MPs Abdulla Yameen and Ahmed (Sun Travel) Shiyam have aired grievances against former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in a leaked audio conversation, giving a rare behind-the-scenes insight into the workings of Maldivian politics.
Gayoom’s half-brother Yameen and resort owner Shiyam spoke of their diminishing trust in and dwindling support among the elite support for Gayoom. Yameen believed Gayoom’s opponents “will hurt [Gayoom] a lot more” if he decides to stand for presidential elections again.
Yameen and Shiyam paint Gayoom as a leader who built his power on extensive patronage, including issuing diplomatic passports, granting land and islands for tourism, and providing loans to build homes.
Minivan News believes the conversation, now viral on social media, predates the September 2011 establishment of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). According to the audio clip, Gayoom broke away from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, which he established in 2005, amid leadership disputes with current DRP leader and Gayoom’s 2008 running mate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.
Yameen also narrates Gayoom’s attempts to sideline him during the period of political liberalisation between 2003-2008. Yameen said Gayoom attempted to send him out of the country as ambassador to the UK.
“Where are Maumoon’s ministers?”
Yameen compared Gayoom to then-president Mohamed Nasheed, stating that Gayoom was inaccessible and did not believe in the importance of his parliamentary group.
DRP’s four vice-presidents had to wait in queue to attend Gayoom’s functions or write letters to see Gayoom, “but look at how close Reeko Moosa and Mariya are to Anni [Nasheed],” Yamin said. Reeko Moosa Manik and Mariya Didi are senior opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group members.
Yameen said Gayoom’s close associates no longer attend to Gayoom, reflecting dwindling support for him. “Maumoon knows all the people he did favors for are not with him. Look at how many ministers he had. Who goes when he asks?” Yameen said.
Shiyam then replies, “[Even after he] built up their houses to 10- 12 stories. And even that was through president’s office loans.”
Yameen highlighted the absence of senior Gayoom-era officials in July 2009 when police summoned Gayoom from his residence, Alivaage, to question him over corruption allegations. Although Fathuhulla Jameel and Abdulla Jameel, both long time ministers under Gayoom, lived around the corner, they “did not dare to come,” Yameen said. Only a handful of people, former Speaker Ahmed Zahir (Seena), former minister of gender and family Aneesa Ahmed and former deputy minister of youth and sports Aishath Shiham, are now loyal to Gayoom.
“They will hurt him a lot more”
Shiyam and Yameen’s statements also imply they do not want Gayoom to stand for re-election.
Yameen said although Gayoom was not hurt during a 2008 stab attempt, if Gayoom were to stand for re-election “this time they will hurt him a lot more”. Yameen also said that if another murder attempt was carried out on Gayoom, he did not have the confidence that Nasheed would investigate or prosecute the case.
An unknown participant also criticises Gayoom on his old age, while Shiyam said he wanted a “stronger” and “more ruthless” man in the presidency.
“Only two favors I ever asked of Maumoon”
Shiyam expressed disappointment with Gayoom’s refusal to issue him a diplomatic passport and give him land for a boat yard in industrial Thilafushi Island. “These are the only two favors I ever asked of Maumoon,” Shiyam said.
“Once [Gayoom] took me to Singapore on some trip. All the vice presidents [of DRP] went. All of them had red passports [diplomatic passports]. We went and I was given a very average room. Even when I travel on my personal business, I don’t stay in anything but a suite. So I went and said it is a very small room, I cannot stay there. They told me that was how it had been booked. So I told them to give me the presidential suite. I stayed in a suite bigger than Maumoon’s. Dr Shaheed [foreign minister under both Gayoom and Nasheed] and others ridiculed me quite a bit,” Shiyam said.
After Shiyam returned, he met with Gayoom and told him, “I am this party’s vice-president. You have given red passports to many businessmen, and ordinary people as well. I would like one as well. And he told me he could not do so under the law. That is what he said. Then I told him I own a lot of boats. Therefore I would like a plot of land at Thilafushi [industrial island]. Gasim had received a plot of one million square feet. [not clear] according to the law, could you please arrange for a plot of 50,000 or 25,000 or even 10,000 square feet. He said he will work on it. I sent him 12 letters on the matter [hits table repeatedly]. Yameen, Maumoon never replied,” Shiyam continued.
Yameen then replied that arranging for a diplomatic passport was a small matter and that “it’s no issue at all.”
Shiyam also questioned Gayoom’s gratitude, saying that he said he had spent US$1.8 million on the DRP.
“DRP has to be buried”
Gayoom’s decision to break away from DRP came after DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali refused to hold a primary within the party to choose a presidential candidate, according to the conversation.
The DRP constitution, written under Gayoom, institutes the party’s leader as the party’s presidential candidate. During the DRP 2010 congress, a constitutional amendment requiring primaries was voted out.
“Maumoon says go for a primary. But Thasmeen very stubbornly says there is only one way. Thasmeen says [Maumoon] should apologise on the media and endorse him as the presidential candidate. But that cannot be,” an unknown participant said.
The participants of the conversation discuss buying out members of the DRP council, specifically DRP spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef (Mavota). According to the participants, the DRP council at the time was aligned with Thasmeen.
Yameen then said there was no solution but to form a separate party, a cult of personality based on Gayoom.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t want to have anything to do with DRP. We made DRP what it is today with our hard work, but DRP gave us pain and hardship. DRP has to be buried. DRP has to be buried,” Yameen said.
“He treated all who were loyal to him very badly”
Yameen believed a faction led by former attorney general Dr Hassan Saeed, former planning minister and Gayoom’s nephew Hamdhoon Hameed and former tourism minister Dr Mahmood Shaugee suggested Gayoom sideline Yameen from politics by offering him an ambassadorship in the UK.
Yameen was appointed as the minister of trade in 1997. Following the political crisis of 2003, which saw mass demonstrations for democracy and against police brutality, Gayoom sacked older members of his cabinet and brought in a group of reformist ministers including Hassan Saeed, Shaugee and Hamdhoon.
“Every time, Maumoon thinks all the problems are because of his ministers,” Yameen said.
Yameen refused the ambassadorship because as Gayoom’s half-brother no one in the UK “will believe a thing I say.” Further, he said he had not wanted to give up his Majlis seat and wanted to look after his source of income.
“I just built my house, I took out loans to build it. I have to stay in Male’ to find tenants, that is my source of income,” he said.
After Gayoom’s repeated attempts to remove him from the trade portfolio, Yameen consented to take up the higher education portfolio. Yameen attempted to regain an economic portfolio later, but was told there was no space in any of the economic portfolios.
“He’d given tourism to Dr Shaugee, fisheries to Abdulla Kamaldeen, other economic posts, such as agriculture, some other person, he [Gayoom] had space for all of these people, Gasim [prominent businessman] was given finance, when Maumoon said there was no space for me in the economic field then you should believe that he did not want me in the government,” Yameen said.
Download the full transcript (English & Dhivehi)
Listen to the full audio (Dhivehi)