Yameen and Shiyam air grievances against Gayoom, DRP in leaked audio clip

MPs Abdulla Yameen and Ahmed (Sun Travel) Shiyam have aired grievances against former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in a leaked audio conversation, giving a rare behind-the-scenes insight into the workings of Maldivian politics.

Gayoom’s half-brother Yameen and resort owner Shiyam spoke of their diminishing trust in and dwindling support among the elite support for Gayoom. Yameen believed Gayoom’s opponents “will hurt [Gayoom] a lot more” if he decides to stand for presidential elections again.

Yameen and Shiyam paint Gayoom as a leader who built his power on extensive patronage, including issuing diplomatic passports, granting land and islands for tourism, and providing loans to build homes.

Minivan News believes the conversation, now viral on social media, predates the September 2011 establishment of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). According to the audio clip, Gayoom broke away from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, which he established in 2005, amid leadership disputes with current DRP leader and Gayoom’s 2008 running mate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Yameen also narrates Gayoom’s attempts to sideline him during the period of political liberalisation between 2003-2008. Yameen said Gayoom attempted to send him out of the country as ambassador to the UK.

“Where are Maumoon’s ministers?”

Yameen compared Gayoom to then-president Mohamed Nasheed, stating that Gayoom was inaccessible and did not believe in the importance of his parliamentary group.

DRP’s four vice-presidents had to wait in queue to attend Gayoom’s functions or write letters to see Gayoom, “but look at how close Reeko Moosa and Mariya are to Anni [Nasheed],” Yamin said. Reeko Moosa Manik and Mariya Didi are senior opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group members.

Yameen said Gayoom’s close associates no longer attend to Gayoom, reflecting dwindling support for him. “Maumoon knows all the people he did favors for are not with him. Look at how many ministers he had. Who goes when he asks?” Yameen said.

Shiyam then replies, “[Even after he] built up their houses to 10- 12 stories. And even that was through president’s office loans.”

Yameen highlighted the absence of senior Gayoom-era officials in July 2009 when police summoned Gayoom from his residence, Alivaage, to question him over corruption allegations. Although Fathuhulla Jameel and Abdulla Jameel, both long time ministers under Gayoom, lived around the corner, they “did not dare to come,” Yameen said. Only a handful of people, former Speaker Ahmed Zahir (Seena), former minister of gender and family Aneesa Ahmed and former deputy minister of youth and sports Aishath Shiham, are now loyal to Gayoom.

They will hurt him a lot more”

Shiyam and Yameen’s statements also imply they do not want Gayoom to stand for re-election.

Yameen said although Gayoom was not hurt during a 2008 stab attempt, if Gayoom were to stand for re-election “this time they will hurt him a lot more”. Yameen also said that if another murder attempt was carried out on Gayoom, he did not have the confidence that Nasheed would investigate or prosecute the case.

An unknown participant also criticises Gayoom on his old age, while Shiyam said he wanted a “stronger” and “more ruthless” man in the presidency.

“Only two favors I ever asked of Maumoon”

Shiyam expressed disappointment with Gayoom’s refusal to issue him a diplomatic passport and give him land for a boat yard in industrial Thilafushi Island. “These are the only two favors I ever asked of Maumoon,” Shiyam said.

“Once [Gayoom] took me to Singapore on some trip. All the vice presidents [of DRP] went. All of them had red passports [diplomatic passports]. We went and I was given a very average room. Even when I travel on my personal business, I don’t stay in anything but a suite. So I went and said it is a very small room, I cannot stay there. They told me that was how it had been booked. So I told them to give me the presidential suite. I stayed in a suite bigger than Maumoon’s. Dr Shaheed [foreign minister under both Gayoom and Nasheed] and others ridiculed me quite a bit,” Shiyam said.

After Shiyam returned, he met with Gayoom and told him, “I am this party’s vice-president. You have given red passports to many businessmen, and ordinary people as well. I would like one as well. And he told me he could not do so under the law. That is what he said. Then I told him I own a lot of boats. Therefore I would like a plot of land at Thilafushi [industrial island]. Gasim had received a plot of one million square feet. [not clear] according to the law, could you please arrange for a plot of 50,000 or 25,000 or even 10,000 square feet. He said he will work on it. I sent him 12 letters on the matter [hits table repeatedly]. Yameen, Maumoon never replied,” Shiyam continued.

Yameen then replied that arranging for a diplomatic passport was a small matter and that “it’s no issue at all.”

Shiyam also questioned Gayoom’s gratitude, saying that he said he had spent US$1.8 million on the DRP.

“DRP has to be buried”

Gayoom’s decision to break away from DRP came after DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali refused to hold a primary within the party to choose a presidential candidate, according to the conversation.

The DRP constitution, written under Gayoom, institutes the party’s leader as the party’s presidential candidate. During the DRP 2010 congress, a constitutional amendment requiring primaries was voted out.

“Maumoon says go for a primary. But Thasmeen very stubbornly says there is only one way. Thasmeen says [Maumoon] should apologise on the media and endorse him as the presidential candidate. But that cannot be,” an unknown participant said.

The participants of the conversation discuss buying out members of the DRP council, specifically DRP spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef (Mavota). According to the participants, the DRP council at the time was aligned with Thasmeen.

Yameen then said there was no solution but to form a separate party, a cult of personality based on Gayoom.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t want to have anything to do with DRP. We made DRP what it is today with our hard work, but DRP gave us pain and hardship. DRP has to be buried. DRP has to be buried,” Yameen said.

“He treated all who were loyal to him very badly”

Yameen believed a faction led by former attorney general Dr Hassan Saeed, former planning minister and Gayoom’s nephew Hamdhoon Hameed and former tourism minister Dr Mahmood Shaugee suggested Gayoom sideline Yameen from politics by offering him an ambassadorship in the UK.

Yameen was appointed as the minister of trade in 1997. Following the political crisis of 2003, which saw mass demonstrations for democracy and against police brutality, Gayoom sacked older members of his cabinet and brought in a group of reformist ministers including Hassan Saeed, Shaugee and Hamdhoon.

“Every time, Maumoon thinks all the problems are because of his ministers,” Yameen said.

Yameen refused the ambassadorship because as Gayoom’s half-brother no one in the UK “will believe a thing I say.” Further, he said he had not wanted to give up his Majlis seat and wanted to look after his source of income.

“I just built my house, I took out loans to build it. I have to stay in Male’ to find tenants, that is my source of income,” he said.

After Gayoom’s repeated attempts to remove him from the trade portfolio, Yameen consented to take up the higher education portfolio. Yameen attempted to regain an economic portfolio later, but was told there was no space in any of the economic portfolios.

“He’d given tourism to Dr Shaugee, fisheries to Abdulla Kamaldeen, other economic posts, such as agriculture, some other person, he [Gayoom] had space for all of these people, Gasim [prominent businessman] was given finance, when Maumoon said there was no space for me in the economic field then you should believe that he did not want me in the government,” Yameen said.

Download the full transcript (English & Dhivehi)

Listen to the full audio (Dhivehi)


Mahlouf’s resolution to postpone recess narrowly defeated

A resolution to delay parliament’s upcoming recess at the end of the month, until crucial bills to reform the criminal justice system could be passed, was narrowly defeated today.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Mahlouf had proposed extending the ongoing session until belated bills on evidence law, criminal justice procedure and special measures to combat crime along with amendments to the gang crimes legislation and Children’s Act, could be enacted into law.

Of the 70 MPs in attendance, 34 voted against the resolution while 30 voted in favour and six abstained.

During yesterday’s debate, MPs of both the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition parties argued that parliament’s perceived failure to pass necessary laws was not to blame for the shortcomings of the criminal justice system, particularly the authorities’ collective failure to secure convictions against “dangerous criminals” and enforce jail sentences.

Home Minister Hassan Afeef revealed on Monday that there were “about 300 people” sentenced in absentia that were yet to be taken to jail.

Closing the debate at the penultimate sitting of this year’s first session of parliament, Mahlouf argued that MPs should hasten to pass the legislation if only because “there will no longer be any person or institution that could point the finger at us and say ‘it’s because the People’s Majlis hasn’t completed [necessary laws].'”

Despite the 17th parliament having passed more legislation than any of its predecessors, Mahlouf urged MPs to “accept the reality” that the public did not believe parliament was doing enough.

“[They say] the number of days we work in the Majlis is low,” he said. “I accept this today. We take a holiday for four months of the year. We work about 12 days a month. For a year, it’s about 96 days. We don’t work for about 260 days of the year.”

The DRP MP for Galolhu South noted that none of the MPs opposed to postponing the recess had claimed there was no urgent need for the criminal justice legislation.

After voting on the resolution ended, Speaker Abdulla Shahid informed MPs that completed legislation on special measures to combat crime has been sent for their perusal.

The bill was amended in consultation with law enforcement authorities to include essential provisions from all three belated bills to serve as a stop-gap measure until parliament returned from recess.

Shahid explained that a proposal for a special sitting to be held during the recess in May would be put forward at tomorrow’s final sitting.

MDP MP “Reeko” Moosa Manik raised a point of order to suggest a sitting to be held tomorrow night to pass the crime legislation, but Shahid replied that a decision would be made after discussion with party leaders.

DRP squabbles

Mahouf – who has sided with “Zaeem DRP” against DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali in the ongoing factional strife within the main opposition party – was attacked yesterday by MPs of the rival opposition faction for taking a holiday after submitting the resolution.

While DRP MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem accused Mahlouf of attempting “to pin a medal on himself and claim to be the best,” DRP MP for Mid-Henveiru Ali Azim claimed Mahlouf had taken the most leaves of absence during the past Majlis session.

Mahlouf hit back at Raheem today, claiming that he saw a form the Maafanu West MP had allegedly signed to defect to the MDP before changing his mind in 24 hours.

Moreover, he added, MPs Rozaina Adam and her husband Mohamed Nashiz were yet to return from an official trip to Panama despite MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, Speaker Shahid and Secretary General Ahmed Mohamed having arrived back in the country three days ago.

After attacking Thasmeen and Football Association Chairman Ali Azim for alleged poor attendance and lack of participation in important committee tasks, Mahlouf also exchanged heated words with DRP MP for Mathiveri Hussein Mohamed, who told him “to shut up and sit down.”

Hussein Mohamed argued that since Mahlouf’s resolution stated that a one month holiday should be granted once the “complex and technical” bills were passed, “what if we are only able to go to recess in November, how do we pass the state budget then?”


War of words escalate between rival opposition factions

Main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem has accused coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) Leader Abdulla Yameen of “trying to destroy the DRP”, claiming that his opposition to the government is motivated by a desire to conceal an alleged illegal oil trade worth US$800 million.

At a DRP Galolhu centre opening on Monday night that saw the war of words escalate between the rival opposition factions, the DRP MP for Maafanu West called on Yameen to swear off claiming to hold the government responsible, because “you are more ruthless and a much bigger thief than that.”

“I will dare to say this, you are a much more ruthless and Jewish person,” he continued. “Don’t come in front of us again and say ‘hold the government accountable,’ we know that behind those devious plans lies the matter of that illegal oil trade.”

DRP Deputy Leader Ali Waheed meanwhile told supporters that they “should not run around forever considering any of our political leaders a god.”

“We don’t believe in a tribe, we believe in principle,” said Waheed, adding that origins or family descent did not matter in “today’s political reality”.

The DRP MP for Thoddoo went on to say that people came out to vote in appreciation of Gayoom’s contribution to the nation, “but it does not mean that [Gayoom] should come back, or that you should endorse your brother [Abdulla Yameen].”

In an appearance on private broadcaster Villa TV this week, Yameen defended his party against complaints of PA using the DRP’s name to organise rallies to promote his bid for the presidency.

“If by holding rallies there, Yameen is being promoted, if they accept that reality, then Thasmeen is free to hold rallies every night,” he suggested.

DRP Secretary General Abdul Rasheed Nafiz told press on Monday that the party has officially requested the Maldives Police Service, Male’ City Council and the Elections Commission (EC) to disallow activities held without official approval.

The move comes after the Gayoom faction organised a rally Saturday night in defiance of a council resolution requiring authorisation before using the party’s logo or seal.

Nafiz warned that the party would have to take the matter to court if the authorities proved unable to resolve the dispute.

In a statement from ‘Honorary Leader’ Maumoon Abdul Gayoom read out at the rally, the former President called on the DRP council – which the ‘Gayoom faction’ has boycotted in protest of Thasmeen’s “dictatorial” leadership – to retract its decision to recommend MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ahmed Ilham and Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed for disciplinary action.

Faced with similar charges that saw Deputy Leader Umar Naseer dismissed in December, Ilham however contends that “a Deputy Leader can be dismissed only if a third of the party’s congress votes to dismiss him.”

At the ‘Thasmeen faction’ rally, Waheed, one of four Deputy Leaders elected at DRP’s third congress last year, derided his former colleagues claiming that “not even ten people in our rival faction’s front rank possess A’ Level certificates, how can they run the country?”

Spilling over

Meanwhile at Monday’s parliament sitting, MPs of the rival factions exchanged heated words and accusations during the debate on an amendment to the Clemency Act.

DRP MP for Mid-Henveiru Ali Azim accused PA MPs of “using another party’s name and its flag” to hold rallies to attack and undermine the DRP leadership.

Azim was cut off by Deputy Speaker Nazim – presiding over the sitting in the absence of Speaker Abdulla Shahid – who advised the MP to stick to the topic.

Picking up where Azim left off, Ali Waheed raised the issue of appointing a new Auditor General, a post that has remained vacant for a year.

“Are you afraid [to appoint an Auditor General]? What are you afraid of?” Waheed asked the PA Deputy Leader. “Shouldn’t you appoint one [by now] if you’re not afraid of the US$800 million oil and the flags?”

In March 2010, Nazim pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the former Ministry of Atolls Development.

Waheed went on to criticise opposition leaders for being “obsessed with winning power” and “completely lacking sincerity” for solving national problems.

“Opposition parties are attacking Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed. But matters amongst us are worse than Kenereege Mohamed Nasheed, Honourable Speaker,” he said.

Echoing Waheed’s sentiments, Abdulla Abdul Raheem asserted that “you can’t do things in this country anymore the way US$800 million of oil was illegally traded using STO.”


Gayoom reprimands DRP council for decision to discipline Mahlouf, Illham and Waheed

Honorary Leader of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom called on party’s council last night to take back its decision to recommend MPs Ahmed Mahlouf, Ahmed Ilham and Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed for disciplinary action.

In a statement read out by daughter Yumna Maumoon at the ‘Gayoom faction’ rally at artificial beach, Gayoom warned that taking disciplinary action against the three council members would lead to further weakening of a party already riven by internal conflict.

“At such a critical moment, with party unity severely shaken and members despairing as a result of the decisions taken by the party’s council and the disciplinary committee, in violation of the party’s charter and democratic principles and with total disregard to the feelings of the party’s members, ever since Ahmed Thasmeen Ali assumed leadership, I deeply regret [the council’s decision] as it goes completely against the wishes of most common members and would only split the party even further,” Gayoom’s statement read.

Advising the council to retract the decision, Gayoom noted that “taking action against those you disagree with is not done anywhere that is run along democratic principles.”

“And [disciplinary action] is not allowed either by the Maldivian constitution or Islamic principles,” he said.

Deputy Leader Ilham and MP Mahlouf stands accused by the council of misleading the public about Thasmeen, disregarding the best interests of the party and violating the party’s charter.

Ilham however told Minivan News last week that “a Deputy Leader can be dismissed only if a third of the party’s congress votes to dismiss him.”

The DRP MP for Gemanafushi argued that any decision by the disciplinary committee to dismiss him would therefore be invalid.

Beginning with rumblings of discontent at the third DRP congress in March 2010 over disagreement regarding a presidential primary, the worsening factional split within the main opposition erupted in December that year following the dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

After condemning Thasmeen of “running the party dictatorially”, Gayoom has since withdrawn his support for Thasmeen as DRP’s presidential candidate for 2013.


Less than 300 attend first DRP-DQP joint rally

No more than 250 people attended Thursday night’s joint rally held by the splintered main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and new coalition partner Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), according to newspaper Haveeru.

An unnamed DRP council member told the local daily that the low turnout showed “how fast political realities are changing.”

Last week the DRP’s ‘Gayoom faction’ had called on the party’s members to shun the rally held by DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction.

Former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer claimed that the rally exposed “showed Thasmeen and [DQP Leader] Dr Hassan Saeed’s real size.”

“Kalafaanu is the smallest venue in Male’ for political rallies,” said Umar. “When they can’t gather 300 people there, their real size has been seen.”


DRP factions clash over use of party logo, resources

The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP’s) faction loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul boycotted last night’s council meeting, where members from the rival faction expressed concern that the party’s logo and resources were being used without knowledge of either the DRP leadership or secretariat.

An unnamed council member told newspaper Haveeru that the DRP office was being billed for air time bought by members of the Gayoom faction without official approval.

Former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer, who was dismissed from the party in December, however told press today that “any member of the party has the right to use the logo.”

Umar also criticised the DRP council’s decision last night to finalise its 2010 audit report ahead of today’s deadline, claiming that the report makes no mention of the Rf500,000 (US$38,910) outstanding debt the party was ordered to pay Island Aviation by the Civil Court.

Umar claimed further that the audit firm was not given either adequate time to complete the report or proper details of the party’s expenses.

With the internal strife intensifying, MP Ahmed Mahlouf meanwhile told local media that the Gayoom faction was preparing to submit an amendment to article 119 of the Decentralisation Act to ensure that councillors who are dismissed from his or her party shall not be stripped of their seat.

The DRP Youth Wing President claimed that he had learned of schemes by DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction’s to dismiss councillors who did not side with them.

“If we have to, we will seek the [ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s] MDP’s help with this,” said Mahlouf, suggesting that “Thasmeen faction” MPs would not vote in favour of the amendment.


Mahlouf calls on DRP supporters to shun “Thasmeen faction” rally

MP Ahmed Mahlouf of the split main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP’s) faction loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom called on the party’s supporters today not to attend a rally planned for Thursday night by DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction, and new coalition partner Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

At a press conference held by the ‘Gayoom faction’ today, DRP’s Youth Wing President Mahlouf insisted that tomorrow night’s event was not organised by the party, urging members who support the former President to stay away from the rally at Kalaafanu School.

“That is not a rally held by DRP,” Mahlouf claimed. “We urge anyone who supports [the Gayoom faction] not to participate in that rally or even go there to watch the show. They are trying to test something. That is, [to find out] how much support they have.”

The ‘Gayoom faction’ has meanwhile moved its rally, originally planned for the same night, to Friday night.

Earlier in the day, MP Rozaina Adam, sister-in-law of the embattled DRP Leader, stressed at a separate press conference at the DRP office that the purpose of the rally was not to “hit back at others within the party, quarrel with them and call each other names.”

DQP Secretary General Abdulla Ameen told press that tomorrow night’s rally would mark the beginning of “renewed efforts to hold the government accountable,” adding that internal disputes since the end of last month’s local council elections had weakened the opposition.

The rally will be the first joint event by the two parties since a coalition agreement was signed on February 14.

Widening divide

Following the controversial dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer in December, the worsening factional split within DRP led the party’s founder and ‘Honorary Leader’ Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to officially withdraw his endorsement of Thasmeen for the presidency in 2013.

While Gayoom accused his former running mate of running the party “dictatorially” to protect and advance personal interests, Thasmeen contends that a few members within DRP’s leadership are pursuing “an internal campaign” to discredit and replace him on the DRP presidential ticket.

At a rally held last Thursday night by the Gayoom faction – attended by a number of DRP MPs along with minority opposition People’s Alliance MPs and senior ministers in Gayoom’s cabinet – Umar Naseer read out letters purportedly from DRP branches in the atolls retracting support for Thasmeen.

Umar called on those within the DRP’s front ranks who are “indebted to the government” to “go to the back seat.”

Former President Gayoom addressed the crowd through Umar’s phone – which was held up to the mic – offering gratitude and a vote of thanks to the speakers at the rally.

Also at the rally, Mahlouf’s calls for Thasmeen’s resignation was echoed back by the crowd gathered at the tsunami memorial area; Mahlouf called on the beleaguered leader to either resign or “step aside and pave the way for a primary so that we can have a new leader.”

Mahlouf asserted that he purposely broke the DRP’s three-line whip in last week’s vote on approving members to the Broadcasting Commission “to teach Thasmeen a lesson.”

The DRP MP for Galolhu South claimed that he does not have to follow instructions from a leader he does not recognise as legitimate.

Moreover, Mahlouf warned that Thasmeen would be “more dictatorial than President [Mohamed] Nasheed” should he win the presidential election in 2013, adding that the current DRP Leader would “pursue personal vendettas and target opponents.”

The country would go “into a slumber” under Thasmeen’s presidency, Mahlouf continued, as “even now when he’s trying to win power he spends four days a week at an island in Vaavu Atoll.”


PA Deputy Leader takes DRP Leader to court

Minority opposition People’s Alliance (PA) Deputy Leader Ahmed Nazim has sued coalition partner main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to recover more than Rf2 million (US$155,600) allegedly owed to him.

According to Haveeru, Thasmeen’s lawyer argued at the Civil Court hearing on Thursday that Nazim’s claim was unclear as a number of financial transactions occurred between the pair during the presidential and parliamentary elections, requesting that the court ask Nazim to specify how the loan was given as well as the terms agreed upon for repayment.

After Nazim’s lawyer produced a document with Thasmeen’s signature, Judge Hathif Hilmy pointed out that the purported loan agreement had a reference number and it was therefore reasonable to expect Thasmeen to be aware of the details of the amount in question.

The judge adjourned the hearing after ordering Thasmeen’s lawyer to respond to the claim at the next court date.

Deputy Speaker Nazim is suing Majority Leader Thasmeen to recover Rf1.92 million (US$149,400) allegedly unpaid from a loan worth Rf2.55 million (US$200,000) along with Rf100,000 (US$7,782) incurred as lawyer’s fees.


Parliament approves members to Broadcasting Commission

Parliament approved seven members to the newly-instituted Maldives Broadcasting Commission yesterday, after voting on nominees put forward by President Mohamed Nasheed.

The seven members approved to the commission were Badr Naseer, Aishath Hana, Mohamed Shaheeb, Mariyam Shaugy, Ibrahim Ashraf, Moomina Adam and Abdulla Shujau.