyam Shakeela have said the cabinet advised President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to stay on after the end of the presidential term at midnight on November 11 and despite international pressure to hand over the presidency to People’s Majlis Speaker.
Waheed gave a televised statement last night declaring he will stay in power beyond the conclusion of his presidential term, but will resign on the day of the presidential run off on November 16. His deputy Waheed Deen resigned yesterday morning.
Speaking to the press at noon at the President’s Office, Adheeb said Waheed’s decision to continue with the presidency “is the strongest, most courageous decisions taken in the history of this country.”
Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid has meanwhile sent a letter to Waheed informing him that he was no longer in command of the country and could only extend his term by amending Article 107 of the constitution, which limits a presidential term to five years.
The Majlis with the backing of 39 MPs approved a resolution for the Speaker to assume the presidency in the absence of a president elect on November 11. The government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives and Jumhoree Party boycotted the vote
The Supreme Court on Saturday struck down the motion and ruled that Waheed’s administration will continue until a new president is determined.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon has also expressed “dismay” at Waheed’s decision to remain in office “against the letter and spirit of the constitution.”
Shakeela said Waheed had arrived at the President’s Office last night with two statements, one of which stated his resignation. However, the cabinet had advised him to stay on to keep the country from descending into “chaos and a constitutional void.”
“There was a lot of international pressure yesterday and a lot of quick decisions had to be taken. There were a lot of proposals up until the moment the president gave his statement,” Shakeela said.
One of the proposals included the Speaker assuming the presidency on conditions such as the international community guaranteeing the ensure safety of all cabinet members and their families. But Waheed’s final decision was of his own volition, the ministers said.
“The next four days is not the time to let the country descend into a void and chaos. Especially given the Supreme Court’s verdict. Actually, we did not pressure the president. We told him we remain steadfast with him,” Adheeb stated.
Waheed is currently on presidential retreat island Aarah and will come to the President’s Office only if needed, the ministers said. Over the next four days, the government will only carry out day-to-day operational tasks and will not start any new projects.
Adheeb accused the Shahid of committing “mini coups” through the Majlis and said the Speaker had attempted to overtake the presidency with international backing.
Arguing that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the constitution, and since the constitution did not envision a situation where a president-elect is not determined at the end of a presidential term, Adheeb claimed the Supreme Court’s rulings take precedence over any Majlis decision.
Adheeb said the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) – which emerged the front-runner in Saturday’s presidential polls with 46.93 percent of the vote – was scared to contest elections after Saturday’s results. Elections that had taken place under Waheed had been free and fair, he said.
The PPM has assured Waheed in writing that they will not delay run off elections on November 16, Adheeb said. Adheeb is one of the four Vice Presidents of the PPM, which gained 29.73 percent of the vote.
Adheeb alleged former President Mohamed Nasheed had left the Maldives on the verge of bankruptcy, and Waheed had returned it to “safe shores”.
“We brought this country this far, to these shores, from a state of bankruptcy. I am not saying we have solved everything. We did not have the time. But we have taken it in the right direction,” he claimed.
Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told parliament just last week that tourism growth had flat-lined due to “political turmoil”, declining 0.1 percent in 2012 after years of double figure growth, while political instability meant outside banks had stop lending to the Maldives at rates less than 11 percent, forcing the government to draw on dwindling central bank reserves.
At the same time the State Trading Organisation (STO) warned that the Maldives was imminently about to run out of oil unless it was immediately bailed out with US$20 million to pay debtors.
The Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Fazeel Najeeb reported that the Maldives was on the verge of having to print money to pay its recurrent expenditure.