Q&A: MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom – Kelaa constituency

In a series of interviews to lead into the 2014 parliamentary elections – scheduled for March 22nd – Minivan News will be speaking with incumbent MPs.

All 77 sitting members have been contacted, from across the political spectrum, to be asked a standardised set of questions with additional topicals. The interviews will be published as and when they are received.

Dr. Abdulla Mausoom – who represents the Kelaa Constituency – is a member of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

Besides being a parliamentarian, Dr Mausoom is also currently working as the General Manager of Sun Island Resort.

Mariyath Mohamed: What made you enter the political arena and how?

Abdulla Mausoom: Because I wanted to participate and compete in the democratic transition.

Initially, I thought of forming a new party. But then, when two parties were established, I decided to join one of them instead of creating a new party. I later decided that if the need arises in the changing political arena, I would then form a separate party.

MM: You have previously worked in government positions, notably in the tourism sector. How many years of experience do you have of working with the government?

AM: Many years, between going abroad for studies and working in the government. I spent most of the time in the civil service sector, about nine years. Then, in the executive branch of the government, as a political appointee, I spent about a year.

MM: Based on your attendance and work in this ending term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?

AM: I am very pleased with my performance. When it comes to attendance, I believe I will rank as number one through out the 17th parliament.

I also participated in debates in a productive manner. I made research based contributions both to the debate on the parliament floor, as well as the committees.

Generally, I am happy with my personal performance, however the parliament is a collective institution. So it is with the collective input of all members that the parliament can reap results.

MM: What are the main committees you were acting on?

AM: I mostly worked on the public accounts committee and the economic committee. I also worked on the tax related committees, except for the one that was recently compiled.

I also worked on all the budget committees – compiled with a combination of those in the public accounts committee and the economic committee.

I also worked on the government oversight committee, as well as the social affairs committee.

MM: What particular bills did you focus on? Which of these would you describe as having worked most passionately on?

AM: It is not passionately that we view bills – I would not call it passion. However, it is with interest that I work on every bill. Every bill that comes to the committees are bills I work on with utmost interest.

I have higher interest in bills that have to do with the general public or common people.

More than what I would call limiting bills, I support bills that expand people’s rights.

MM: What would you say are the biggest achievements within your term; in terms of what you have accomplished for your constituency and the country as a whole?

AM: What people of my constituency want most is to be able to reach their MP. I am the member who is most easily reachable. It cannot be true if anyone – be it a member of my constituency or any other citizen – claims to be unable to reach me via phone. They can call me. I have been able to give access to myself for all citizens and constituents, and that is something I am pleased about.

When debating on matters that have to do with the common people, I deliberated with local councils, and their input is included in my debates. On other such bills – like the Thalassemia Act – I discussed it with stakeholders from my constituency before speaking on the parliament floor.

The thing with gathering the public’s view is that you get opposing views from different people. So from within that mix, some people may not be happy with the stances I take during debates. Often in debates, I tend to take one side of the argument instead of taking a neutral stance. And so, this might result in being in a way that some constituents may not agree with. But as an MP, the constituents have given me the mandate to do so. However, if it is a very sensitive matter, I try to solicit views of as many people as possible.

The other achievement is that I have been able to fulfill all the pledges I made in my campaign. One of which is the establishment of a Constituency Clubhouse in Malé, where they are able to do the administrative work needed for the area.

The other thing is social help, which albeit not being part of a parliamentarian’s mandate, is something which society expects of a parliament member. So I did provide such help as best as I was capable of. While there might be instances where I was not able to help, I have done so on many occasions.

I am confident that people of my constituency are aware that if Mausoom has something, the people will be able to get it from me.

Another thing I have done is building a community space – a small house – near the beach in Kelaa under my own personal spending. I have prohibited the space from being painted in any party colours as I want it to remain a space where all persons can gather to relax regardless of their political affiliation.

I also want to note some things I have done for the constituency through the parliament. There are certain necessary development projects, basic infrastructure needed for islands in my constituency.

After having included it in the budget every time, finally work has been commenced on building a jetty and seawall in the island of Vashafaru. Establishment of a sewerage system in Kelaa has also been contracted out now. Additionally, the building of a jetty and a sewerage system in Filladhoo have also been included in the budget.

I believe that inclusion of these projects in the budget is an achievement as an MP. It is then the executive branch of the state which must deliver these.

Furthermore, I have incorporated into the budget requests that come from schools in my constituency.

MM: What would you say is the biggest blunder or worst decision you have made in your political career? Why?

AM: I do not see any political blunders of my own. However, I am concerned with how the public perception of the parliament has changed.

While the parliament is an institution that must have the respect of the people, we were not able to completely obtain that respect. Like I said before, the parliament is a collective institution.

As a whole, the 17th parliament has achieved a lot. It has held more meetings than ever before in history, or than in any other country of the world. It has passed a record number of bills, and accomplished a lot of work.

And yet, citizens do not consider parliamentarians as noble persons. That is a concern I have.

MM: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR20,000? Why or why not?

AM: Yes. Even when the committee allowance first came into public scrutiny, I have maintained that the committee allowance is something I spend on my constituency. It is something I give to the people of my constituency, under plans I have made with a group of youth from each island in the area on how to disperse this money. Nevertheless, I spend even more than what I get as committee allowance in this manner. Even the Clubhouse in Malé needs about MVR25,000 to be spent on it as cost every month.

No one in my constituency harbours any displeasure about my taking the committee allowance. They are aware that Mausoom spends on clubs and organisations more money than he earns as committee allowance. Others understand that I have the capability to earn more money if I were to take up another alternative profession, and therefore that I am not in the parliament for the purpose of making money.

I think what citizens want is to have a connection with the MP. Therefore, I have never received any complaints from the Kelaa constituency about my salary or allowances.

MM: What is your view about parliamentarians and other public servants declaring their financial assets publicly for the electorate to be able to refer to?

AM: I personally have no issues with declaring my financial assets, and am doing so as per current regulations. I also have no reservations about showing it to any individual who requests it of me.

However, as an MP, I do not support making it mandatory to declare an MP’s financial assets. One reason for this is that there is a need to bring in rich ideas into the parliament; which means businessmen and intellectuals should be among parliamentarians.

My child said to me one day that people consider me to be a millionaire, but actually I’m broke. Now, if financial assets are publicised, people will know I am broke. The question is, will people vote for someone who is broke? So viewing it from a materialistic view, some people will view it as a disadvantage.

The other thing is, even someone who has a lot of money will be faced with social spending and such pressures.

I did some research on this matter, and most people are of the view that we shouldn’t place such restrictions if we want the parliament to have high calibre people in it. And to introduce other dimensions through which a member’s acts can be vetted for corruption.

For example, have them lodge any increments to wealth gained after they are elected to parliament. This is the kind of approach I support.

MM: Are you re-contesting in the next elections? Why or why not?

AM: It is very unlikely that I will re-contest.

I have told you the reason; that is, that being a parliamentarian is not savvy anymore. So there are other ways to get more decent jobs and serve the nation in other ways.

I am not moving away from politics. But, I don’t think I will contest this time unless there is a need from a particular political affiliation.

Personally I have no interest in re-contesting, but if there is a desire for me to contest from a particular political institution – even if it is some political party – then I may consider it. At the moment, I don’t fancy being a parliamentarian.

For the time being, I don’t think it is a very savvy job. It is, I think, people look upon an MP as someone who is not very clean. Maybe when times change and people begin to believe that being a parliamentarian is a respectable job, I think that will then be a good time to contest for a position there.

But I will remain in touch with the people, and people can be in touch with me in the meantime.

MM: You have recently revealed that you have taken on the job of General Manager at a resort. What made you make this decision?

AM: Yes, I am now the General Manager of Sun Island.

MM: As the resort is owned by leader of Jumhooree Party Gasim Ibrahim, your acceptance of the post of GM there has led to public speculation. Would you say it is a political decision on your part?

AM: Some people are asking me that, but I am not affiliated to Jumhooree Party. It is a professional decision.
The question was whether I should take up the job after the parliament term ends or before that. Then I thought, why not start even now? So I did. Because when I took up the post, very few meetings were scheduled and parliament was not being held properly.

Even after starting work as GM, I am the only MP who has attended all the meetings. January and February was supposed to be parliament recess, but now that we are having special meetings – I am attending them.

Next will be March, when the parliamentary elections will also be held. I don’t think there will be many meetings then.

April and May will be the two remaining months and I will do my parliamentarian job to its best until the term ends.

Many people expect me to run, and I get requests from various constituencies. All of them have seen my contributions to parliamentary debates. I am happy that they accept me as being among the few who make meaningful contributions. However, I will not run this time.

MM: What improvements do you feel the 18th Majlis will need to make to improve as an institution?

AM: I believe it is political parties who can do this, and not individual members. Because the parliament is multi-party and the government itself is not really in the party system. It is not really because of the party affiliation that we have the current president, the government is through a Jumhooree, PPM, Adhaalath, and other parties’ coalition.

In this system of government, when we have a party system parliament, the functioning of the institution is very much dependent on the psyche of the parties. So if the parties take away their personal agendas and focus on development ideas and democratic reforms, I think the next Majlis will be more productive.

The 18th Majlis will be less challenging. I say this because the 17th Majlis was given the huge task of forming institutions and law that were required due to the changes to the Constitution of the Maldives. That is almost done now, and only a few things remain for the 18th Majlis to do in this regard.

Nevertheless, I think the behaviour of the 18th Majlis members will depend on how people vote this time. If the behaviour of members of the 17th majlis was accepted and endorsed by public as good behaviour which merits re-election, then – I think, as per human nature – the same behaviour will be repeated in the 18th majlis. So I believe the electorate has a major responsible decision to make.

MM: What are your thoughts on party switching – do you think it undermines the party system?

AM: I think so, yes.

But then again, here it is not so. This is because parties are not identifiable by ideologies or what they stand for. If you listen to what they say, they are all singing the same song. There might be minor changes in tempo or beats, but it is the same song ultimately.

Therefore when people change to parties, it does not really change the direction the parliament is going to. But I think the electorate gets disappointed as they vote for the party.

When I say party, I don’t mean an ideology but the party – let’s even put it into inverted commas – or an individual that party represents. Right now when we say MDP, we mean Mohamed Nasheed, with PPM it is Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and with JP it is Gasim Ibrahim.

My party DRP, and Adhaalath Party, we don’t have any major individual figures, and so we are no longer key parties.

People elect you because you support a person they also support. And then when you change parties, you are going to someone who they don’t necessarily support, so the people may harbour negative hard feelings against you. But I don’t think it makes an impact on the nation as a whole, because political ideologies of the parties are not distinguishable.

MM: Any final thoughts you would like to add?

AM: I hope that the political dimension will bring in peaceful parameters, instead of moving into violent parameters.

We saw some violence in the 2008 and 2009 elections, but I am happy to see that the recent local council elections as well as the presidential elections went by peacefully without violence. And I hope the upcoming parliamentary elections proceed in the same manner.

Any attacks – against a politician or the general public – due to a political motive is unacceptable. My wish is that the political arena becomes a safe zone for everyone, along with freedom of expression and the freedom to engage in politics without any fear.


Gasim elected chair of Budget Review Committee

Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP for Maamigili, Gasim Ibrahim, has been elected chair of the parliament’s Budget Review Committee for the fourth consecutive year.

The 22-member committee comprises of the combined Finance Committee and Economic Affairs Committee.

The business tycoon and former JP presidential candidate was chosen with 12 votes in favour. Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom was elected deputy chair with the same number of votes.

The committee is tasked with reviewing the budget and presenting a report to the People’s Majlis floor by December 1.


DRP leader Thasmeen unveiled as President Waheed’s election running mate

Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, has been unveiled as President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s running mate for September’s election.

Thasmeen’s appointment was confirmed by DRP Parliamentary Group Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom, who claimed the move would allow the president to provide a viable alternative to the country’s two largest political parties.

The announcement was  welcomed by one electoral rival in the form of the DRP’s government coalition partner, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which labelled Thasmeen as “the weakest link” among all the current candidates standing in September.

The DRP last month announced that it would be joining the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in a coalition backing President Waheed and his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) in the upcoming election. The Adhaalath Party was reported in local media today as giving its full support to the partnership of President Waheed and MP Thasmeen.

Dr Mausoom said that this coalition, under the banner, ‘forward with the nation’, still remained open for other parties to join ahead of September’s vote despite today’s decision.

At present, Dr Waheed and Thasmeen will be standing against PPM presidential candidate MP Abdullah Yameen and his running mate, former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who was dismissed from the current government last month after announcing his decision to stand with the party.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed will also be standing for election as candidate for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), but has yet to unveil his running mate. Nasheed resigned from office in February 2012 under controversial circumstances following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

Meanwhile, the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) has previously said it was undecided over whether to join President Waheed’s coalition, while expecting to nominate a presidential candidate at its national conference later this month.

The JP is headed by MP and local business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

“Natural reaction”

Considering the rival candidates expected to stand during September’s presidential election, DRP MP Dr Mausoom said the ‘forward with the nation’ coalition has been formed as a “natural reaction” to the previous governments of former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed.

“I think for people who do not see the merit in backing former Maldives Presidents Gayoom and Nasheed there is now an alternative,” he claimed, adding that both candidates would be a return to “square one” for democracy in the Maldives.

Mausoom claimed that President Waheed woukd now unite support behind a third option in Maldivian politics, that was opposed to the MDP and PPM – presently the country’s two largest political parties in terms of MP number.

He said that the coalition’s appeal as an alternative to both the Nasheed and Gayoom administrations would be its main strength.

“This is just the beginning,” Dr Mausoom added. “Thasmeen spoke today of the achievement’s of President Waheed’s government over the last year, in spite of difficult circumstances he faced.”

While both the MDP and PPM has dismissed the viability and effectiveness of coalition government in Maldives politics, Mausoom argued that the DRP had continued to back President Waheed along with several other parties in order to put national development first.

“We are at a point where we all have to climb down from party ideology and put the national interest first,” he said.

Mausoom claimed that the country’s previous coalition governments had been formed on a “circumstantial” basis, both in bringing former President Nasheed to power and then backed President Waheed. However, he claimed that parties within the ‘forward with the nation’ coalition backing President Waheed during the election were “pro-actively” united in their goal for national development.

Positive development

Speaking to Minivan News today, 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.

Thasmeen took over as head of the DRP following former President Gayoom’s temporary retirement from political life in 2010.

Nihan argued that the PPM, which was founded in 2011 by a faction of MPs who broke away from the DRP alongside former President Gayoom, were “well aware of the political strength of Mr Thasmeen”.

“We are the only people who can make an informed judgement on [Thasmeen]. He is the weakest link among all the wannabe leaders at present,” he said.

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. “Back in 2008, President Gayoom would have used his own party’s speedboat for campaign purposes.”

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.

“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.


Maldivian politics not ready for presidential primaries: DRP Deputy Leader Mausoom

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom has claimed that the Maldives’ young democracy remains too partisan for the use of US-style primary elections to decide on presidential candidates.

Dr Mausoom’s remarks were made as key figures within former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have this month begun campaigning for its upcoming presidential primaries.

“Maldivians are not ready to accept defeats in internal primary elections. Even at presidential level, parliamentary level and council level, we are seeing that if [a person] loses in a primary, they contest the national election as an independent to prove the party members were wrong in deciding party candidate,” he said.

Mausoom took the example of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP’s) presidential primaries in 2007, where he claimed some unsuccessful candidates left the party due to perceived dissatisfaction at not winning.

He claimed there was too much partisan thinking among candidates during previous primary votes since the country’s first democratic presidential elections in 2008.

Mausoom contended that there was a pattern of behaviour among candidates defeated in both parliamentary and council elections to contest independently – at times proving detrimental to their one-time party’s success through the possibility of a split in votes.

Mausoom accused Maldivian political figures of generally treating defeats in primaries as a “humiliation” due to the nature of the young democracy.

“In the 2008 United States presidential primaries, we saw Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fiercely contesting for the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket. At the end, Obama won and Clinton backed him. That spirit of partisanship has not been seen here in Maldives,” he claimed.

Mausoom said that once the DRP believed that the people were prepared to face primaries, the party would begin advocating for such a vote, maintaining that every party had its own internal policies for picking a presidential candidate.

He also stated that the country’s political culture was significantly dependent on personality politics rather than party politics. However, Mausoom said that the trend would begin to change in the years to come and the upcoming 2013 presidential election would be a test to determine how local political culture had developed.

“The Maldives is a very small country. So we do not have many diverse issues like religion, identity and other issues which are common in large democracies. So the policies and principles that political parties follow are very similar. Each party would have a very strong view towards religion, economy and other major issues. So the real test is how the promises are delivered,” he explained.

However, Mausoom maintained that the DRP was set to implement a plan that he claimed would allow voters to realise his party was the solution after the release of its manifesto for the 2013 presidential elections.

Asked about the much speculated presidential primaries ofthe PPM, Mausoom said that he did not wish to comment on the primaries but his party was looking forward to the outcome of PPM’s congress scheduled to be held in next January.

“We are looking forward to [PPM Congress]. The congress would really define who would really lead their presidential campaign in 2013 elections. It will give us a very clear picture,” he reckoned.

Party Primaries, a fundamental aspect of democracy: MDP

MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor disagreed with Mausoom’s views on presidential primaries, dismissing the notion that the people were not “prepared” for internal elections.

“We believe that party primaries are an essential and fundamental aspect of democracy. The MDP has shaped up a good model in holding party primaries where all the elected officials generally should face a party primary before seeking re-election. Even I would have to face primaries before I could run for re-election to parliament,” he claimed.

According to Ghafoor, it was the MDP that introduced the mechanism of primaries into local party politics, a decision he believed had forced its rivals to reluctantly follow.

Responding to Mausoom’s claims that there were divisions following the party’s first presidential primaries in 2007, Ghafoor said that he believed it was a positive sign and that in all democracies, primaries would at times result in rifts.

“But that is what we see as refreshing the whole party. To work in a democracy, one must embrace change. You cannot work in a democracy if you fear change and change is inevitable because democracy does not stand still, it is a system where change is always taking place. Only a dictatorship will remain unchanged,” he said.

He further added that the sentiments expressed by DRP parliamentary group leader reflected the party’s founding by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s, who oversaw thirty years of autocratic rule that ended following the elections in 2008.

Ghafoor claimed that the DRP was still trying to cope with the changes bought about four years ago.

“I believe he and others who talk like that are talking for self-interest. They built their party on shaky grounds, and for them it is very difficult to keep up with us in terms of internal democracy within the party. We can understand that,” Ghafoor added.

Former President Gayoom later formed the PPM following a public war of words with Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, his successor as head of the DRP.

PPM Presidential Primaries

Although the PPM is yet to officially confirm a date for its primaries, two senior party figures – Interim Vice President of PPM Umar Naseer and its Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Yameen– have announced their intention to compete for the party’s ticket for presidential elections.

Yameen, half brother of former President Gayoom, told Minivan News earlier this week that “youth” and the “economy” were to be the key focuses of his campaign to stand as presidential candidate for his party in general elections scheduled for next year.

Meanwhile, Umar Naseer has been quoted in the local media claiming that some 250 volunteers signed up for his campaign.

“Last night, I actually didn’t inform my full support base. Last night we only carried out the process of recruiting volunteers, identifying what they can do, signing and filling of cards,” he was quoted as saying.

Local media also reported Umar as opting to use a “palm logo” previously adopted by former President Gayoom – interim PPM President – for his campaigning.

“Even if the palm did not win back then, Insha Allah this time it will,” he was reported to have told Haveeru.

Despite MP Yameen and Umar Naseer being the only two candidates who have publicly announced their interest, other key figures have yet to rule themselves out of the running.  notable amongst these figures is former president Gayoom himself, who told Indian newspaper The Hindu on December 11 that he may consider contesting in a presidential election presently expected to be held in August or September next year.

“Things change very frequently. So I am keeping my options open,” Gayoom was quoted as saying. “[If I run] it won’t be out of my choice, if ever, it will be out of compulsion. Because I feel I have served the country for 30 years and I feel it is up to other people [now].”

Speaking to local media at the time, Umar Naseer said that Gayoom had the right to contest for re-election in the next presidential elections – a decision he believed would make the country’s former autocratic ruler the “obvious top candidate” to finish the race.

“I would definitely back Gayoom if he is to contest the elections. He is our ‘ace of spades’. You cannot say that the ace of spades is not the ace of spades,” he said.

Umar Naseer was not responding to calls at time of press.


DRP will not back “personal and emotional” no-confidence vote against defence chief: MP Mausoom

The Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Mausoom has stated that there is no ‘spirit’ within his party to support the no-confidence motion against Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

Mausoom said although the DRP would support no-confidence motions against cabinet ministers where it thought such actions were justified, he believed the party would not back the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in trying to remove Nazim as defence chief as part of a “personal vendetta”.

In opposing the motion filed by the MDP, the MP said that while not speaking officially on behalf of the DRP whip line, he was nonetheless expressing the views of party members and MPs.

MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor stated that the MDP did not wish to make a comment on Mausoom’s remarks but said that it was rather “surprising” for a person in such a high position to “speculate on a party’s whip line”.

“We would really like to see DRP follow a strict recipe rather than a random salad in their whip line. They ought to be clear of what their stand is,” Hamid added.

However, Mausoom dismissed Hamid’s statement, claiming that the MDP’s no -confidence motion against Defence Minister Nazim had been forwarded for “personal and emotional” reasons. The Kelaa constituency MP added that the DRP would not assist anyone in settling personal scores.

“The DRP believe that we have had enough of President Gayoom and President Nasheed. We are not in the mood to support anything that is not in the interest of this nation,” he told Minivan News.

Mausoom contended that MDP would not be able to pass such “personal-vendetta based motions” and repeated his claim that the motion lacked sufficient grounds to support its cause.

“DRP would not be reluctant to support a no-confidence motion of a cabinet minister if there are sufficient grounds to pass a no-confidence motion. We would vote anyone out if we had to, but not on personal grounds,” he said.

Asked if his comments were influenced by some DRP MPs and councillors quitting the party over its recent stand in supporting a decision to take an impeachment vote against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan via secret ballot, Mausoom denied the suggestion.

DRP MPs Mohamed Hussain and Ali Saleem announced in the media that they have quit DRP over the party’s stand on the vote to make impeachment vote a secret ballot. The parliament passed the motion by a 41 to 34 majority after several DRP MPs chose to vote with the opposition in favour of the motion.

“Recent events that took place did not affect DRP. We have not got any reports that DRP councillors are quitting the party. It is just PPM councillors who had been working in the name of DRP that are leaving the party following the recent Supreme Court ruling,” he explained.

The Supreme Court recently struck down a clause in Decentralisation Act that barred councillors who had been elected under a party ticket from defecting to another party while in office.

“We believe that the current constitutional system greatly distinguishes the threshold of power between the executive and the parliament. We will not support motions to remove cabinet ministers for personal vendettas, because we believe that it is a duty of all political parties to safeguard the democratic values in the constitution,” he added.

Speaking yesterday to local media, Mausoom stressed that his party would aim to leave behind the country’s political past.

“The parliament has done a lot of things with regard to the emotional sentiments of 30 years [of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom] and three years [of former President Mohamed Nasheed]. Several bills, resolutions and cases have been filed. Lots of time has been wasted. DRP will not support any such thing submitted to parliament, be it PPM or MDP,” he said

Mausoom also warned the MDP of an impending “humiliation” should the main opposition party continue its pursuit of the defence minister’s dismissal.

“If the MDP parliamentarians do not want be humiliated in the parliament floor, if they do not wish to upset their grass root members, I call upon the party to withdraw the no-confidence motion filed against Defence Minister Nazim,” he said.

Mausoom, who previously served in the position of Tourism Minister during the Gayoom era, added that the no-confidence motion lacked a rationale in proposing to impeach the cabinet minister, alleging that the MDP sought to intimidate the government.

“The real motive of the MDP in filing the no confidence motion is to intimidate the government and to waste the time of parliament,” he said.

Mausoom stated that despite his remarks, the party had not yet decided on the matter. However, he claimed that the “general conscience” of the members of his party was “not in favour of impeaching Nazim”.

“Desperate attempt to weaken the government” – Defence Minister Nazim

The opposition MDP filed a no-confidence motion against the Defence Minister last Thursday, alleging he had misused his authority as the Acting Transport Minister by using the military to influence termination of civil contracts involving the government outside of due legal procedure.

The motion followed the government’s decision to void the agreement between itself and Indian infrastructure giant GMR over developing Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Defence Minister Nazim, who temporarily took over the transport ministry following the sacking of former Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed, played a pivotal role in the eviction of GMR agreement.

In a brief interview given to local media following the MDP’s decision to push a no-confidence motion against him, Nazim stated that move was a “desperate” attempt to weaken the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“I believe such votes are taken to weaken this government. I do not believe such votes or motions could weaken this government. I believe the current government is very firm and united. There is a very strong between the partners of the government coalition; therefore I must say they won’t be able to succeed in such votes. This government is functioning far better than that,” he told local media outlet Sun Online.

Nazim also contended he had not done anything for which the opposition should impeach him, adding that his appointment to cabinet was unanimously decided by parties in the coalition government.

The defence minister also expressed confidence that the parliament members from government-aligned parties would defend him in a vote.


“The word coalition is not meaningful in the Maldives”: DRP Deputy Leader

Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Dr Abdulla Mausoom, has dismissed reports in local media that the party’s alliance with the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) is being reconsidered.

“I think the media report is the opinion of one person,” said Mausoom.

Mausoom was responding to quotes from the Secretary General of the DQP, Abdulla Ameen, suggesting that a failure to strengthen the party’s ties since its initial agreement in February 2011 had made the coalition redundant.

“The coalition was formed to make the then government more accountable to its people. The other reason was to create an environment for the opposition parties to work together,” Ameen told Haveeru.

But former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government fell in a way that we had not even expected. Now we have to function in a different manner altogether. So the circumstance under which the coalition was formed has changed drastically,” he added.

Ameen went on to say that the issue was one which would have to be discussed by the parties’ respective councils – he was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Mausoom, however, was keen to point out that the nature of the agreement with the DQP was more akin to an election strategy than a traditional coalition.

“The word coalition is not very meaningful in the Maldives,” he said. “Nasheed used a coalition to get into power and that fell apart.”

“We has an understanding – rather than a coalition per se – that Qaumee party would support DRP’s presidential candidate in 2013,” he explained.

Mausoom went on to suggest that legislation would be needed to enforce coalition arrangements before they could become a serious feature of Maldivian politics.

This view reiterates a point previously expressed by the DRP, who view the current alliance of political parties in support of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan as a national-unity government rather than a coalition.

A no-confidence motion, seemingly backed by politicians from within the pro-government group, against President Waheed is currently awaiting inclusion on the Majlis agenda.

Ameen went on to argue that the two parties differ significantly on major issues, in particular the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) by the Indian company GMR.

Both parties appear to oppose the deal, though DRP leaders have been more vocal about the need to take the issue through the courts and to protect investor confidence in the country.

The DQP, however, released inflammatory literature likening the airport’s development to colonisation. The party’s leader, Dr Hassan Saeed, has this week released a book arguing for the unilateral invalidation of the agreement.

Hassan, also Special Advisor to President Waheed, compared cancelling the deal to “taking bitter medicine to cure a disease” or “amputating an organ to stop the spread of cancer.”

The DRP has stated its intention to provide voters with an alternative to the divisive and personality based politics offered by the other parties.

Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed – the DQP’s sole MP -in June threatened to walk away from the party should it continue to its ties with the DRP, after the abstention of a DRP MP allowed the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to pass a motion to debate police brutality in the Majlis.

The firebrand MP was reported by one local media outlet to have resigned from the party last week before telling another that the supposed resignation letter was simply one outlining current issues of concern he had about the party.

The DRP currently holds 13 seats in the Majlis and has 26,798 registered members, making it the second largest party in the country. The DQP has one seat and 2,199 members.


DRP to submit no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Inaz

Main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has decided to submit a no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz.

Speaking to Minivan News today, MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom,  deputy leader of the DRP parliamentary group, argued that the Finance Minister had been irresponsible in fulfilling his duties and constitutional mandate.

“Given that local governance is vital in democracy, the Finance Minister has not been issuing budget for the councils in a timely manner and the councils have had their work stalled because of that,” said Dr Mausoom, outlining the grounds for the no-confidence motion. “Secondly, while the media plays a vital role in democracy and while we are all in need of a state broadcaster, the Finance Minister has not issued the budget for the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).”

Moreover, Mausoom continued, Finance Minister Inaz supported the current system of taxation and devaluing Maldivian currency.

“The fisheries subsidies have been withheld as well,” he added.

The DRP will be seeking support from other opposition parties to vote in favour of the motion, he said.

At a press conference held today to announce the decision, Mausoom contended that Inaz’s decision to allegedly withhold funds for certain budget items constituted “actions that are contrary to democracy.”

Finance Minister Inaz however told Minivan News today that the fuel subsidy for fishermen was added to the budget by parliament.

In December 2009, parliament added Rf800 million (US$62 million) to the 2010 state budget prepared by the government, including media subsidies, fuel subsidies for fishermen and the reversal of pay cuts of up to 15 percent for civil servants.

The additions were made at a time when the country was facing a crippling budget deficit and pressure from international financial institutions to reign in government spending.

“The parliament recommended the fisheries subsidy and the ministry was told to deduct the amount required for it from money allocated for other subsidies and did not tell from which subsidies we should take the money for fisheries subsidies,” Inaz explained. “All other subsidized services are also essential services, such as subsidies for student text books, it will end up in the same way if money was deducted from any of the services.”

Inaz observed that diesel was currently subsidised while the government has reduced 50 percent from the price of diesel, which he said was a subsidy mainly targeted for fisherman.

“And the MBC issue is currently in court and I do not have anything to do with matters ongoing at court,” he said.

On the new taxes, Inaz noted that all tax legislation must be approved by parliament and not levied unilaterally by the government.

Inaz insisted that he never claimed that the dollar shortage would be alleviated three months after the decision to float the exchange rate.

“The media has been spinning what I said,” he suggested. “What I said was that within three months we will see the real exchange rate for dollar within the band [of the managed float]. The ministry has no mandate to determine monetary policy, it is within the mandates of Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA). We only try to balance the expenditure and revenue.”

Inaz noted that the current administration had reduced an inherited fiscal deficit of 33 percent to a forecast of 12 percent this year.

“I have always worked for the benefit of the people as that is what I swore an oath to do and I will not change anything in light of this decision made by [the DRP] to forward a no-confidence motion,” he said.