Majlis standing committees’ composition approved as parties reach compromise

A five-member select committee tasked with constituting parliament’s standing committees has finalised the composition of the 13 committees after political parties reached a compromise today.

Following weeks of disagreement, a proposal by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Shareef – seconded by MP Ahmed Amir from the government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – was passed with three votes in favour at the 12th meeting of the select committee.

In addition to Shareef and Amir, the select committee included MP Riyaz Rasheed as the chair from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), MP Gasim Ibrahim from the Jumhooree Party (JP), and MP Anara Naeem from the Adhaalath Party (AP).

JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim did not participate in the vote after objecting to a change in the number of seats in some committees.

The committee decided to increase the number of seats in the public accounts oversight committee to 13 and reduce the number of seats in the petition committee and ethics committee to 10.

A proposal by MDA MP Amir to constitute the ‘241’ security services committee with 14 seats was also approved with six seats for the PPM, three seats for the MDP, two seats for the JP, one seat each for the MDA and AP, and one seat for Independent MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed.

Article 241 of the constitution states, “A committee of the People’s Majlis shall be established to exercise continuing oversight of the operations of the security services. The committee shall include representation from all the different political parties within the People’s Majlis.”

Aside from the 241 committee, Muaz – the sole remaining independent – was assigned to the ethics committee.

Reflecting the ruling coalition’s majority with its 46 MPs in the 85-member parliament, the PPM-MDA secured a voting majority on all standing committees with the exception of the privileges committee.

Parliamentary rules dictate proportional representation on the standing committees based on the number of MPs in each party.

Concluding the select committee meeting today, Chair Riyaz Rasheed said the committee’s report will be submitted to the Majlis floor, where it would be put to a vote.

The PPM MP for Thaa Vilifushi expressed gratitude to political parties for agreeing to compromise.

The protracted dispute over the allocation of seats on standing committees has left parliament deadlocked since the first regular sitting on June 2.

Two consecutive sittings had been called off amid disorder in the chamber after MDP MPs insisted that preliminary debate on bills could not begin in the absence of standing committees to review legislation.

Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed adjourned yesterday’s sitting to hold discussions with political party leaders.

At last week’s sitting, pro-government MPs had accused the opposition of obstructing the Majlis to thwart the government’s legislative agenda, while MDP MPs accused the ruling coalition of attempting to create “a one-party state” without parliamentary oversight.

Today’s sitting was meanwhile adjourned to allow the select committee to conclude its work. Speaker Maseeh has since announced that the next sitting will take place at 10:30am on Monday (June 30).

The first piece of legislation up for debate is the bill on establishing special economic zones, the centrepiece of the government’s legislative agenda.

Majlis composition:-

PPM – 41 MPs (48.2%)

MDP –  24 MPs (28.2%)

JP – 13 MPs (15.3%)

MDA – 5 MPs (5.9%)

AP – 1 MP (1.2%)

Independents – 1 MP (1.2%)

Standing committees:-

Public Accounts Committee – six seats for PPM, four seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Government Oversight Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Independent Institutions Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

‘241’ Security Services Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP,  one seat for MDA, one seat for AP, and one seat for the Independent MP.

National Security Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Social Affairs Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for AP.

Economic Affairs Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.

National Development Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, one seat for MDA, and one seat for AP.

Rules Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, and one seat for MDA.

Ethics Committee – five seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, one seat for JP, and one seat for the Independent MP.

Privileges Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, and two seats for JP

Petition Committee – six seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, and one seat for JP

General Affairs Committeefive seats for PPM, three seats for MDP, two seats for JP, and one seat for MDA.


DRP denies holding coalition talks with President Waheed’s election rivals

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has rejected allegations it ever considered forming a coalition to back a candidate other than President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

Local media quoted senior figures in the Jumhoree Party (JP) of accusing DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali of unsuccessfully trying to become the running mate of its presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim, before opting to side with the incumbent in May this year.

JP candidate Gasim, one of the country’s highest-profile business figures, has since formed his own coalition with the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) after they both defected from President Waheed’s ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition in July.

“Last minute” decision

DRP Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef today categorically denied that discussions had ever been held over backing any other candidate for this year’s election, claiming the decision to stand in a coalition with President Waheed has been made by the party’s council at the “last minute”.

“We were originally trying to run on our own [as a party] right up to the last minute,” he said. “However, it was decided to sacrifice [the party’s] ambitions for the sake of the nation.”

Shareef claimed that in comparison to the three other candidates preparing to contest this year’s election, President Waheed was not promising policies that could not be delivered under the current economy.

He accused Gasim, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed of being “very unrealistic” with their campaign promises.

“We are careful to make promises within the resources we have available and within the budget,” Shareef added.

Both the PPM and MDP have previously accused President Waheed of making development pledges outside the approved budget, while also alleging he had been using state resources to campaign for his own Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP).

According to Shareef, the ‘Forward with the nation’ also faced notable challenges in terms of limited party financing compared to other parties, accusing both the AP and DQP of defecting to Gasim’s coalition simply to secure an increased campaign budget.

“They went to the person who has money, while we are concerned with running an effective campaign,” he added.

Shareef said this year’s election was very much a “money game” that had affected the wider campaign atmosphere in the country, notably in how individual candidates were being portrayed in the media.

He expressed particular concern at the role the country’s media – often owned and controlled by political parties and business men – played in the electoral process.

Shareef argued that with media in the Maldives controlled by just a few powerful figures, it was difficult in the country’s fledgling democracy to effectively explain a candidate’s individual stand to the “ordinary public” and therefore allow them to make an informed decision and hold public figures to account.

On the campaign trail

A source in President Waheed’s campaign team told Minivan News that the defection of the AP and DQP from the ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition had required little change to the coalition’s campaign strategy, and that the party’s internal polling data suggested this had had a negligible impact on the coalition’s election chances.

The source said the departure of the AP in particular had actually increased the party’s support among the under 35 demographic.


Adhaalath Party head gives government six day ultimatium to renege on GMR airport deal

The government has been given less than a week to “reclaim” Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) from infrastructure group GMR under order of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, a member of the coalition backing President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdullah gave the deadline yesterday, during a rally calling by November 15 for an annulment of the contract signed between the former government and GMR to manage and develop a new terminal at INIA.

Imran also told those gathered to stand ready for “activities on sea” planned for the November 12. The gathering, held yesterday at the artificial beach area of Male’, is expected to reconvene this evening.

Sheikh Imran was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press, while fellow party member and State Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said he did not wish to comment on the “GMR issue”, asking that he only be contacted over religious matters.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose government approved the deal back in 2010, this month slammed statements over the “reclaiming” the airport from GMR.  Nasheed claimed such comments were “highly irresponsible”, stating that such words from the government could cause irreparable damage to the country.

Several Indian companies operating in the Maldives including GMR and TATA have also this month expressed concerns over political interference that they claimed is derailing their substantial investments in the country.

Following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, members of President Waheed’s unity government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has swung between issuing reassurances within diplomatic circles that Indian investments in the country would be protected, while locally stepping up nationalisation rhetoric.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza were also not returning calls on whether the government had been officially notified of the deadline or how it will proceed on the matter at time of press.

The present government has continued to press to “re-nationalise”the airport, with the country’s Deputy Tourism Minister confirming to Indian media in September that the administration would not “rule out the possibility of cancelling the award [to GMR]”.

Despite these pledges, government coalition partners including the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and Jumhoree Party (JP) have both called for further investigation into alleged wrongdoing over the deal and to follow legal guidelines.

Senior representatives of both parties have told Minivan News that any potential action taken against GMR to be taken through the courts and after negotiations with the infrastructure group.  Any actions should then be conducted in a manner not detrimental to securing future foreign investment opportunities, both parties have concluded.

Under the terms of the agreement – an estimated US$511 million deal that represents the largest ever case of foreign investment in the Maldives – GMR agreed to a 25 year concession agreement to develop and manage the site, as well as to overhaul the existing terminal by the end of this year.

The document was overseen by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on private sector projects in developing countries.

The Maldives government has accused the IFC of negligence during the bidding process for INIA – allegations there were rejected by the organisation.  Both the government and GMR are presently involved in an arbitration case in Singapore over the airport development that is anticipated to conclude by year end.

However, the Adhaalath Party, as part of a civil society coalition that was formed last year, has stepped up efforts of late to oppose upholding the airport deal.

The efforts have included an ongoing number of gatherings in the capital Male’, promotional material including a “Go Home GMR” balloon, the publication of a book on the deal and a petition sent to the government.

Local media reported this week that some 10,000 people had so far signed the petition.

Sheikh Imran has previously predicted there would be “some unrest and damage” should the GMR deal be annulled, but nontheless urged people to come out and support the calls for nationalisation.  The GMR deal is actually a 25 year lease arrangement and the airport still belongs to the government.

Imran said the Maldivian population would be able to endure economic hardship should the deal be annulled, before threatening “a completely different activity” should the government fail to resolve the issue to the coalition’s satisfaction.

Book launch

Also against the GMR deal is the government-aligned DQP, whose leader Dr Hassan Saeed serves as special advisor to president Waheed, as well as being his party’s presidential candidate.

Late last month, Dr Saeed launched a book authored by himself that concluded the only option for “reclaiming the airport from GMR” is to invalidate or cancel the concession agreement with the Indian infrastructure giant.

The DQP has claimed the book would reveal a number of facts that the Maldivian people were unaware of before the signing of the agreement.

It follows the publication last year of another DQP publication that claimed that the government’s lease of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) to developer GMR posed a threat to local industry that will “enslave the nation and its economy”.

The Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) has previously claimed that legal wrangling between the government and India-based developer GMR over the multi-million dollar airport development would not harm confidence in the country’s admittedly “challenging” investment climate.

This week alone, cabinet ministers announced efforts were being taken to try expanding the number of investment opportunities available in the Maldives in order to generate greater interest from foreign enterprises.


Time “not right” to amend Freedom of Assembly bill, MDP claims

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it is opposed to a Freedom of Assembly bill accepted for discussion this week by the People’s Majlis – despite praising the overall nature of the legislation.

According to local media reports, 41 ministers out of 62 present during a vote this week favoured tabling the bill, which was proposed earlier this year by the independent MP Mohamed Nasheed. The bill is said to have been devised in a bid to clarify the rights and responsibilities of both protesters and authorities policing them.

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News that while the party believed the proposed bill was a “good piece of legislation” – the time was deemed “not right” for such amendments to be made to the existing law.

The MDP has continued to allege that the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in February through a “coup d’etat” supported by mutinous elements of the police and military. Hamid contended therefore that amendments to police controls in the present political environment would not be supported by the party.

“We continue to maintain that the police are not a legitimate body due to their role in the coup,” he claimed. “This is a good piece of legislation to implement with a legitimate police force, but we believe that [the security forces’] role in the coup was such that this is not the time to get the bill passed. It would simply serve for authorities to gain leverage and take away the democratic gains made in the country in the last three years.”

“Up the ante”

With parliament now reportedly discussing whether the bill should be sent for evaluation through a temporary or permanent committee, Hamid added that the MDP was itself preparing to “up the ante” in terms of the protests it has been holding over the last few months concerning the legitimacy of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government.

“At the moment, the mood in the party is to intensify the protests,” he said. We continue to believe that the present government is not legitimate and we will continue to protest this within legal means under the eyes of the law. The courts have not yet been able to rule against the freedom of assembly,” he added.

According to Hamid, with the MDP continuing to conduct protests on a weekly basis, there remains suspicion that the new bill was being prosed simply to stymie and “squash” the right to protest in the country – a claim denied by those behind the proposed legislation.

The opposition party’s supporters again yesterday marched around Male’ past sites including police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) barracks – albeit on a slightly modified route – to reflect what they claim is growing impatience with the Waheed administration.

Following the transfer of power in February and President Waheed’s delayed innagural address to parliament a month later, there have been incidents of violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters – particularly in the capital of Male’. Since these events, clashes between the police force and the MDP have been reported to be much more sporadic and small scale.

Hamid claimed that the MDP was not going out with the intention to confront police officers, alleging that some law enforcement officials had in recent weeks attempted to incite violent clashes themselves.  He pointed to an incident last month where police marched straight through a large gathering of demonstrators including former President Nasheed as an example of this allegation.

Coalition view

In considering the implications of parliament approving the Freedom of Assembly bill, Deputy Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithuge Party (DRP) Ibrahim Shareef said Thursday evening (July 5) that it continued to support freedom of assembly and would voice changes to the bill where it believed they were required.

“As a party, we have not discussed [the bill] yet.  As far as we are concerned the bill is about regulation regarding protests,” he said.

Shareef added that the parliamentary vote held this week was simply over whether the proposed changes should be tabled for discussion among MPs. He added that the legislation was now being looked at before being submitted for committee review, where the specifics of the bill would be debated further.

MPs Ahmed Mahloof and Ahmed Nihan of the Progressive party of Maldives (PPM) – a coalition partner of the DRP – were not responding to calls at the time of going to press regarding their opinions of the bill.

Proposed changes

Upon introducing the bill back in April, independent MP Nasheed said new legislation was required to replace the current regulations concerning freedom of assembly devised before the current constitution was put in place.

The proposed bill is based largely on guidelines published in 2010 by the European advisory group on constitutional law, the Venice Commission (officially called the European Commission for Democracy Through Law). The guidelines argue that any restrictions to freedom of assembly must consider legality, necessity and proportionality.

The unusual nature of the country, Nasheed argued, requires that “absolute” restrictions on static protests remain around the state’s vital institutions, in particular those areas on Republican Square which affect the security forces’ ability to operate.  These require an area of 200ft to the front and 50ft to the side of police and military headquarters to be prohibited from static protests, such as sit-downs. Other military barracks require a protective zone of 50ft; other police facilities, 25ft.

The police protest on February 7 that led to the downfall of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government took place outside the MNDF’s headquarters.

Additionally, the bill suggests that a minimum distance of 25 feet be maintained from mosques, schools, hospitals, court buildings, the President’s Office, the President’s house, and from parliament. The proposed bill places no restrictions on moving protests.

Concerns were raised in May about protests being held near to the country’s mosques after a group of people said to be MDP supporters obstructed a sermon held by prominent religious scholar Sheikh Ilyas Hussain.

The only time-based restrictions under the bill are those that proscribing protests outside of an individual’s home after 10pm, and those that use loudspeakers after 8pm.

Nasheed was also keen to point out that new bill, and the timing of its submission, had been unrelated to the controversial transfer of power earlier this year. He stated that he had been working on the bill since 2010 and had completed a first draft last year.

He was realistic, however, about the difficulties the bill would face.

“People who are protesting will be unhappy with any restrictions… but they should respect the rights of others,” said Nasheed.

The MP has previously predicted that the bill could take up to a year to be passed.


Pro-government parties exclude DRP from new joint-parliamentary group

Dhivehi Rayithuge Party (DRP) Spokesman Ibrahim Shareef has emphasised that his party had never signed up to any official coalition agreement, after local media reported the formation of a pro-government Joint Parliamentary Group (JPG) excluding his party.

“There has been a slight confusion. No coalition agreement was signed – we are part of a national unity government after having accepted an invitation from President Mohamed Waheed Hassan,” explained Shareef.

“We will support the government in matters that are in the best interest of the nation, rather than of other parties,” he added.

The JPG has been reported as including members of all pro-government parties, with the more prominent positions going to members of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed told local newspaper Haveeru that the PPM, the Majlis’s minority leader, will now hold its parliamentary group meetings in conjunction with these other members.

Minivan News was unable to find a PPM member available for comment at the time of press.

Haveeru reported that, when asked why the DRP had not been invited to join the group, Rasheed answered that it was because they had joined the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“Why invite them to join us. They vote against the government on matters submitted to the parliament against the government. They had and still are conspiring with MDP,” Haveeru quoted Rasheed.

The MDP, the former ruling party, still holds 31 of 77 seats in the Majlis, although it has suffered from a number of defections in recent months. The DRP currently holds 15 seats, while the PPM has 18.

Last weekend, it was reported that MDP MP for Maradhoo constituency, Hassan Adil, was also reconsidering his membership.

The remainder of the seats in the Majlis belong to members of Waheed’s unity government.

Shareef told Minivan News that the JPG was nothing new and had existed prior to the formation of the unity government, stating that the parties concerned were just “twisting” old things to court controversy.

“Riyaz is there to take advantage of being the only DQP member in the parliament, although he acts more like a PPM member. He is a man on his own and we are not worried about his antics,” said Shareef.

Riyaz, whom Shareef described as a “cartoon character”, last week declared his party’s coalition with the DRP to be over, baulking at what he felt was DRP support for a controversial MDP motion in the house.

The motion in question – a debate on police brutality – brought such strong protests in the chamber that the session was prematurely ended.

A DQP statement the next day called on all parties to refrain from actions which might “encourage the efforts of former President Mohamed Nasheed… to bring the two oldest institutions of the country into disrepute and cause loss of public confidence [in the police and military].”

The number of parties in the Majlis may be set to expand after former DRP deputy leader and MP for Meedhoo constituency Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam officially registered his intention to form his own party with the Elections Commission (EC).

The party, to be called the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), obtained the signatures of 50 people in support of the party and will be given nine months to gain 3000 members.

Vice President of the EC Ahmed Fayaz confirmed that the new party had received a permit, stating that Shiyam’s signature on the list was accompanied by fellow independent MP Ahmed Amir.

Shiyam was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Shareef admitted that Shiyam’s party would inevitably draw DRP members from his constituency.

“There is no doubt we will lose some members,” he said.

“But we have the wherewithal to withstand all these challenges. Once we are established and have earned peoples trust we will overcome these differences,” he added.

Referring to the DRP’s 2011 split with the PPM, led by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Shareef concluded: “We survived Gayoom and Shiyam is no bigger a threat.”

Regardless of this new competition, the DRPs parliamentary numbers are set to be reduced after Maafannu-West MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem announced his intention to leave the party, for the second time, earlier this month.


DRP deputy leader interprets CNI timeline as evidence of “evil and dangerous plan”

Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) Ibrahim Shareef yesterday accused former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed of planning to murder members of the December 23 coalition during the unrest that led to Nasheed’s resignation in February.

“President Nasheed’s evil and dangerous plan has now been revealed to the people,” Shareef has been reported as saying.

MDP International Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor called the claims “outrageous” and “irresponsible politics”.

Speaking at a coalition press conference at the Nalahiya hotel, Shareef said it was the presence of the police during the night of February 6 that thwarted the aims of those hired by Nasheed to kill members of the coalition.

The group, named after the December 23 protests, purportedly held to defend Islam against the policies of the Nasheed government, consists of former opposition parties and religious NGOs.

Shareef’s accusations appear to refer to the period during the night of February 6 when December 23 coalition and MDP supporters faced off at the artificial beach area with only a police line to separate them.

Shareef was unavailable for comment at the time of press.

A timeline chronicling the events that led to Nasheed’s eventual resignation on February 7 was released by the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) last week. The timeline was translated by Azra Naseem.

The CNI has recently been reformed following widespread concern over its impartiality and independence.

President Waheed announced that the reforms, which include the introduction of a Singaporean judge to act as co-chair and the inclusion of a Nasheed nominee, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, would be completed by June 15.

Despite the impending resumption of the CNI’s work, the commission’s original members decided to release a report based on their investigations so far.

This report claims that both the Home Minister at the time, Hassan Afeef, and then Nasheed himself ordered the Police Commissioner to remove the police from the area (sections 29 and 32 of the report).

The timeline went on to say that officers on the ground told both Afeef, who then told Nasheed that the “atmosphere was not good” (section 30).

Nasheed is then said to have repeated his request to remove police from the artificial beach area on the night of February 6 (points 34 and 40). This request was refused by officers in the area who insisted that they be replaced by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) (point 38).

The replacement MNDF forces were then asked to step down, according to the report, before violence erupted between the opposing protesters (points46 and 48).

Shareef suggested that these points prove Nasheed’s intentions.

“I’ve said this because Nasheed did plan to murder the members of the December 23 coalition. He hired people to carry out the murder and then ordered the Police to fall back,” Shareef is said to have told the press.

Shareef also alleged that Nasheed had planned to create conflict between the police and the MNDF in order to instigate bloodshed that would result in foreign interference in the Maldives’ internal affairs.

The CNI report provided little detail regarding this accusation, stating only that the leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Dr Hassan Saeed, had received reports that the Indian Military were preparing to intervene.

“Deputy leader of the Qaumee Party announced to the public at the Republic Square that Dr Hassan Saeed had received assurances from the Indian High Commission that Indian military will not be coming to the Maldives,” read the report.

Ghafoor said that Shareef’s claims were completely without evidence.

“He should have been more careful and directed his accusations to a serious and credible report,” he said.

“We must remember that Shareef likes to get attention – nobody takes him seriously,” added Ghafoor.

The MDP released the report of its own investigations into the events on Saturday. Prior to its reformation, the MDP had refused to work with the CNI.

The MDP’s version of events had claimed that opposition figures were had plotted the overthrow of the government with the help of a police and army officer protest from as early as September last year.

The report claimed that coup conspirators then engaged in concerted efforts to cultivate an atmosphere of unrest and to conscript willing agitators from within the security forces.

The report names numerous figures within the security forces, including current Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Police Commissioner Abdullah Riyaz.

Government Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza described the release of the report as “terrorism” whilst the MNDF today threatened legal action against “those who make false claims about the Maldivian military, issue reports, and act in ways that causes loss of public confidence in this institution.”

Meanwhile the MDP have interpreted the CNI timeline as indicating that there had been a coup and that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan should therefore resign.


Shareef claims DRP factions using “intimidation” in attempt to take party leadership

Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef, currently at the centre of an internal Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) investigation over whether audio recordings of his voice seemingly attacking former president and leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom are genuine, believes factions within his party are trying to “stifle freedom of expression” in a bid to seize leadership.

Shareef, himself a deputy leader within the DRP, said he had no idea whether the party was undertaking an investigation into the legitimacy of his voice recordings, adding that he “didn’t care”. However, the deputy leader alleged that he was concerned that the dispute was being used to try and take party leadership of the DRP from incumbent Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

“Doctored or not, I have not said anything in the manner [of the recording],” Shareef said. “If there is something that I want to say I will speak my mind, but people are trying to make a mountain out of nothing.”

However, claims that the recording was doctored in such a manner as to try and unseat the existing DRP leadership have been denied by some of its members, who believe the recordings are both authentic and against documented party policy.

The dispute last week saw crowds gathered outside DRP headquarters calling for the resignation of Thasmeen and Shareef in response to the broadcast of the allegedly doctored audio clip expressing a preference for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) over former president Gayoom.

Shareef told Minivan News that he believed the audio clip was being used by factions of certain supporters within the party to “intimidate” and attack the current party leadership to further their own personal aspirations.

“It is sad that the very people who are claiming that party leaders [such as dismissed former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer] can only be fired from the DRP by its congress are calling for different rules now,” he said. “It is sad that they are trying to intimidate and stifle freedom of expression in the party.”

In regards to his own future, Shareef said he believed that he would remain in his role with the DRP despite the furore over the audio clip and that “justice will  be done” in terms of maintaining democratic rule within the party.

He alleged that factional disputes had formed within the DRP due to some individuals “concerned solely with their own interests” instead of trying to improve the nation.

“There are some in the [DRP] who believe it is not a party of the people,” he said.

However, fellow DRP member and MP Ahmed Nihan denied that the audio recordings were being used as part of factional disputes between Thasmeen and other members, alleging the issue was linked to the articles of association concerning public and private comments about fellow party politicians.

“Since day one we are a democratic party, so this issue is not about factions,” he said. “We do not allow our party members to make claims that attack any other member.”

Despite respecting Shareef, Nihan alleged that the DRP deputy leader had a “track record” of making similar claims to those allegedly spoken in the audio recording.

“I believe that it is Shareef’s voice and was made over the last few days,” he claimed. “I do not have any doubt that he will make similar statements in the future.”

Despite calling for a public apology from Shareef towards Gayoom – a request said to be backed by a petition signed by thousands of DRP supporters and “well wishers” of the former president – Nihan said that he hoped a compromise could be found that could see a stronger DRP emerge from present disputes.

“For the benefit of the party we want to find a common solution,” he said. “But when [former Deputy Leader] Umar Naseer was dismissed by a party disciplinary committee, action was taking against him very quickly and without an investigation.”

Reports of factions within the DRP have circulated since Naseer’s departure last December, leading to violent confrontations at an official party meeting held the same month that required police intervention after the dismissed deputy leader attempted to gain entry to the event.

The disturbance was linked to a growing war of words between Thasmeen and Naseer, with the latter still choosing to campaign with the DRP ahead of this month’s local council elections alongside Gayoom.

Yameen allegations

Outside of reported factional disputes within the DRP, Shareef said that allegations first surfacing this month in India-based publication The Week claiming former President Gayoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen was involved in an international money laundering racket had no impact on the party or its operations.

Yameen, who is himself leader of the People’s Alliance (PA) party, has rubbished the allegations, which implicated him as “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through the State Trading Organisation (STO) before selling it through shipping fraud at a premium rate to the Burmese military junta.

Whether proven or not, Shareef said that as far as the DRP was concerned, the case would have no impact on its operations and that the party encouraged its members to work within the country’s laws and regulations.

“If there is suspicion of anyone regarding corruption or theft of state assets then it must be investigated,” he said. “We are a party that is working for the benefit of the people.”


MDP head office damaged in alleged arson attack

The head office of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suffered almost Rf 1 million in damage in an alleged arson attack last night, according to managing operator Ibrahim Manik.

”Photocopy machines, fax machines, printers, huge speakers, microphones, cloths and flags were burned in the arson attack at around 12:45am, last night after the MDP rally,” Manik claimed.

The arson attack caused more than Rf 900,000 (US$70,o00) in damage to the office.

Manik said that when he came back from dinner after the rally, some of the MDP supporters present at the head office claimed to have heard something hitting the roof.

”So we checked the area, because recently some people on different occasions have attempted to attack us with petrol bombs,” Manik claimed. ”We checked but did not see anything, but after a while we started smelling smoke in the area so I went to check the depository room.”

Manik said he saw clothes in the room on fire, and ”I called the people outside and told them the place was on fire.”

”We started to evacuate the room, but everything was destroyed after we evacuated. We controlled the fire using a water tap, but it was a dangerous attack and it caused us to lose much of our valuable property.”

Manik claimed the fire was the result of an attack orchestrated by “some opponents.”

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the case was reported to police, who were now investigating the case. Nobody has been arrested in connection with the matter, he said.

Recently a group of people attacked and destroyed the glass windows of shops belonging to Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) deputy leader Ibrahim Shareef.

In another incident, a group of people attacked the house and car belonging to People’s Alliance [PA] leader and MP Abdulla Yameen.

Very recently during an MDP protest, protesters threw stones at the house of Deputy Leader of PA Ahmed Nazim, breaking the window of the house’s first floor at midnight.


MNJA condemns threats against two journalists covering Addu protest

The newly-formed Maldives National Journalist Association (MNJA) has claimed that two journalists were threatened and attacked while covering a Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-led protest in Addu Atoll on Friday night.

The MNJA claimed a journalist from Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) and a journalist from daily newspaper Haveeru were attacked and threatened, and that pictures taken by the journalists were deleted by the protesters.

MNJA expressed regret that DRP Vice President Ibrahim Shareef was leading the protest and took no action against the incident.

However, Vice president of DRP Ibrahim Shareef said he was “not surprised” by the reports.

”MNJA is a organisation containing a majority of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters,” Shareef said, ”so they will say stuff like that about us.”

He condemned the MNJA for “misleading people.”

The Haveeru journalist allegedly attacked that night, Ahmed Arsham, said that the protesters became angry at them because they were taking pictures of the protesters damaging the name board of the Addu province office.

Arsham said that he and a TVM reporter were forced away from the incident.

”They grabbed the camera lense and broke it,” he said.

On March 8 a DhiTv Journalist and cameramen was forced out from a Maldivian Democratic Party rally.