President Yameen will not resign and go home, says PPM MP Nihan

MP for Vilimalé constituency, Ahmed Nihan, is the leader of ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ parliamentary group. Minivan News interviewed Nihan ahead of mass anti-government demonstrations planned by the Jumhooree Party and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Zaheena Rasheed: Former President Mohamed Nasheed has a lot of supporters. He has now allied with the Jumhooree Party and they are planning a mass demonstration for today. Do you consider this a threat?

Ahmed Nihan: No. You see, there are about 50 MPs in our parliamentary group, a lot of their constituents are here. The past two days, we’ve been working on finding out how many people will attend the protests. So based on that, we do not foresee any such danger. I do not believe the state should obstruct the right to free speech.  If citizens are dissatisfied with this government, they must be able to say so. But that right must not be abused to violate others’ rights, such as closing down streets, blocking lagoons, they cannot do this. But this is a cautious situation, we must be alert, to acts of terrorism, I’m saying this because this has happened before. And I note, there are some young men who’ve been convicted on terrorism, for example I have one mother whose son was sentenced after vandalizing the Villa TV Station on March 19. What answer do I have for her? There are many on my island, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo, who have terrorism charges pending against them, at least 112, following the torching of government buildings on February 8. I am sure they are not criminals, they became sucked into politics. And tomorrow, how many will be tricked into this again? We will not support vandalism and arson.

Opposition parties say President Yameen’s government is lurching towards authoritarianism. Can you tell me what you believe are PPM’s democratic successes and what you plan to do to protect democracy in the future?

Many Maldivians believe the biggest challenge the country faces is the enforcement of the rule of law. Some are able to walk free, there are many cases where young men wielding swords, machetes and weapons are shedding blood. The whole country used to be in shock when they heard of a murders, but since 2007, we’ve seen over 30 murders. Everyone believes upholding the rule of law is essential in putting an end to this. In the past year, President Yameen, has taken an important step forward for a resolution. For example, the amendment to the Possession of Dangerous Weapons Act, charges will be pressed within ten days and it will be prosecuted within 30 days. This will prevent the intimidation of witnesses, and the accused changing their confession statements. We also have a draft of the Criminal Procedure Act; with this it shows President Yameen is working to turn this country. This is not an easy task for any leader, especially with a large youth bulge.

How does this relate to democratization?

What I’m trying to say is, politics rolls from the courage and determination of politicians, not just from what is written in the law. It must be implemented. To show he has the courage to implement the law, President Abdulla Yameen has said he will enforce the death penalty, once it has passed through all necessary appeals. Delivering justice is our biggest aim. We are in a state of fear, we are seeing such gruesome scenes, who would want to see this?

When there is a link between political stability and public safety, does the government have any plans to initiate talks?

The President met with us on Wednesday, and he said he is always ready for dialogue, but on reasonable grounds. If you look at the real issue behind the current crisis, all these trials are not yet completed. The opposition’s role is to criticize the governing party, MDP is good, and MDP must criticize the government. But the JP’s motives are unclear.

They are not coming out for the people. Gasim Ibrahim is working in his own interest. He left Mohamed Nasheed in 2008, after only 21 days in government, because he did not get what he wanted. It’s the same with us. Even if Mohamed Nasheed comes to power next, if he doesn’t oblige with Gasim’s demands, he will do the same. They were behind the 22 days of protests prior to Nasheed’s resignation. These are the same people who cried and hugged each other when he resigned. And the people who carried Nasheed’s resignation letter, the people who spurred the country into two years of chaos, who forced MDP supporters to the streets shouting traitor, they cannot be clean now. So I think tomorrow’s protests will amount to zero. There will be no benefit to anyone.

They cannot say this government wasn’t elected legally. The question is are Maldivians in the business of overthrowing governments? Are we engaged day to day in overthrowing governments? This cannot become our daily lives.

When the government hands him lagoons, islands, forgives him the money he owes the government, he will turn on Mohamed Nasheed.

So what is your government’s plans to ensure political stability?

Following the events of February 7, some people believe the president will resign. Because Nasheed did. President Yameen will not do that. He is firm, he will not resign and go home. He will face challenges, and he will ensure safety for everyone, and ensure the country remains a sovereign state. This government will not allow any acts that affect our sovereignty. He will protect our sovereignty. The national security forces will stop such acts. I am certain.

Opposition parties are claiming former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister’s charges are politically motivated. What is your response?

Honestly, if you look at the sequence of events, our new constitution does not give the opportunity for politically motivated charges to be levied against any individual. This is different to previous years, when the president could arrest someone at will for their political beliefs. Political parties are free to operate now, it’s been ten years since we were granted that right. Prosecuting someone for crimes they commit, or may commit is upholding the rule of law; this is the norm anywhere in the world. This is one of the strongest facets of democracy. Justice must be ensured. If this is a society, where an individual is able to evade justice after committing a crime, then there is no democracy here. Even if its President Nasheed or former minister Nazim.

I want to note, it is not the government that presses charges, the constitution clearly states it is the independent Prosecutor General who presses charges. Now, some argue the PG is pro-government. A PG must be appointed to the post through the Majlis as per the constitution. Where will you go, to which court, to see if the person is independent and impartial? As we transition to democracy, there have been many events where all parties were not satisfied with the outcome. This is because we are not a consolidated, institutionalized democracy. The new constitution was most heavily influenced by the then-opposition. Are we to go back to square one again? Where do we start again? Or do we go forward with the current situation, everyone cannot be appeased all the time.

They cannot show us any evidence to back their claim that these charges are politically motivated. President Abdulla Yameen did not initiate these trials. We do not see his involvement at any level in this. But Mohamed Nasheed was involved in the arrest of the judge, he has said so in public, at three events, he went so far as to claim Judge Abdulla would not be able to go within 100 meters of the court. We can see his engagement to that level. But President Yameen has not commented even once on today’s events. I can clearly testify to this.

Many have expressed concern over the Criminal Court denying Nasheed legal representation, when the court sentenced him to pre-trial detention

The problem here is that this case concerns a former president. I personally do not believe a former president should be dragged to court just like that. I am the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ parliamentary group leader. Why? Because I proposed the law on privileges to former presidents. Even then I attempted to stop events such as this. The law had an article 9 – MDP threw it out. I had proposed that if criminal charges are to be pressed against a former president, they be passed by a Majlis committee or a majority or two third majority of Majlis. This is not saying they shouldn’t go to court. But MDP annulled it. The result is the challenges President Nasheed is currently facing.

At the time, my idea was that – not everyone becomes president. They would have to take many decisions, which they cannot share with the public, due to national security reasons. So we cannot prosecute them the same way as any ordinary person.

This is not to say that if they commit a crime, whether its Nasheed or Gayoom, the law must apply to them. But because they were former presidents, I tried to ease it for them.

Anyhow, charges have been pressed. And on Nasheed not having had enough time to appoint a lawyer, I hear Nasheed has been afforded the opportunity to defend himself. He still has the opportunity to defend himself, the opportunity to tell us why, for what reasons, he did it. I believe he has that opportunity.


Govt parties need to reassess power sharing, after thousands attend MDP rally: MP Nihan

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said today it would not rule out forming a coalition with President Dr Mohamed Waheed or any other fellow government-aligned parties ahead of  elections scheduled for September.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News the party was already engaged in talks over the possibility of forming a power sharing agreement with other parties in the government of President Waheed.

Nihan said that after thousands of people attended a gathering held by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last Friday (April 19) to announce the signing of Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid, all political parties needed to reassess their views on power sharing.

“Risky business”

Nihan’s comments were echoed this week by Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who claimed that a changed political landscape since the country’s first multi-party elections in 2008, necessitated a willingness to share power more than ever.

“We have to recognise that the PPM and the MDP are the two major political forces in the country capable of winning elections. Hence, if the governing coalition desires to forge an alliance, it cannot realistically exclude the PPM from any such move. Whether a coalition, inclusive of the PPM can be realised prior to the elections is possible or not, we cannot alienate major political parties in an election,” he told Minivan News this week.

“Therefore, the role of smaller parties attempting to win an election of this scale without the inclusion of major political parties is in my opinion, a risky business,” Dr Jameel added.

While declining to give exact details on the nature of power sharing discussions currently held by the PPM, MP Nihan claimed the party’s supporters were divided on the need to form a coalition after considering the size of the crowd that attended Speaker Shahid’s inaugural address as an MDP member last week.

“We are not in a position to give the media more details on coalition talks as of today. However, the PPM has engaged in talks with various parties,” he claimed.

“Many of our supporters are divided over whether we need a coalition with the Jumhoree Party (JP) and other government parties. After the MDP rally [on Friday] there has been lots of speculation [about coalition forming]. Let’s not rule anything out.”

Nihan stressed that the PPM’s preferred option would be to stand individually in the first round of elections to try and secure an outright elections victory.

However, he claimed that the PPM’s founder, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, had already explained within local media that the party remained open to the idea of forming coalitions with any party except the MDP.

DRP approached

Addressing speculation over the formation of a “broad coalition”, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) today said it had also been approached by representatives from President Waheed’s party over potentially standing in the election through a pwoer sharing agreement.

DRP Deputy Leader Mohamed Shareef said he did not wish to provide further details on discussions at present or confirm if any decision had been taken on entering a power sharing agreement.

However, discussing the DRP’s experiences as being part of the unity government of President Waheed, Shareef added that power sharing in the country was not without challenges.

“There are some who believe that the elections will be easier in a coalition. While they may be right, there have always been lots of differences of opinion in the current unity government,” he said.

Shareef added that in forming the current government – sworn in after former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military – there had not been any “formal discussions” on individual roles that would be taken by coalition members.

Shareef claimed that securing any future agreement between different political parties and their respective presidential candidates on who should lead any coalition would prove more difficult.

Shareef therefore said he believed that the PPM was one party that would only be interested in a coalition that stood behind its own presidential candidate, MP Abdulla Yameen.

“The PPM will not be interested unless people would back their candidate. They are presently the largest party [in the current government] and will believe everyone must follow them,” he said. “However, in a coalition everyone must be equal.”

Shareef claimed that a failure to listen to the opinions of coalition partners had led to the previous government, formed behind Mohamed Nasheed’s MDP, eventually alienating all other parties, before the administration was toppled last February.

Just last month, the DRP said it would reject any possibility of forming a coalition with the PPM  beyond the present government, calling any discussion on the matter a “waste of time” considering previous disagreements between the two parties.

The PPM was formed by DRP founder, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2011 following an acrimonious war of words with the party’s current leader, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. Thasmeen was directly appointed by Gayoom to be his successor as head of the DRP.

However, Shareef today refused to comment on speculation over any possible coalition agreement with the party.

Agreed coalition

At present, President Waheed’s GIP has formally agreed to stand in a coalition during the elections with the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

Both parties, which have no elected representatives in parliament , currently face potential dissolution for lacking the minimum requirement of 10,000 members as stipulated in the recently passed Political Parties Act.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has also publicly pledged its support to President Waheed, last month announcing plans to form a coalition with the GIP.

Meanwhile, after the JP rejected speculation it would form a coalition with President Waheed last week, Party Leader and presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim was later quoted in local media on Thursday (April 18) as saying he would consider power sharing. However, Gasim stated at the time that that he would not stand as a running mate in such a coalition.

“Bitter lessons”

Senior figures of the opposition MDP including former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed earlier this month that sharing cabinet positions among different political parties would not result in an efficient government in the Maldives.

Former President Nasheed stated at the time that leaders of different political parties had learned “bitter lessons” surrounding their inability to run a government by sharing cabinet positions among different political parties over the last four years.

“A cabinet in which one minister belongs to this party and another belongs to that party, cannot run a government,” he said.

Aerial view of an MDP rally held on Friday April 20 to welcome the signing of Speaker Abdulla Shahid: