Maldives heading towards stability, democratic governance: former President Nasheed

The Maldives is heading towards peace, stability and consolidation of democracy after ten tumultuous years, former President Mohamed Nasheed said at a youth forum organised by the Junior Chambers International (JSI) chapter of Maldives and Dhiyouth at City Hall on Monday night (September 16).

“I don’t really see much room for going wayward now. People might try to rig two or three elections. [They] might try to arrest some people. And there might even be three or four coup d’etats. But, overall, I don’t see this curve slumping too much,” the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate said in his keynote speech at the event, which was held to mark the International Day of Democracy.

“The Maldives will become stable and democratic principles will continue to be instilled. Neither the youth of this country nor everyone else are willing to let go of the rights we have now. In my view, tonight we are celebrating the victory of the youth. Through your efforts, the elderly have received social security, and through your efforts, a prosperous future has been secured for your children.”

The impact of the momentous events of the past ten years would be far greater and more significant than any other ten years in the history of the country, Nasheed observed, advising youth to “build a better Maldives in light of that experience.”

Nasheed was elected president in the Maldives’ first multi-party democratic election in 2008 following the adoption of a democratic constitution. The 2008 election and liberal constitution was preceded by a pro-democracy movement led by the MDP in the wake of unprecedented civil unrest in September 2003, which was precipitated by a brutal custodial death exposed to the public and subsequent fatal shootings in prison.

Free expression and dissent

In his speech, Nasheed argued that the most important prerequisite for youth development was an atmosphere conducive to exercising the rights of free expression, assembly and participation in peaceful political activities.

As 60 percent of the Maldives’ population is youth, Nasheed said political parties have to explain their policies to the youth demographic.

It is also the duty or responsibility of youth to have their say in the formation of a government that would pursue the best policies for young people, their families, and their communities, he said.

Freedom of speech and expression of dissent are “essential bases for nation-building,” he added.

Democratic practices were introduced in the Maldives between 2005 to 2008, Nasheed continued, noting the role and “sacrifices” of youth in pro-democracy activism.

“It was quite recently that people were arrested for a gesture or an expression,” he said. “Even in 2004, 2005, a lot of people were arrested and given serious punishments because of what they said. As long as that practice persisted, most Maldivian citizens were unable to participate in the affairs of the country. When that practice or principle changed, the participation of youth broadly increased.”

In formulating the MDP’s manifesto for the 2013 presidential election, Nasheed said the party believed that the bulk of the policies should target youth.

In contrast, he said, the 2008 manifesto was focused on establishing a social security system.

The 2013 manifesto reflects “the extent to which youth have raised their voices concerning their needs during the past five years,” Nasheed said.

The MDP manifesto – the “result of conducting a democratic exercise of consultation” – includes creating 51,000 job opportunities, conducting a skills training programme, setting a minimum wage, providing higher education opportunities, offering grants and scholarships, growing the entertainment sector, and establishing sports facilities, Nasheed noted.

Nasheed also stressed the importance of rehabilitating youth incarcerated for drug abuse through a “Second Chance” programme and implementing policies for reintegrating drug addicts into society as gainfully employed youth.


Following his remarks, Nasheed participated in an hour-long question and answer session on topics ranging from civic education, family planning, minimum wage, job creation, policies for persons with special needs and feasibility of infrastructure projects.

On the issue of negative campaigning, Nasheed predicted that political parties would learn ahead of future elections that defaming rivals was ineffective and focus instead of presenting comprehensive policies.

“I predict that political parties will present policies much more in the next election rather than do what they’re doing now, which includes attempting to buy votes – people are learning each election that [vote buying] is unsuccessful,” he said.

As a “crude survey” has estimated that seven percent of the Maldivian population are persons with special needs, Nasheed said the MDP will pursue policies to amend building codes to ease access and establish at least one school in each atoll to provide specialised education for students with special needs.

A minimum wage of MVR4,500 (US$292) a month would meanwhile incentivise local businesses to hire Maldivians in lieu of foreign workers who were often paid only US$150 a month, Nasheed explained, adding that small businesses would be exempt from the legally mandated wage.

Asked by “a youth leader currently representing the Maldivian youth to the Commonwealth” whether an MDP government would consider “a democratically-elected youth council and youth parliament” as a forum for youth leaders, Nasheed invited youth interested in politics to forgo “ceremonial” and “superficial” activities in favour of direct participation.

“The real thing is better than superficial activities. Step up to a podium no matter how young you are and participate in real activities – 17, 18 or 19 years is not really that young. At the time I turned 20, I had been in the pillory for 30 days,” he said.


PPM unveils economic plan, to release full manifesto in “days”

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has said it expects to release its full manifesto both in print and online in the next 48 hours.

After the party yesterday (August 30) unveiled its economic policy, PPM Youth Wing President Dhunya Maumoon was quoted as saying that a full manifesto document would be available to the public in the next “couple of days”, according to local newspaper Haveeru.

PPM Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen is the last individual contesting the election on September 7 not to have launched his full manifesto.

His rivals; MP Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhoree Party (JP); President Dr Waheed – standing as an independent – and former President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have all released blueprints for their respective plans if elected to office.

Yameen – half brother of former autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – has this week nonetheless detailed key factors of the PPM’s economic policy should he become head of state.

According to Sun Online, the policy will include attempts to lower current interest rates on loans for develop tourism or fisheries businesses. He expressed concern that while interest on loans was offered by the country’s banks at a rate between 10 to 12 percent, members of public with savings in these same banks were receiving between three to four percent of their deposited funds.

Yameen was quoted pledging to try and curb the difference between the costs associated with borrowing and saving in the Maldives in line with other countries.

Current tourism Minister and PPM Deputy Leader Ahmed Adheeb also helped unveil the party’s economic policy, pledging to oversee “serious changes” to the country’s economy at macro-level.

According to Sun Online, Adheeb unveiled the party’s plan to launch ‘economic regions’, while also showing videos detailing several harbour constructions and a proposal for an airport in Kulhudhuffushi.

Minister Adheeb was not responding to calls at time of press, while Minivan News was awaiting a response from PPM MP Ahmed Nihan concerning the party’s manifesto launch.

Despite holding the largest number of MPs of any party serving in President Waheed’s coalition government, PPM Leader former President Gayoom earlier this week expressed concern that the Maldivian economy had been “seriously damaged and destroyed”.

He argued that Yameen was the only presidential candidate with the required experience to bring economic stability to the country.

JP manifesto

Speaking during the launch of its own manifesto earlier this month, the JP, led by business tycoon and MP Gasim Ibrahim, claimed it expected to finish above the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in the first round of the upcoming presidential election, before securing a second round victory.

JP Policy Secretary Mohamed Ajmal has said the party’s manifesto included a pledge for a ‘holistic’ approach to taxation, promising to introduce income and capital gains tax, and increase taxation of the wealthy.

This would include reducing the 60-70 percent of national income devoted to recurrent expenditure to 40 percent, by investing in local infrastructure and raising revenue through the private sector.

The JP has also launched a ‘Religion and Nationalism’ policy, pledging to strengthen Islam in the Maldives, including the establishment of an Islamic University, introducing Arabic as a teaching medium, strengthening relations and donor ties with other Islamic nations, and making the Quran a mandatory school subject.

Forward with the nation coalition

Meanwhile, President Mohamed Waheed’s ‘forward with the nation’ coalition, which claims to have been the first party to fully outline its election plan after rolling out its policies in July and early August – has outlined four key campaign focuses based around Islam, social protection, education and environment.

Among the incumbent’s pledges are plans to establish “floating hospitals” in the north and south of the country, a 50 percent reduction in household energy bills, opportunities for empowering women along with the provision of social protection and education and vocational training for Maldivians up to 18 years of age.

MDP manifesto ‘Costed and budgeted’

The opposition MDP has published what it calls a ‘Costed and Budgeted’ manifesto, including plans to establish 51,000 job opportunities, a savings scheme for higher education, a student loan scheme, a MVR2000 (US$129) allowance for every single parent and person with special needs, and an allowance of MVR2300 (US$149) for the elderly.

Former President Nasheed also pointed out the importance of introducing a development bank in the Maldives during a rally to launch the full document on August 24.

“Take a look, this manifesto will not contain even a single policy which has not been accounted for. Even if we are asked to submit a budget to the parliament by tomorrow, we are ready to do so,” he said during the launch.

The party has separately unveiled policies based around expanding mid-market tourism through focusing on supporting guesthouses on inhabited islands, and a specific youth development plan focused on sports and entertainment.


‘Costed and Budgeted 2013-2018’: MDP manifesto launched

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held a parade and rally on Saturday (August 24) that it claims was attended by over 8,000 supporters in order to launch their complete manifesto, titled “Costed and Budgeted 2013 – 2018”.

After a parade down Majeedhee Magu – the main street through Male’ – MDP presidential candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed addressed his supporters and explained the contents of the party’s manifesto.

“These policies in our manifesto are based on what we learned when we walked door to door, conversing with citizens, enquiring what your thoughts and needs are,” Nasheed said at the rally held in the ‘Raalhugandu’ area.

“In the next 5 years, the state will make a revenue of MVR 72 billion [US$4.6 billion] through the tax system, investments and other programmes we run. Within those 5 years, we will implement 137 development projects. We have budgeted to spend a total of MVR 30 billion [US$1.9 billion] on policies directly related to the people’s development,” Nasheed explained. “The rest will be spent on salaries of civil service staff, debt repayment and administrative matters.”

“I am not contesting in the upcoming elections with a handful of empty vows. Our competitors’ pledges are made in a manner where, if coming on to an island the first person they meet asks for a fishing vessel, they promise to deliver fishing vessels for them all. And then say they meet a teacher who asks for an iPad, whereupon they’ll pledge to give iPads to all teachers. The next person in line might say he is not feeling well, whereupon the candidate may vow to deliver a nurse and doctor to each house. This is not how a political party should form its pledges,” said Nasheed, criticising the competing candidates for the upcoming September 7 election.

“Our pledges contain things that will be fulfilled upon implementation of our policies. Take a look, this manifesto will not contain even a single policy which has not been accounted for. Even if we are asked to submit a budget to the parliament by tomorrow, we are ready to do so.”

Highlighting the contents of the manifesto, Nasheed stated that it included plans for introducing 51,000 job opportunities, a MVR120 million (US$7.7 billion) savings scheme for higher education, MVR118 million (US$7.6 billion) student loan scheme, 20,000 accomodation flats, a MVR2000 (US$129) allowance for every single parent and person with special needs, and an allowance of MVR2300 (US$149) for the elderly.

Nasheed further stated that the party found it highly concerning that “the national debt is 82% of national production”, saying that the manifesto has been designed keeping the factor in mind.

“We will continue to implement the tax system we established in our first term. We will carry out development work without increasing GST and taxes from business profits. We will also introduce income tax, as we previously proposed in 2010,” he continued.

The presidential candidate also stated that it was “of utmost importance” to establish a development bank in the country.

“We especially discussed this with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, and based on existing studies made with the assistance of the UNDP, our aim is to establish a development bank within the first year of our term,” he stated.

“With 600 million rufiya from our state budget, and 400 million rufiya from international financial bodies, the development bank will be able to release funding for the generation of 1 billion rufiya capital,” he continued.

“Our aim is for the development bank to issue to private entities 20 percent [of total funds] for the construction of houses, 8 percent to implement a transport system, 44 percent for agriculture, travel and fishing, 13 percent for the education field, 13 percent for education.”

“MDP’s basic objective has been to ensure that if there is a service that is available to any citizen of the Maldives, then to make it available to all other citizens equitably.”

According to Nasheed, the manifesto includes plans to spend MVR16 billion (US$1 billion) on social protection.

Concluding his speech, Nasheed stated that the MDP Manifesto included plans to assure that life becomes better in many aspects for the public. The former president finished by stating that all that was now left for the public was to go vote.

“September 7 is the day we vote to regain the development that we lost on February 7, 2012.”

Parade of Pledges

Prior to the rally, MDP held a parade down Majeedhee Magu with over 8,000 supporters.

In addition to Nasheed, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, Male’ City Mayor Ali Manik, and several MDP MPs were seen in the frontlines of the parade.

The atmosphere appeared festive, with different groups performing different acts throughout the parade.

Besides pompoms, streamers, and balloons, each ward of Male’ had prepared a small truck to represent one of the pledges included in the party’s manifesto.

While one truck represented the health insurance policy – with actors depicting a scene in a hospital’s maternity ward – another represented the guest house policy – with an actor lounging on a truck designed to look like a beach.

Traffic police officers provided security throughout the parade.

Contrary to some previous demonstrations and rallies, no hostility was observed between police and participants of MDP’s rally.

Minivan News observed one policeman being asked by rally participants if he had received a letter from Nasheed, adding that if he had not then he must be ‘baaghee’. The young participants were referring to a speech delivered by Nasheed last week, in which he stated he had sent letters to all police officers, except those who had directly partaken in what the MDP alleges to be the February 7 coup d’etat.

The policeman responded by taking a folded up piece of paper out of his pocket and showing Nasheed’s signature on it to the supporters who had questioned him.

“I am not a baaghee. We will win ‘eh burun’ [in one round],” he said

Read the full MDP Manifesto here (Dhivehi)


PPM dismisses legal wrangling ahead of tonight’s running mate unveiling

The government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) said it remains undeterred by legal disputes over the outcome of the party’s recent primary as it prepares to unveil the running mate of presidential candidate MP Abdulla Yameen.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said that a “perfect running mate” would be announced tonight at the special event, which will be held from 9:00pm at the Dharubaaruge conference centre in Male’.

“We have selected a political candidate who has the best interests of the country,” Nihan told Minivan News ahead of the ceremony, adding that the PPM was one of the few parties in the country currently in a position to be able to announce a presidential running mate.

Legal wrangling

Divisions have appeared between certain PPM supporters following March’s primary after MP Yameen was accused by Umar Naseer, his only rival in the contest of having controlled all of the party’s organs.  Yameen was alleged to have had full control of the PPM council and election committee, as well as being accused of having “rigged” the vote in his favour by ballot stuffing and falsifying the count.

Naseer, who has since been removed from the party after refusing to retract or apologise over the allegations, has sought to invalidate the outcome of the primary as well as the decision to revoke his membership.

He personally resubmitted the case to invalidate the PPM primary this week, alleging that thousands of voters were not officially registered with the party at the time they cast votes on their preferred candidate.

Naseer has declined to speak or provide information to Minivan News.

“Egotistical stories”

Despite the ongoing legal action, PPM MP Nihan dismissed Naseer’s allegations as “egotistical stories”, accusing the party’s former interim deputy leader of having lost whatever influence in the party he once had – even among his traditional supporters.

“Those aligned with him during the primary are working very closely with the current party leadership now,” he said.

Nihan added his belief that the PPM’s campaign work in the build up to September’s presidential elections was not being adversely impacted by the ongoing legal battles with Naseer, who himself had previously worked to outline the party’s strategy.

“I do not think there will be issues [from Naseer’s legal action]. The election work has already been done. Before he started telling his egotistical stories [Naseer] had called on Yameen to implement these plans,” he said.

Before former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom established the PPM back in 2011, Naseer previously served as a deputy leader in the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) before being dismissed in December 2010.

Naseer’s dismissal at the time led to an escalation of infighting in the DRP – the first political party formed by Gayoom back in 2005 – leading to an eventual split between the former president’s followers and those of current party Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.

Nihan said he remained critical of Naseer’s commitment to individual parties following his dismissal from the DRP and later the PPM.

“After the primary, we began to hear these egostistical stories [from Naseer]. This was why the decision was taken by committee to remove him from the party,” he said. “[Naseer] is playing the the same old game he has always play, I do not believe there is a sports club or party in the country that he could belong to for more than a few months,” he claimed.

Manifesto plans

With the announcement of PPM presidential candidate Yameen’s running mate scheduled for tonight, Nihan added that the party continued to move forward with its elections plans, adding that the publication of its manifesto was expected “shortly”.

He added that the PPM was targeting a broad number of policies including trying to stabilise the national economy and provide opportunities “for the youth”, as well as previously announced focuses on developing a domestic oil industry would also be key stands for the party during elections.

Nihan also praised the party’s work in compiling demographic data based around polling during the previous presidential and parliamentary elections of 2008 and 2009 respectively.

“We have a great study on demographics that will help us identify trends and concerns of voters,” he added.

Nihan claimed that a notable concern already from such data was the anticipation by 2020 of the country having an increasingly ageing population that would put a greater burden on the state to ensure their care.

He also identified concerns over outdated data as another significant concern that MP Yameen and the PPM would hope to address to ensure that voters were being correctly.

Campaign trail

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – the country’s largest party in terms of MPs – has in recent months unveiled a number of detailed policies as part of its own election campaign.

These plans include the development of a mariculture industry in the country it has claimed could generate US$1.05 billion (MVR 16.19 billion) for local organisations, as well as a pledge to support and expand mid-market tourism through the country’s guesthouse sector.

The DRP, which is also in the process of drafting its manifesto ahead of September’s elections, claimed earlier this month that it offered the only “moderate” alternative to the “divisive” policies of the MDP and PPM.

DRP Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom previously said that between the increasingly “polarised views” of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), his party represented an alternative viewpoint for voters and politicians alike.


PPM files registration forms

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), headed by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, submitted registration forms to the Elections Commission today.

PPM interim council member Aishath Azima Shakoor told Haveeru that the commission would register the party within a week’s time.

The commission has a one-month period to formally register the party.

PPM held its registration meeting on Saturday at which it elected former President Gayoom as its interim President, rejecting no other applicants for the position.

The party also approved its constitution, manifesto, and palm-crescent logo with the official party color, magenta.


Development to speed up under new budget: President Nasheed

The passing of the 2011 state budget will allow for much faster development of infrastructure projects across the Maldives, President Mohamed Nasheed has said, as street protests by NGOs, civil servants and private citizens took place last week over concerns about the finance plan.

Miadhu reported that the president used his radio address on Friday to claim that the country’s finances for 2011 represented “a different type of budget” following multi-party consultation. Nasheed also said that he was hopeful the “objectives” of this year’s budget could all be achieved by 2012.

Miadhu reported that the budget has been said to be designed for the first time around various government programmes mandated by the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) own manifesto.

“As the budget is implemented, it will show how much we achieve or how much we fail to achieve,” Nasheed was quoted as saying in the paper’s online edition. “The budget is based on programmes, which are government pledges. The budget’s objective is to fulfil those pledges.”

On Thursday, hundreds of protestors took to the streets around the Majlis to show their frustration at amendments included within the budget that could lead to increased salaries and other privileges for MPs.

According to the new bill, parliamentarians could receive up to an additional Rf20,000 in their salaries for attending committees, while also being allowed to import vehicles without paying any duty on them.   Parliament also approved measures to reinstate the salaries of independent commissions, while failing to address the reduced salaries of civil servants.