President’s office minister Abdulla Ameen resigns

President’s office minister Abdulla Ameen has resigned from the government.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said Ameen submitted his letter of resignation yesterday.

The former minister “did not state a particular reason for the resignation in the letter,” Muaz said in a tweet today.

Ameen is a close ally of Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who is facing impeachment by the parliament.

Ameen is also facing corruption charges after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) forwarded a case against the minister to the prosecutor general’s office. Ameen is accused of writing off a fine to a company over delays in the Thimarafushi regional airport project.

The company had failed to complete the airport within the agreed upon period.

Corruption charges have not been filed at court yet.

Vice president Jameel’s cousin, former youth minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was also sacked from the cabinet last month.

A 14-day notice for Jameel to answer charges expires today. The impeachment process is expected to begin next week and the vice president has said he intends to respond to parliament in writing.

MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have secured 61 signatures for the impeachment motion. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house is required to remove the president or the vice president

Jameel had previously labelled his imminent impeachment as a “constitutional coup” and urged the international community to intervene.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence and are seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Adeeb has accused Jameel of planning a coup d’etat with the opposition.

“A lot of people are accusing him of leaving with a lot of money and a lot of things. He is even now accused of dereliction of duty and fleeing the country. He has left the country because the coup he had planned has failed,” he said.

The parliament last month passed an amendment with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set the new age limits of 30-65 years for presidency and vice-presidency.

Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously stated that candidates must be 35 years of age.

The opposition’s backing for the amendment was widely perceived to be a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are currently engaged in talks to resolve a six-month long political crisis.


Progress in talks raises hope of end to crisis

Representatives of the government and the opposition remain optimistic of a resolution to a six-month long political crisis with home minister stating that the government is open to exploring avenues to release jailed politicians and withdraw charges against opposition supporters.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) submitted tonight a list with some 1493 people, who are either in jail, facing charges or under investigation for political activities.

At a second meeting with the government on Sunday night, MDP also requested a two-week timeline to come to agreements on President Abdulla Yameen’s agenda of political reconciliation, constitutional and judicial reform, and participatory development.

The government has, meanwhile, conceded to all-party talks at a later stage and agreed to allow parties to decide on who will represent them at the talks.

The Maldives has been gripped by turmoil since the arrest and imprisonment of several politicians, including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. In the ensuing crisis, hundreds were arrested and three leaders were charged with terrorism.

Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Yameen to release all political prisoners.

A third meeting will be held on Wednesday. The government will answer MDP’s demands and make demands of its own in return.

Striking a conciliatory and at times jovial tone, home minister Umar Naseer said: “The government’s aim is not to get a quick fix, but to build sustainable relationships between the PPM and MDP. These talks are aimed not just to address the current turmoil, but aimed at coming to a long-term agreement or understanding.”

MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said: “The meeting proceeded in a very friendly atmosphere. The two parties worked constructively with the aim of bringing results.”

Fisheries minister Mohamed Shainee and president’s office minister Abdulla Ameen also participated in tonight’s meeting.

At the first meeting on July 1, the MDP had proposed five rules to proceed with talks, including joint talks, and conducting talks in three stages.

Naseer and Ibu tonight said that the two parties will discuss measures for political reconciliation at the first stage, and will invite the Jumhooree Party and religious conservative Adhaalath Party to discussions on constitutional and judicial reform, and participatory development at the second and third stages of talks.

Separate teams of ministers are in discussions with the JP and the Adhaalath Party.

Although the government tonight withdrew a veto on Nasheed representing the MDP at talks, it is not clear if he will be physically present at the meetings. The opposition leader was transferred to house arrest in late June after the opposition backed a constitutional change that would allow President Yameen to replace his deputy.

Naseer also blocked a question whether the government plans to repeal a law that had stripped Nasheed of the MDP presidency.

When asked if he is authorized to make decisions on behalf of the government, the home minister said: “I brief the president on the proceedings at the talks, the MDP’s proposals, and ask if there is any points he’d like to decide on and we proceed according to his decisions. There are no difficulties.”

The MDP’s demands for political reconciliation are:

  • To make concessions on “politically motivated sentencing” of politicians, including Nasheed, Nazim, ex-defence minister Tholhath Ibrahim and MP Ahmed Nazim
  • Withdraw “politically motivated charges” against protestors, including Sheikh Imran
  • Withdraw economic sanctions against businessmen, including JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, ex MP Abdulla Jabir’s Yacht Tours, and MDP deputy chairperson’s AAA company
  • Job security for councilors, civil servants and employees of state owned companies
  • Independent inquiry into the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan
  • Independent investigation of the death threats sent via text messages to politicians and journalists

The MDP has also called for a constitutional change to a parliamentary system, contending that the presidential system of government has failed in the Maldives.

The tax authority last week removed a freeze on Gasim’s Villa Group accounts.


Minister faces corruption charges

The President’s Office minister Abdulla Ameen is facing corruption charges for writing off a fine issued on a company tasked with developing a domestic airport.

The opposition-aligned Raajje TV and the pro-government newspaper Avas said the Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin will file charges against Ameen by next week.

However, a PG office spokesperson said the office is still reviewing the case.

The anti-corruption watchdog completed the inquiry into the Thaa Atoll Thimarafushi airport last year and forwarded charges to the PG office in December.

Ameen has previously said the charges were a “character assassination attempt.”

President Abdulla Yameen last week said he will enforce court verdicts, even if they are issued against his ministers.

“I am obligated, and I will happily enforce any sentence, even if they are against my own ministers,” he said.

He also urged the judiciary to expedite cases.

In April, the president said he would enforce verdicts in corruption cases. “Corruption is present in the Maldivian government and in other foreign governments. But work is done to stop such acts. I will enforce verdicts, no matter who it is that is tried and sentenced for corruption.”

The opposition has accused the president of turning a blind eye to corruption within his government.


PPM lobbying to re-start Nasheed’s criminal trial

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has said it is lobbying the courts to resume proceedings in the criminal case against opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen’s election agent, Abdulla Ameen yesterday (September 30) told local media that it was imperative the judiciary speed up the court cases concerning Nasheed’s criminal prosecution.

Ameen called on the EC to delay the second round of elections until the courts concluded the trial of Nasheed, expressing fears that the public may otherwise begin to question the credibility of the elections.

Nasheed was charged by the prosecutor general for his involvement in the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, during the final days of his presidency.

The case is currently suspended after Nasheed’s legal counsel challenged the legitimacy of the appointment of the judges-panel to Hulhumale Magistrates Court, where the trial is being heard.

During a PPM rally held on Monday evening PPM MP Ahmed Shareef claimed that, once the party finished its work, the MDP would be dissolved, would cease to exist as a political party, and that Nasheed’s name would not be in the ballot paper.

The PPM MP also claimed that the 95,224 votes which Nasheed had obtained in the first round were achieved “through fraud and deception”.

“The maximum vote that man will ever get is 50,000 -60,000. That is even if they work extremely hard. [Extremely hard work such as] deceiving the people, brain washing them and misleading the youth,” Shareef told the rally.

Meanwhile, PPM running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told the rally that the Maldives would not have any stability if there is a presidential election with Nasheed competing as a candidate.

Jameel claimed that Nasheed had treated the Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in “such an inhumane and derogatory manner” when the only wrong he had committed was to “faithfully execute his responsibilities as a judge”.

The former home minister also said that the judges who had purposefully been delaying the former president’s trial should take responsibility for the current state of the country.

Jameel previously said that the MDP leader “will not be allowed to assume power”, even if he should emerge as the clear winner in the run-off election.

Election drama

The official results of the first round of Presidential Elections – held on September 7 – showed the MDP finishing the race in front with 45.45 percent of the popular vote, while former 30 year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s PPM trailed behind with 25.35 percent of the popular vote.

The constitution dictates that if no candidate attains the required ’50 percent plus one vote’ for a first round election victory, the winner is decided by a run-off election held 21 days after the first poll.

However, resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP) – who narrowly missed a place in the run-off elections after finishing the poll in the third position with 24.07 percent – filed a Supreme Court case requesting the court annul the poll, alleging voting discrepancies and irregularities.

On September 23, the Supreme Court issued an injunction indefinitely delaying the second round of the presidential election until it had finished looking into alleged discrepancies from the first round.

In addition to challenging the validity of the presidential elections, the PPM last Sunday announced its intention to file Supreme Court cases against individual opposition MPs, including Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, in a bid to challenge their legitimacy as members of parliament.

The announcement comes at a time when the PPM and its allies have lost the parliamentary majority to the opposition MDP after the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) –  with eight MPs in parliament – decided to back the MDP in the presidential polls.

Speaking to the press, PPM’s legal advisor Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim said, “There is a dispute on whether [MPs] have lost their seats in parliament due to speaking out against Maldives’ Supreme Court’s order and defaming the Supreme Court, and other court’s judges. I would like to inform you we will file this case at the Supreme Court.”

The MDP and its new ally the DRP now control 39 out of 77 seats in the parliament – a simple majority. The two parties last week passed a resolution ordering the EC to proceed with polls as planned, and called for the security forces to support the EC.

The resolution, however, was ignored in favour of the Supreme Court order.

However, following a second Supreme Court order – calling upon the security services up uphold the injunction – police surrounded the EC secretariat. The EC soon announced prompting the EC to announce that current conditions were not conducive to a free and fair election.


Mahlouf calls on DRP supporters to shun “Thasmeen faction” rally

MP Ahmed Mahlouf of the split main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP’s) faction loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom called on the party’s supporters today not to attend a rally planned for Thursday night by DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction, and new coalition partner Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

At a press conference held by the ‘Gayoom faction’ today, DRP’s Youth Wing President Mahlouf insisted that tomorrow night’s event was not organised by the party, urging members who support the former President to stay away from the rally at Kalaafanu School.

“That is not a rally held by DRP,” Mahlouf claimed. “We urge anyone who supports [the Gayoom faction] not to participate in that rally or even go there to watch the show. They are trying to test something. That is, [to find out] how much support they have.”

The ‘Gayoom faction’ has meanwhile moved its rally, originally planned for the same night, to Friday night.

Earlier in the day, MP Rozaina Adam, sister-in-law of the embattled DRP Leader, stressed at a separate press conference at the DRP office that the purpose of the rally was not to “hit back at others within the party, quarrel with them and call each other names.”

DQP Secretary General Abdulla Ameen told press that tomorrow night’s rally would mark the beginning of “renewed efforts to hold the government accountable,” adding that internal disputes since the end of last month’s local council elections had weakened the opposition.

The rally will be the first joint event by the two parties since a coalition agreement was signed on February 14.

Widening divide

Following the controversial dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer in December, the worsening factional split within DRP led the party’s founder and ‘Honorary Leader’ Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to officially withdraw his endorsement of Thasmeen for the presidency in 2013.

While Gayoom accused his former running mate of running the party “dictatorially” to protect and advance personal interests, Thasmeen contends that a few members within DRP’s leadership are pursuing “an internal campaign” to discredit and replace him on the DRP presidential ticket.

At a rally held last Thursday night by the Gayoom faction – attended by a number of DRP MPs along with minority opposition People’s Alliance MPs and senior ministers in Gayoom’s cabinet – Umar Naseer read out letters purportedly from DRP branches in the atolls retracting support for Thasmeen.

Umar called on those within the DRP’s front ranks who are “indebted to the government” to “go to the back seat.”

Former President Gayoom addressed the crowd through Umar’s phone – which was held up to the mic – offering gratitude and a vote of thanks to the speakers at the rally.

Also at the rally, Mahlouf’s calls for Thasmeen’s resignation was echoed back by the crowd gathered at the tsunami memorial area; Mahlouf called on the beleaguered leader to either resign or “step aside and pave the way for a primary so that we can have a new leader.”

Mahlouf asserted that he purposely broke the DRP’s three-line whip in last week’s vote on approving members to the Broadcasting Commission “to teach Thasmeen a lesson.”

The DRP MP for Galolhu South claimed that he does not have to follow instructions from a leader he does not recognise as legitimate.

Moreover, Mahlouf warned that Thasmeen would be “more dictatorial than President [Mohamed] Nasheed” should he win the presidential election in 2013, adding that the current DRP Leader would “pursue personal vendettas and target opponents.”

The country would go “into a slumber” under Thasmeen’s presidency, Mahlouf continued, as “even now when he’s trying to win power he spends four days a week at an island in Vaavu Atoll.”


DQP allies with Thasmeen as “momentum with opposition”

The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has signed a coalition agreement with Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, after a day of political infighting among the opposition.

The deal could represent an alliance between Thasmeen and DQP leader Hassan Saeed against the DRP faction led by dismissed deputy leader Umar Naseer, who received tacit support from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom during the location council elections.

Although unable to speak of the role a collective opposition may play within the Maldives’ newly formed local councils, Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Secretary General Abdulla Ameen claimed the recent elections showed public sentiment was “clearly” now against the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“I think the local council elections clearly show that the public has no confidence in the government,” he said. “With two years until the next general election, the government will have to be much more accountable.”

With ballot counting yet to be finalised following polling for local councils over the weekend, the DQP said it had so far taken two seats – one each in the island and atoll councils – out of eight possible candidates running from within the party.

Ameen added that a “full strategy” for the DQP’s elected council members had yet to be outlined.

The uncertainty over the direction of the council members comes after Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, leader of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), yesterday told Minivan News that successful candidates in the elections were as yet unaware of the mandate for the country’s local councils.

“It is a fact that candidates from many parties including ours may not be clear on their responsibilities and mandates,” Thasmeen said.

Ameen said that the party would be speaking with its local council representatives as soon as possible to begin trying to outline policy and how exactly they will work to serve constituents.

“We are still waiting for official results, so I can’t say anything right now until we consult our councils and see what direction we will be taking,” he said. “Public sentiment appears to be with the [political] opposition. We now must see what they can do.”

However, the post-council election outlook for the DRP, the country’s main opposition party, seems uncertain.

Umar Naseer court-bound

Amidst claims by the DRP of a decisive victory during the local council election campaign that saw them take a large proportion of island seats, infighting within the party has continued this week, with former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer reportedly set to file a Civil Court case to nullify his dismissal.

Haveeru reported today that following the conclusion of the council election race, Naseer, who was dismissed by a DRP disciplinary committee back in December, is heading to the courts to have his former position reinstated.
The former deputy Leader has said he believes he still holds a deputy leader position in the party despite the internal DRP ruling and only a party congress has the authority to terminate his role, according to the report.

Naseer has been campaigning during the elections with DRP supreme leader and former Maldivian president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom with whom he spoke alongside at a “victory” celebration for the party this week at a ceremony near Male’s artificial beach.


”President will not hold mid-term elections”: Zuhair

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair has said that President Mohamed Nasheed will not hold mid-term elections, as pledged.

This was for two reasons, Zuhair told Minivan News: “Firstly it is not in the constitution, and secondly, when one makes a pledge to someone, and if recipient of the pledge did not repay the sincerity of the person making the pledge, he does would not have to fulfill it.”

Leader of the Dhivehi Qaumy Party(DQP) and former advisor to the President Dr Hassan Saeed claimed yesterday during an appearance on VTV’s ‘Hot Seat’ programme that the reason why MDP won the presidential election was the party’s promise of a mid-term election.

Zuhair claimed that the people who was trying to make the president hold mid-term elections were trying to gain fame in the political field.

”It is a pledge the president and vice president made during the campaign,” he acknowledged. ‘But after the recipient betrayed the person who made the pledge, it’s not wise to turn back and say ‘What about your promise?’.”

Zuhair claimed that when Dr Saeed was given a position as the president’s advisor, he acted in opposition to the government.

”He refused to come out for work,” Zuhair said, ”and then he started to act like an opposition leader.”

Vice President of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Umar Naseer said it was “a must” for the government to hold mid-term elections.

Umar said that the people voted President Nasheed to power for “only two and a half years.”

”People voted Nasheed because he said he would hold mid-term elections,” Umar said. ”The President said that to increase the number of his constituents, and people elected him because of [the pledge].”,”

He said that it was constitutional to hold the mid-term elections.

”President and Vice President can resign in a letter according to the constitution article 121 [a] and [b],” Umar explained.

He said the president was afraid to hold the mid-term election because he was confident that he would not get elected.

Leader of DQP Hassan Saeed and the party’s Secretary General Abdulla Ameen did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.