PPM confident of winning majority of island and atoll councils

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) is confident of winning “a clear majority” of seats from atoll and island councils in Saturday’s local government elections, Deputy Leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla declared yesterday.

Speaking to press at the party’s office, the MP for Laamu Fonadhoo said former President Mohamed Nasheed’s claim on Saturday night that the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) would win a majority of seats was “worrying” as provisional results have not been announced yet.

Despite the MDP retaining control of the Malé and Addu city councils, preliminary results show that the PPM-led coalition has won 38 atoll council seats to the MDP’s 28 seats, Abdul Raheem noted.

Candidates from the ‘Progressive Coalition’ have also won 337 island council seats, he added.

Abdul Raheem suggested that government-aligned parties lost out in some constituencies with strong support as a result of inadequate campaigning.

“This happened because the local council election came not long after we assumed government after the presidential election. So we weren’t able to put in an adequate effort,” he said.

Voters considered family connections more than party affiliation in choosing candidates, Abdul Raheem said, contending that the results would therefore not be reflected in the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.

The PPM MP went on to condemn former President Nasheed’s threats to impeach President Abdulla Yameen should the MDP win a two-thirds majority of the People’s Majlis.

Speaking to press on Saturday night, Nasheed suggested that the local council elections indicated the MDP would win a majority of parliamentary seats.

“I believe Maldivians want an MDP majority in the country, and an MDP government in the country. The laws state two methods for changing a government. That is through an election or through a no-confidence vote followed by an election. If the Maldivian citizens give us a majority in parliament, then we will be forced to take that no confidence vote,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Nasheed told reporters that the MDP suspected electoral fraud using fake national identity cards in the presidential election.

Abdul Raheem meanwhile condemned Nasheed’s remarks and accused the former president of attempting to incite unrest and turmoil.

The PPM did not believe that the public would give the opposition party enough parliamentary seats to impeach the president, he said.

Despite differences of opinion among coalition parties, Abdul Raheem insisted that the ruling coalition was “strong and united”.

Referring to Nasheed’s remarks conceding the presidential election on November 16, Abdul Raheem said a responsible opposition party would not seek to change the government.

“We have half the country behind us. And therefore I wouldn’t see many challenges for us to face the next local council elections and the parliamentary elections. So we should be doing that,” Nasheed had said in the wake of the MDP’s narrow presidential election defeat.

“One thing we should not contemplate would be to overthrow the government by street action or by direct action. We must adhere to democratic principles.”


MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem quits Jumhoree Party

Government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem has announced that he has left the party after having a falling out with the party’s leader and presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim.

The Maafannu-West MP, who switched parties twice last year, left the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to join JP in June 2012.

Raheem at the time claimed that he had been restricted from speaking in the parliament floor after going against the party’s official whip line.

Raheem was originally elected to parliament in 2009 under the ticket of DRP, but later left the party in May 2011 to join then ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), following the footsteps of former DRP MPs Ali Waheed and Alhan Fahmy.

However, he left the MDP to rejoin the DRP again shortly after the fall of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government claiming that his views did not match those of the MDP leadership.  He again switched parties a month later and joined the JP.

Explaining his reasons to quit the party led by business tycoon Gasim, Raheem said that he was forced to leave the party because Gasim “did not know how to talk politics” and that he was attempting to “defame other political leaders”.

Referring to the speech given by Gasim during campaign rally at Vaavu Atoll last Friday evening, Raheem said that such hate speeches would only lower the support that Gasim had among the public.

Gasim during the rally described Nasheed as a “monster” who had gone “crazy” with his “crazy talks to fool the people” while dismissing the MDP’s new youth policy.

The Jumhoree Party (JP) leader went onto challenge Nasheed’s academic qualifications and described him a ‘Jaahil’ (ignorant) who could not read the cover of the constitution.

“He doesn’t understand what the law says, so a crazy person like him may say that he would give the opportunity for people to limitlessly entertain themselves. Look, it is not something Allah has given us human beings,” Gasim said.

The business tycoon – who finished the last presidential election in fourth place – claimed Nasheed had done every “despicable act ever to be found in the world”.

“He thinks we, the people, are fools to believe such rubbish. Actually, he seriously may think that we are fools. He has now got the mindset of a monster,” said the resort owner.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru, Raheem said that making “irresponsible statements while being emotionally charged would not be accepted by the people”.

Raheem added that he had sent letters to both the Elections Commission and the JP office informing his decision to quit the party. He also said that he would join a party after all the presidential candidates announce their running mates.


PPM moves into former DRP head office

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have moved into the former head office of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) at the Henveiru Themaa house on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, in front of the stage at the artificial beach in Male’.

PPM Interim Deputy Leader and MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla told newspaper Haveeru that the official opening of the office would take place today (Thursday).

A press conference was held by PPM at its new office yesterday.

While the blue of DRP has been painted over in recent weeks by the magenta of PPM, the party’s logo was also put up outside the building.

The PPM was formed in October 2011 following a year-long split within the DRP and a public spat between former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and DRP Leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.


PPM to propose removing Nasheed nominee from CNI

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has said that it will propose removing Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed from the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) after the nominee of former President Mohamed Nasheed publicly criticised the commission’s draft report yesterday.

Speaking at press conference today, Fonadhoo MP and PPM interim council member, Abdul Raheem Abdulla, condemned Saeed’s remarks as “a serious betrayal of the people and the government” and said that the party planned to send a letter to President Mohamed Waheed requesting his “immediate removal”.

“We believe that it is completely unacceptable for a person on such a commission to give interviews publicly about the report before the final outcome or report is released,” he said.

In a brief statement to media outside Muleeage yesterday, Saeed said that the draft report presented to the commission by co-chair G P Selvam, a retired Singaporean judge, “somewhat refutes or denies what we Maldivians saw and experienced” on February 7, when former President Nasheed resigned after elements of the police and army assaulted civilians, ransacked MDP Haruge (meeting hall) and mutinied at the Republic Square.

“February 7, 2012 was a day that shocked Maldivians – a day when the Maldivian government was changed in a sudden confusion. Now, however, the report that Judge Selvam has written and brought is a draft that somewhat refutes or denies what we Maldivians saw and experienced – or a draft that somewhat confuses things, the way it is now,” Saeed explained.

“While this is happening, for me to stay here, at Muleeage, would I believe be a betrayal of my country and the Maldivian people. I see the draft report as having been written without considering the witness testimony of many, many people to CNI as well as the many scenes we saw.”

Saeed added that he would continue efforts to “include my concerns” in the final report.

In the wake of Saeed’s media statement, government spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza argued in local media that Saeed had violated the agreement with the Commonwealth concerning the reconstituted CNI.

“The Commonwealth agreement Nasheed signed states that a Singaporean Judge will reside in CNI. No one must interfere with the work of the commission and also states that everyone must accept the findings of the commission. But the representative from Nasheed sharing the draft report with the public is an indication that Nasheed does not respect any agreement,” Abbas was quoted as saying in newspaper Haveeru.

Meanwhile, speaking at a PPM rally Saturday night, former President Gayoom assured supporters that there was “no cause for concern” over the CNI outcome.

CNI members were “reputable people with high integrity,” Gayoom said, adding that the report would not contain “anything but the truth.”

However, immediately after giving a statement to CNI on July 30, Gayoom had said he would not accept that Nasheed’s government was toppled in a coup d’etat even if the commission came to that conclusion.

Reconstituted CNI

The first three-member CNI panel was appointed by President Mohamed Waheed to investigate the circumstances that brought him to office with former President Gayoom’s one-time Defence Minister, Ismail Shafeeu, serving as chair.

Facing pressure from the Commonwealth and civil society NGOs regarding the commission’s lack of independence and impartiality, the government eventually agreed to reform the CNI to include a retired Singaporean judge and a nominee from Nasheed.

Nasheed’s representative, Saeed, who was formerly both Principal of ‘Ahmadiyya School’ and Deputy Principal of the British College of Sri Lanka was finally accepted after the government of President Waheed rejected almost 11 names Nasheed proposed to the commission.

In a statement welcoming the government’s acceptance of Nasheed’s nomination of Saeed, Commonwealth Special Envoy to Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon expressed satisfaction with “the resolution on the issue of Mr Nasheed’s nominee.”

“Now that we have agreement on the reconstituted Commission, I look forward to it starting its work and carrying out its important mandate. I hope also that with its enhanced terms of reference and revised composition, the Commission will be a more broadly acceptable mechanism and will allow the country to move forward,” the statement read.

Following Saeed’s criticism of the draft report, the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) convened an emergency meeting of the party’s National Council and passed a resolution expressing concern in line with Saeed’s reservations.

The resolution stated that the CNI report must be compiled in accordance with the agreement signed between the government and the Commonwealth, which stipulated that instead of relying solely on witness statements, the commission would also accept photos, videos, audios, personal bank statements and phone recordings as evidence.

However, at a press conference on August 2, commission members revealed “difficulties in getting the phone recordings” from the Telecommunications Authority of Maldives (TAM).

Meanwhile, according to local media reports, retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi attended the commission at 4:30pm yesterday to provide his statement on February 7, two days before the final report is due to be shared with the authorities.

Didi, who resigned in July, was the Male’ Area Commander of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) at the time of President Nasheed’s resignation.

Prior to attending the commission, Didi told private broadcaster Raajje TV that he had been awaiting an invitation to testify before CNI.

While he did not wish to discuss the events leading up to President Nasheed’s resignation, Didi said “I know how it happened very well. I don’t think there would be any other officer who would know what happened in Male’ on the 6th and 7th [of February] better than I. But I am not ready to share it with the media.”


Government dismisses Commonwealth’s “biased” early election calls, fears “civil war”

The Maldives government has dismissed the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)’s call for early general elections as biased, claiming the nation is not capable of holding a free and fair vote at present.

The CMAG on Friday reiterated its call for early elections after former President Mohamed Nasheed accused the government of his successor, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, of coming to power in a “coup d’etat.”

CMAG said it strongly believed “that the earliest possible expression of the will of the people was required to establish universal faith in the legitimacy of those who govern the [Maldives].”

However, at a press conference today, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dhunya Maumoon criticised CMAG’s statement, which she alleged served to promote the interests of specific parties or individuals.

“The statement somewhat promotes the interests of a certain party or a certain individual. But I don’t want to say that exactly. Because there are many statements that are positive towards the government,” she told reporters.

The state minister added that she was “astonished” by CMAG’s continued call for early elections, calling the transfer of power to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan as “legitimate”.

Early elections in the Maldives without sufficient parliamentary-mandated reform could potentially lead to “civil war,” she said.

“We have to build a peaceful and secure atmosphere. We have to strengthen our institutions so that they are independent. Otherwise, I have no doubt that if we hold elections, the political situation of the country will deteriorate further. It is already quite divided. If there is an election, and if some people do not accept the election results, I cannot say there won’t be a civil war. I do not want to see such a thing happen in the Maldives,” she said.

Dhunya added that no other international body other than the Commonwealth has expressed concern over the current political uncertainty in the Maldives.

The EU has also raised issues over judicial reform and the exact nature of how President Waheed come to power last month.

“My hope is that the UN and other neighboring countries help the Maldives on its request. Not for them to impose their interests on us,” she added.

The government will also support the Commonwealth’s Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon, she said.

Positive aspects

However, she conceded that CMAG’s statement wasn’t entirely “biased” against the current government’s actions, claiming it was positive about some aspects of the executive’s work.

“There are many statements that are positive towards the government, such as the initiative for all-party talks, and other statements. Also, they have expressed concern on the obstruction of parliamentary proceedings,” the state minister added.

The State Minister for Foreign Affairs comments were reportedly shared by PPM MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, who yesterday accused CMAG of favouring certain political parties in the country and failing to recognise the need for  wider judicial reform as part of all-party road map talksdesigned to secure fair presidential elections.

A coalition of political parties including the PPM and DRP have boycotted the road map talks, designed to overcome the current political stalemate at present, in response to the Maldivian Democratic Party blocking a parliamentary sitting earlier this month that prevented President Mohamed Waheed Hassan from delivering his inaugural speech.

The MDP maintains that President Waheed came to power in a “coup d’etat” sponsored by opposition figures, certain business leaders and sections of the military and police force, leading to calls for early elections to settle the dispute that saw President Mohamed Nasheed “resign” from office.  Nasheed later alleged he had been forced into resigning under military pressure.

Abdulla told reporters gathered at yesterday’s press conference that CMAG’s calls for early elections were unrealistic without securing further talk on amendments to the country’s constitution and judiciary – issues he said would be vital in ensuring an “appropriate environment” for elections.

“I also note that their [CMAG’s] statement is biased and that it harbours the interests of a particular individual” he was quoted as saying.

PPM members Ahmed Mahloof and Ahmed Nihan were unavailable for comment when contacted by Minivan News at the time of going to press over the exact nature of the judicial and constitutional reforms called for by MP Abdulla.

Adding that the roadmap talks were designed to establish the correct preparations for any early elections, Abdulla claimed that CMAG should be issuing statements free from “predjudice” that would serve the interests of the whole nation rather than certain individuals, Haveeru reported.

CMAG investigation

Following a fact-finding mission in February and an extraordinary meeting on the situation in London, the Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from participation in CMAG and called for an internationally-assisted independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the change of government on February 7.

The Commonwealth also expressed concern about early efforts on behalf of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s new government to arrest former President Nasheed, following the issuing of an arrest warrant in the immediate days following the change of power.

In its most recent statement, CMAG expressed regret over the disruption of parliament on March 1, and “urged all parties to engage in dialogue without delay, in earnest and in good faith with a view to achieving agreement on the date of early elections, and the processes required to do so, including any necessary constitutional amendments and supporting legislation.

“The Group also noted that the Commission of National Inquiry in Maldives had commenced its investigation into the events between 14 January and 8 February 2012, but that it had not secured cross-party support.

In this context, CMAG acknowledged that international assistance for the investigative mechanism has been requested, and noted that the Commonwealth could be of potential assistance. It reiterated its strong belief in the importance of the work of the Commission and the conviction this should carry in Maldives and internationally.”


Umar Naseer, MP Abdul Raheem elected PPM deputies

The Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) interim council elected two deputy presidents through a secret ballot at the council’s first official meeting last night.

Former Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Umar Naseer and former People’s Alliance MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla won with 21 votes and 9 votes respectively.

The other two candidates, MPs Ahmed Nihan and Hamdhoon Hameed, each received 7 votes.