DRP celebrates “beginning of the end” for government

The main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) hosted a rally last night to celebrate its victory in parliament on the decentralisation bill, which was passed yesterday without the model of provinces proposed by the government.

The rally at artificial beach was attended by Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim, leader of the Republican Party, as well as MPs of the People’s Alliance.

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said the passage of the bill with 42 votes in favour was “a very good and important signal” as 39 votes would be needed to override a possible presidential veto.

If the bill becomes law, said Thasmeen, elected island and atoll councils will have decision-making powers on resource allocation and development projects.

“The way the bill has been drafted gives no room for provinces,” he said, claiming there was no public support for the model.

The bill on decentralised administration proposed by the government early last year had been delayed due to an intractable dispute over creating seven provincial councils instead of 20 atoll councils.

Thasmeen denied claims by MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that the wholesale changes made to the bill by the opposition would hinder the development of the atolls.

The leader of the opposition called on DRP supporters to “roll their sleeves” to defeat the government’s candidates for the upcoming local councils.

The Republican Benefactor

Speaking at the rally, Gasim addressed speculation that he was disbanding the Republican Party, declaring that he was there to express gratitude for DRP MPs and celebrate “a victory for the Maldivian people”.

Gasim said he believed the support for creating seven provinces was driven by “self-interest” as it was intended to “shape things to the advantage of one party”.

He added the bill passed yesterday would pave the way for “unimaginable levels of development” for the atolls.

Grinding henna

Ali Waheed, DRP vice-president, said it takes “a lot of effort and grinding to bring out colour from henna leaves”.

Although the party “made a blunder” on the motion of no-confidence against Foreign Minister Dr Shaheed last year, said Ali Waheed, “yesterday we brought out colour from henna leaves”.

The MP for Thohdhoo went through the list of MPs who voted in favour of the bill, praising each individually.

“Today what we played was a national team match,” he said. “It wasn’t a New Radiant match today. It wasn’t a Victory match today. We have seen that if you play for the national team in the political arena, Gasim Ibrahim will be there. We have seen that today that when the national team plays, Kulhudhufushi South MP Mohamed Nasheed will be there as well.”

Ali Waheed invited the former legal reform minister to come back to the DRP and relayed a message of congratulations from Nasheed.

The real “mid-term election” would be the upcoming local council elections, said Ali Waheed, calling on all opposition parties to band together to defeat the MDP.

He concluded the speech by praising DRP’s honorary leader: “I would say our Zaeem, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is with us here tonight. The reason is that there’s a full moon tonight and Maumoon is this party’s full moon.”

“Beginning of the end”

Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam said the behaviour of the party that claimed to have ushered in democracy “whenever there’s a democratic vote” had become “a big joke”.

MDP MPs walked out of yesterday’s sitting in protest when none of the party’s amendments won bipartisan support.

Rozaina joined other DRP MPs to thank Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed “in the name of democracy” for staying behind “even if he just kept pressing red”.

If the DRP win the local council elections, said Rozaina, the government would be left with “a hollow shell”.

Umar Naseer, DRP vice-president, said the victory in parliament would mark “the beginning of the end for the government” as it was now “on life support”.

He added the law would also spell the end for “the ganja smoking councillors” and state ministers appointed by the president who have been “terrorising” the islands.

“Today we saw the MDP walk out of Majlis,” he said. “Before too late now, we will see the president walk out of the government.”