National Security Committee to summon former President Gayoom

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has proposed summoning former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to the parliamentary National Security Committee yesterday over his alleged involvement in US$800 million worth of blackmarket oil trade with Burma.

The Hulhu-Henveiru MP, a member of the MDP-dominated committee, proposed summoning Gayoom and other senior officials of the former government suspected of involvement in the secret trade conducted by the State Trading Organisation’s (STO) Singapore branch.

Moosa’s proposal was backed by other MDP MPs as well as minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla.

Moosa told Minivan News today that the committee will summon Gayoom after gathering necessary information.

“Because this is a very serious issue and it is a serious allegation, it requires the committee to question him and other persons believed to be involved in this black-market oil trade,” Moosa said.

On August 2, a resolution calling for an investigation into the allegations submitted by MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa was sent to the National Security Committee, which began deliberations at its meeting yesterday.

National Security Committee Chair MP Ali Waheed told press yesterday that the committee decided to send out letters to the relevant authorities in the Maldives as well as Singapore to gather information.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Z-faction MP Ahmed Nihan meanwhile told Minivan News that the committee’s decision was a “psychological attack” on the party’s ‘Honorary Leader’ (Zaeem) Gayoom.

“The committee does not have any sincerity in their work, it is all about the personal grudge that Moosa has for Gayoom,” Nihan said. “The committee does have the authority to summon persons and inviting former president to the committee is nothing to be concerned about.”

Nihan suggested that the committee should also investigate allegations that the committee’s chair MP Ali Waheed – former Deputy Leader of the DRP – received US$2 million by defecting to the ruling party.

“The committee should also investigate the allegations that there was corruption in the US$21 million Thilafushi project that Moosa is conducting,” Nihan said.

He added that opposition MPs would soon submit a resolution calling for an investigation into President Mohamed Nasheed allegedly consuming alcohol in front of Indian journalists in December 2008.


Under-fire Thasmeen won’t shift 2012 congress amidst DRP reconciliation attempts

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has questioned calls to bring forward the party’s 2012 congress amidst initiatives designed to end infighting between his own supporters and those of his predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Amidst an escalating tensions between Thasmeen and former President Gayoom – the DRP’s honorary leader – a group of party councillors have moved to form committees to try and reconcile divisions that have occurred between the two figures.

Party members critical of Thasmeen’s leadership have said they hope that any potential reconciliation will resolve concerns regarding what they see as the serving DRP head’s failure to adhere to the party’s charter on a number of issues such as dismissing former party member Umar Naseer.

Thasmeen told Minivan News today that from his perspective, he welcomed the possibility of dialogue that served to “strengthen” the party, having nominated three persons to represent him as a committee. The DRP leader added that Gayoom had appointed representatives of his own to take part in the ongoing discussions, which he claimed remained at an early stage and had yet to deal with the key “issues” that had led to divides in the party.

“The talks have not gone far, yet if any good can come of them [for the party], I would welcome that,” he said. “It is too early to say what sort of outcome we are expecting and we would like to see how talks proceed before we make any prejudgments in the media.”

The DRP head added that despite welcoming the talks, he would not concede to calls from some MPs to bring forward the party’s scheduled 2012 congress or hold an extraordinary meeting concerning topics like his leadership. In the last party congress held back in 2010, Thasmeen was anointed by Gayoom as party leader and elected unopposed – the honorary leader’s support has since been revoked on the back of apparent professional animosity between the two men.

“President Gayoom has suggested bringing forward the party congress. Now I have my opinions on this, but I would rather not say them right now,” he said. “The DRP constitution says that a congress should be held in 2012, so why is there a need for this to happen sooner?”

Thasmeen claimed additionally that certain party members had been using the media to attack and cause further divisions within the party and that he wished to avoid making any comments that exacerbated the present situation.

Thasmeen criticism

Ahmed Nihan, a DRP MP allied to a spin-off faction of the party known as the Zaeem-DRP (Z-DRP), which supports Gayoom and dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer in their criticism of Thameen’s leadership, said that a “lot of effort” was taken by general members and councillors to try and bridge divisions within the party.

Nihan said that he rejected the label of the Z-DRP and its description as a political faction as a media invention, adding that initiatives were being taken to resolve differences within the party between Thasmeen and Gayoom, including ending a boycott of DRP council meetings.

“We are still members of the DRP and I have the same rights as anyone else to speak my mind. We are a democratic party,” he said. “As of last night, we have agreed to attend the party’s council for the first time in months and sit down with [Thasmeen].”

According to Nihan, the key objectives for supporters of the so-called Z-DRP movement were to call on Thasmeen to run the party under the rules outlined under the DRP’s charter, something he alleged has not been the case at a time. He claimed this was unfortunate at a time when opposition parties needed to be working closer together to oppose the government.

In outlining areas about Thasmeen’s leadership that concerned him, Nihan claimed that not all had been bought to the attention of the public as yet.

“There are a lot of things Thasmeen has done that we haven’t revealed to the media. These relate not only to Umar [Naseer’s] dismissal, but actions taken afterwards,” he said. “He has tried to expel members of the party who do not agree with his rule. Being the leader he should think of the wellbeing of the party.@


Z-DRP plotting potential cross-party leadership coup, alleges opposition MP

A serving Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP has alleged that a spin-off faction formed by some of her colleagues is working to remove current leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to forward their own presidential candidate – from another party.

Expressing these concerns, DRP MP Rozaina Adam today hit out at supporters of the Z-DRP faction, formed by a number of her fellow party members in the wake of infighting between serving leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and party founder Maumoon Abdul Gayoom over claims they were endangering the party’s election prospects.

She claims that the Z-DRP, who support Gayoom over his self-appointed successor Thasmeen, are endangering their own party’s election prospects in a coup to forward their own candidate and interests.

While Gayoom continues to hold the title of “honorary leader” of the DRP, Adam said she believed the former president’s involvement with the Z-DRP group was at the centre of the present disputes and infighting.

“There is no legal basis for what [Gayoom] is doing,” she said, referring to the former president’s attacks on the party leadership and its aims of removing Thasmeen from the leadership. Adam said that the divides within the DRP was weakening the party as the country’s main political opposition, as well as negatively impacting its support base.

Just yesterday, the DRP branch office of Adam’s Thulusdhoo constituency announced via a statement that its local supporters would consider “shifting sides” in regards to their political allegiance if the party failed to resolve the reported split.

“We call on former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and DRP Zaeem (honorary leader) to solve the internal dispute within the party,’’ read the statement, signed by the Deputy Head of the Thulusdhoo Branch.

Adam said that she was sceptical whether the party’s supporters would opt to join another party, especially in the case of the governing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), though she accepted that the DRP’s reputation may have suffered among supporters.

“I do think [the party’s infighting] creates confusion for supporters, but I don’t think they will change party; that is not likely,” she said. “However, I don’t think that this movement [Z-DRP] is working for what’s best for the DRP. We see people in the party supporting People’s Alliance (PA) leader party leader Abdullah Yameen as a possible leader.”

Adam alleged that some MPs linked to the Z-DRP faction were actively trying to unseat Thasmeen solely to install another candidate such as Yameen, Gayoom’s half brother, or another politician wanting to claim the DRP’s presidential ticket for their own “agenda”.

“[Their motives] are based on pulling Thasmeen down and installing their own candidate,” she claimed. “[Ahmed] Mahlouf – a fellow DRP MP linked to the Z-DRP – has already stated that he would rather support President Mohamed Nasheed [of the MDP] than our own leader in Thasmeen. I suspect [the Z-DRP] have a candidate in mind for the presidency. I don’t know who this will be, but I believe it is not for the benefit of the party.”

Adam’s comments were made as fellow DRP MP Ahmed Nihan, himself aligned to the Z-DRP movement, said he believed there was widespread support within the wider party to appoint a new leader to replace Thasmeen by next year ahead of a general election scheduled for 2013.

Speaking to Minivan News, Nihan said that despite infighting within the party, there remained widespread support among his fellow DRP members for a new candidate to contest for the party as the 2013 presidential candidate. Amongst this apparent interest in changing leadership of the DRP, the MP claimed that he expected neither Thasmeen nor former President Gayoom to stand against President Mohamed Nasheed in the 2013 election.

The Z-DRP, which has been described by politicians and media outlets as both a political movement and an individual faction of the DRP standing to oppose Thasmeen, was formed amidst disputes in the party initially between supporters of Thasmeen and the party’s dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

After these initial disputes led to Naseer’s dismissal  from the party in December, the infighting has evolved into outright criticisms between the only two men to have stood as leaders of the DRP.

After announcing this week that Gayoom had been requested to stand as a temporary leader of the Z-DRP and chair its member meetings until a new DRP leader was instated, Nihan said that this did not mean the former president would return from retirement to stand as a presidential candidate in 2013.

“Maumoon [Gayoom] is not coming out of his retirement to enter politics, but there is something much bigger for him to do. There is a moral obligation that if anything goes wrong [with the DRP], as party founder he must help find a solution,” he claimed. “Gayoom is not changing his mind to run in the next election, we will have a new leader by then.”

In addressing the capacity of the Z-DRP’s support to enact a potential change in leadership, Nihan rejected the descriptive term of a faction used by media to describe the group. The MP added that the Z-DRP was just the name of a movement that reflected wider concerns amongst party members that he claimed strongly believed Thasmeen had “failed” to oppose the government in policies such as allowing India-based infrastructure giant GMR to manage and overhaul Male’ international Airport.

“Gayoom does not want the DRP to be split up. Whatever our name is we are members, serving members of the DRP,” he claimed. “I don’t believe we are in a faction [Z-DRP], we are founding members of the party including myself, Ahmed Mahlouf and Duniya Maumoon. The majority of the DRP are behind us.”

Nihan said he was certain that a large number of the party’s general members “strongly believed” that Thasmeen was not doing enough to hold the government accountable. “Thasmeen has failed and our supporters have requested reforms,” he said. “We are calling for an agreement on holding a conference within a given time frame.”

According to Nihan, this conference could come in the form of an extraordinary party meeting or in the form of the congress scheduled for 2012. In the last party congress held back in 2010, Thasmeen was appointed by Gayoom himself as party leader.

Nihan said that any potential change in leadership ahead of the 2013 elections should be made would by a vote reflecting the choices of party members. “At present, we are hoping we may be able to schedule a congress or party meeting with members concerning leadership possibly by August,” he said.


Z-DRP claims texts of Gayoom’s illness from Dhunya’s number are malicious prank

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s faction of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has held a press conference calling on the public to be aware of false text messages circulated in the name of Gayoom’s daughter, Dhunya Maumoon.

Faction member MP Ahmed Nihan said the texts are being sent to different persons using mobile phone applications that can send texts under false numbers without the knowledge of the owner of the number.

“The texts say that Zaeem [an honorific for the former President] has fallen ill and is in a very critical condition.’’

‘’Since yesterday morning the persons who are doing this have been texting to different numbers using Dhunya’s mobile number, and people have been very concerned thinking that it was Dhunya who texted them,’’ Nihan said.

Nihan claimed the fraudsters “have been doing this either to mislead the public or to infuriate senior officials of the Z-DRP.”

‘’We don’t know who is doing this. The [ruling] Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters re most likely to do things like that,’’ he claimed, “But considering the current situation we can’t say, it might even be someone amongst us.’’

Furthermore, Nihan called supporters of Z-DRP faction to clarify with senior officials if they received any sort of concerning text.

‘’We will try to identify those responsible for this and will take action against them,’’ he said, adding that Gayoom was currently in a very ‘’fit and healthy condition.’’


Opposition MPs vow to forward no-confidence motion against President

A group of opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs have declared they will forward a no-confidence motion against President Mohamed Nasheed to parliament.

“There is no need to go out and protest on the streets, there is only one individual who is the issue for the Maldives,” said DRP MP Ahmed Nihan. “It is the president who is the issue, and as MPs it is our lawful duty to file this motion and send the president home.”

Nasheed had violated the constitution which justified invoking article 100 of the constitution, concerning impeachment, claimed Nihan.

“Multiple times he has gone beyond the chart and violated the constitution – we have no other choice,” Nihan said, adding that if the president was “allowed to to do whatever he wished, there will be no use for an institution named parliament.”

Nihan said that DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf, DRP MP and deputy leader of the party Ahmed Ilham and DRP MP Ali Arif were working together to secure the no-confidence vote.

A vote to impeach the President or Vice-President requires a two-thirds majority in the 77-member parliament, and counting the voting history of the Independent MPs, would still require 8-10 of the ruling MDP MPs to cross the floor and vote with the opposition.

Nonetheless, several weeks ago the government revealed that six MDP MPs had written to the President alleging opposition MPs had attempted to bribe them to vote against the government, prompting the resignation of cabinet in protest and precipitating the current political deadlock.

Nihan said he would propose the motion be supported by the rest of the DRP, “although we do not know what would our party’s stand would be,” he said.

“Any MP who works according to the oath and is sincere to their people, will definitely support the motion,” he claimed.

“This is a very serious declaration, this is not a joke. The whole nation is calling in one voice simultaneously for the resignation of the president,” he added.

MDP MP Ahmed Shifaz said that opposition MP were only in parliament with the sole intention of trying to topple the government.

“I can give you 100 percent assurance that they will not be able to topple the government in parliament,” said Shifaz. “Even if they try [with this motion] it would not be successful.”

Shifaz claimed that opposition MPs made such claims to try and boost their status among opposition supporters.


Copyright laws presented to parliament

Parliament today voted to proceed with a bill on copy right laws submitted by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

MPs voted unanimously to send the bill to the economic affairs committee for review.

Introducing the draft legislation, MDP MP Mohamed Thoriq said the proposed copyright laws would create a legal framework to protect intellectual property in the Maldives and thereby “encourage creativity”.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Mausoom said while the party supported to the bill, it needed some amendments: ”Software protection was not fully provided in the bill,” he said.

A significant proportion of software used in the Maldives, including by government agencies, are pirated copies. Historically this has been due to the both the ready accessibility of unlicensed software and the comparatively high cost of legitimate licenses in the developed world. For example, a copy of a popular accountancy software package that costs Rf25 (US$2) at a shop in Male’ can run to several thousand US dollars if bought legitimately.

As the bill was connected to the productivity of the country, Mausoom added, it was very important to make it as comprehensive as possible.

Maldivian Democratic Party MDP MP Mohamed Mustafa concurred that the bill was important to the Maldives as ”copyright should be protected in the country.”

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said that the bill was necessary but noted that ”there are amendments that should be brought to the bill.”

Nihan said that there were people who had become mid-level businessmen by selling the pirate copies of softwares and other products.

‘There are fake iPhones, blackberries and other types of mobile phone sold in the market,” he said. ”This business of fake models and products should be prevented.”


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.”


MDP to take province issue to Supreme Court

Spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group MP Ahmed Shifaz has said the parliamentary group intends to take the dispute over the province section of the decentralisation bill to the supreme court.

Shifaz said according to the constitution, when the parliament disputes an issue by resolution it has the power to ask for advice from the supreme court.

”The opposition say it is unconstitutional to divide the country in to seven provinces,” Shifaz said, ”so we are going to present a resolution to the parliament, and see what the Supreme Court says,”

He said he hoped the opposition MPs would agree to pass a resolution to hear what the Supreme Court says.

”According to the constitution the Supreme Court is able to give the last word,” he said. ”I hope they agree and pass the resolution.”

MDP MP Ahmed Hamza said the MDP parliamentary group had decided to present a resolution according to the Article 95 of the constitution.

Aricle 95 of the constitution reads as follows: ”The People’s Majlis may by resolution refer to the Supreme Court for hearing and consideration important questions of law concerning any matter, including the interpretation of the Constitution and the constitutional validity of any statute. The Supreme Court shall answer the questions so referred and shall provide the answers to the People’s Majlis, giving reasons for its answers. The opinion shall be pronounced in like manner as in the case of a judgement on appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Hamza said that the opposition MPs claimed that dividing the country into seven provinces was against article 230 [b] of the constitution.

Article 230 [b] of the constitution reads as follows: ”In order to provide for decentralised administration, the President has the power, as provided in law, to create constituencies, posts, island councils, atoll councils and city councils.”

”This is not a constitutional issue, in fact, this is a political issue,” Hamza said, ”we want the Supreme Court to say whether dividing in to seven provinces is against 230 [b] of the constitution.”

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed said did not wish to comment on the issue yet.

”This might even be a political issue,” he suggested.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said it was written in the constitution “in clear words” that the country’s administrative units cannot be divided into seven provinces.

Nihan said the party would not change its stand.

”I do not think the Supreme Court would say we are wrong either,” he said. ”I think our party will not change its mind.”

He said dividing the country into administrative units would make it more difficult for people to get services from the government.

Deputy Leader of DRP Umar Naseer said that presenting a resolution to the parliament to hear what the Supreme Court had to say on the matter “does not have any weight.”

”Although the Supreme Court can say whatever it likes, it’s in the hand of MPs to decide what to do with the provinces,” he said. ”They are just trying to delay this bill.”

He said that MDP MPs were already aware that people did not want to divide the country’s administrative units into seven provinces.


”Expat or locals, both are human”: DRP calls on government to reopen water taps

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan has called on the government to reopen the closed public water taps in Malé by the end of this week.

Deputy Head of Malé Municipality Mohamed Arif told Minivan News yesterday that all but four of the 19 taps closed because they were “mostly being used by expats [and] not Maldivians.”

The water taps cost the municipality Rf3.5 million (US$270,000) last year, he said.

Today, Nihan said many people were complaining that the municipality’s decision was causing them difficulty.

”Expat or locals, both are human,” he said. ”Water is a basic fundamental right for any human being.”

”We want the government to keep at least eight taps available,” Nihan said, ”so that two are available for each district.”

He said the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standards would not allow a country to keep its public water taps closed.

Nihan said he did not want the water from the taps to be used for car washing or business purposes.

”We are ready to go out on the streets and protest on this issue,” he said. ”If they do not reopen the taps by this week we will come out to the streets and will even take the issue to parliament.”

Nihan said the party was waiting so as to give some time for the government to reverse the decision.

”This shows how incapable and unable the government is to run this country,” he said. “They cannot even manage the public water taps.”

Head of Male’ Municipality Adam Manik said the government “might or might not” reopen four more taps.

”We do not want to know what the DRP wants,” Adam said. ‘We understand what the people want, and so far nobody has complained [to us] that they are having difficulties.”

Adam said there would be enough water available from the four open taps, and that he did not wish to comment on the issue further.

MDP MP Alhan Fahmy also said he did not want to comment on the issue while spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Parliamentary group, Ahmed Shifaz did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.