PPM leaves “national movement”

The government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has decided to part ways with the self-titled “National Movement” led by the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and senior government officials.

Speaking at today’s sitting of parliament, PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof revealed that the party’s council decided last night (December 24) to leave the movement out of concern that it was “moving in another direction”.

“I question today whether this campaign under the name of national movement is sincere or not,” Mahloof said. “I’m saying this because during the GMR issue, we said repeatedly that after that we should raise the issue of Nexbis [border control project]. But after that we saw them raise the issue of the People’s Majlis.”

Mahloof added that a speaker at a national movement rally on Sunday night “used obscene language” to attack PPM parliamentary group leader MP Abdulla Yameen.

The speaker in question accused MP Yameen of “threatening” the Adhaalath Party, during a rally held Sunday (December 23) to celebrate the first anniversary of the December 23 “mega-protest.”

Local media reported that the remarks led to heated exchanges between the speaker and PPM supporters, a number of whom left the area in protest.

In his speech following the incident, Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, a senior leader of the Adhaalath Party, spoke in defence of MP Yameen and urged speakers to respect political leaders.

Meanwhile, in an appearance on private broadcaster DhiTV last week, Yameen suggested that intemperate rhetoric from senior government officials at rallies organised by the movement was responsible for strained ties with India.

Yameen further contended that the campaign by the national movement was not the reason behind the government’s decision to terminate the concession agreement with the GMR-led consortium.

The decision was backed by the political parties in the ruling coalition, Yameen noted, and questioned the wisdom and necessity of street protests led by senior government officials.

The “national movement” was born out of the unofficial December 23 coalition of eight political parties and an alliance of NGOs that rallied to “defend Islam” in late 2011 from the allegedly liberal policies and “securalisation agenda” of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Following the transfer of presidential power on February 7, the “civil alliance” led a campaign dubbed “Maldivians’ Airport to Maldivians” calling on the government to terminate the concession agreement with Indian infrastructure giant GMR to manage and modernise Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

However, the largest party in the ruling coalition, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), announced that it would not participate in the street protests. Moreover, senior leaders of other pro-government parties were noticeably absent from the anti-GMR protests and activities at the time.

Following the termination of the concession agreement, the national movement turned its attention to “reforming” the parliament and has organised poorly-attended rallies at the artificial beach in recent days.

At a rally last week, State Minister for Finance Abbas Adil Riza threatened to dissolve parliament. Riza criticised Speaker Abdulla Shahid for tabling a no-confidence motion in defiance of a Supreme Court injunction ordering parliament to halt secret voting pending a ruling on its constitutionality.

Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference today to announce PPM’s decision to leave the movement, MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla reportedly warned that the “national movement” could cause divisions in the ruling coalition and weaken the government.

The PPM interim deputy leader revealed that the decision was made after the party’s concerns were not addressed following discussions with the movement’s leaders.

PPM has appealed to the party’s members not to participate in the movement’s rallies and events.