President Yameen rejects request for meeting to discuss MDP-JP demands

President Abdulla Yameen has rejected a request for a meeting with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-Jumhooree Party (MDP-JP) alliance to discuss 13 demands issued at a mass rally on February 27.

Briefing the press last night following a meeting of the MDP-JP joint party commission, JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim said the parties formally submitted the 13 demands in writing and sought meetings with both the president and Home Minister Umar Naseer.

“When we sent the demands, the home minister has replied saying ‘I have heard the demands and I will meet a team assigned by you.’ So his appointment has been arranged for 10am on Thursday morning. We sincerely thank the home minister for that on behalf of both our parties,” Ameen revealed.

“However, the president said in response to our letter, ‘if you want to meet regarding something that would be beneficial to the public, I can make time for you,’ and that it cannot be done any other way.”

The demands included immediately releasing former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, repealing amendments to the Auditor General’s Act that saw the removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, empowering local councils, and investigating serious corruption allegations against senior government officials.

Other demands issued at the protest march included continuing electricity subsidies, fulfilling campaign pledges to provide subsidies to fishermen and farmers, and reversing a decision to impose import duty on fuel.

“The home minister has seen that these [demands] are beneficial to the public, but unfortunately our honourable president has not yet seen it. We are extremely saddened by this,” Ameen said.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told local media today that the president did not have the authority to release suspects in detention while on trial, noting that the judiciary was an independent branch under separation of powers.

The president was open to discussions if the opposition proposed matters that were both beneficial to the public and within the president’s powers and constitutional responsibilities, he said.

After discussing President Yameen’s rejection at the inter-party commission (IPC) last night, Ameen said the parties decided its leaders – Gasim Ibrahim from the JP and Chairperson Ali Waheed or MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ from the MDP – would directly request an appointment with the president to discuss the prosecution and trials of Nasheed and Nazim.

Criminal proceedings against the pair were being conducted unfairly and unjustly, Ameen reiterated.

The parties also discussed continuing joint efforts, Ameen said, adding that decisions of the ‘joint activities committee’ would be implemented.

Ameen stressed that the activities would take place within legal bounds, adding that its purpose was achieving results desired by the public.

The MDP-JP nightly protests continued near the city council hall last night.

“Extra efforts”

Meanwhile, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed told the press that the party could not remain inactive while former President Nasheed’s trial was “going rapidly towards a sentence.”

“So we have discussed at our commission about the MDP undertaking special extra efforts to free President Nasheed,” he revealed.

The joint commission discussed affording the space for the MDP to conduct further activities without undermining the alliance with the JP, Waheed added, calling on supporters to join the party’s “direct action”.

Waheed said the government’s lack of an adequate response to the thousands of Maldivian citizens who participated in the protest march was regrettable.

“So now we are going to have to take our efforts to another level. God willing, within bounds of Maldivian laws and regulations, we will carry out our peaceful protest and direct action in various ways in the coming days,” he said.

A special committee has been formed within the MDP to oversee the activities, he continued, appealing for party members to remain united and to channel discontent within the party “as positive energy.”

While the party was attempting to peacefully resolve the crisis through negotiation and dialogue, Waheed said MDP believed “other activities” should be scaled up.

The government was opting for the “path of ruin” with its lack of response to the peaceful protest march, he continued, noting that the opposition did not seek a violent confrontation or incite unrest on Friday.

Waheed also said the party could not “go forward” without Nasheed and that the current leadership would not stand in the way of supporters’ love for the party’s elected president.

“We will give the space both within this [joint] commission and our party for [supporters] to raise their voices,” he said.

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JP Leader Gasim meets Sri Lankan President Sirisena

Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena this morning to discuss the ongoing political crisis in the Maldives.

JP Spokesperson Ali Solih told Minivan News that former Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, deputy leader of the JP parliamentary group, and JP Deputy Leader Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan also took part in the meeting at the President’s Office in Colombo.

The JP leaders briefed President Sirisena about the current political situation in the Maldives, he said.

Former Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem – a senior member of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – revealed in a tweet following the meeting that Sri Lanka “is sending a high level delegation to Malé to express deep concern on the arrest and harassment of political leaders.”

While the MDP-JP alliance launched nightly protests against alleged breaches of the constitution by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration in the wake of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s arrest on charges of possessing illegal weapons, tensions escalated further with the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday (February 22) on charges of terrorism.

Solih meanwhile revealed that the JP leaders are scheduled to meet a United Nations delegation today whilst further meetings with foreign diplomats could also take place.

A time or date for Gasim’s return to the Maldives is yet to be determined, he added.

Asked if the JP believed the government was planning to arrest the party’s leader upon his arrival, Solih said the party “would not be surprised” if Gasim was taken into custody.

“Our leaders have undertaken these efforts expecting that anything could happen at any time,” he said.

At the first hearing of Nazim’s trial last week, State Prosecutor Adam Arif said documents on a pen drive confiscated from the then-defence minister’s apartment showed he was planning individual and joint operations, financed by the Villa group, to cause bodily harm to “senior honourable state officials.”

However, speaking to journalists prior to departing to Colombo, Gasim dismissed allegations of a conspiracy between his Villa Group and Nazim as “a deliberate fabrication” intended to “frame” political opponents.

MDP-JP protest march

Gasim departed to Colombo with a joint MDP-JP delegation on Wednesday night (February 25) to meet diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka.

The delegation met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and European Union delegations and provided information on the state’s prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim.

While MDP MP Abdulla Shahid, International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor and Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab returned on Thursday night (February 26) ahead of the MDP-JP mass rally yesterday, Gasim stayed behind with the JP leaders, ostensibly to meet President Sirisena today.

In a recorded message from Gasim played out at yesterday’s 10,000-strong protest march in Malé, the JP leader called on the government to immediately release opposition leader Nasheed as well as retired colonel Nazim and withdraw terrorism charges against current Defence Minister Major General (Retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel and former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfan.

Gasim also issued several demands to the government, which were later reiterated during the protest march across the capital’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu.

In addition to withdrawing charges against “political prisoners,” the demands included repealing amendments to the Auditor General’s Act that saw the removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, empowering local councils, and investigating serious corruption allegations against senior government officials.

Gasim said he could not participate in the rally due to important appointments the next day and insisted that toppling the government was not the purpose of the protest as alleged by the government.

While the JP had declared that the rally would end at 6:00pm, Gasim appealed to participants not to carry out any illegal activities or incite violence or unrest.

However, despite MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed announcing the end of the protest march shortly after 6:00pm, opposition supporters continued the protest in the absence of MDP and JP leaders near the Malé City Council Hall, and the Alikilegefaanu and Majeedjee Magu junction near President Abdulla Yameen’s house.

At least 31 protesters were arrested before riot police dispersed the crowd around 1:00am.

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