Z-faction formed new party “after failing to gain control of DRP”: Thasmeen

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom decided to form a new party because “particular individuals” were not elected to leadership posts at the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Congress in March 2010, and “because they failed to gain control of the party”, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told press today.

Flanked by DRP council members and leaders of coalition partner Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) at a press conference this afternoon, Thasmeen denied the former President’s claim that he was forced to quit the DRP because of a lack of internal democracy and inadequate efforts to hold the government accountable.

The breakaway Z-faction opted to form a new party after “they failed to influence the different organs of DRP,” Thasmeen said, accusing the ‘Zaeem faction’ of undermining the DRP leadership with “baseless allegations.”

“They have not provided any reason for the Maldivian people to believe the allegations made over the past year or so,” he said. “I have definitely never voted against the DRP whip since the party was formed. I have never failed to attend a vote in Majlis for any reason. And I have never failed to say what I must when the current government does something that is detrimental to the people.”

After months of factional strife and a litany of grievances aired in the media, Gayoom withdrew his endorsement of Thasmeen in March this year, accusing his successor of “acting dictatorially” and violating the party’s charter in the controversial dismissal of Deputy Leader Umar Naseer.

On allegations made by Umar Naseer that Thasmeen accepted a US$1 million bribe from Indian infrastructure giant GMR – which took over management of the Male’ International Airport under a concessional agreement last year – the DRP leader noted that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had “investigated thoroughly” and cleared both Thasmeen and Speaker Abdulla Shahid of any wrong-doing.

Thasmeen argued that there was “no reason to accept” the Progressive Party’s claim of “being an exemplary democratic party” as the Z-faction had disregarded the DRP’s charter, openly refused to accept decisions by the party’s organs and “worked in a way detrimental to the party that was worse than our political enemies.”

The minority leader of parliament also noted that the Z-faction had been functioning independently “as a separate party with a separate council, with a separate parliamentary group lately.”

“There’s no reason to believe they can do something they failed to do over the past year with just the name of a political party,” he said, adding that the Z-faction MPs had not informed the public about the shortcomings of the government’s proposed economic reforms.

Thasmeen insisted that “a substantial number of members” would not leave DRP for the Progressive Party: “We are calling the party’s leadership in the islands, the party’s councillors and heads of island branches,” he said. “Based on information we are getting, we are certain that a substantial number of people from DRP will not go to this new party.”

Local daily Haveeru reported today that 500 members have so far applied to leave the party. Thasmeen however expressed confidence that the DRP would remain the largest opposition party.

The DRP leader revealed that the party would conduct internal elections “in the next three months” for DRP island branches or chapters. The elections were last held in 2006.


Gayoom “sincerity” attacked after criticising DRP appointments

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Spokesperson Ibrahim ‘Mavota’  Shareef has questioned the “sincerity” of his party’s honorary leader, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, claiming the former president is behind “all the problems” currently facing the divided opposition group.

The comments were made after former President Gayoom yesterday addressed members of the media upon returning from a visit to Bangladesh to criticise the appointments of two new DRP deputy leaders without holding elections at a national congress.

Speaking to Minivan News, Shareef said that claims by Gayoom, who became the party’s honorary head after retiring from active politics in 2010, were intended to “deceive” DRP members and supporters.

Shareef alleged that Gayoom was personally responsible for the addition of a clause within the party’s constitution that allows for the replacement of vacant senior DRP positions outside of an official national conference vote.

Appointments have become one of the main points of contention for the DRP of late after the dismissal of its former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer. This dismissal was linked to the eventual formation of a spin-off movement within the party known as the Z-DRP.

The formation of this spin-off group has led to an increasingly acrimonious relationship between serving party head Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Gayoom himself.

However, Shareef claimed that Gayoom had personally approved amendments to the party’s constitution during the previous national congress that allowed for the DRP’s council to approve deputy leadership roles to replace departing members.

“I don’t think Gayoom has sincerity [in his actions].  He knows [the party’s] constitution and that it allows to temporarily fill positions legitimately until the next congress meeting,” he said.  “Back in the 2010 congress, there were many positions in the party we were unable to fill due to resignations.  Gayoom approved [this appointment process] under the party’s constitution.”

In addressing how Gayoom’s latest criticisms could affect attempts by some councilors to try and reconcile divisions within the DRP, Shareef again questioned the sincerity of Gayoom in trying to find a resolution for the party.

However, upon returning from Bangladesh, Gayoom told members of the press that the solution to the internal rifts within the party was to respect its charter and retract the DRP council’s actions in appointing and dismissing deputy leaders; actions that he contends were in violation of the organisation’s charter.

“There are a number of things that were done against the charter,” he claimed. “I informed the leader of that in a letter.”

Gayoom argued that the recent appointment of MP Mohamed Ramiz and council member Ahmed ‘Anday’ Mohamed as DRP deputy leaders was not legitimate, as article 87 of the charter states that if a deputy leader resigns, a replacement should be elected at a national congress.

However, the DRP insists that article 122 of its charter authorises the council to temporarily replace vacancies in elected posts until the next congress.

Of the four deputy leaders elected during the DRP’s third national congress in 2010, Umar Naseer was contentiously dismissed by the party’s disciplinary committee, while MP Ali Waheed later defected to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Umar Naseer meanwhile contested his dismissal at the Civil Court, which is due to rule on the legality of the decision.

Gayoom also denied that remarks made at a Z-DRP rally last month about regretting “handing the [leadership position] on a platter” was a personal attack on serving DRP Leader Thasmeen.