Rumors abound over PPM split on appointment of new vice president

Rumors once again swirled in Malé today that former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is opposed to his half-brother, President Abdulla Yameen, appointing the tourism minister as the new vice president. Gayoom, however, for a second time this week, denied favoring a particular candidate.

Newspaper Haveeru today said Gayoom had sent a text message to Yameen warning of negative public perception if the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb is appointed vice president.

The president of 30 years promptly denied the rumor on Twitter, reiterating that the appointment of a deputy is the sole prerogative of the president. “I did not send a message to the President asking him to appoint or not appoint any person as Vice-President,” the PPM leader tweeted from Oman, where he has been sent as a special envoy of the president.

A vote on incumbent vice president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed’s impeachment is expected next week.

Supporters are meanwhile continuing a social media campaign backing Adeeb for the position. The photo campaign has now gathered some 800 participants. But critics have questioned the need for a campaign noting the president is authorized to appoint whomever he desires to the post.

President Abdulla Yameen’s silence on the new appointment, rumors over Gayoom’s opposition and the “ISupportAdeeb4VP” campaign has triggered speculation that Adeeb’s appointment as the new deputy may not be as certain as it appeared in late June, when the Majlis passed a constitutional amendment that makes Adeeb eligible for the vice presidency.

The amendment sets new age-limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. Adeeb is 33 years old and was previously ineligible as the constitution had said candidates must be above 35 years of age.

Soon afterwards, the tourism minister reprimanded Gayoom’s son, newly elected MP Ahmed Faris, for his absence from the vote.

Accusing Faris of letting Yameen down, Adeeb said in a text message in English: “You cannot differentiate youth or any segment with educated, non educated, poor and rich, beyfulhu [aristocrat] or non beyfulhu [non-aristocrat] etc.”

In a second text message, Adeeb told Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MPs that President Yameen must be allowed to rule without internal resistance. “I have witnessed how difficult it is for HEP Yameen to rule with many frictions, I think we need to discuss this at party level,” he wrote.

Faris’ absence triggered speculation that Gayoom opposed Jameel’s impeachment.

Soon after Haveeru published its article today, Adeeb’s supporters took to social media expressing support for his appointment as the new presidential deputy. “The vice presidency is not reserved for individuals of a particular clan. We must change this way of thinking and allow opportunities for the younger generation,” wrote PPM member Hussain Shinan.

Moosa Anwar, one of the organisers in the campaign told Minivan News today that “the number of people participating in the campaign shows how much support Adeeb has.”

“The current vice president has fled to London and is not doing his job. We are sure Adeeb will make a better VP than Jameel,” he said.

Jameel left to London abruptly the day after the constitutional amendment was passed in Majlis. A 14-day notice for him to answer charges in an impeachment motion submitted to parliament by the ruling party expired today without a written response.

Rumours also spread today about the government is clearing out the vice president’s residence Hilaaleege. However, the Maldives National Defence Force spokesperson denied the claims.

President Yameen is meanwhile yet to publicly comment either on the vice president’s impeachment or a favoured candidate for the post.

Speaking to Minivan News today, president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said that “only the president will know who he will appoint to the post, if the post becomes vacated for whatever reasons.”

Yameen is reportedly seeking to replace Jameel over incompetence and disloyalty. In a meeting with the PPM parliamentary group last week, Yameen reportedly showed MPs proof of Jameel’s correspondence with opposition politicians ahead of a mass anti-government protest on May 1. In the messages Jameel reportedly asked if the opposition will let him assume the presidency if Yameen is ousted.

The opposition says Yameen wants to replace Jameel because he is fatally ill and is seeking a more loyal deputy ahead of a major surgery.

Jameel was not available for comment at the time of going to press. In an interview with the New Indian Express, he had labeled his impeachment a constitutional coup and suggested that the international community must intervene.

The PPM has secured the opposition’s backing for the impeachment motion, which was submitted with 61 signatures. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes will be required to vote Jameel out of office.

The parliament has also amended its standing orders to fast track the vice president’s impeachment.

The opposition’s backing for the amendment was widely perceived to be a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are currently engaged in talks to resolve a six-month long political crisis.


The campaign for the vice presidency

Vice president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed remains in London and will issue a written response ahead of his imminent impeachment as supporters of the tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb began a campaign backing him for the position. His appointment as the new vice president appeared momentarily in doubt this week

Adeeb’s supporters have been on the streets asking people to take a photo carrying a poster with the words “I support Adeeb for VP.”

The impeachment vote has not been scheduled at the Majlis yet. But Jameel was notified of the impeachment motion on July 2 and given 14 days to respond.

Rumors had spread this week that the Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the president of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and half-brother to President Abdulla Yameen, favored another candidate.

Gayoom today denied rumors he favors specific candidate in a tweet. “It is not true that I have a preference for a particular person to become vice president,” he said.

The appointment of a deputy is the sole prerogative of the president, Gayoom added.

PPM ally, the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), also denied rumors its leader Ahmed Siyam Mohamed was interested in the position.

The parliament in late June amended the constitution to set new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment bars Gayoom, who is in his early 80s and has already served six terms, from contesting presidential elections.

The lower age cap makes Adeeb eligible. He is 33. The constitution had previously said that candidates must be above 35 years of age.

The move appears to have widened a rift between the Gayoom brothers. Gayoom’s son MP Faris Maumoon was absent from a vote on the constitutional amendment despite a three-line whip.

Faris’ absence led to a heated exchange on text messaging service Viber between the newly elected MP and Adeeb.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty. But the opposition claims Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a major surgery. The government continues to deny rumors over the president’s ill-health.

Soon after the amendment to the constitutional amendment passed, Jameel suddenly left the country. He told the New Indian Express his impeachment is a constitutional coup.

Meanwhile, President Yameen, in a meeting with PPM MPs on July 7, reportedly said he does not trust his deputy and showed them Viber messages exchanged between Jameel and opposition politicians ahead of a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

PPM MP Mohamed Musthafa in a tweet subsequently said the president had shown them evidence that Jameel had been planning a coup.

In the messages, Jameel had reportedly asked a lead organizer of the protest if the opposition will support his takeover of the presidency if protesters were able to oust Yameen on May Day.

The protest had ended with the arrest of nearly 200 protesters in violent clashes. Some 20,000 people had taken to the streets in the largest anti-government action in Maldivian history.

Jameel was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

The PPM has secured opposition backing for the impeachment motion with 61 signatures. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes will be required to vote Jameel out of office.

The parliament has amended its standing orders to fast track the vice president’s impeachment.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) backed the constitutional amendment to make Adeeb eligible for the vice presidency when the government transferred jailed opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed to house arrest.

The government and the MDP have now begun talks, raising hope of an end to a six-month long political crisis.


“I only fear Allah, not the People’s Majlis,” says vice president

Vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, in the first public response to his party’s attempt to impeach him, said he only fears Allah, and not the People’s Majlis or its MPs.

The no confidence motion submitted to the parliament today by 61 MPs is a motion submitted by MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and their associates, and not by the people, Jameel said in a statement publicized on Twitter.

“It is a violation of the people’s rights when a party or an organization, at their whim, without any legal basis, removes an officer directly elected by them,” he said.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty. The ruling party is seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Jameel, who has remained silent on the charges against him, today accused PPM MPs of greed. They have arbitrarily amended the constitution for their personal interests, he said.

The parliament last week passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set new age limits of 30 – 65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously said candidates must be 35 years of age.

The opposition’s backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived to be part of a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The parliament yesterday approved changed to its standing orders to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president. The new rules states the parliament can vote to remove the vice president without an investigation by a select committee.

Below is the full translation of Jameel’s statement:

“The no confidence motion submitted to the People’s Majlis against me today is a no confidence motion submitted by the PPM parliamentary group and their associates. I say this because Article 4 of the Constitution states that all the powers of the state of the Maldives are derived from, and remain with, the citizens. The vice president is elected through a direct vote of the Maldivian public. It is a violation of the people’s rights when a party or an organization, at their whim, without any legal basis, removes an officer directly elected by them.

Those who amended the constitution, in recent days, said the amendment was brought with the best of intentions and for the good of the nation. Their intent and motivation is now clear to the Maldivian people. The constitution, by the will of the people, dictates all the legal principles and the laws by which the Maldivian state must be governed. But, it is now very clear that all these principles, and the checks on power are being changed for a particular individual or in the interests of a certain group.

The premeditated manner and the motivation behind the undermining of the powers of the people and the changes to the governing structure are now apparent, the deception is clear. Although all the powers of the state are derived from the citizens, it is now clear to the Maldivian people that an individual or an organization will use their powers to abrogate a decision made through the direct vote of the people. There is no reason to think they will not do so again.

In this holy month of Ramadan, the Maldivian people and the nation are witnessing the greed of a few. The leaders of this attempt to undermine the people’s powers must remind themselves of the powers of the almighty and omnipotent Allah. I seek strength from Him. I only fear Him, not the People’s Majlis or the Members of Parliament.

I would like to remind the Maldivian people and myself of Verse 46 of Surah Al-Baqarah: “And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah].”

The constitution states that the vice president must be given a 14-day notice and the right to answer the charges before the resolution is put to a vote.

Minivan News was unable to contact Jameel at the time of going to press.

Jameel left to Sri Lanka after President Abdulla Yameen authorized a medical leave. A senior PPM MP told Minivan News yesterday that Jameel was due to return three days ago, but instead departed for the UK without informing the president’s office.

The MP said President Abdulla Yameen has asked the vice president to return to the Maldives and answer to the party’s parliamentary group about his impeachment.

“We have tried contacting him repeatedly to ask him to meet with the parliamentary group. But he has not responded. We are trying to bring our problems to him and trying to find a mutual solution,” said the PPM MP.

Some opposition politicians claim President Abdulla Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life threatening surgery. The government has denied rumours of the president’s health.


Vice president says children must not be harmed in the name of Islam and culture

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has stated that truly loving a child is to refrain from inflicting physical harm on the child in the name religion and culture, and from committing sexual harassment against children on the pretext of providing an Islamic upbringing.

Speaking at an event held in the National Art Gallery on Monday (October 15) to inaugurate the Minstry of Law and Gender’s new programmes, Jameel emphasised the importance of protecting the rights of children.

The new programmes focus on providing services for women, children, the elderly and people with special needs.

Jameel described the ministry’s programme as an effort to establish Maldives as the country in the region in which most fundamental rights are protected.

He went on to say that it is imperative that children are not discriminated based on their gender, and that they are not deprived of any educational opportunities or health benefits, local media reports.

Jameel opined that those who need social protection should not be perceived as a burden on the state, before using examples from Islamic history to demonstrate how society benefits from these people.

The gender ministry’s programme includes the release of two books regarding internet safety, the introduction of a domestic violence database, formulation of regulations for the establishment of day care centres, and home care services for the elderly.

Additionally, employment letters were also handed over to two persons with special needs. The two job placements are at Fenaka Corporation and Island Aviation Services.


“They say they have trust in the judiciary because they can influence it”: Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has responded to President Abdulla Yameen’s declaration of trust in the judiciary by alleging that his confidence arises from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) ability to influence the judicial process.

Nasheed stated that both Yameen and his coalition partner Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party were expressing utmost trust in an institution that the European Union and the United Nations, as well as Maldivian citizens continued to regard as in need of reform.

“By insisting that they hold such a strong trust in this institution, they are really confessing to the fact that they have undue political influence over this institution.”

They are saying that they have confidence that they can do whatever they want at any particular time through these courts,” Nasheed suggested.

He stated that the biggest obstacle to maintaining Islamic principles was the corrupt state of the judiciary and accused the Supreme Court of abusing and breaching the constitution.

“What is most needed is the services of a lawyer to become free of criminal charges. The government should not be allowed to place whatever charges they want against citizens,” he continued.

“What we are seeing today is the Supreme Court raising charges against anyone whenever they want and then themselves launching investigations into the matter,” Nasheed said, adding that the Supreme Court was currently acting in a manner previously observed in the 1980s.

Nasheed further described the apex court as having turned into a “political campaign office” due to what he alleged were political discussions which were taking place among the judges, and various statements of political nature made by them.

He accused the court of working “like the police, with utter impunity”, adding that the MDP would continue to raise its voice against any and all unconstitutional actions – regardless of who commits them.

Case against the Elections Commission

Speaking with regard to the Supreme Court’s current case against the Elections Commission (EC), Nasheed alleged that the panel of judges were “pulling members of the EC to court in an attempt to exert political influence over them”.

He dismissed the court’s actions as being unconstitutional, stating that as per law, the People’s Majlis – and not the apex court – held oversight powers over the EC.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has levied criticism against the EC, arguing that justice must be served to all alike, regardless of the office they hold.

He accused the EC of deliberately presenting obstacles and difficulties to his PPM at the approach of every election.

“Every time the PPM complains that the time the commission provides for any certain task is not sufficient, the EC will claim that they cannot extend the deadline. Then they will go ahead and extend the deadline anyway. This is something that we in PPM find very worrying,” Jameel said.

Jameel said that in order to win any election, the PPM had to face three competitors – the Maldivian Democratic Party, clandestine funds provided to the MDP by unknown entities, and the Elections Commission itself.

The Vice President further accused the EC of working against the laws which govern it, and of attempting to work in a manner that is beneficial to a certain party.

Civil Service

Speaking of his recent trip to the southern atolls, former President Nasheed noted that he had observed a trend of employees being transferred or fired based on their political affiliations.

“I want to say to the Civil Service Commission’s President Dr Latheef to please be aware. If even a single civil servant has to face such a loss, how will you defend your seat once we gain majority in parliament? We will closely observe what is done to the civil servants,” Nasheed stated.

He also alleged that employees at various tourist resorts were also being unduly dismissed for political reasons.

In the last quarter of 2013 – just ahead of the presidential election – employees from Irufushi Beach and Spa Resort and Sun Island resort spoke to Minivan News about what they alleged was the purging of employees based on their political affiliations.


Religion and nationalism key themes on National Day

The government held an event inaugurated by Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed at the Republican Square on Wednesday night to mark the Maldives’ 440th National Day.

The day is marked to celebrate the anniversary of the country’s independence from the Portugese invasion.

Members of the cabinet, foreign dignitaries, members of independent commissions as well as the security forces attended the event.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom – who is currently in India on his first official trip abroad after assuming office in November 2013 – also gave a pre-recorded national address via the state broadcaster on the occasion.

In his address, the President stated no individual must be allowed the opportunity to take away the nation’s peace for political purposes or to gain personal benefit.

While it is important to view every citizen as a stakeholder in matters of the country, people should not be given the chance to challenge nationalism or conduct any activity that may threaten independence and sovereignty in the guise of freedom of expression or through differences in political opinions, Yameen continued.

“We must instill the spirit of nationalism in the younger generations who will inherit this country in future. The moral we must take away from National Day is for those in power and leading the country, citizens and all responsible leaders to raise national and community interest over personal interest as we work to overcome challenges. This is the example set by Mohamed Thakurufaanu [Maldivian ruler who saved the country from the Portuguese conqueres who ruled the country from 1558 to 1573]. This is the true meaning of his jihad in national interest back on that day,” Yameen stated.

“We must repeat the work our ancestors conducted in rain and shine. The reason we are to take breaths of independence today is due to the glorious jihad and sacrifices they made then for the sake of gaining independence. The country will not be able to take breaths of independence tomorrow unless we succeed in doing major work to overcome economic slavery and establish economic contentment,” he continued.

He pledged to fulfil his term serving all citizens equally and justly.

“I will make this government into one that is kind to its people, and loved by the people. I will bring swift changes as is desired by people and take the Maldives into a new era of development. My team and I will not be deterred in our work regardless of how rough the political seas we must cross become,” he concluded his address.

National Pride

“The spirit of nationalism can be maintained in its purest form only when social justice is established in the country,” Vice President Jameel said, speaking at Wednesday’s event.

The current government would work following the example set by Mohamed Thakurufaanu, Jameel said and called on citizens to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty.

“True nationalism can only be experienced with the improvement of living standards, and the country develops its health and education sectors,” he said.

“The nation must today be covetous of its national pride, of increasing self-sufficience, and should not let go of the national character. Today, if one has love for nationalism, one will not damage the country’s social fabric. One will not give away the country’s economic power into the hands of a foreign party. They will not sell off the national identity to a foreign group with no consideration towards national pride just for political gain. They will not let things go to the point where the country is stripped of the right to speak up about its own internal matters,” Jameel continued.

He appealed to the public to ensure that no one allows any other person to “damage the brotherly bonds between us in the name of establishing democracy, or in things that arise from differences in opinion, or any other cause”.

He then said that the day emphasizes the bridge between nationalism and islam in the country, adding that thus what must be given highest priority is the strengthening religious faith.

“Psychological war against religion, nationalism”

Home Minister Umar Naseer warned in his speech at the same event that there is an “ongoing psychological war aiming to lead astray our faith in Islam, and break up our ties of nationalism, a war that is escalating at a very fast speed”.

He stated that while this is a global danger, the Maldives is not far removed from being in its “line of fire”. Stating that the currently is already being affected by it, he appealed to all Maldivians to refrain from joining the “war” against the nation.

“For a Maldivian son to become a slave of this psychological war is like a cancer cell forming in the body of this nation. It is a huge danger,” he stated.

“It is important to become more independent in the country’s development work, and to give up depending on foreign labourers. There is no reason that the sons of fathers who scraped moss off the underside of fishing boats have to depend on a foreigner just to dust off their motorcycles,” the Home Minister said.

“Ours is a blessed land. It is a land that breeds heroes. Every time a foreign power has tried to meddle with our independence or our Islamic faith, Maldivian soil has brought out heroes that will cause the whole world to step back from,” Umar stated.

Irreligious acts are common today: Adhaalath Party

Religious conservative Adhaalath Party has also released a statement today, extending greetings on the occasion.

The statement spoke of the heroic events of Mohamed Thakurufaanu who had “slain the Portugese commander who had tried to force alcohol down the throats of pious Maldivians”, and then proceeded to compare heroes of the past with present day Maldives.

“The biggest difference is the mentality of Maldivians then and the mentality of Maldivians today. Then, when attempts were made to force alcohol down their throats, they resisted. Yet today, alcohol and narcotics is an epidemic which is alarmingly common among Maldivians,” it read.

“Then the Portuguese tried to force other religions unto Maldivians. Yet today, irreligious acts against Islamic norms are abundantly observed among Maldivians. This is not something the government can deal with by making it the mandate of a specific ministry, but a goal that all institutes must unite to reach.”


Minister of Home Affairs orders the removal of “any material inciting hatred towards police”

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer stated on Monday night that he had granted an order to police to remove any material which could be interpreted as “inciting hatred towards police”.

“I have notified every police officer and police station in the country of this order. I have ordered the removal of any material that may incite hatred towards the police – whether it is text, a drawing, a poster or a billboard – that is found in any area of the Maldives at any time.”

The Home Minister’s announcement was made during an event held in honour of retired Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, who has left the services to pursue a political career.

“For a long time now, there have been attempts of different levels to ruin the reputation of the police force and to create hatred amongst the public for this institution. This is something that has been done in other countries too. But the thing is, peace and stability have never been established in such countries,” Umar said.

Umar pledged to make the police force an institution which is loved and respected by all citizens.

Calling on educated youth to join the police forces, the Home Minister said that it is through employing young, capable, educated persons that the police force can be further strengthened and developed.

The Home Minister further pledged to “destroy gateways through which drugs are brought into the country”, as well as to eradicate all such networks.

The biggest problem faced by the Maldivian society is the issue of drug abuse, he suggested, stating that he had already begun to take necessary measures to eradicate such networks in the near future.

He promised that the police would play a huge role in the operation, and opined that it would be near impossible to bring down other crime levels without first handling the issue of illicit drug sale and abuse.

“We are coming out on a war against the issue of drugs. I hope we will get your full cooperation in these efforts. We will completely destroy drug trade networks,” he told the gathered officers.

Newly appointed Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed, meanwhile, advised the police to speak “gently and caringly” when addressing citizens, and to maintain equal treatment to everyone.

He then said that police should become an entity which rids the community of the currently spreading “hatred and discord”, and that is should aim to bring back unity amongst the people.

“Aim to enforce law, not gaining popularity”: VP Jameel tells police

During the same event last night, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed stated that the police’s primary objective should be to ensure that they impartially enforce law, rather than whether or not they are garnering support and popularity.

Jameel stated that there are complaints that some of the police stationed in atolls work differently from the norms, saying that this leads to public disapproval and gives rise to concerns. He said that there should be no discrimination in the enforcement of law.

“Those who are mandated to enforce the law must not question the fundamentals of the law itself. Police must not question the substance of a law. It is not the police who decides whether or not the substance of a given law is solid. The law is already passed, and the police’s duty is only to enforce it,” Jameel said.

“If the citizens are being disturbed due to a loud speaker, you must be able to stop the loud speaker. If citizens are getting harassed on the street in a manner that disturbs them, and there is a law banning such action, you should be able to stop it. If there are laws made to assist the people, the police must be able to enforce it. I hope you will work in that manner,” he stated.

Jameel said that, although at a low level, it had previously come to his notice that police officers had acted on their own accord in certain cases, despite actions to be taken being specifically stated in law. He said that such actions had inhibited the growth and development of the institution.

He added that it was only when crime rates go down and stability is maintained that the police can be considered as having fulfilled their mandate to its fullest. He further called on the police to help the government implement a social protection system, saying that one of the strongest pleas of the public is to remove the political polarisation and to establish unity and oneness among the people.


PPM lobbying to re-start Nasheed’s criminal trial

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has said it is lobbying the courts to resume proceedings in the criminal case against opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen’s election agent, Abdulla Ameen yesterday (September 30) told local media that it was imperative the judiciary speed up the court cases concerning Nasheed’s criminal prosecution.

Ameen called on the EC to delay the second round of elections until the courts concluded the trial of Nasheed, expressing fears that the public may otherwise begin to question the credibility of the elections.

Nasheed was charged by the prosecutor general for his involvement in the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, during the final days of his presidency.

The case is currently suspended after Nasheed’s legal counsel challenged the legitimacy of the appointment of the judges-panel to Hulhumale Magistrates Court, where the trial is being heard.

During a PPM rally held on Monday evening PPM MP Ahmed Shareef claimed that, once the party finished its work, the MDP would be dissolved, would cease to exist as a political party, and that Nasheed’s name would not be in the ballot paper.

The PPM MP also claimed that the 95,224 votes which Nasheed had obtained in the first round were achieved “through fraud and deception”.

“The maximum vote that man will ever get is 50,000 -60,000. That is even if they work extremely hard. [Extremely hard work such as] deceiving the people, brain washing them and misleading the youth,” Shareef told the rally.

Meanwhile, PPM running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told the rally that the Maldives would not have any stability if there is a presidential election with Nasheed competing as a candidate.

Jameel claimed that Nasheed had treated the Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in “such an inhumane and derogatory manner” when the only wrong he had committed was to “faithfully execute his responsibilities as a judge”.

The former home minister also said that the judges who had purposefully been delaying the former president’s trial should take responsibility for the current state of the country.

Jameel previously said that the MDP leader “will not be allowed to assume power”, even if he should emerge as the clear winner in the run-off election.

Election drama

The official results of the first round of Presidential Elections – held on September 7 – showed the MDP finishing the race in front with 45.45 percent of the popular vote, while former 30 year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s PPM trailed behind with 25.35 percent of the popular vote.

The constitution dictates that if no candidate attains the required ’50 percent plus one vote’ for a first round election victory, the winner is decided by a run-off election held 21 days after the first poll.

However, resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP) – who narrowly missed a place in the run-off elections after finishing the poll in the third position with 24.07 percent – filed a Supreme Court case requesting the court annul the poll, alleging voting discrepancies and irregularities.

On September 23, the Supreme Court issued an injunction indefinitely delaying the second round of the presidential election until it had finished looking into alleged discrepancies from the first round.

In addition to challenging the validity of the presidential elections, the PPM last Sunday announced its intention to file Supreme Court cases against individual opposition MPs, including Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, in a bid to challenge their legitimacy as members of parliament.

The announcement comes at a time when the PPM and its allies have lost the parliamentary majority to the opposition MDP after the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) –  with eight MPs in parliament – decided to back the MDP in the presidential polls.

Speaking to the press, PPM’s legal advisor Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim said, “There is a dispute on whether [MPs] have lost their seats in parliament due to speaking out against Maldives’ Supreme Court’s order and defaming the Supreme Court, and other court’s judges. I would like to inform you we will file this case at the Supreme Court.”

The MDP and its new ally the DRP now control 39 out of 77 seats in the parliament – a simple majority. The two parties last week passed a resolution ordering the EC to proceed with polls as planned, and called for the security forces to support the EC.

The resolution, however, was ignored in favour of the Supreme Court order.

However, following a second Supreme Court order – calling upon the security services up uphold the injunction – police surrounded the EC secretariat. The EC soon announced prompting the EC to announce that current conditions were not conducive to a free and fair election.


Party running mates debate on TVM ahead of September 7 elections

State broadcaster Televison Maldives (TVM) has aired a debate involving the running mates of all four candidates contesting the upcoming September 7 elections.

Jumhoree Coalition’s vice presidential (VP) candidate Dr Hassan Saeed from Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party coalition VP candidate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) VP candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) VP candidate Dr Mustafa Lutfi were asked questions regarding national unity, establishing a peaceful and safe environment, good governance and social protection.

According to TVM, the questions in the debate were formulated based on research done by the Maldives National University on the needs and priorities of Maldivian citizens.

National Unity

The show began with a question on what the candidates felt were the biggest challenges to the spirit of nationalism, and what their plans are to strengthen national unity.

All four candidates emphasised that Islam is the basis of unity, and that it was just as important to establish equitability among all citizens. Saeed and Jameel also spoke of treating citizens equally, without any discrimination based on political affiliation.

Saeed further pledged to introduce nationalism and civic education as subjects in all schools. He also noted the difference in economic status between north, south and central Maldives, stating their coalition would work to decrease this.

Thasmeen accused the previous MDP government of having contributed to decreasing national unity by “negligence when it comes to strengthening Islamic principles among citizens”, adding that his coalition will focus on training young children in the ways of Islam.

Jameel stated that the PPM would introduce Islamic studies in primary and secondary level education. Lutfi responded that in addition to Islamic studies already existing in the curriculum, “the entire education system is in line with Islamic principles as this is an Islamic nation”.

In response to a question as to what candidates would do to bring an end to political unrest, all candidates except Thasmeen focused on equal application of law to all citizens.

Saeed and Jameel alleged that the reasons behind existing political turmoil was former president and MDP presidential candidate Nasheed’s “habit of acting outside law”, as well as the importance of empowering and respecting decisions of independent commissions and courts.

Saeed stated that the JP coalition will ensure the Maldives is included among the 10 countries with the least corruption.

Thasmeen stated that the most important step that can be taken is to prioritise national interest over personal political interests.

Lutfi – whose party maintains that the February 7, 2012 transfer of power was illegitimate and the product a coup d’etat – answered that political unrest cannot be eradicated “until and unless a government elected by the people is established in the country”.

Establishing a peaceful and safe environment

The segment started off asking what plans had been made to handle the rising problem of the sale of illicit drugs and drug abuse, especially among youth.

While all four candidates mentioned the establishment of more rehabilitation centres, each had their own ideas as to how the issue should be handled.

Thasmeen suggested more awareness programs as a preventive measure. On the other hand, Saeed and Jameel urged stricter penalisation for drug related offences.

“Our government will give the strictest possible punishment as per the law to those involved in the drug trade. We will not hesitate even if we have to hang them to death,” Saeed stated.

Along with stricter penalties, Jameel added that it was important to expedite court processes, and implement sentences. While he mentioned privatisation of rehabilitation facilities, he placed emphasis on PPM’s plans to further strengthen the police force and provide them with greater jurisdiction in investigating drug cases.

“It is often a huge obstacle for police that they have to work alongside customs and other authorities. Our government will ensure the police have increased powers,” he stated.

Lutfi approached the matter from another angle, suggesting stronger preventive measures can work more effectively than stricter sentences in reducing drug crime.

He stated that the MDP would provide higher education and job opportunities, thereby facilitating paths for youth to create better lives for themselves, and steer them away from drugs.

“As I see it, youth do not take up drug abuse simply through faults of their own, but largely due to failures in a state’s system,” Lutfi said.

All candidates spoke of introducing educational, entertainment and job opportunities for youth.

Saeed added that his coalition would provide accommodation for all young couples who get married. Thasmeen said that youth who are between jobs will be given an “unemployment benefit”, although he did not reveal how much such an allowance would be.

Good governance

Asked about the foreign policies included in each of the parties’ respective manifestos, all candidates spoke about the importance of ensuring that no outside influences compromised the country’s constitutional requirement to be 100 percent Muslim.

Saeed, Jameel and Thasmeen stated the importance of not letting foreign influences compromise Maldives sovereignty, religion and independence.

“We must not go begging to foreign powers every time we need something,” Saeed asserted.

Jameel meanwhile alleged that Nasheed had “negatively affected our tourism industry by speaking openly about the country being at risk of sinking due to climate change while he was still in power”, adding that a leader should always keep the country’s best interests in mind.

The candidates also spoke on the issue of politicisation of the security forces. Saeed suggested that the best way to deal with the problem was to create stricter regulations regarding the protection of state secrets, and by politicians refraining from using security forces as a political tool.

Lutfi however suggested that the best way to ensure the forces upheld their pledges to protect state secrets was by maintaining equality among officers, and by providing adequate training and education.

Implementation of Islamic Sharia

Saeed assured that the JP coalition would not hesitate to implement Sharia law, be it even severe punishments including amputation and the death penalty. He accused former governments of hesitating to do so, as some among their leadership had cases against them which warranted these hadd penalties.

The other three candidates acknowledged that there were problems within the law enforcement forces and the judiciary which inhibited the implementation of harsher Sharia penalties.

Thasmeen stated that the GIP-DRP coalition would open up a national debate to address the issues, while Lutfi stated that such penalties could only be implemented after the judiciary had reformed and gained the trust of the people.

Admitting that there were weaknesses in the law enforcement bodies and the judiciary, Jameel stated that “there are changes we need to bring to the penal code and the criminal justice system. It is also a huge problem that people are currently granted the right to remain silent and that the [Prosecutor General] is not compelled by law to prosecute criminal cases in a predetermined short period of time.”

Jameel asserted that as it is specifically stated in the Quran, there was “no way anyone can refuse to implement death penalty”.

Criticism of competitors

While the program was carried out more as a question and answer session, some candidates leveled criticisms at others in the time allocated for closing statements.

Saeed stated that his candidate, Gasim Ibrahim had served both during Gayoom’s time and Nasheed’s time, and that he had been tasked with major responsibilities, displaying the trust that previous leaders had in his capabilities. He further accused PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen, MDP Candidate Mohamed Nasheed and GIP-DRP coalition running mate Thasmeen Ali of being involved in cases of corruption.

Saeed stated that only MDP and JP had created manifestos after consulting with citizens, adding that “Gasim traveled to all inhabited islands through rain and shine”.

Thasmeen retorted that while Gasim had been busy visiting citizens, Saeed had been writing the GIP coalition manifesto prior to his defection. Thasmeen also said that prior to contesting in the upcoming elections, both Saeed and Jameel had “sung nothing but praise for President Waheed”, which was evidence of the president’s capabilities.

Jameel meanwhile stated that it was irrelevant to listen to three men who had individually served as Attorney General, Minister of Atolls Administration and Minister of Tourism during Gayoom’s 30 year administration. He asserted that the PPM was the right choice as all three candidates had previously worked in Gayoom’s administration. Jameel himself served as Gayoom’s Justice Minister.

Lutfi, who asserted the importance of establishing “a people’s government”, concluded the debate with a summary of the policies launched by the MDP, stating that “on September 7, the Maldivian people will be making an extremely important decision.”

The full debate (in Dhivehi) can be viewed here.