President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s running mate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – who also heads the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – has strongly criticised the presidential candidate of fellow coalition party the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) over the parliament’s decision to reject several cabinet appointments.
On Monday, President Waheed’s government faced a major setback in parliament after two out of its three recent cabinet appointments failed to receive the required parliamentary approval.
The new Human Rights Minister Aishath Azima Shukoor and Attorney General Aishath Bisham were reject in close votes, while Transport Minister Ameen Ibrahim narrowly succeeded in getting the required consent.
Shukoor, also Waheed’s former Attorney General, was rejected 33 votes against to 31 in favour with no abstentions, while her replacement as Attorney General, Aishath Bisham, was rejected 32-32, with Speaker Abdulla Shahid casting the deciding vote not to approve her appointment.
Transport Minister Ameen Ibrahim was approved by 33 votes in favour to 32 against, with one MP abstaining.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs followed their party line to reject all three ministers while PPM MPs were largely absent from the floor.
The PPM MPs who remained – including Ahmed Mahloof, rumoured to be considering a switch to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – voted against the party whip line.
President Waheed subsequently re-appointed Shukoor – who had been serving as Gender Minister – to her earlier post of Attorney General, requiring another future vote of consent.
In a short media briefing held after the vote, a frustrated Thasmeen blasted Yameen, claiming that he had purposefully left the parliament floor with his party members to make sure the ministers did not get parliamentary approval.
“PPM MPs under the leadership of its presidential candidate decided not to be present on the floor when the vote took place. Due to that, two ministers were not able to get enough votes to get parliamentary consent,” Thasmeen declared.
PPM was among the many former opposition parties that pledged support to President Waheed following his sudden ascension to power in February 2012, after his predecessor former President Mohamed Nasheed stepped down during a mutiny within the police and military.
PPM has since then maintained that it had supported the government only for the sake of national interest and for the well being of the people.
However, Thasmeen on Monday disputed the claim stating that the real picture of Yameen and his “ruthlessness” had now been revealed to the public.
“It is a great blessing and a very good thing to see this side of Yameen prior to the election. People will see the real face of Yameen,” Thasmeen claimed.
Thasmeen – who was also the running mate of Maldives former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008 elections – reiterated that people must judge a candidate whom they would vote in the election by the yard stick of “humanity and humane values”.
“I remember exactly what happened when former President Nasheed unlawfully arrested Yameen [in 2010]. At that time it was Azima Shukoor who worked tirelessly day and night for his release from custody,” he added. “But Yameen forgot about that today.”
Despite the defeat, Thasmeen appeared confident claiming that the current government had a sufficient number of MPs supporting it and such defeats would not be a common occurrence.
Presidential election is more important, says PPM
Justifying the decision to leave the floor during the critical vote, Deputy Leader of PPM Abdul Raheem Abdulla told the media that its presidential candidate had not been present because he had to go on a campaign trip that was scheduled on the same day. He said PPM was currently more focused on the upcoming presidential elections.
Raheem also alleged that President Waheed had become “very personal” against the PPM, and said many individuals who held political positions in the government had been dismissed from their posts after they joined the PPM.
Previously, Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – a former member of Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) that has decided to back Waheed’s re-election bid – was dismissed from his position upon the request of DQP’s Leader Dr Hassan Saeed after Jameel joined the PPM to become the running mate of Yameen.
Other members of the DQP, including Deputy Tourism Minister Maleeh Jamaal and State Minister for Economic Ministry Abdulla Ameen, were dismissed from their positions after their refusal to back President Waheed.
Meanwhile, speaking to local newspaper Haveeru from Addu City, Yameen said Azima was best suited for the position of Attorney General and PPM did not want to see her in another cabinet position. Yameen claimed President Waheed had not discussed the matter with the party before appointing her as Gender Minister.
“I was the one who first told President Waheed to appoint Shukoor as the Attorney General. I worked for that. Back then she was a council member of PPM,” Yameen said.
Regarding the new Attorney General Bisham, Yameen said PPM did not support her because the party believed Shukoor was the one who should be in the position.
“The most important thing is who is the most competent person for Attorney General. We were expecting Shukoor to be the attorney general knowing her competence and back then the government listened to what we say,” Yameen explained.