President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) has denied claims the party has been trying to induce people to join through illegitimate means, in a bid to shore up the party’s membership base ahead of a bill that could see smaller parties dissolved.
According to the latest statistics from the Elections Commission (EC), GIP’s current membership base stands at 2,538 members. The draft bill on Political Parties currently in parliament stipulates that parties with membership less than 5000 members after six months of the bill’s passage shall be dissolved by the EC.
A number of young people have come forward and alleged to Minivan News that they were offered government positions, promotions, jobs with salaries of more than MVR 10,000 (US$650) a month, music equipment and even hosted parties to join GIP.
GIP Secretary General Ahmed Mushrif has dismissed the allegations as an “outright lie”, and said that the party from its formation had never attempted to add members illegally.
Allegations of offers
A young Maldivian working in the tourism sector told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that a parliament member and prominent figure in the industry had called him and asked him to sign with GIP “as a favor”.
“He told me that in return for me joining the party, I would be rewarded with a position in the current government that I could never have even imagined. He further tried to convince me that all I needed to do was join the party – I could vote for anybody I wanted,” he said.
Another person who has worked in the civil service for the last 15 years told Minivan News that he was contacted by GIP with a promise that he would “easily be promoted” to a supervisor level job if he joined the party.
“A GIP member called me and told me that I could easily get promoted to supervisor level if I left my current party and joined GIP. Even though I am not an active MDP member I said I would think about it, but later did not respond to his calls,” the civil servant said.
According to the law, it is unlawful for any authority to influence civil servants for political reasons by threatening or offering them employment opportunities.
“We should all party sometime” – Deputy President of GIP
A third person – aged 20 – claimed that he and his group of friends aged around 18 to 22 were approached by GIP through a friend and were invited to the party’s office where they were received by the party’s Deputy Leader and the Maldives High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mohamed ‘Nazaki’ Zaki.
“When we arrived we were received by ‘Nazaki’ Zaki and treated with pizza. He said that in return for joining GIP, he would offer each of us a job with a salary not less than MVR 10,000, but asked us not to question where the jobs would be allocated from,” the youngster claimed.
Apart from the job, the source alleged that Zaki had offered him and his friends “music equipment and a place to play for free” to those among them who wished to play music. He added that the group were also promised various entertainment activities such as “hosting shows and parties”.
“They asked us to join the party and work in the party’s youth wing,” the source said.
When they asked what they were supposed to do as members of the party’s youth wing, the source said Zaki had told them that their main task would be to increase the party’s membership as it was “currently very low”.
At the end of the meeting, the high commissioner reportedly suggested the holding of a party event that would be fully funded by GIP.
“They said we should all party sometime. Maybe they said that because we had long hair and looked stylish,” the source suggested.
Zaki was one of the founding members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). However he resigned from the party in April claiming that the MDP was now focused around former President Mohamed Nasheed and had become a personality-based party.
He later joined GIP and was appointed as its deputy leader.
The opposition MDP had accused Zaki of being involved in corruption in the controversial installation of border control system by Malaysian IT firm Nexbis.
However, Zaki denied the claims, stating that he had only helped facilitate the deal from taking place in his capacity as the High Commissioner to Malaysia.
Minivan News was unable to contact Zaki as he was out of the country at time of press, while President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad was not responding to calls.
GIP member Illyas Hussein Ibrahim, the former Immigration Controller and brother-in-law of President Waheed, referred Minivan News to Secretary General Ahmed Mushrif.
In a leaked audio clip released in August, former CEO of Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) and senior member of GIP Ahmed Faiz was recorded discussing the hiring of individuals to loudly promote President Waheed in local cafes.
Faiz in the audio claimed that he was a “close confidante” of President Waheed, and that he had been given many assignments to help his presidency.
“Not necessarily going out into the streets with huge knives and attacking people, okay? What I want is, for example, when the key people who are involved in this are in a certain place… for example, four or five of these people might be in a coffee-shop.
“You go in there, do you understand? You go and barge in right into the middle, and say, no need to be discreet at all, just say it out loud openly, ‘Hey you (expletive) dogs, this country is being destroyed because of you (expletive). Don’t even think you can do what you please with this country,” he explained in the audio clip.
Similar to Zaki, Faiz also spoke about offering jobs and other benefits at the expense of the state to his audience.
“What I’m saying is, this government is now appointing people to different posts and it’s getting structured in the manner we want. Now there is a lot of things that I can do. Material benefits can be gained, and lots of other things. Credit from STO (State Trading Organisation) worth millions of rufiya, that’s absolutely welcome. Do you get it?
“Then maybe funds are needed for some activity, for example, ‘Please arrange this amount of cash needed for something’. I will get that done. Or perhaps, ‘From this project, give us this amount of money’. Now when it’s put like that, it seems somewhat twisted to me. I tend to see that like cutting a ‘deal’,” Faiz stated.
Following the release of the audio clip, Faiz was sacked from his position in MPL.
President of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Hassan Luthfee said he condemned the unlawful acts carried out by political parties to increase membership figures.
“This is a very serious issue. Actions like these will only destroy the democracy in this country. The purpose of democracy is to exercise the free will of the people in making their political decisions. It is not democracy when a party induces an individual to join a specific political party by unlawful means by offering jobs and money. That is not in within the spirit of democracy,” Luthfee told Minivan News.
He reiterated that politicians should realise that the success of a democracy depends on sincerity. He also highlighted the challenges faced by the ACC in looking into such allegations.
“The biggest difficulty is that as per the laws of the country, finding substantial evidence is very difficult. Even when we summon a suspected person, would they be honest in giving evidence to the commission?” Luthfee asked.
He further stressed that it was important to have more efficient and stricter laws to address such issues, but said that the ACC is working with the Elections Commission to reduce fraudulent action being carried out by political parties in acquiring members.