Gayoom’s call for referendum on foreign freeholds dismissed

Dismissing former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s call for a public referendum on foreign freeholds in the Maldives, vice president Ahmed Adeeb said today: “The former president has raised his personal concerns. But the president of Maldives today is President Abdulla Yameen.”

Gayoom, the leader of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and half brother to President Yameen, urged the president to seek public opinion on ratifying the constitutional amendment.

In a letter sent to President Yameen and shared with the media, Gayoom said previous governments had refrained from selling parts of Maldivian territory to prevent influence over the country’s independence, sovereignty, and resources.

This is the first time Gayoom has publicly opposed Yameen.

Addressing Gayoom’s concerns, newly appointed vice president Adeeb said: “How can we govern if we are to call referendums on every issue? We’ve only been in government for two years. We also have aims, hopes, and responsibilities. President Yameen has to be accountable and fulfill his pledges. Not everyone will agree on every step he takes for economic reform.”

People are resistant to change, but approving foreign freeholds is a change that must happen, Adeeb said at a press conference today. The decision had been difficult for President Yameen, he added.

President Yameen ratified the amendments today.

Meanwhile, the president’s office yesterday said President Yameen will not respond to any letters shared with the media before the president responds to the letter.

The unprecedented provisions will allow foreigners who invest more than US$1billion to purchase land. At least 70 percent of the project site must be reclaimed.

The constitution previously prohibited foreign ownership of any part of Maldivian territory, but allowed leasing of land for up to 99 years.

The amendments were approved within a day after they were submitted to the People’s Majlis. Parliamentary standing orders were changed beforehand to fast-track the process of passing a bill into law.

Some 70 MPs of the 85-member house voted in favor. Gayoom’s son, MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon, had voted for the amendment as well as Adeeb’s appointment as the new vice president yesterday.

Rumors had spread this week that Gayoom opposed Adeeb’s appointment. However, the PPM leader has repeatedly denied favouring a particular candidate, stating that the appointment of a deputy is the sole prerogative of the president.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil meanwhile said the president is not obliged to hold a referendum on foreign freeholds. Article 262 (b) of the constitution states the president is obliged to call referendums on changing provisions in the bill of rights or the presidential and parliamentary terms.

Ten MPs of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and nine MPs of the Jumhooree Party (JP) also voted in favour of the unprecedented changes.

MPs opposed to the move expressed concern over possible Chinese military expansion in the Maldives, and the lack of time to review the amendments.

Dismissing concerns over the establishment of military bases, Adeeb said today: “We are not going to sell our lands to any country. We are trying to do business here. We want to bring in many corporate investments. We are not going to sell land to other countries, whether its China or Saudi Arabia. We are not gifting our land to other parties. We want to mobilize investments worth at least US$1billion.”


Gayoom denies PPM split over Dhiggaru by-election

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has denied rumours that a faction within the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) is supporting independent candidate Moosa Naseer Ahmed in the upcoming Dhiggaru constituency parliamentary by-election.

Naseer, a Meemu atoll councillor and vice president of the Local Government Authority, had sought the ruling party’s ticket last month, but withdrew his candidacy ahead of the primary.

Gayoom’s eldest son, Ahmed Faris Maumoon, won the primary with a margin of 147 votes after competing against another Meemu atoll councillor.

Speaking to reporters yesterday upon his return to Malé after launching Faris’ campaign in Meemu atoll, Gayoom said he does not believe that senior PPM members encouraged Naseer to run as an independent.

Gayoom, leader of the PPM, said he enjoys strong support in Meemu atoll and that he expects to win the vacant Dhiggaru constituency parliament seat.

Gayoom said he was not aware that any member of PPM was working against Faris, adding that president Abdulla Yameen could not attend the campaign launching due to a heavy schedule.

Naseer was meanwhile expelled from the PPM on Monday by the party’s disciplinary committee.

PPM secretary general Mohamed Tholal told newspaper Haveeru that Naseer was dismissed for breaching the party’s charter by standing as an independent after the party chose its candidate through a primary.

Naseer had had told online news outlet CNM last week that he decided to contest as an independent at the behest of Dhiggaru constituents, who he said wanted a Meemu atoll or Dhiggaru native as their MP.

Naseer had represented Meemu atoll in the Special Majlis from 1983 to 1996 and served as the Meemu atoll member of the People’s Majlis from 1996 to 2000.

The by-election, triggered by a 25-year jail sentence handed down to former PPM MP Ahmed Nazim, is scheduled to take place on June 6.


Prominent historian Shafeeq passes away

A prominent historian and writer, Ahmed Shafeeq, passed away on Friday after battling a long illness.

Shafeeq was 87-years-old and leaves behind 12 children. He wrote numerous books, earned national literary awards, and had served as atoll chief and member of parliament.

In his last book titled ‘A day in the life of Ahmed Shafeeq,’ he alleged that 111 people had been killed during ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year reign.

Gayoom successfully sued Shafeeq for defamation and the civil court in July 2012 ordered the writer to pay MVR5,000 as compensation.

Shafeeq was held in solitary confinement for 83 days in 1995 together with three other writers, including Hassan Ahmed Maniku, Ali Moosa Didi and Mohamed Latheef.

Shafeeq contended that 50 of his diaries containing evidence relating to the deaths of the 111 Maldivians were confiscated during a raid by 15 armed men. He was ultimately released by Gayoom without charge, and was told by the investigating officer to write a letter of appreciation to the then-president for the pardon.

After Gayoom declared that he will sue Shafeeq in late 2010, then-president Mohamed Nasheed said police will investigate the claims of 111 custodial deaths.

Nasheed had said that Gayoom alone could not be blamed for all the human rights abuses that occurred under his watch.

“It was not done by him alone. It was a whole system that did it. It was Dhivehi tradition that did it. It was Dhivehi culture that did it,” he said.


Gayoom denies rifts within government

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has denied any rifts between himself as leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday prior to departing for Singapore to attend the funeral of ex-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as President Yameen’s representative, Gayoom denied claims by Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla that he was a victim of the government’s “brutality.”

“Things are going very well with the party working together with the government. There is no discontent at all,” he was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

Gayoom suggested that the opposition was using his name for their political purposes.

Asked about international concern over the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed, Gayoom said criticism from foreign nations and organisations was not a cause for concern.

Gayoom reportedly said Maldivians connected to foreign actors wanted to help them achieve their ends in the country, but the PPM did want to follow instructions issued by another nation.

He added that the criticism was baseless and uninformed, suggesting that certain foreign parties harboured longstanding prejudices against the Maldives.


Elections Commission announces official results of Kolhufushi by-election

The Elections Commission (EC) yesterday announced official results of a by-election held on the island of Kolhufushi in Meemu atoll on Saturday (October 18) for a vacant seat on the five-member island council.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Hussain Shamil won the by-election with 355 votes while ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Mohamed Nasir received 333 votes.

Of 964 eligible voters, 694 people cast their ballots.

The by-election was called following the resignation of Councillor Ibrahim Rasheed.

Opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed told the press following the MDP’s victory that the result was indicative of public dissatisfaction with the current administration.

The opposition party also won a recent by-election held in Addu City for a vacant seat on the city council for the Feydhoo constituency.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – leader of the PPM – meanwhile said on social media that the ruling party “must learn” from the by-election defeats.


“Hope Rilwan is found safe and sound”: Gayoom

Former President and leader of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has expressed his hope that missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla will be found “safe and sound”.

Speaking at a press conference held on Sunday on his return from a seminar in Samoa, Gayoom responded to media queries regarding Rilwan, believed to have been abducted 30 days ago.

“I believe the government is conducting a lot of work to find him. No government body has been negligent in this work. They are speedily conducting the investigation. God willing, this matter will be solved at the earliest, and he will be found safe and sound,” Gayoom stated.

“Our party is also looking into this matter very closely. Our party has even released a press statement expressing our deep concern on the matter. We said (in the statement) that we hope is found safe and sound,” Gayoom continued.

Meanwhile, Rilwan’s family and friends have approached all major political parties including ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Jumhoorere Party (JP) and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) requesting meetings and cooperation in efforts to find the 28-year-old journalist.

While the group reports that they have met with the MDP and JP, who have both pledged to offer assistance, the PPM has so far failed to respond to the request.


Commonwealth’s future “lies in celebration of diversity”: former President Gayoom

The future of the Commonwealth lies in the celebration of the diversity that exists within the organisation, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said last night at an event held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, by the Commonwealth Chair-in-Office and President of Sri Lanka Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa.

President Gayoom was the chief guest at the event organised to celebrate the cultural diversity of the Commonwealth.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – daughter of the former president – also attended the event whilst in Colombo on an official visit, during which she paid a courtesy call on the Sri Lankan president.

The Maldives joined the Commonwealth under President Gayoom’s leadership in 1982.

“In his speech, President Gayoom said that the diversity within the Commonwealth makes the organisation one of the strongest international bodies in the world today. The former President, also highlighted the importance of mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding between the countries of the Commonwealth, in order to foster peace and create an environment conducive for development to happen. The Commonwealth brings together, to the same table, countries of different cultures, development levels and political ideologies, as equals. This, President Gayoom, said, must be celebrated and respected,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement today.

Former President Gayoom’s remarks were echoed in a message to President Rajapaksa by President Abdulla Yameen today, in which he said that the diversity of the Commonwealth was a source of strength.

The President expressed his hope that the common beliefs shared by the Commonwealth countries will guide us towards finding mutually beneficial solutions to the global problems facing the world today,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“The President further conveyed his appreciation to the Sri Lankan Government, for hosting a special event in its capacity as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth to celebrate the cultural diversity of the organization, in which former President of Maldives, His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom participated as the Chief Guest.”


Nasheed “slaughtered” democracy: Gayoom

The Maldivian people saw “democracy being slaughtered” during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reportedly said last night at a ‘Progressive Coalition’ campaign rally in Malé.

“During those three and a half years, things reached the point where we feared Islam could disappear from the country. It reached a state where we feared we might lose our independence,” the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader and figurehead said.

“We saw the economy devastated, ruined and fall into a deep pit. We also saw democracy being slaughtered.”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government “hijacked” the People’s Majlis, locked the Supreme Court, detained a sitting judge, and arrested politicians “in the name of democracy” during its three years in office, Gayoom contended.

“We saw many such inhumane and undemocratic actions,” he added.

Gayoom also criticised Nasheed for resigning on February 7, 2012 halfway into his five-year presidential term.

The country has faced “more difficult, burdensome, sad and tragic events” in its history than the circumstances that led to Nasheed’s resignation, Gayoom continued, but leaders had not stepped down “for the sake of the nation and religion.”

Referring to the failed coup attempt on November 3, 1988 by Tamil mercenaries, Gayoom noted that no senior government official resigned despite threats to their lives.

“They did not go home. They stayed resolute,” he said.

Gayoom urged voters to choose pro-government candidates in the March 22 parliamentary polls to ensure that the PPM-led coalition government secures a majority of parliamentary seats, which he contended was necessary to carry out development projects and implement policies.

“The cooperation of the People’s Majlis can be assured by the Progressive Coalition securing a majority,” he said.

“The tree called MDP”

The opposition MDP has meanwhile been campaigning on a platform of reforming the judiciaryempowering local councils, and consolidating democracy.

In a speech at a campaign rally in Malé last week, Nasheed contended that Gayoom had retained his influence over the judiciary when sitting judges – the vast majority of whom were appointed during Gayoom’s 30-year reign – were controversially reappointed en masse in August 2010.

Nasheed entreated voters to study the recent past of the Maldives and consider current trends, suggesting that “you certainly don’t need to be an expert to know what could happen to this country in light of that.”

“The country is being rolled back to autocratic rule. President Maumoon is taking one step after another down that path,” he said.

Gayoom’s longstanding opposition to allowing political parties in the Maldives was elucidated on page 123 of his biography, “A Man for All Islands,” Nasheed said.

“I want to ask you, are you really confused about who President Maumoon is? Are you really going to accept him today as a man of democratic principles who loves freedom? What I want to tell the people of Malé is, don’t let yourself be stung twice from the same burrow,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking at a rally in Baa Eydhafushi last night, Nasheed said the MDP’s objective was securing financial independence for local councils.

Councils should be able to generate revenue from publicly-owned land in the island as well as nearby uninhabited islands, he said, which would enable councils to undertake infrastructure projects.

“Our pledge is not having to make any more pledges. God willing, we will provide the [financial] wherewithal for you to fulfil your own pledges,” he said.

He added that the MDP was the only party pledging to reform the judiciary.

“I want to tell other candidates, and the many candidates participating in this election – this tree called MDP has not yet blossomed. It has to be watered. It is not yet time to cling to it and spread vines under its shade. We have to let this tree grow.”

“I won’t talk about this in the next election. God willing, by then our political system will have matured,” he said.


In democracy, we must welcome people with varying ideologies: Gayoom

Former President and leader of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has stated that a democracy is a system in which people are free to work with their personal political ideologies, and that in such a system people with varying ideas must be welcomed.

Speaking at a campaign event of PPM’s parliamentary candidate for Villin’gili constituency Saudh Hussain, Gayoom expressed concerns that residents of some islands harassed contestants campaigning for the party’s coalition.

“Since we are in a democracy, we must welcome people with different ideologies. We have to listen to what they have to say. It is a completely different matter whether you accept what they have to say or not,” Gayoom said.

Gayoom further said that it is very important to acquire a majority in the next parliament, stating that the reason for this is that the current government is led by the coalition.

He opined that failure to garner a majority would cause difficulties in fulfilling party manifesto.