JP rules out forming coalition with President Waheed ahead of elections

The Jumhoree Party (JP) has ruled out forming a coalition with fellow government-aligned parties ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September this year, despite its reported involvement in recent power sharing talks with President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

JP Spokesman Moosa Ramiz today told Minivan News that the party was not looking to form a coalition before the elections. He also slammed politicians that did not belong to the JP speaking on its behalf about possible coalition agreements.

Ramiz’s comments were made in response to reports in local media this week claiming Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) member Umar Naseer was conducting talks to form a coalition of various parties, including the JP, behind President Waheed.

Naseer told Sun Online that a so-called “broad coalition” was being discussed to help secure a first round election victory against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

Former PPM Deputy Leader Naseer, who last month mounted an unsuccessful bid to become the party’s presidential candidate, was present during discussions held at the official residence of President Waheed on Tuesday (April 16) night – fuelling uncertainty over his own future political allegiance.

Naseer was this week given an ultimatum by the government-aligned PPM to ‘reform and realign’ with the party’s charter or face expulsion after he accused MP Abdulla Yameen – his sole rival in the party’s recent presidential primary – of “rigging” the vote in his favour.

After refusing to defend himself during a PPM disciplinary committee hearing this week into his comments, Naseer has told local media that he would be revealing his future political plans tomorrow (April 19).

PPM MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Mahloof was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press today. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Umar Naseer this week said that he would not give any interviews to Minivan News.

Naseer has told local media following the meeting at President Waheed’s residence that discussions had been held with numerous parties over forming a coalition. He added that the PPM was welcome to join any such alliance of parties. Also pictured at the meeting was JP Leader and presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim.

However, JP Spokesperson Ramiz today slammed Naseer for speculating about another party’s plans, while also rejecting any suggestion it would seek to stand during the elections in a coalition.

“My brief answer would be that we are not going to do this [form a coalition ahead of elections],” he said.  “What right has Umar Naseer got to speak about the plans of a party he is not a member of?”

According to the JP website, Gasim Ibrahim said  today that he would not consider becoming the running mate of any other presidential candidate.

Amidst reported talks to form a so-called broad coalition behind the current president, the fellow government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) today said it refused to comment on potential presidential elections campaigns or comments made by other parties in the run up to the election.

Speaking to Minivan News, DRP Deputy Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom claimed that unlike other political parties in the country, it was the only party that had not changed its actions or political positions over the last three to five years.

Without mentioning any specific names, Mausoom alleged that senior political figures in the country who had changed their positions and even political allegiances numerous times over the last half decade were a key contributor to a perceived loss of faith among the public in the country’s elected representatives.

Addressing rumours of the efforts to form a coalition behind the current president, opposition MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor meanwhile said he believed that there had been a shift in the country’s political allegiances in recent weeks ahead of September’s elections.

According to Ghafoor, this shift had lead to the formation of two separate factions in the coalition government of President Waheed, which MDP supporters maintain was brought to power in a “coup d’etat” after former President Nasheed resigned from office following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

“We are seeing strong lines being drawn between those who backed the coup, and those opposing it,” he said. “There is a regrouping into two factions of the current dictatorship, then there is us.”

Ghafoor claimed that in the current political climate, the MDP was itself committed to trying to reach a transitional arrangement where the majority of members in parliament would believe it was in their interest to remove President Waheed from office – thereby facilitating early elections.

Despite the MDP’s aims, the government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) (DQP) this month formally entered into a coalition with the President’s own Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) ahead of the elections.

Both the DQP and GIP are small political parties currently facing potential dissolution for lacking the minimum requirement of 10,000 members as stipulated in the recently passed Political Parties Act.

DQP Leader and President Waheed’s Special Advisor Dr Hassan Saeed claimed this week that all political parties, except the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), were welcome to join the coalition.

Dr Saeed was not responding to calls from Minivan News today.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has also publicly pledged its support to President Waheed, last month announcing plans to form a coalition with the GIP.


DRP calls on government to terminate GMR agreement “no matter the cost”, but without impacting public services

The Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) has advised President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to terminate the agreement with airport developer GMR “no matter the cost”, but asked the President to ensure public services were not affected.

The move follows a meeting between GMR’s Chairman, G M Rao, and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at a hospital in India where Gayoom’s wife was being treated, during which Gayoom expressed concerns over the contract on behalf of Maldivian citizens, reports local media.

Attorney General Azima Shakoor also this week asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the laws of the Maldives could be applied to the government’s agreement with GMR concerning the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Shakoor and three other cabinet ministers also held a press conference accusing the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) of “negligence” and behaving “irresponsibly” in its handling of the bid under the former government.

On Tuesday, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told media of the contents of a letter sent by President Waheed to the party, informing it that, while the current agreement was not the most beneficial for the country, any attempt to terminate the agreement would result in a huge financial burden on the government.

According to Thasmeen, Waheed’s letter went on to say that, owing to the economic condition of the Maldives, it would be extremely difficult to make the payment of US$700 million needed to terminate the agreement with GMR.

Waheed further advised that cancelling the agreement may have negative effects on the perception of the Maldives as a favourable destination for foreign investors. It highlighted the President’s concerns about the impact such a move may have on foreign relations, specifically the country’s relationship with India.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said he was not aware such a letter had been sent.

DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that the party had earlier asked to the government to clarify the legality and validity of the agreement with GMR.

“If the agreement is not legally valid, then that is it. The airport will be back in the hands of the Maldivians. Even if it turns out to be a valid agreement, there is still an exit clause in it,” Mausoom said.

Mausoom said the party calls on the government to investigate whether there was any corruption in making the contract with GMR, and to have the concerned authorities look into any cases that may come up. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is currently investigating the deal.

“DRP holds on to the stand that we want the airport to be nationalised. All this loss is being caused by (former President) Nasheed’s blunder. We do not wish further hardship on the Maldivian people. So we call on the government to go ahead and pay whatever it takes to terminate the agreement with GMR. They must however first ensure that public services will not be adversely affected through this,” Mausoom said.

Dr Mausoom subsequently contacted Minivan News to clarify that the DRP “calls on the government to proceed fast in checking legality of the contract with GMR and to provide an assessment of financial and other costs of terminating the agreement. DRP’s council will then decide on future actions to be taken.”

Mausoom said the DRP’s council would come to a decision on a course of action based on the government’s response to the party’s concerns.

The seven political parties currently in the national unity government – apart from the DRP – held a press briefing on Monday, announcing that they were officially starting work to nationalise the airport.

Explaining DRP’s decision not to participate in the joint press briefing, Mausoom told Minivan News that he felt that “yelling in groups” would not lead to any productive results.

“These parties have just gone in front of cameras and said whatever might get them some media coverage and headlines. They have no common agreement and contradict each other. The things they say in these places are not verified, and often later proved wrong. We aren’t interested in being part of a circus or showing off. As a responsible party, we did not want to participate in the press event,” Mausoom explained.

He further said, “We aim to do things under due procedure, and have called on the government to proceed at speed with the work, through the relevant institutions. Our party works to achieve results with national interest as our priority”.


Police request statement from Nasheed as MDP petitions for elections

The Maldives Police Service today requested former president Mohamed Nasheed give police a statement regarding an ongoing investigation, police media official Ahmed Shiyam has confirmed.

“The Maldives police service has requested former president Mohamed Nasheed to give a statement regarding an ongoing investigation. We have told him that we would go to any place which Nasheed wishes at a time convenient to him.”

Shiyam denied the allegation made by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on local media that the police had requested Nasheed to be summoned. “The allegation made by the MDP is not true. We didn’t request Nasheed be summoned to the police station. That is a lie,” he said.

Lawyer and former MDP chairperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi was also quoted in the local media as stating that Nasheed does not have to give a statement to the police. “There is no statement that President Nasheed has to give to the police,” she said. “Even what we have to say publicly- if they [the police] claim that, and want to prosecute, then they should do so. There are no courts that we recognise.”

Didi further stated that police had requested the statement from Nasheed and his secretary via SMS.

MDP member Omar Razak, Chairman of Works Corporation Limited, said Nasheed had refused to go to the station but had also refused to allow the police to meet him at his house, saying “‘my house is not a police station.'”

It is unclear whether the police will pursue the statement.

The police had earlier been issued an order to arrest Nasheed by the Criminal Court’s Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, was was detained in January on government orders.

After saying he wished to investigate the warrant’s legality, newly appointed Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz decided against the arrest. He told local media his decision was based on concerns that the arrest would carry negative consequence for the public.

Meanwhile, MDP members gathered today to open the party camp (Haruge), which was trashed by police and opposition members on February 7 and has been closed since that time.

Opening the lock to cheers of “Long live Nasheed!”, Nasheed led the crowd into Haruge, stood up on a riser to wave the MDP flag, and then announced a party walk around Male’.

Last Wednesday party supporters were attacked by police near the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), a common protest area, during what was also intended as a peaceful walk around Male’. Today’s walk only circled the island’s southern half, avoiding the MMA and attracting no security forces to the sidelines.

As thousands joined in and filled central Majeedhee Magu, people chanted a call raised during a previous protest mocking police as corrupt servants of the opposition leaders, waiving dollars and rufiya as they passed police buildings. Previously, the crowd gathered outside Haruge had verbally hassled two police officers driving by on their motorbikes, calling “Lari Lari! Yes sir!”

A lari is the smallest unit of the Maldivian currency – there are 100 in a rufiya (one US dollar is 15.42 rufiya).

The crowd also called for Dr Waheed to step down. One participant compared the setting to 2008, when Nasheed won the presidential elections against ruler of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“Then, they were throwing eggs at Gayoom’s car. People would come out and eat in the streets, like a celebration. Now, this is a march for the ex-president,” he said.

Following the walk, Nasheed signed a petition which was circulated at last evening’s rally and has been signed by several thousand individuals, party members claim. Identifying the power transfer as “actions against Maldivian law”, the petition declares the current government illegal and requests “a lawful government to save the Maldives from destruction and bring it safely ashore.”

Addressed to Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid, the petition requests the speaker and all members to:

1) Punish those fews individual who led the coup and formed the current government on February 7, 2012;

2) Launch a proper investigation into the coup, put those responsible for the coup before a proper justice system, and to properly punish those guilty of involvement in the coup;

3) Exercise the power invested in the Speaker and Parliament to hold elections as soon as possible.

The petition will be submitted to Parliament in the coming week.


President Waheed must form new cabinet: DRP Vice President Mavota Shareef

Islam will not be at the center of the current National Unity government’s agenda in the coming months, however judicial reform should proceed in close alignment with the constitution, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Mavota Shareef has said.

DRP has pledged to support President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who was sworn in today following Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation at 1:00 this afternoon under pressure from security forces. Opposition parties have formed the National Unity government under President Waheed.

While unable to provide details of the government’s plans, Shareef emphasised a need for cohesion.

“There is so much distrust among political parties, we cannot allow for further divisions,” Shareef said, adding however that the party does not expect any serious problems to arise as the new ‘national unity’ government moves forward. “We will have to heal these wounds.”

Shareef is also a member of the 23rd December Coalition’s steering committee, which organised a protest on that date in 2011 calling for the the defence of Islam in the Maldives. Although international media has reported today’s events – described by Nasheed’s party as a military coup – as a sign of growing fundamentalism, “those values [of 23 December] are not really a central concern right now,” Shareef told Minivan News.

Opposition-led protests began on January 16 when Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by the military, after blocking his own police summons. Former President Mohamed Nasheed was criticised by the opposition for ordering the judges’ “unlawful” detention, while the government requested international legal assistance from the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Commission to resolve the growing judicial crisis.

That UN delegation was due to arrive in the Maldives on December 9, along with “technical expertise” from the Commonwealth. Representatives from the UK High Commission, the Commonwealth and the UN now due to arrive in the Maldives for related discussions this week.

However in a sudden shift, a detachment of police last night assisted opposition demonstrators in an attack on the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) camp. Police subsequently clashed with the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) early this morning, triggering violent riots, an assault on the MNDF military base in Male’, and an overthrow of the state broadcasting station.

By late morning the government had declared the situation a military coup.

Stating that he would have to use military force and possibly open the Maldives to international intervention in order to stay in power, Nasheed said those terms were against his values and resigned from office.

The MDP subsequently issued a statement this evening that the opposition had taken control of the police and army, and “offered an ultimatum to President Nasheed: step down or be faced with a bloodbath in the capital. President Nasheed thus resigned in order to protect the public from further violence. His resignation was involuntary in that he had no choice.

Shortly after his swearing-in, Dr Waheed addressed the nation saying he was grateful to the police and MNDF who had made “great sacrifices” to defend the constitution.

“Today is the day the rule of law has been established in the country perfectly,” Dr Waheed said.

“I will not order the police, military or any person to do anything against the law – I promise it to the public. Everyone will have the protection of constitution and laws.”

According to the constitution, Waheed must appoint a new Vice President to be approved by Parliament. Elections may be held within six months, or Waheed may complete the remaining two years of Nasheed’s term.

Shareef said he was confident that no elections would be held, and advocated that the new President “will have to form a cabinet as soon as possible.”

Although no members of Nasheed’s cabinet have resigned, Minivan News understands that the names of 57 individuals from the cabinet and the parliament, as well as the recently replaced chiefs of police and military forces Ahmed Faseeh and Moosa Ali Jaleel and former President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair, have been forwarded to immigration for no-travel restrictions. The list is said to be growing.

Shareef believes judicial reform will continue to be at the forefront of the government’s agenda, however he said it “should be done lawfully”. Nasheed, he said, “made several mistakes. The [MDP] party called for chaos and anarchy, using well-known gangs and thugs in Male’ to lead to armed forces’ frustration,” he alleged. The government at the time made similar claims against the opposition.

“If there is an issue with the judiciary, please use legal means- such as parliament and passing new laws- to reform it. For two years we have waited for a criminal justice policy, a penal code and other amendments to be passed but they haven’t been done. Instead we’ve had three attorney generals in the last three years, and none could get those things done,” he said.

“Since we changed to a new constitution, we need supporting laws to become functional,” he added.

Minivan News inquired whether the international legal delegations would be consulted in spite of the change of power.

“Foreign expertise is necessary to enact judicial reform,” he said, noting that many laws are pending Parliament’s approval.

Opposition leaders on January 30 met with the Vice President, pledging allegiance and urging him to assume control of the executive.

Following that meeting, Vice President of the PPM Umar Naseer said all the parties in the opposition alliance had agreed to “pledge support to the Vice President.”

“After these discussions we are now calling upon the nation’s security forces, on behalf of our ‘December 23 alliance’ of all the opposition parties in the country as well as the NGO coalition, to immediately pledge their allegiance to the VP,” Naseer said.

“I repeat, all members of the December 23 alliance are now calling on the security forces to immediately pledge allegiance to Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and, as Mohamed Nasheed has violated the constitution, to not obey any of his orders and to pledge allegiance to the Vice President.”

Members of PPM could not be reached at time of press.


UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon has issued a statement expressing “his strong hope that this handover of power, which has been announced as a constitutional step to avoid further violence and instability, will lead to the peaceful resolution of the political crisis that has polarised the country in recent months.”

Ki-Moon “calls on all Maldivians to refrain from violence and engage constructively in addressing the challenges their country is facing and to protect and build upon the important gains the Maldives has made in recent years in establishing democracy and rule of law.”

The Secretary-General acknowledges the important contributions of President Nasheed, the country’s first democratically-elected president, to the establishment of democracy in the Maldives and his role in raising international awareness of the dangers of climate change and rising seas. The United Nations will remain a close partner of the Maldives and will continue to extend its support in the period ahead.”=Indian High Commissioner Dynaneshwar Mulay told Minivan News that India was “in dialogue with all stakeholders n the aftermath of the day’s events.”

“All parties are committed to peace,” he said, adding that he had been “assured things are handled in a mature fashion.”

He did not comment on whether Nasheed’s government had requested or been offered Indian intervention.

The Commonwealth said it was “gravely concerned about the political and constitutional developments in Maldives.  At the request of the Chief Justice and Government, a Commonwealth Secretariat team of five officials arrived in Maldives on 6 February, to explore how the Commonwealth can respond to the country’s urgent priorities, including strengthening the judiciary and the separation of powers. The Secretariat team includes political, legal and human rights officers.

“The Commonwealth team is consulting with the full spectrum of stakeholders to assess the current situation and the Commonwealth’s possible contributions in the short, medium and long-term.

“All Commonwealth member countries have committed themselves to the Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles, including a commitment to constitutional democracy, peace, the rule of law, and human rights.

“The Commonwealth stands ready to continue to support Maldives to uphold its constitution, strengthen its institutions and reinforce the culture of democracy. We urge all to respect the rule of law and the constitution, and to refrain from acts of violence.”

Travel warnings

Several countries have issued travel warnings for Male’ after today’s surge in political turmoil.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth advised against “all but essential travel to Male’ island. There are political demonstrations in the capital Malé, which have resulted in violent clashes between government and opposition supporters, and later the police and defence forces. The situation remains uncertain. If you are in Malé, or choose to travel to Malé, you should exercise caution, avoid demonstrations and beware of spontaneous gatherings.”

There are currently no reports of social unrest or demonstrations at Malé International Airport, or at the tourist resorts and other islands, the FCO said, asking tourists to check the situation with travel and tour operators.