President’s coalition expects to be joined by the Jumhoree Party ahead of election

A coalition of political parties backing President Dr Mohamed Waheed in September’s election has expressed confidence it will be joined by the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) – despite no official talks having taken place as yet.

Abdulla Yazeed, a spokesperson on the media team of President Waheed’s ‘forward with the nation’ coalition, said the group would continue to welcome other political parties to join its existing members, but denied any such talks were presently being held.

“Our plan is to have a very large coalition backing President Waheed,” he said.

However, JP MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla today said that while no decision would be taken on whether to join President Waheed’s coalition before its national congress scheduled for later this month, the party anticipated fielding its own candidate during the election.

“What I will say is that our articles and regulations state that our leader has to run as a presidential candidate. We have to run for the seat on our own,” he said.

Raheem added that the party did nonetheless have criteria under which it would look to join a coalition.

“We have done this before. In 2008, we stood alongside the Adhaalath Party,” he said.

However, Raheem said that while the JP was presently a member of President Waheed’s coalition government, it would not advocate for him during September’s election, citing concerns that he had agreed upon assuming office in February 2012 that he would not seek to stay in power.

He also questioned the legitimacy of the president’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) and whether it had officially obtained 10,000 members that is required to be registered as an official party under contested legislation passed this year.

“Right now, our party has more than 10,000 members and is a legitimate party,” Raheem added.

Party lines

At present, the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are the only two parties to have announced their intention to field individual candidates against President Waheed’s coalition during Septembers election.

Both parties have recently dismissed the viability of forming coalitions in the Maldives based on past experiences in the country, claiming that the vast majority of the country’s electorate where divided between their two competing ideologies.

Coalition Media Team Spokesperson Yazeed said today that group of parties backing President Waheed, which had not yet declared their values and full campaign manifesto, would still seek to expand support before voting begins.

With the election scheduled for September 7, Yazeed said that while the MDP and PPM were already campaigning around various islands, the coalition remained confident there was sufficient time to inform the public of its message going forward.

“This will be a very tight campaign, but we are already planning on having teams simultaneously planning to visit islands,” he said.

Earlier this week, President Waheed pledged to establish a housing policy for the people of Male’ as part of his bid to secure election in the upcoming presidential elections.

Yazeed’s comments were made after President Dr Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed was quoted in local media yesterday (June 10) as claiming that a single candidate or party such as the government-aligned JP would not alone be able to manage to run the country ahead of this year’s election.

He reportedly told a crowd gathered on the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll that the JP and its leader Gasim Ibrahim did not presently have a team of other parties backing him during September’s voting, limiting his ability within the country’s political arena.

Saeed is the leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), one of three parties within the present government coalition along with Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the the religious conservative Adhaalath Party to have so far backed President Waheed and his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) in the election.

He also yesterday criticised President Waheed’s direct election rivals, claiming the country – despite its current financial challenges – faced being set back by three years in the past under an MDP government or 30 years should the public elect the PPM.

However, following yesterday’s announcement that DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali would be standing as President Waheed’s running mate in the election, political rivals claimed the decision would have little impact on their own campaigns.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that Thasmeen’s appointment as Dr Waheed’s running mate was not seen as a concern by the party and would actually serve as a positive development for its own election campaign.

“He is the weakest link among all the wannabe leaders at present,” Nihan said after the announcement.

Nihan said that the party would therefore carry on with it plans to begin campaigning in the north of the country ahead of September’s election.  “This is the very least of our concerns as a party,” he said.

Nihan nonetheless said that the party continued to remain concerned at what it alleged was President Waheed’s continued use of state funds and resources to support campaigning for the coalition.

“This is our one crucial concern. President Waheed needs to facilitate a free and fair election, but he has today used government speedboats to transport coalition members. This should not be seen n a democratic society,” he said.

Meanwhile, MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed contended during an interview with state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on May 16 that President Waheed and the DRP has been forced to form a coalition out of necessity.

Nasheed therefore questioned the president’s coalition’s claims that it presented a “third way” for voters as opposed to the policies of the MDP and PPM. Nasheed reiterated his belief that power-sharing coalitions were not compatible with the Maldives’ presidential system of government.


President Waheed ignored advice on GMR termination, PPM alleges

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has accused President Dr Mohamed Waheed of ignoring the advice of his coalition government by abruptly terminating the US$511 million airport development contract with Indian infrastructure group GMR last year.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that while the PPM believed terminating the GMR contract had been the right decision, President Waheed had nonetheless personally taken an executive decision to cancel the agreement without listening to the party’s advice in seeking a compromise with the company and the Indian government.

However, the PPM’s coalition partners today accused the party of making “contradictory statements” regarding the decision to terminate GMR’s concession agreement, accusing its senior leadership of trying to terminate the deal at the time without discussion or following due process.

The allegations against President Waheed surfaced following the visit to India last week by former President and PPM founder, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who pledged his party would seek to restore relations with India damaged by the government’s summary eviction of the GMR.

While Gayoom ultimately blamed former President Mohamed Nasheed for not obtaining parliamentary approval and “consulting all political parties” before signing the deal with the GMR-Malaysian Airports consortium in 2010, he was also critical of the present administration’s handling of the termination.

“Had Nasheed consulted all political parties, the public would not have formed the impression that corruption had taken place. Then we told the next President Mr Waheed that he should hold discussions with the GMR Group and the Indian government to arrive at an acceptable solution, after which the government was free to act on its own,” he said. “Unfortunately, this was not done and suddenly there was this unhappy ending,” Gayoom was reported as saying in the Hindu.

“Better” handling

MP Nihan said following a press conference held by the PPM in Male’ today that the party continued to believe the decision to terminate GMR’s concession agreement was in the best interest of the country.

However, amidst concerns about the subsequent negative impacts on bilateral relations from cancelling the deal, he stressed that the president could have handled the matter “better” in order to protect the relationship between the Maldives and India.

“We believe that the room was there to correct any negative relations with India,” Nihan claimed.

“This could have been much easier and perhaps a new approach could have been found to cancel the GMR contract,” he added.

Nihan said that as well as the GMR contract, President Waheed had on a number of occasions sought to take advantage of his position by making executive decisions against the wishes of his government coalition, all while trying to shift blame away from himself.

“We have seen [President Waheed] try to spin all good developments as being the result of his work, while anything that has gone wrong [in the government] is the PPM’s fault,” he said.

Following a PPM press conference today, Nihan added that the media has been shown two different letters sent from the party’s council to the government prior to the termination of the agreement last November that called to find a solution through dialogue.

Nihan also reiterated Gayoom’s comments that the manner in which the contract was not a “happy ending” in terms of its impact on bilateral relations with India.

“We are of the view that the agreement was only to be cancelled through due process of the law,” he said.

Nihan claimed that the contract dispute had also further exacerbated concerns held by the Indian government about treatment of Indian nationals in the country. He said this had in turn created difficulties for Maldivians in obtaining visas to travel to India for medical treatment.

Considering former President Gayoom’s 30 years spent in office, Nihan praised his efforts to try and strengthen bilateral relations with India.

The government’s sudden eviction of the Indian investor did not appear on a list of 11 grievances handed to all senior Maldivian reporters by the Indian High Commission in January.  The list instead included concerns such as discrimination against Indian expatriates and the confiscation of passports by Maldivian employers.


The argument over responsibility for the GMR contract termination has comes amidst reports of increased tension within the present coalition government, with PPM presidential candidate Abdullah Yameen last month criticising President Waheed over his alleged use of state funds for campaigning.

The PPM has nonetheless pledged to continue supporting President Waheed’s government up until September’s election, despite concerns about the decision to dismiss former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed after he decided to stand as MP Yameen’s running mate.

DRP response

The PPM’s recent criticism of President Waheed’s handling of the GMR dispute was today slammed as being “contradictory” by government coalition partner the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

The party added that its members had previously come under heavy criticism from the PPM for advocating at the time that any termination of the GMR airport deal should be made via the due process of the law.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that it was in fact senior figures in the PPM that were  among the most vocal supporters for terminating the GMR agreement.

“It is ironic that we are hearing these statements from the PPM, whose leader has been witnessed supporting rallies demanding the cancellation of the [GMR] agreement,” he said.

Dr Mausoom alleged that he had also been informed from “a reliable political source” present during government consultations last year over whether to terminate the GMR agreement that it had been PPM presidential candidate Yameen who personally advocated cancelling the deal without a need for discussion.

“Either there is no harmony within the [PPM], or this is all political talk to try and gain an advantage. Either was it is very irresponsible,” he said of the PPM’s recent comments about terminating the GMR concession agreement.

Mausoom alleged that contrary to the PPM’s claims, it had been the DRP which had advocated finding a legal means of terminating the GMR agreement at at time when fellow government-aligned parties had taken to the streets holding rallies demanding the airport be “reclaimed”.

Despite appeals by GMR that it was acting as a caretaker for running and improving Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), which would remain Maldivian-owned, efforts to cancel the concession agreement – which was vetted by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) – intensified up to November.

On November 13, just ahead of the contract termination, a seaborne armada of about 15 dhonis carrying flags and banners circled the airport seeking to increase pressure on the government to “reclaim” the site from GMR.


PPM will address Maldives’ strained relationship with India: Gayoom

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has pledged during a visit to India that the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) will repair strained relations between the two countries should it come to power in September, local media has reported.

The three day visit, which concluded Thursday (June 6), saw the former president meet with dignitaries including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss bilateral relations and the impact of the Maldives government’s decision to last year cancel a US$511 million airport deal with India-based infrastructure giant GMR.

In interviews with Indian media, Gayoom expressed sadness that the Maldives’ relationship with India had been impacted by President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration deciding to evict GMR from the country with seven days notice.

Gayoom blamed Nasheed for not obtaining parliamentary approval and “consulting all political parties” before signing the deal with the GMR-Malaysian Airports consortium.

“This was a mistake. Had he consulted all political parties, the public would not have formed the impression that corruption had taken place. Then we told the next President Mr Waheed that he should hold discussions with the GMR Group and the Indian government to arrive at an acceptable solution, after which the government was free to act on its own. Unfortunately, this was not done and suddenly there was this unhappy ending,” Gayoom was reported as saying in the Hindu.

Waheed’s government late last year declared the contract between GMR and the Nasheed government, which was vetted by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), as ‘void ad initio’, or invalid from the outset. It is currently disputing its obligation to compensate the company in arbitration proceedings, arguing that the termination clause could not be applied to a contract it had deemed invalid.

Gayoom told Indian media that former President Mohamed Nasheed – whose government was controversially replaced in February last year – had to take the majority of blame for the GMR contract dispute, despite not being in office at the time of its cancellation.

“The GMR experience was not a very good one for us. It began badly with [Nasheed] not informing parliament,” Gayoom was reported as saying in the Indian Express.

“By law, he should have had it passed by parliament. Some may even say it had an illegal beginning. [The cancellation] was a very populist move at the time as the public had a perception that the contract was bad for the country. The way it was handled was not good. I am sad that this has somehow affected our bilateral relations. We want to overcome that and restore our relationship with India to its former level,” Gayoom told the paper.

The government’s sudden eviction of the Indian investor did not however appear on a list of 11 grievances handed to all senior Maldivian reporters by the Indian High Commission in January, which instead included concerns such as discrimination against Indian expatriates and the confiscation of passports by Maldivian employers.

The list’s release was followed by the Indian High Commission issuing a statement in early February slamming local media in the Maldives for “misrepresentation and twisting of issues”.

Gayoom nonetheless told the Hindustan Times publication this week that he would endeavor to maintain strong bilateral relations with India, claiming that people who were “anti-GMR” were not “anti-India”.

The PPM is presently part of the coalition government backing President Waheed, whom Gayoom said had been requested to find an “acceptable solution” for both GMR and the Indian government that addressed concerns about the airport deal.

Fierce criticism

Among the most fierce critics of the GMR airport deal before its cancellation last year were the now government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP ), led by President Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed.

Saeed in November last year appealed to Prime Minister Singh to terminate the GMR deal, writing that “GMR and India ‘bashing’ is becoming popular politics”.

While in opposition in December 2011, the DQP also released a 24 page pamphlet alleging that allowing GMR to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) was “paving the way for the enslavement of Maldivians in our beloved land”, and warning that “Indian people are especially devious”.

Former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, the DQP’s Deputy Leader at the time of the pamphlet’s publication, was recently unveiled as the running mate of PPM Presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen – Gayoom’s half brother.

SOFA a concern: Gayoom

Gayoom – described in the Hindu as a “sprightly 76 year-old” – also expressed concern about the Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement being negotiated between Waheed’s government and the United States.

“I am not happy. I didn’t want that to happen,” he said, warning that such a move risked upsetting the balance of power in the Indian Ocean.

A source within the PPM said former President Gayoom, during his 30 years as head of state had forged strong relations with various regional powers such as India and Sri Lanka.

The source said that while the handling of the GMR contract remained a controversial issue, the recent strain in the relationship between India and the Maldives was the result of a number of factors, including “certain difficulties” facing expatriate workers from India living in the country.

“We have a large number of professional expatriates from India working here in health, education and accountancy. The [Indian] embassy here in Male’ has aired some of the issues with us,” the party source claimed, adding that the Maldives also had grievances over obtaining visas to travel to India that needed to be resolved.

The party official claimed that Indian authorities had raised these issues not only with the PPM, but all other stakeholders both in government and the country’s political opposition, presently represented by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Highs and lows

Despite admitting that every country has high and lows in their bilateral relations with neighbours, Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare has previously emphasised what he called the country’s “unshakable” long-standing relationship with the Maldives.

“During my tenure, I will endeavour to further strengthen the relationship between India and the Maldives, which is already very strong with an unshakable foundation,” he said on April 10, shortly after his appointment.


DQP MP Riyaz submits bill proposing hanging as preferred method of execution

Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed has submitted a bill to parliament proposing executions be carried out by hanging people sentenced to death in court.

Riyaz told newspaper ‘Haveeru’ that he submitted the bill because the government’s version of the bill, drafted in December 2012, had yet to be submitted to parliament.

According to Riyaz’s bill, the trials of people accused of offences punishable by death under the penal code are to be conducted with a defence lawyer, even should the defendant refused.

The bill requires the lower courts to forward a case report to the High Court 14 days from the date the trial reaches a conclusion. The High Court is required to conduct a trial to determine whether the lower court’s ruling is lawful.

Should this decision be upheld, the matter must then be referred to the Supreme Court, which issue the final ruling on the case.

According to the bill, the defendant is given the opportunity to meet his family and say his last words before he is hanged.

The bill obliges the state to delay implementing death sentences if the person is a minor, pregnant woman, mentally ill or suffering from a disease.

In December last year, Attorney General Azima Shukoor drafted a bill outlining how the death sentence should be practiced in the Maldives, with lethal injection being identified as the state’s preferred method of capital punishment.

The government’s draft, which has yet to be submitted to parliament was criticised by religious groups in the Maldives, who argued that the state’s method of execution should be beheading or firing squad.


Jumhoree Party undecided over joining election coalition ahead of national conference

The government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) has said no decision has been made on whether to join a coalition backing President Dr Mohamed Waheed in September’s election, as it prepares to officially choose it presidential candidate and leader.

Vice-chair of the JP’s Congress Committee Mohamed Haleem has told Minivan News that the party’s candidate for this year’s presidential election will officially be announced in June during its national conference.

He said that the party’s leader chosen at the conference would then go on to become presidential candidate of the JP.  However, Haleem added that he was presently unaware if anyone would be contesting against current party leader and founder MP Gasim Ibrahim.

Earlier this month,  the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) announced it would be joining the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in a coalition backing President Waheed. The DRP is the largest party in terms of MP numbers to so far back President Waheed, whose own Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) party  has no political representation in either parliament or local councils.

Despite serving with the DQP, GIP, Adhaalath Party, DRP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in the present government, Haleem added that the JP was committed to unveiling its own presidential candidate, as well as preparing contests to appoint other senior leadership during its three day national conference.

The JP was founded by MP Gasim, a resort tycoon, business magnate and member of watchdog body the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), who is considered presidential candidate for the party having already stood during the country’s first multi-party democratic election in 2008.

However, Haleem told Minivan News that the party’s presidential candidate would only be known when announced next month during the three day congress scheduled to run from June 27 to June 29.

“The main aims of the conference will be to amend certain party regulations as well as host an election for the position of party leader and other appointees like deputy leader,” he said. “We will also look to appoint members to different wings of the party.”

Haleem claimed that no discussions would be held during the conference over the possibility of joining President Waheed’s coalition, adding that any agreement on power sharing was presently considered a separate matter from its internal elections.

Coalition consideration

MP Gasim was reported in local media last month as claiming he would be prepared to form a coalition with other parties ahead of September’s election, but would not stand as a running mate of another candidate.

Just a day earlier, JP Spokesman Moosa Ramiz said the party had ruled out the idea of forming a coalition with fellow government-aligned parties ahead of this year’s elections, despite its involvement in recent power sharing talks with President Waheed.

“National stability”

As rival candidates begin to position themselves ahead of elections, GIP spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza last week claimed voters would shun the country’s two largest political parties in favour of the “national stability” offered by a coalition representing the current government.

Meanwhile the fellow government-aligned PPM – the country’s second largest party in terms of number of MPs –back in March elected MP Abdulla Yameen to stand as its presidential candidate and has continued to reject calls to join a coalition against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ahead of elections.

Former Maldives President and founder of the PPM, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, previously told local media that Dr Waheed’s coalition presented no threat to the election bid of its own candidate MP Abdulla Yameen.

Meanwhile, MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed contended during an interview with state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on May 16 that President Waheed and the DRP has been forced to form a coalition out of necessity.

Nasheed questioned the coalition’s claims that it presented a “third way” for voters as opposed to the policies of the MDP and PPM and reiterated his belief that power-sharing coalitions were not compatible with a presidential system of government.

“I do not see a citizen who wants ‘another way.’ What is the path to deliver this way [to development]? We do not hear [political parties] talking about that,” he said. “We are presenting one path to that [development]. We believe MDP’s policies will bring prosperity to the people. I do not see this third way you referred to as ‘a way.’ I see it as two men with no other way. That is not a political philosophy,” he said.


GIP-DRP coalition not a third way; “two men with no other way”: Nasheed

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP) were forced to form a coalition to contest the upcoming presidential election out of necessity, former President Mohamed Nasheed has said, contending that the parties lacked grassroots support and comprehensive policies to represent “a third way” for voters.

Appearing on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) Thursday night, Nasheed reiterated that power-sharing coalitions were not compatible with a presidential system of government.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate stated that the public wanted political parties to present policies that could deliver job opportunities, public transport, better healthcare and education, a higher standard of living and “a way to overcome anxiety over paying water, electricity and phone bills.”

“I do not see a citizen who wants ‘another way.’ What is the path to deliver this way [to development]? We do not hear [political parties] talking about that,” Nasheed said.

“We are presenting one path to that [development]. We believe MDP’s policies will bring prosperity to the people. I do not see this third way you referred to as ‘a way.’ I see it as two men with no other way. That is not a political philosophy,” he said.

Coalition agreements were made by politicians who wanted “power” in terms of cabinet posts and influence in the government, said Nasheed, observing that the parties in the current ruling coalition have yet to offer any policies.

Third way

Announcing its decision to back Dr Waheed’s presidential bid last week, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said that the party believed voters should have a third alternative to what he contended were the “hardline and extreme” ideologies of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the MDP.

“If the parties supporting President Waheed, DRP and other parties contest the 2013 presidential election separately, we believe that the vote will be split, the Maldivian people will not have a real opportunity, and there will be a chance for the past to be revived,” Thasmeen said at a press event on Sunday (May 12), referring to the three-year rule of MDP and the preceding 30-year reign of PPM figurehead, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The DRP believed that “moderate” parties should join an alliance united behind President Waheed as a third option to MDP and PPM, said the MP for Kendhoo in Baa Atoll.

Earlier this year, the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and religious conservative Adhaalath Party both announced their intention to join a coalition with President Waheed’s GIP.

DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef told Minivan News last week that in the absence of a strong coalition, the PPM could face MDP in a second round run-off and “those of us in the middle ground would be forced to support the MDP.”

The PPM was a party that belonged to “one family, or a supreme leader,” Shareef said.

Meanwhile, responding to Nasheed characterising the coalition parties as “empty shells,” DRP Leader Thasmeen and President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told local media today that the criticism showed the former president’s “concern” with the challenge posed by the coalition.

Masood claimed that the combined strength of numbers in Dr Waheed’s coalition would outstrip both the PPM and MDP before the election scheduled for September 7.

Dr Waheed’s GIP currently has 3,930 registered members while the DRP has 21,411 members, according to the Elections Commission (EC).

The MDP has 45,666 members followed by the PPM with 22,383 members. The two largest parties are also respectively majority and minority party in parliament.

Dr Waheed’s GIP does not have a single MP of the 77 in parliament or a single councillor out of more than 1,000 elected representatives on local councils.

2008 ‘Watan Edhey’ coalition

In his TVM appearance, Nasheed shed light on the rapid disintegration of the MDP-led coalition that took office in November 2008, agreeing that the power-sharing experience was “bitter.”

In the second round run-off in October 2008, MDP candidate Nasheed was backed by third placed candidate Dr Hassan Saeed and fourth placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim from the Jumhooree Party (JP), which was allied with the Adhaalath Party (AP) at the time.

Gasim however resigned as home minister 21 days into the MDP government while Dr Saeed resigned as special advisor after the first 100 days. The Adhaalath Party remained in government in control of the Islamic Ministry, but decided to sever its coalition agreement in late 2011 following a change of leadership.

Asked why the coalition fell apart, Nasheed first noted that Dr Saeed backed the MDP “unconditionally” and without a formal agreement.

“But after winning the election, [Saeed] secured posts for Dr [Ahmed] Shaheed and Dr [Mohamed] Jameel and secured positions in some government-owned companies for their people,” Nasheed alleged.

Gasim’s Jumhooree Party also secured cabinet posts, he added, stressing that all other parties agreed to endorse the MDP manifesto and implement its policies.

“The policies include, for example, public-private partnerships (PPP), opening up fishing,” he said. “Opening up fishing was a big problem for some people. And developing the airport and our other public-private partnerships were unacceptable to some people. And striking at resorts became completely unacceptable to some people. They felt if there was a strike at a resort, riot police should be sent immediately to put a stop to it.”

On November 30, 2008, police clashed with about 200 striking employees at the ‘One and Only’ Reethi Rah resort. Police were sent to the island by Home Minister Gasim at the request of the resort management.

Nasheed said that the “regrettable incident” occurred while he was in Fuvahmulah.

TVM visit

Nasheed’s appearance on the Raajje Miadhu programme marked the first time the former president has featured on the state broadcaster since the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

On February 7, the main compound of the now-defunct Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) was taken over by mutinying police and soldiers almost two hours before Nasheed’s resignation.

After briefly broadcasting live feed of Gasim’s Villa TV, the MNBC brand name was changed to TVM, its title under former President Gayoom.

Nasheed’s visit to the state broadcaster on Thursday night meanwhile prompted a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts by TVM staffers.


Maldives voters will shun PPM, MDP for “national stability” of coalition government: GIP

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) has claimed voters will shun the country’s two largest political parties during September’s elections in favour of the “national stability” offered by a coalition representing the current government.

The comments were made as discussions continued this week between the GIP and the leaders of three other government-aligned parties in order to outline the direction of a recently formed coalition that will back President Waheed in the upcoming elections.  The president’s party has maintained that the coalition backing Waheed was not expected to deviate much from the policies of the current government.

Earlier this week, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) announced it would be joining the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in a coalition backing President Waheed’s re-election. The DRP is the largest party in terms of MP numbers to so far back President Waheed, whose own GIP party currently has no political representation in parliament.

However, former Maldives President and founder of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Maumoon Abdul Gayoom today told local media that Dr Waheed’s coalition presented no threat to the election bid of its own candidate MP Abdulla Yameen.

The PPM – the country’s second largest party in terms of number of MPs – back in March elected MP Yameen to stand as its presidential candidate and has continued to reject calls to join a coalition against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party ahead of the elections. Yameen is Gayoom’s half brother.

Stabilisation measures

GIP Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News today that he believed the country’s voters were “quite happy” with the stabilisation measures taken by President Waheed’s current coalition government. He added therefore that it was his belief the electorate would favour ensuring the stability of the nation by backing the president and his supporters rather than supporting the MDP or PPM.

Asked whether the president’s coalition would be able to win the election against the MDP and PPM, respectively the majority and minority leaders in parliament, Riza claimed national support was dwindling for the two parties.

“Even at its peak, the MDP could not get more than 25 percent of the vote,” he said. “The PPM on the other hand is backed by supporters of [former President] Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, not Yameen. The majority of [PPM supporters] favour joining the coalition.

Abbas added that the coalition had yet to choose a candidate to stand as President Waheed’s running mate, although discussions between leaders of the PPM, DQP and the Adhaalath Party were continuing today.

“I’m not aware of what these decisions are about, but all three parties have shown they agree on one thing – their support for President Waheed,” he said.

Abbas added that after agreeing to back the president, it would be “easy” for the coalition to outline a combined manifesto ahead of the elections due to their experience of working together – along with the PPM and MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP) – in the current government since the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.

“These parties are already working in a coalition with this government and have been setting the national agenda for the last two years,” he said. “In terms of policy, I don’t think we will see a significant deviation from the economic policies and development programs we have already seen. People care more about the stability of a nation than any political party.”

Responding to Riza’s comments, the PPM today questioned the political strength of the three party’s currently backing President’s Waheed, while also dismissing the effectiveness of coalitions in the Maldives dating to the country’s first multi-party elections in 2008.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that even if the president continued to extend his coalition to all other political parties in the country, the elections will remain a contest between the rival ideologies of former President Mohamed Nasheed -represnted by the MDP – and former President Gayoom – represented by the PPM.

“Just 48 hours ago we concluded a meeting in Addu Atoll, one of the largest areas in the country outside of Male’. Given the numbers of people we met there, it is clear there are only two parties,” he said.

Nihan added that while the PPM would continue to support President Waheed as part of the present coalition government up to September’s elections, it would not be looking to join any coalition ahead of voting.

“Originally in the first round of the 2008 elections, former President Gayoom failed to obtain enough votes to get re-elected. As we know, Nashed then formed a coalition to win the election in the second round,” he said. “What we saw then was after 20 days, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim resigned without much reason from the government. This has put a big question mark over the strength of coalitions.”

Nihan added that DQP Leader Dr Hassan Saeed, the present Special Advisor to President Waheed, has previously expressed “unconditional support” for the MDP and Nasheed following the 2008 presidential elections.  Yet he noted that the DQP, under Dr Saeed, went on to become one of the most vocal opponents of the Nasheed administration.

Nihan claimed that as a result of the country’s previous experience of coalition government, he believed there would be little appetite among voters for a power sharing government ahead of September’s vote.

MDP candidate former President Nasheed has also declared his party has ruled out forming a coalition during the elections, criticising the effectiveness of power sharing in Maldivian politics.


President Waheed to form election coalition with religious conservative Adhaalath Party

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has announced plans to form a coalition between his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), ahead of presidential elections scheduled for later this year.

Writing on his personal Twitter account Thursday (March 28), President Waheed welcomed the support of the  AP, while expressing hope other undisclosed parties would be making similar announcements at a later date.

The AP tweeted the same day that its council have approved the coalition with the current president ahead of the September this year.

By yesterday (March 29), the AP tweeted that it aimed to “form a large, strong coalition” including other parties in the country to try and provide stability and prosperity in the Maldives following the presidential race.

The AP, one of five parties in the country meeting a recently approved regulation requiring any registered political body to have 10,000 registered members, is part of the coalition government of President Waheed following the controversial transfer of power that brought him into office in February 2012.

Both Adhalaath and GIP do not presently have any elected members in parliament.

The religious conservative party was previously a coalition partner in the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed, later leaving the government citing concerns at what it alleged were the irreligious practices of the administration.

This led the AP in December 2011 to join then fellow opposition parties – now members of Waheed’s unity government – and a number of NGOs to gather in Male’ with thousands of people to “defend Islam”.

During the same day, Nasheed’s MDP held their own rally held at the Artificial Beach area in Male’ claiming his government would continue to practice a “tolerant form” of Islam, reminding listeners that Islam in the Maldives has traditionally been tolerant.

“We can’t achieve development by going backwards to the Stone Age or being ignorant,” Nasheed said at the time.

Shortly after coming to power in February 2012, flanked by members of the new government’s coalition, President Waheed gave a speech calling on supporters to “Be courageous; today you are all mujaheddin”.

GIP Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla were not responding to calls regarding the coalition announcement today.

Diverging opinions

Despite the agreement to cooperate between the two parties, Waheed and the AP differ in their reaction to the recent controversial sentencing of a 15 year old rape victim to 100 lashes for fornication with another man.

President Waheed’s  stated on his official Twitter account at the time: “I am saddened by the sentence of flogging handed to a minor. Govt will push for review of this position.”

The Foreign Ministry subsequently expressed “deep concern by the prosecution and the Juvenile Court’s sentence to flog a 15 year-old girl on the charges of pre-marital sex.”

“Though the flogging will be deferred until the girl turns 18, the government believes she is the victim of sexual abuse and should be treated as such by the state and the society and therefore, her rights should be fully protected. The Government is of the view that the case merits appeal. The girl is under state care and the government will facilitate and supervise her appeal of the case, via the girl’s lawyer, to ensure that justice is done and her rights are protected,” the Ministry stated.

The President’s Office also recently announced it was looking at the possibility of bringing about reform to potentially bring an end to the use of punishments like flogging in the country’s justice system.

However the Adhaalath Party has publicly endorsed the sentence, stating that the girl “deserves the punishment”, as outlined under Islamic Sharia.

The party, members of which largely dominate the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs, stated that the sentence of flogging had not been passed against the minor for being sexually abused by her stepfather, but rather for the consensual sex to which she had confessed to having to authorities.

“The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,” read a statement from the party.

“If such sinful activities are to become this common, the society will break down and we may become deserving of divine wrath,” the Adhaalath Party stated.

Coalition potential

Of the parties yet to announce candidates to stand during the upcoming presidential elections, Dr Hassan Saeed, Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and People’s Alliance MP Ahmed Nazim were not responding to calls regarding President Waheed’s announcement today.

Earlier this month, the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) ruled out a coalition with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) ahead of elections, despite being open to collaboration with other parties.

Both the PPM and DRP serve within President Waheed’s national unity government.

The DRP has also previously ruled out a collaboration with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).


DRP, MDP oppose amendments to “take power” from local councils

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has said it would not support any measures that “take power” from local councils after parliament today voted to reject amending the Decentralisation Act.

DRP Deputy Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom said that while the party might consider some “balancing measures” to enforce controls on councils to combat political bias, it would not favour efforts to curb their powers.

The claims were made as parliament today rejected an amendment to the Decentralisation Act that proposed a number of changes, including dissolving councils which rejected the legitimacy of any serving government.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the vote reflected increasing support even among government-aligned parties for decentralised governance, despite what it alleges are continuous “politically motivated” attempts to undermine local councils.

Government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed had proposed the decentralisation amendments, which were rejected by 30 MPs today in parliament. According to local media, 13 MPs were in support of the proposed amendments.

Local news service Sun Online reported that the proposals contained nine amendments to the act, that would also grant the government stronger control over municipal councils including their right to lease land and lagoons.

MP Rasheed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Council powers

Dr Mausoom said the DRP did not support the proposed amendments, believing that local councils at island and municipal level needed to be empowered and improved, rather than weakened.

“The DRP will not support taking away their powers,” he said.

Addressing the challenges facing decentralised governance across the Maldives, Dr Mausoom claimed that the distribution by councils of already limited resources to their constituents was in certain cases being impacted by political bias.

He contended that some councils had been reported to provide services and resource along party lines, possibly requiring in future some form of measures to ensure all members of the public were being treated equally.

Dr Mausoom denied DRP dominated councils may be favouring their own members however, while praising the overall majority of councillors for how they were conducting their duties.

“Some MDP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) councils are dong very well, but others are biased in their work,” he added.

A few months after the formation of local councils back in 2011, former opposition and state figures expressed concern to Minivan News that general inexperience among local councillors and obstruction by the government of former President Nasheed had led to some significant teething problems for the decentralisation process.

“Ridiculous” amendments

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor today claimed that while a number of MPs aligned to the present government had continued to try and reverse decentralisation, the DRP was more openly supporting councils against “ridiculous” amendments such as those proposed by MP Riyaz Rasheed.

Hamid alleged that the DRP had in the past “not believed” in decentralisation that was introduced following inaugural local council elections in 2011.

However, he claimed there had been an apparent change in policy since a split within the DRP that saw a number of members including its founder and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom break away and form the PPM, which now holds the minority leadership within parliament.

Speaking following today’s parliamentary vote, Hamid said that despite the amendments being rejected, other government-aligned parties were constantly working on legislation that would reverse decentralisation introduced following inaugural local council elections in February 2011.

“They are trying to reverse what we have gained,” he claimed. “[When decentralisation was passed] we got about 60 percent of what we wanted for these councils. The DRP had a huge majority back then and made life very difficult for us. They were able to overturn our plans for financial decentralisation.”

Hamid said he believed the present DRP members, which include former senior members of former President Gayoom’s autocratic government, had shown there was support for retaining local councils.

However, he accused government-aligned parties of backing a “constant number” of amendments to the Decentralisation Act that directly target opposition-led bodies such as Male’ City Council (MCC).

‘Usfasgandu’ issue

The MCC has notably been locked in legal wrangling with the Housing Ministry over the last 12 months concerning its ability to lease an area of land known as “Usfasgandu” to the MDP for use as a staging ground for protests and other activities.

Usfasgandu was handed back to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) by Male’ City Council earlier this week.

The area was cordoned off by police in January after the High Court issued a warrant requesting the area be kept under police custody until it reached a verdict on the case.

Male’ City Council leased the Usfasgandu area to the ousted ruling party in March 2012, prompting repeated attempts by the government to reclaim the area on the grounds it was being used for criminal activity, including the practice of black magic.

The MDP had moved to the area after a previous protest camp at the tsunami monument was dismantled and completely repainted by police and military on March 19, 2012.