Leaked recording of Yameen admitting poor election chances a fake: PPM

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and its presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen have dismissed as fake a leaked audio clip circulating on social media, in which Yameen admits to a “poor chance” of winning the upcoming 2013 presidential election.

The audio clip appears to be part of a telephone conversation uploaded on video sharing website YouTube, and was picked up by local media today. In the audio, a voice supposedly belonging to Yameen refers to an unnamed political party and concedes that his party does not stand a chance in an election against it.

“2013 [Presidential Election] is something which they already have in their bag. They already have won it. Therefore I don’t think we have a chance of  any success in the 2013 presidential elections. I think we should now focus on 2018 [presidential elections],” the voice states, in the 19 second recording.

Speaking to local media outlet Sun Online, Yameen dismissed the audio clip describing as “completely fake”.

Meanwhile, Spokesperson for PPM’s Presidential Campaign Ibrahim Muaz told Minivan News he believed the clip was most likely to be a “compilation made by mixing several voice clips of Yameen taken from speeches given by him in various press conferences and interviews”.

“The audio clip which has been reported in local media as an audio clip of Yameen is not real,” Muaz said.


Rise of party’s presidential candidate

Yameen – who is the half brother of Maldives former autocratic ruler for 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – was made the party’s official presidential candidate after he won the party’s presidential primaries by a landslide victory, defeating his rival Umar Naseer.

Umar Naseer during the primary accused Yameen of involvement in drug trafficking, commissioning gangs to destroy political opponents, and corruption.  Following the defeat Naseer alleged that the PPM’s presidential primary was rigged and that his rival Yameen had intimidated his supporters.

Naseer was subsequently dismissed from the party after he refused to apologise to Yameen for the allegations.

He later joined the ‘Jumhoree Coalition’ led by resort tycoon and Leader of Jumhoree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim – himself a presidential candidate for the forthcoming elections. During Naseer’s maiden speech at the JP podium, he claimed that Yameen was the “root of all the problems” faced in the Maldives.

“The 40,000 illegal immigrants who have entered the country are people brought in under [Yameen’s] nose. People say that there is a connection between Yameen and the illicit drugs that are sold on the streets of Maldives,” Naseer alleged at the time. “If Yameen comes to power, nothing but an empty pit will remain where the country’s safe deposit ought to be.”

Economy and youth

Meanwhile Yameen launched his presidential bid primarily on the “economy” and the “youth”. He claimed that a future government led by him would focus on securing foreign investment and the creation of job opportunities for young people.

“Given the current economic situation, local businessmen alone cannot create enough job opportunities. We must welcome foreign investors for the benefit of our nation,” he said at the time.

Yameen also announced that should he be sworn in as president, he would initiate an expedition to find oil within the Maldives.

“It is very possible oil might be found,” he declared.

Money laundering racket

In 2011, Singaporean police reportedly investigated Yameen for alleged involvement in an international money laundering racket thought to be worth up to US$800 million.

The oil trade first came into the limelight following an explosive article in India’s The Week magazine by Sumon K Chakrabarti, Chief National Correspondent of CNN-IBN, which accused Yameen –who was the head of State Trading Organisation (STO) at the time –  of being “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through the State Trading Organisation’s branch in Singapore and sell it on through an entity called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta, at a black market premium.

“The Maldives receives subsidised oil from OPEC nations, thanks to its 100 percent Sunni Muslim population. The Gayooms bought oil, saying it was for the Maldives, and sold it to Myanmar on the international black market. As Myanmar is facing international sanctions, the junta secretly sold the Burmese and ‘Maldivian’ oil to certain Asian countries, including a wannabe superpower,” Chakrabarti wrote.

The article drew heavily on the investigation report by Grant Thorton, commissioned by the Maldives government in March 2010, which obtained three hard drives containing financial information detailing transactions from 2002 to 2008. No digital data was available before 2002, and the paper trail “was hazy”.

According to The Week, Grant Thorton’s report identifies Myanmar businessman and head of the Kanbawza Bank and Kanbawza Football Club, Aung Ko Win, as the middleman acting between the Maldivian connection and Vice-Senior General Maung Aye, then the second highest-ranking member of the Burmese junta.

Yameen has previously dismissed the allegations as baseless and unfounded.

Besides Yameen and Gasim, incumbent President Mohamed Waheed and former President Mohamed Nasheed are also contesting the election on September 7.


Yameen and Shiyam air grievances against Gayoom, DRP in leaked audio clip

MPs Abdulla Yameen and Ahmed (Sun Travel) Shiyam have aired grievances against former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in a leaked audio conversation, giving a rare behind-the-scenes insight into the workings of Maldivian politics.

Gayoom’s half-brother Yameen and resort owner Shiyam spoke of their diminishing trust in and dwindling support among the elite support for Gayoom. Yameen believed Gayoom’s opponents “will hurt [Gayoom] a lot more” if he decides to stand for presidential elections again.

Yameen and Shiyam paint Gayoom as a leader who built his power on extensive patronage, including issuing diplomatic passports, granting land and islands for tourism, and providing loans to build homes.

Minivan News believes the conversation, now viral on social media, predates the September 2011 establishment of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). According to the audio clip, Gayoom broke away from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, which he established in 2005, amid leadership disputes with current DRP leader and Gayoom’s 2008 running mate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Yameen also narrates Gayoom’s attempts to sideline him during the period of political liberalisation between 2003-2008. Yameen said Gayoom attempted to send him out of the country as ambassador to the UK.

“Where are Maumoon’s ministers?”

Yameen compared Gayoom to then-president Mohamed Nasheed, stating that Gayoom was inaccessible and did not believe in the importance of his parliamentary group.

DRP’s four vice-presidents had to wait in queue to attend Gayoom’s functions or write letters to see Gayoom, “but look at how close Reeko Moosa and Mariya are to Anni [Nasheed],” Yamin said. Reeko Moosa Manik and Mariya Didi are senior opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group members.

Yameen said Gayoom’s close associates no longer attend to Gayoom, reflecting dwindling support for him. “Maumoon knows all the people he did favors for are not with him. Look at how many ministers he had. Who goes when he asks?” Yameen said.

Shiyam then replies, “[Even after he] built up their houses to 10- 12 stories. And even that was through president’s office loans.”

Yameen highlighted the absence of senior Gayoom-era officials in July 2009 when police summoned Gayoom from his residence, Alivaage, to question him over corruption allegations. Although Fathuhulla Jameel and Abdulla Jameel, both long time ministers under Gayoom, lived around the corner, they “did not dare to come,” Yameen said. Only a handful of people, former Speaker Ahmed Zahir (Seena), former minister of gender and family Aneesa Ahmed and former deputy minister of youth and sports Aishath Shiham, are now loyal to Gayoom.

They will hurt him a lot more”

Shiyam and Yameen’s statements also imply they do not want Gayoom to stand for re-election.

Yameen said although Gayoom was not hurt during a 2008 stab attempt, if Gayoom were to stand for re-election “this time they will hurt him a lot more”. Yameen also said that if another murder attempt was carried out on Gayoom, he did not have the confidence that Nasheed would investigate or prosecute the case.

An unknown participant also criticises Gayoom on his old age, while Shiyam said he wanted a “stronger” and “more ruthless” man in the presidency.

“Only two favors I ever asked of Maumoon”

Shiyam expressed disappointment with Gayoom’s refusal to issue him a diplomatic passport and give him land for a boat yard in industrial Thilafushi Island. “These are the only two favors I ever asked of Maumoon,” Shiyam said.

“Once [Gayoom] took me to Singapore on some trip. All the vice presidents [of DRP] went. All of them had red passports [diplomatic passports]. We went and I was given a very average room. Even when I travel on my personal business, I don’t stay in anything but a suite. So I went and said it is a very small room, I cannot stay there. They told me that was how it had been booked. So I told them to give me the presidential suite. I stayed in a suite bigger than Maumoon’s. Dr Shaheed [foreign minister under both Gayoom and Nasheed] and others ridiculed me quite a bit,” Shiyam said.

After Shiyam returned, he met with Gayoom and told him, “I am this party’s vice-president. You have given red passports to many businessmen, and ordinary people as well. I would like one as well. And he told me he could not do so under the law. That is what he said. Then I told him I own a lot of boats. Therefore I would like a plot of land at Thilafushi [industrial island]. Gasim had received a plot of one million square feet. [not clear] according to the law, could you please arrange for a plot of 50,000 or 25,000 or even 10,000 square feet. He said he will work on it. I sent him 12 letters on the matter [hits table repeatedly]. Yameen, Maumoon never replied,” Shiyam continued.

Yameen then replied that arranging for a diplomatic passport was a small matter and that “it’s no issue at all.”

Shiyam also questioned Gayoom’s gratitude, saying that he said he had spent US$1.8 million on the DRP.

“DRP has to be buried”

Gayoom’s decision to break away from DRP came after DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali refused to hold a primary within the party to choose a presidential candidate, according to the conversation.

The DRP constitution, written under Gayoom, institutes the party’s leader as the party’s presidential candidate. During the DRP 2010 congress, a constitutional amendment requiring primaries was voted out.

“Maumoon says go for a primary. But Thasmeen very stubbornly says there is only one way. Thasmeen says [Maumoon] should apologise on the media and endorse him as the presidential candidate. But that cannot be,” an unknown participant said.

The participants of the conversation discuss buying out members of the DRP council, specifically DRP spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef (Mavota). According to the participants, the DRP council at the time was aligned with Thasmeen.

Yameen then said there was no solution but to form a separate party, a cult of personality based on Gayoom.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t want to have anything to do with DRP. We made DRP what it is today with our hard work, but DRP gave us pain and hardship. DRP has to be buried. DRP has to be buried,” Yameen said.

“He treated all who were loyal to him very badly”

Yameen believed a faction led by former attorney general Dr Hassan Saeed, former planning minister and Gayoom’s nephew Hamdhoon Hameed and former tourism minister Dr Mahmood Shaugee suggested Gayoom sideline Yameen from politics by offering him an ambassadorship in the UK.

Yameen was appointed as the minister of trade in 1997. Following the political crisis of 2003, which saw mass demonstrations for democracy and against police brutality, Gayoom sacked older members of his cabinet and brought in a group of reformist ministers including Hassan Saeed, Shaugee and Hamdhoon.

“Every time, Maumoon thinks all the problems are because of his ministers,” Yameen said.

Yameen refused the ambassadorship because as Gayoom’s half-brother no one in the UK “will believe a thing I say.” Further, he said he had not wanted to give up his Majlis seat and wanted to look after his source of income.

“I just built my house, I took out loans to build it. I have to stay in Male’ to find tenants, that is my source of income,” he said.

After Gayoom’s repeated attempts to remove him from the trade portfolio, Yameen consented to take up the higher education portfolio. Yameen attempted to regain an economic portfolio later, but was told there was no space in any of the economic portfolios.

“He’d given tourism to Dr Shaugee, fisheries to Abdulla Kamaldeen, other economic posts, such as agriculture, some other person, he [Gayoom] had space for all of these people, Gasim [prominent businessman] was given finance, when Maumoon said there was no space for me in the economic field then you should believe that he did not want me in the government,” Yameen said.

Download the full transcript (English & Dhivehi)

Listen to the full audio (Dhivehi)


“We will beat them up and drag them away”: transcript of Mavota’s alleged phone call

In a leaked phone conversation allegedly between Spokesperson and Deputy leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) ‘Mavota’ Ibrahim Shareef and another member of DRP, a voice believed to be Shareef questions Gayoom’s support in Addu and suggested that were Gayoom’s faction to campaign there, “we will beat them up and drag them away [from Addu].”

The source of the leaked phone call, which has been aired on MNBC and DhiFM, has not been identified or its authenticity yet confirmed or denied.

Voice S: Definitely there would not be 99 percent of DRP supporters in Addu behind Maumoon.

Voice A: Just now, Shareef…

Voice S: The support for me would be much higher than that.

Voice A: Yes but just think…

Voice S: What did I say then, the result of all this will be MDP remaining in the administration…

Voice S: Istead of that [if he’s going to Addu] without having any connection with us, but with Umar Naseer and Ilham, he [Gayoom] will have to forget it. I tell you now, it would even be impossible to step on Addu without inviting us.

Voice A: What?

Voice S: We will beat them up and drag them away [from Addu].

Voice A: Zaeem? [Zaeem – literally honorary leader]

Voice S: Yes… will have to forget going to Addu during his visits [to islands].

DRP supporters who had heard the audio clip broadcast of MNBC and DhiFM gathered outside DRP’s headquarters this morning and called for Shareef and party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali to resign.

Shareef then came out of DRP’s head office to address the protesters, but was attacked escorted to safety by police.

After police took Shareef away, the gathered people called on the resignation of Thasmeen. Minor confrontations between both sides of the party were reported.

Among the spectators of the incident this morning were many Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters.

The Council Meeting

In a meeting of the DRP council meeting this afternoon – with Gayoom’s members noticeably absent –  the party decided to sign a coalition agreement with Hassan Saeed’s Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), pledging cooperation in the 2013 presidential election, and the parliamentary and local council elections to be held in 2014.

Haveeru reported that Dr Hassan Saeed had sided with the current leader of DRP, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom confirmed the arrangement and said that the party would soon issue a press statement regarding the agreement.