Mahlouf alleges MDP offered him $US2 million to defect

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf has hit out at opposition politicians switching their allegiances for financial gain, claiming he too was offered a bribe to defect.

Mahlouf claimed that he had been “personally told” that Ali Waheed would be switching his political allegiance for money, and further alleged that he had himself been offered US$2 million to join and vote in favour of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“I don’t believe selling myself is a choice, but ever since I have known some of these MPs they have always wanted money,” he said.

Mahlouf alleged that it was only Ali Waheed who had taken money to join the MDP – a move he claimed was a coup for the country’s governing party.

“[Waheed] was loved by the DRP, but now that he’s gone he is nobody,” Mahlouf said. “President Nasheed will have the same feeling, so this is a good deal.”

Mahouf said that although the defections, which come as a number of DRP parliamentarians have switched sides in parliament, was a sad development for opposition supporters. However he said he believed it was on the other hand a positive development in regards to the loyalty of the remaining politicians.

The DRP MP’s allegations of bribes being used to entice opposition politicians to switch parties were refuted by MDP spokesperson Ahmed Haleem, who claimed that Ali Waheed’s defection reflected political ambition and not financial concern.

Haleem added that although it remains essential for the MDP to obtain a political majority in parliament to pass a reform agenda blocked by partisan opposition majority, recent defections by MPs including the former DRP Deputy Leader were made on political principal and not bribes.

“Ali Waheed and Abdu Raheem – these are young ambitious people that are not part of the Gayoom regime. The MDP is the country’s only true democratic party, unlike the DRP which is more like a family organisation,” he claimed. “Waheed has a future in politics in this country and I believe he is a clean guy. So while we need a parliamentary majority for the MDP, we do not want to be spending money we don’t have to get it. This is politics, not a football transfer market.”

Questioned over whether some MDP supporters would be sceptical of the intentions of a former opposition MP like Ali Waheed, who in his first speech as an MDP member last week accepted he had been “critical” of President Nasheed and his government in the past, Haleem said he believed members were overall happy at the defection.

“I think all MDP supporters will be very happy, our members are determined in that they want change in this country,” he said.

The DRP has attracted significant local media attention in recent months with factional infighting between supporters of serving leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. One reason for the strife, according to Mahlouf, was division over how to respond to the government’s financial reform program and decision to devalue the rufiyaa against the US dollar.

Speaking at rallies and gatherings held this week against government economic reforms, following a week of protests earlier this month in Male’, Mahlouf, who is linked to the Z-DRP faction of the party, said that the so-called “youth movement” behind the protests had decided to give the government time to try and address financial concerns before resuming demonstrations.

Haleem meanwhile claimed that while the protests had lost momentum due to a growing public acceptance and understanding of the need for economic changes bought forward by President Mohamed Nasheed, as well as the “weakening” of the DRP.

“I think you will find that 99 percent of people are fed up with the DRP, even three of the party’s members have [defected],” Haleem said. “People are accepting that financial changes are needed and the president has been stating these aims more clearly. We are a civilised country and we need direct taxation – such as the tourism general service tax (TGST) – the President is not just changing the political but also the economic situation in the Maldives.”

Speaking last night during a rally held at the artificial beach area of Male’, Mahlouf claimed that demonstrations held over the last few days had been organised by Thasmeen’s supporters and a number of local NGOs rather than the “youth movement” that had instigated protests earlier in the month.

“We need to be responsible politicians right now and protesting every night is not the only solution to the economic issues,” he said.  “We did a good job supporting the protesters, but it’s time to give some time to the government to try and make changes before we consider more protests.”

Addressing crowds of DRP supporters during last night’s gathering, which he said had drawn “huge crowds”, Mahlouf used his speech to attack the recent defection of a number of DRP politicians such as Ali Waheed to the MDP cause, as the party of President Nasheed seeks to entrench its long-sought parliamentary majority.


PA dismisses “impossible” pact with MDP

A coalition agreement between the government and the opposition People’s Alliance party is “impossible”, Secretary General of Peoples Alliances Adam Ahmed Shareef has said.

”Our stand is very clear,” Shareef said. ”We work in the opposition and we do not support the current government’s policy and the way they are treating people. In the current situation it’s impossible to join with them.”

He added that the current administration was unable to “cope with” the other parties in the Maldivian Democratic Party-led (MDP) coalition.

Shareef dismissed rumours that the party was in talks with the government.

”I do not think Yameen [PA leader] would shift to a position where the president can dismiss him anytime,” he said. “People are spreading rumors just to gain political support and to harm PA.”

Saareef also denied rumours of a rift between PA and its coalition partner, the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

”What PA MP Ahmed Nazim said was that PA MPs should not have to follow the DRP whip line in parliament without prior consultation,” he said. “In such cases, hereafter PA MPs would vote according to their own views in a manner they think would be beneficial for the people,”

MDP Spokesman Ahmed Haleem told Minivan News earlier this week that the party had begun talks with PA to seek support in the confirmation process for a new economic minister.

“DRP are always against us and they have control of a lot of the media,” Haleem said. “But [PA leader] Abdulla Yameen has some commitment to the people – he was trade minister in 1998, he is an economist and he is well educated. I think he is OK.”

The Maldivian economy was sorely troubled “and a lot of people are suffering very badly and are very poor,” Haleem said. “[MDP and PA] have the same goal, we want to stabilise the economy and we are looking for support. Yameen’s seven members could support the parliamentary approval of a new minister.”


MPs vote against referring to Supreme Court on provinces issue

Yesterday MPs rejected the resolution presented by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to refer to the Supreme Court on the controversial provinces issue.

35 MPs voted for the resolution while 38 MPs voted against the resolution.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party Vice President and MP Ali Waheed said that he doubted the accuracy of the resolution, claiming that it was presented “to mislead the people.”

”MP Ahmed Sameer (who presented the resolution) has told so many lies standing near the podium,” Waheed said. ”Maybe he wanted to make a record for the first ever issue taken to the Supreme Court.”

The provinces section was removed from the decentralisation bill on the vote of the DRP, Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP), Peoples Alliance (PA), Jumhoory Party and several Independent MPs.

”I never knew that people voted to divide the country into seven provinces,” he said.

Waheed said even if the issue was taken to the Supreme Court, they were also unable to divide the country.

”It can only be done by the vote of 77 MPs,” he said.

Independent MP Ibrahim Muthalib said he was concerned that if the issue was taken to the Supreme Court, it would set a precedent and many decisions would be made by the Supreme Court.

”We are losing our dignity on our own,” he said.

MDP MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed said that the issue was not a constitutional issue, and was rather a political issue.

”Dividing the country into provinces were in both the MDP and DRP manifestos,” Nasheed said. ”To fulfill the pledges of MDP, it’s one path we have to go down.”

He said that it would be more beneficial if there were seven ‘Males’, instead of one.

”What is really going on is that some DRP MPs and vice presidents had told me that if the issue was taken to the Supreme Court, it would rule that it is lawful,” he said. ”They asked me how they will save face in front of the people if that was the case.”

He called on the DRP MPs to take the issue to the Supreme Court if they were confident on the matter.

”If the Supreme Court rules it is unconstitutional we will also be supporting DRP MPs,” he said.

DRP MP Ahmed Mahloof said the purpose of MDP presenting the resolution was to mislead the people.

‘The ‘DRP manifesto do not say it the party will divide the country into provinces,” he said, ”it says it would make four cities like Male’.”

Jumhooree Party MP Gasim ‘Buruma’ Ibrahim said it was not necessary to pass the resolution and take it to the Supreme Court.

”We should take this out of the parliament floor and continue our work making laws,” he said.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said that before taking the issue to the Supreme Court people should define the meaning of MDP’s pledges they made to the people.

”They pledged to provide houses for people made homeless by the Tsunami within one year,” he said. ”We should ask them what they meant by ‘one year’ and ‘providing houses’.”

MDP Parliamentary group leader Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik recently said that the MDP parliamentary group would put forward a no-confidence motion against the speaker of the parliament.

However, newspaper ‘Miadhu’ reported that DRP MP Rozaina Adam had claimed there were MDP MPs who would not vote for the no-confidence motion.

Rozaina told Minivan News that she did not wish to speak about the matter.

Reeko said that the parliamentary group would be deciding the matter after the decentralisation bill.

”We do not want to speak about it yet,” he said.

MDP Secretary General Ahmed Shah, Spokesperson Ahmed Haleem and Chairperson Mariya Didi did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

DRP Vice President Umar Naseer said Reeko had promised to draft the no-confidence motion against the speaker not with the intention of doing it, ”but just to charge their activists.”

MDP can only get 27 votes even if the no-confidence motion was forwarded, he said: ”MDP can’t shoot goals in parliament.”


DRP claims MDP activists sending death threats and damaging property

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Vice President and spokesperson Ibahim Shareef has claimed that Maldivian Democratic Party senior activists are sending death threats and damaging the property of DRP senior leaders.

Shareef claimed MDP senior activists had broke the glasses of his shop near Ahmadiyya by throwing pavement bricks at it.

”I have been receiving many death threats via SMS,” Shareef said. ”They are saying things like they would kill me and cut me into pieces.”

Shareef said all the attacks were “due to the hatred MDP activists have towards the DRP leaders.”

”They have been throwing stones at my house for a week now,” he said. ”If these acts are continuing we might have to become strict.”

The MDP “has a responsibility for them to stop these violent acts of their activists” Shareef said.

DRP MP and Vice President Ali Waheed said he had been receiving threats for more than a year, and was “quite used to them by now. I don’t care about it much.”

Waheed said he received threats via SMS and in person.

”One day a group of people entered my house when I was not at home,” he said. ”They took a knife and threatened my Mum.”

Spokesperson for Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Ahmed Haleem said the claims from the DRP leaders “are lies”, and an attempt to attack the dignity of the MDP.

”I am sure than none of us would attack or threaten the DRP,” he said. ”They are just trying to gain political support bhy spreading rumours.”

Haleem said he had seen people “burn their own house and rebuild them just for political purposes.”

Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam from the Maldives Police Service (MPS) meanwhile confirmed that police had received “many reports from politicians saying they are being threatened.”

He added that police were currently collecting more information on the cases.


MDP condemns DRP accusations that the party backed attacks on the media

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has refuted claims made by the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) last week accusing the ruling party of masterminding recent attacks on the media.

Four gang members stormed the studios of television station DhiTV last week, and hours later an employee of newspaper Haveeru was left in a critical condition after he was stabbed outside the building.

In an interview with DhiTV the following day, DRP vice president and spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef said he believed the MDP was behind the attacks on media, adding that he does “not believe the MDP is trying to bring press freedom to the country,.”

DRP vice president and MP Ahmed Ilham did not say he blamed the MDP for the attacks, but he critcised the government “for trying to kill the media in many [other] ways.”

The government had cut points from the broadcasting license of radio station DhiFM “to try and threaten them,” he said.

Police criticism of DhiFM for its coverage of a protest outside Muleaage in January led to the station having five points deducted. Together with police attempts at the time to stop the broadcast, the incident was treated as attack on press freedom by the station and the Maldives Journalists’ Association (MJA).

Three members of the MJA have meanwhile flown to Colombo with the intention of lobbying diplomats and journalists, “seeking international support for press freedom in the Maldives.”

MJA President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said that “President Nasheed’s words promoting press freedom are not being matched by action. Our goal is to seek international pressure so that the President will act on his promises.”

Under the Maldives’ current broadcasting legislation, points are deducted for any breaches of the broadcasting code of conduct, up to a maximum of 100, as decided by a committee appointed by the Department of Information.

Spokesperson for MDP Ahmed Haleem said the party had “sacrificed much” to bring press freedom to the Maldives and regretted DRP’s accusations that the party was somehow responsible for the attacks on the media.

”They don’t know what to talk about now, so they are spreading these untrue stories,” Haleem said.

Haleem claimed that Ilham was “very new to politics” and ”really does not know the way things go.”


Police summon second DRP deputy leader for questioning

Police have summoned the Dhivehi Rayyihtunge Party’s (DRP) deputy leader MP Ali Waheed for questioning about his involvement in the protest outside the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) base and president’s residence on 28 January.

Umar Naseer, another deputy leader of the DRP, was summoned for questioning yesterday about his involvement in the protest.

Waheed notified the media he had been summoned shortly before 3pm, and said he would “face the press” afterwards.

He said he had remained silent during questions about his involvement, and about the comments he made to the media about police cooperating with the protesters.

When the police asked him whether he would like to investigate the incident in which he was hit by a stone during the protest, he replied ”no”.

After the questioning concluded Waheed said he had reported three cases to the police and asked them to investigate.

”The first thing I reported was that during the protest a person from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) – ranked higher than sergeant – used abusive language [against the protesters],” he said.

”Secondly, why that night when MPs asked for police protection were they ignored?”

Thirdly, Waheed said he asked police to investigate an MDP MP who allegedly demanded police stop handcuffing a protester outside parliament during a protest over the decentralisation bill.

Waheed added that it was “really dangerous” for armed police to use abusive language and “threaten people.” He did not mention what was said.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said the government did not believe that the MNDF used abusive language while controlling the protest.

”That was really a dangerous protest by DRP,” he added.

He said it was all right for Waheed to remain silent, but said that ”the police begin such a questioning session of an investigation only after they have collected evidence and proof.”

”As the police is investigating the case we better not comment,” he added.

Spokesperson for Maldivian Democratic Part MDP Ahmed Haleem said also did not believe the MNDF had used abusive language, and furthermore claimed that when MPs asked for police protection the police provided it.

”I was watching the protest very closely,” he said.

Sub Inspector of police Ahmed Shiyam said police were not commenting on whether they would investigate the three cases reported by Ali Waheed.

In a statement police issued on 2 February police said they would launch an investigation of the demonstration outside MDNF and the president’s residence.


Municipality claims land illegally occupied by MDP Haruge

The Male’ Municipality has claimed the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has built a part of its ‘Haruge’ headquarters illegally on the municipality’s land, and informed the party to vacate within 14 days.

President of the Male’ Municipality Adam Manik said the MDP had taken part of the municipality’s land when it built its headquarters.

Adam said that was a part of the land on which the Housing Ministry planned to build flats.

”[MDP Chairperson] Mariya Didi built their office there unauthorised,” Adam claimed.

He said the council had now informed Didi to clear out the site within 14 days.

”It’s not the whole of the MDP Haruge,” he said. ”Its’s the part of the Haruge where they have the administration office.”

Spokesperson for MDP Ahmed Haleem said the party would clear the land within 14 days as requested. He said the land had been given to the MDP by the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce “as a gift.”

”We did not know that a part of the municipality’s land was occupied by us,” he said, adding that the party had not decided where to build its new administration office.

He said the land claimed by the municipality measured around 2000 square feet.


DRP announces new vice presidents

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has elected four vice presidents during the its third annual congress, which concluded today.

The new vice presidents are the party’s spokesman Ibrahim Shareef (642 votes), MP Ali Waheed (645 votes), MP Ahmed Ilham (593 votes) and Umar Naseer, former president of the Islamic Democratic Party (502 votes).

Eight people stood for election to the post. The other candidates were Abdullah Mausoom (383 votes), Afrashim Ali (288 votes), Mohamed Saleem (239 votes) and Fathin Hameed (210 votes).

The party’s new leader is Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, who was was elected leader by default as no candidate stood against him, and will become the party’s presidential candidate. During the congress the party’s former leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was also given the title of ‘Honorary leader’.

Ibrahim Shareef said the party was now looking forward to strengthening the relationship between the new leadership and its members.

”This is a very dynamic leadership,” he said. ”During this leadership many changes will be brought to our party.”

He said the party’s new leader Thasmeen was a “very intelligent and capable person.”

”The other three vice presidents are also very capable and won the election because of the popularity they have among the people,” he said.

DRP MP and new vice president Ali Waheed said he was pleased to work with the new leadership, describing the others as “very capable and experienced people.”

Waheed said with its new leadership the party would get stronger “day by day”. His next target, he said, was to “strengthen the relationship between the DRP supporters around the atolls.”

DRP MP and new vice president Ahmed Ilham said the public would see a difference in the party within six months.

Umar Naseer said the party would be “very active” during his leadership, and said his aim was to “bring the government’s administration to an end.”

Spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Ahmed Haleem said he “regretted that the party’s educated people were not elected as vice presidents.”

”With this leadership I do not think they will achieve anything,” Haleem said.

”These new vice presidents will drop the party back 20 years. They are still at early 90s, we are at 2010.”


Umar Naseer claims MDP influencing internal DRP politics

Former president of the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) and candidate for the DRP vice presidency, Umar Naseer, has claimed he is being targeted by an amendment presented to the party insisting candidates seeking elections to senior positions must have been a member for at least six months.

”It must be someone related to MDP who is trying to stop me from becoming the vice president of DRP,” Umar claimed.

He said that the MDP “was afraid that if I become the vice president of the party the government might fall”, and said the ruling party was “planning many things” to stop him from becoming the DRP’s vice president.

DRP MP Ahmed Mausoom said the amendments would only be announced on the 16 and 17 of February, adding that he did not know who had presented the amendment.

DRP MP Ali Waheed, who is also contesting for the party’s vice presidency, said he had not yet gone through the amendments and could not comment on them yet. He said he gave the eight candidates running for the post of vice president his “best wishes”.

Spokesman for MDP Ahmed Haleem said that the MDP “does not consider Umar Naseer a political figure”, and added that the party was looking forward to a time when DRP “strengthens its inner democracy and leadership to become a strong opposition party.”