Nihan renews calls for Nasheed no-confidence motion as DRP factional strife intensifies

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan renewed calls for a no-confidence motion against President Mohamed Nasheed, during a rally on Friday.

Nihan said the motion, which requires 25 signatures from MPs to be put before parliament and a two-third majority vote to be passed, was in response to an increase in problems such as gang violence and the dollar shortage.

“Galaxy Enterprises can no longer sell air tickets because of the dollar shortage, and I received at least 20 desperate calls last night from people needing medical treatment who are suddenly unable to travel to Colombo. The public is very unhappy,” Nihan said.

“I strongly believe the opposition should seriously consider this motion because the President is ignoring problems. There is inflation, and people are in a mess and getting reckless,” he said, claiming that Nasheed had been “lying to the country over the extent of the problem.”

The government, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have contended that a key contributor to the dollar shortage is the high spend on civil servant salaries in rufiya relative to its dollar income.

The government hopes a reform of the tax system, including a business profit tax and a tourism goods and services tax – delayed in parliament and passed only late last year – will eventually increase its income, but contests that political obstacles prevent it from reducing the size of the civil service.

Nihan acknowledged that while the civil service was “quite large”, blaming it for the dollar shortage was “just an excuse”.

“This country has survived for the last decade as a well-governed country. There was no problem getting dollars on this scale, only now due to mismanagement,” Nihan claimed.

He also acknowledged that even with 25 signatures, the no-confidence motion was unlikely to get the two-thirds majority required to oust Nasheed. It was, he claimed, an attempt “to get the President to take notice of the problems people are facing.”

The brief resignation of Nasheed’s cabinet in July 2010 was in part prompted by letters from six ruling party MPs who claimed they had been offered bribes by the opposition to vote against the party line. As the opposition parties already have a majority in parliament, this was widely interpreted as an attempt to secure a two-thirds majority to remove the President.

Nasheed promptly arrested the respective leaders of the minority opposition Jumhoree and People’s Alliance parties, businessman Gasim Ibrahim and the former President’s half brother Abdulla Yameen, and charged them with treason and bribery.

No charges stuck in court, and Nasheed was eventually pressured by the international community to release Yameen from his “protective” extrajudicial detention on the Presidential Retreat of on Aarah.

The possibility of the Dhivehi gaining a two-thirds majority is particularly unlikely given the recent fracturing of the party into factions loyal to either former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom or the DRP’s leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. Gayoom had endorsed Thasmeen as his successor on his retirement from politics early last year, but cemented his disapproval of Thasmeen’s performance with an open letter faulting his leadership and particularly the party’s dismissal of Deputy leader Umar Naseer, ostentiously for conducting protests without party approval.

During a rally on Thursday, Thasmeen told the press that he could not stand aside and watch when the internal dispute has reached the point where “the people are not sure what the DRP is.”

“When a rally is announced, it’s not clear who is calling for it,” he said. “A person dismissed from the party is using the party’s logo and giving press conferences as the party’s deputy leader.”

As the factional strife has reached “the limit where we can’t remain without taking measures,” Thasmeen said he would bring the matter to the party’s council seeking a decision.

Meanwhile Riyaz Rasheed, the sole DQP MP in parliament, participated in the Gayoom faction rally for the first time, despite the recent coalition agreement between the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and Thasmeen’s faction. The party’s existing coalition partner, Yameen’s PA, supports Gayoom.

At the Thasmeen faction rally at Immadhudheen School, speakers strongly criticised Umar Naseer for “disregarding the party’s charter.”

Leading the attack, Deputy Leader Ali Waheed argued that the opposing faction consisted of “presidential candidates who couldn’t get 3,000 votes (Umar) and leaders of parties with less than 3,000 people (Yameen),” and accused them of hijacking the DRP’s membership base.

“These people are holding rallies in DRP’s name because it has 40,000 members. Why won’t they hold a rally in their the name of their own party?”

The Gayoom faction was “obsessed with the DRP” because “when the time comes, it’s the DRP that has the ace of spades,” Waheed said.

“But what they don’t know is that we’re not playing cards,” said Waheed. “We’re playing joker. God willing, we will put down the joker and win the presidential election. When you’re playing joker, the ace of spades isn’t that important.”

Waheed argued that rallies held by Gayoom faction were “in truth Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s presidential campaign.”


Despite parliament’s disapproval ministers will remain in office, says President

President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed has said that ministers will not be removed from their positions if disapproved by the opposition-majority parliament during the endorsement process.

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has argued that parliament will endorse ministers individually and is reported to have a list of members it plans to disprove. The government contents that parliament’s endorsement of ministers is “ceremonial” and should be done wholesale.

Speaking during his weekly radio address, Nasheed said that he believed the consent of the parliament should be given ministers “as a whole, rather than voting individually.”

“Members appointed to the cabinet will remain in office whether the parliament approves or disapproves a member,” said Nasheed.

If the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs felt guilty in taking part in “an unlawful vote”, Nasheed requested them to remain silent in the parliament chamber and not take part.

Nasheed said although there were ministers who did and did not have the consent of the parliament, the DRP’s position was unrealistic.

“Although I desire the parliament’s approval for the cabinet it is not wise to keep the whole country in limbo until a condition that was not prescribed in a law is fulfilled,’’ he added.

Parliament ground to halt several weeks ago over the issue, and has been derailed on points of order.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said the president’s decision would “drop the whole country into chaos.”

“He is disrespecting the constitution,’’ said Nihan, “even though he is the person who should be the most responsible for upholding the constitution.’’

Referring to the president’s position on the issue, Nihan suggested that “tomorrow a citizen might go in front of the president’s office claiming to be the president ‘because the constitution does not clearly state the details of who shall be president.'”

“If these things continue to go this way, one day the citizens may enter the president’s office and throw out the cabinet ministers themselves,” he warned. “I call on the president to respect and uphold the constitution.”


MPs exchange blame over cancellation of parliament session

MPs from both the opposition and ruling party have blamed each other for the cancellation of parliament’s session today.

Speaker of the parliament Abdulla Shahid cancelled the session after MPs began raising their voices against the speaker and deputy speaker of parliament, Peoples Alliance MP Ahmed Nazim.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs deliberately created an uproar inside the chamber to make the speaker cancel the session.

‘Tthey did that because today there were two very important issues in the agenda, the endorsement of the new cabinet and appointment of new Auditor General,’’ claimed Nihan. ‘’Some of the MDP MPs are not in town, and they knew they were out of number to vote.’’

‘’MDP MPs have even told me like that, and also said they will keep doing it like this until their MPs are back.’’

Nihan also claimed that MDP was obstructing the country from being a democratic nation.

‘’MDP MPs think that this is a parliamentary government, they are not following the pulse of the people – in fact, they are putting forward their self-animosity,’’ he said. ‘’They are killing democracy.’’

MDP MP Ahmed Easa claimed that the speaker of the parliament scheduled a false report that was produced by Nazim himself without the consent of the financial committee.

‘’They deliberately sought to cancel the session, they knew uproar would be triggered inside the chamber when that report is scheduled again for it happened yesterday too,’’ said Easa. ‘’’The Speaker and Deputy Speaker want to smear the respect for MPs in front of the citizens.’’

Easa said all the work at the committee stage were always conducted very unfairly and against the parliament regulation.

‘’If you looked into how members of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) were appointed you will understand how unfairly marks were allocated for the people who expressed interest,” he claimed. “There were six people with PhDs, yet the committee omitted their names.”

Collectively, the Maldives MPs are paid Rf4.7 million (US$366,000) per month.


Bill to control thalassemia presented to parliament

A bill to control the recessive disease ‘thalasemia ‘ has been presented to the parliament.

The bill was presented to parliament by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Visaam Ali.

Thalassemia is a recessive blood disease that can cause anemia, and the Maldives has the highest incidence of it in the world with 18 percent of the population thought to be carriers.

As a result, a large number number of families suffer from the consequences of the disease

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said there were two main purposes of the bill.

”One is that the Maldives, relative to its small population, has a large number of thalassemia patients,” Nihan said. ”The the current government has been careless with thalassemia patients, so we need a law for this.”

Nihan said that the increasing number of thalassmia patients in the Maldives was “a serious social issue, which should be prevented for the future of the country.”

”The disease was first discovered in 1921, and Maldivians became aware of it after Madam Nasreena [wife of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayum] formed the ‘Society for Health Education’ and conducted awareness programs,” Nihan explained.

For a long time people were unaware of the disease, he said.

”Many lives have been lost due to the disease through a lack of awareness,” Nihan said, ” and yet there was no laws about it.”

He said that all the DRP MPs supported the bill, and congratulated MP Visaam for his work.

”I would like to take this opportunity would like to thank the police, NGOs and individuals who work really hard for the thalassemia patients,” he said.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla said the bill should be more broader and comprehensive rather than focusing solely on for thalassemia.

”As thalassemia is a blood disorder, the bill could be broadened by making it a bill for other blood disorders,” Eva said. ”There are many blood disorders that are very common in the Maldives.”

Eva noted that 38 percent of females of reproductive age were affected by anemia while 50 percent had child anemia.

”We want the bill to be a bill for other blood disorders,” Eva said. ”The treatment policy in the bill was just the same policy used previously – awareness programs and screening.”

Eva suggested that prenatal diagnosis would be more effective to prevent the disease.

”The third thing we highlighted was to establish a hematology (blood) centre instead of a thalassemia centre,” she said, adding that all the suggestions would be incorporated in the committee stage and discussed.

”We want the bill to be broader,” she said.

Correction: This article formerly stated that 38% of women suffered from anemia, when it should have read 38% of women of reproductive age. Several translation errors have also been corrected.


Foreign Ministry accuses Nihan of “creating mistrust” over Gitmo claims

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused DRP MP Ahmed Nihan of “irresponsibly” spreading false rumours that Guantanamo Bay detainees had been secretly brought to the Maldives, calling his claims “not only false but designed to mislead the public and create mistrust.”

Nihan yesterday claimed he was “99.99 percent sure” that the detainees had already been brought to the Maldives, an assertion the government has “categorically rejected”.

“The Maldives government, last December, publicly announced its intention to contribute to the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by receiving a few innocent detainees in the Maldives,” the Ministry said today in a press statement.

“The governments of the United States and the Maldives are carrying out bilateral discussions to establish the legal framework within which the humanitarian transfer will take place, in full compliance with the laws of the two countries, and in manner that will ensure that the persons invited to the Maldives will not a pose a security threat to the Maldives,” it added.

Accepting detainees would “directly contribute to the enhancement of the national interests of the Maldives, through promotion of human rights and solidarity with fellow Muslims, and strengthening partnership with countries who cherish freedom and human dignity,” the Ministry said.

Nihan, who said he was on his way to Mecca for a pilgrimage, today claimed that “a press statement is not enough to prove I’m wrong.”

“I wonder why they are so worried about what I said?” he asked, accusing Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed of “speaking in double tongue.”

Nihan argued that the government had not been open with the public on the matter, saying “I’m sure the government can clarify that 0.01 percent. Parliament’s National Security Committee will be requesting information from immigration regarding people who had visited the Maldives with improper passports.”

He said the government, “especially President Nasheed and the Foreign Minister Dr Shaheed”, “should be more open to the public regarding the Guantanamo Bay issue if they really want to prove that the gitmos are not here already.”


“99.9 percent” sure detainees already in the Maldives: MP Nihan

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan has said that he has information that the Guantanamo Bay detainees have been brought to the Maldives secretly.

”I am 99.9 percent sure that they are here. The information I received on the issue was from senior officials of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who are very familiar with the case,” said Nihan.

Nihan said the absence of Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed from yesterday’s National Security Committee proved that there were “still hidden secrets behind the scenes.”

”If the government has not done anything unlawful and if they are so confident, why would they be so afraid to face the parliament and the people,” Nihan asked.

He claimed the government had kept the matter a secret ”but when the document was leaked the issue became heated and people became aware that this was happening.”

Nihan claimed that the Maldives was now at risk of becoming “a nest for terrorists.”

”When the country becomes a nest for terrorists, others will start hating us,” h said. ”Then we will see our little nation under attack by another country.”

He accused President Mohamed Nasheed of failing to disclose details of the case during his presidential radio address.

”He only briefly said that we should help the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, and urged the President of the United States to release the detainees and shut down the jail.”

Furthermore, Nihan claimed that the act of government could potentially disrupt the peace and sovereignty of the country, and claimed the Maldives may “turn into a terrorist hub.”

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem said the foreign ministry did not want to comment on the issue.

However, Press secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair denied the suggestion made by Nihan and dismissed it as ”all lies.”

Zuhair said that Nihans aim was to hype up the population.

”The President gave information about the Maldives accepting Guantanamo detainees last year on November 9, 10 and 11 during his official speeches,” Zuhair said.


DRP welcomes electricity subsidies but will continue protests

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has announced it will continue its ‘red notice’ protests, despite welcoming changes the government’s new subsidies for electricity charges.

National Social Protection Agency (NSPA) today said that it changed the per unit rate for subsidies for electricity charges, a move intended to people who cannot afford the electricity bill.

According to the changes, charges for 0-100 meter units would be Rf1.50, 101-200 meter units Rf1.70, 201-300 meter units Rf2.15 and 301-400 units Rf2.50, for people receiving subsidies.

Charges for those not identified as eligible for a subsidy will remain at Rf2.25 for 0-100 units, Rf2.50 for 101-300 units, Rf 2.95 for 301-500 units, Rf3.55 for 501-600 units and Rf3.85 above 601.

NSPA Chairperson Ibrahim Waheed said that the subsidied charges were cheaper than 2008 prices.

”No changes were brought to the [normal] charges, but the subsidised rates have changed,” he said.

No changes were made to unsubsidised electricity charges because the government wished to run the State Electric Company (STELCO) without a loss, he said.

He said that the changes in the subsidised rates had no connection with the DRP-led protests.

DRP MP Ahmed Mahloof meanwhile said the protest would begin tonight at 8:45pm, and would start near the tsunami monument.

”Maldivian Democratic Party MDP’s protest outside the Vice President’s house has proved us that climbing gates was not prohibited,” Mahloof said. ”We will climb the gates of Muleeage [the President’s official residence] tonight.”

Mahloof said he had information that the police has planned to use rubber bullets to disperse tonight’s gathering.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said that DRP welcomed the changes brought to the electricity charges, but ”will continue the protest as we have planned.”

Nihan said that 80 percent of the people ought to receive subsidies for electricity charges.

”The procedure NSPA follows is not very comprehensive,” he said, ”but we welcome the changes they brought.”


President to veto local council elections bill

President Mohamed Nasheed has announced that he will veto the bill on local council elections voted through by parliament earlier this week.

Speaking at a ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally last night, President Nasheed said ratifying the bill on decentralisation would be “the intelligent thing to do” but article four of the local council elections bill would deprive many citizens of their right to vote.

Article four requires that voters would have to be present in their island of birth or registered constituency in order to cast their ballots.

The bill was voted through by the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-People’s Alliance coalition without any votes from MDP MPs.

The president said a large number of people from the atolls living in Male’ or “40 per cent of the population”, would be deprived of the right to vote if he ratified the bill.

Moreover, he said, young men and women who work outside their islands would not have a say in local government.

He added that the bill was “definitely unconstitutional”.

In the 2008 presidential elections, said Nasheed, MDP received the majority of its backing from islanders living in Male’.

President Nasheed accused opposition MPs of employing “trickery and deceit” during the last session of parliament.

“50,000 people will vote for MDP. This is a cunning plan to deprive them of their vote,” he said.

Shifting blame

The two main political parties have  blamed each other for the controversial article four.

Two amendments proposed by the MDP to allow remote voting were defeated in parliament on Sunday.

”We proposed to amend the bill in a manner everyone can vote for,” said MDP MP Eva Abdulla. “But DRP MPs did not vote for it.”‘

Eva said then MDP then proposed another amendment to allow people of other islands living in Male’ to vote in the council elections “but they refused for that also”.

”There are more than 20 percent of each islands population who are from other islands,” she said.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said that DRP MPs did not vote for the amendments because it did not provide the right to vote for everyone equally.

“‘One amendment allowed voting for people living in Male’ who had left their birth place, which is not fair,” Nihan said. “The other reason why we did not vote for the amendments is during the meeting held with political parties and the Elections Commission (EC), DRP objected to article four, but everyone else supported so we also agreed.”

Apart from DRP, said Nihan, MDP and MPs of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party participated in the meeting with the EC.

”The EC said that it would be difficult for them to keep ballot boxes everywhere and said they had financial difficulties too,” he said. “But we said it should be like any other elections, and the EC said that it was different from presidential elections and parliamentary elections and also said that it was the way they do it in other countries as well.”

He said that the ruling party was trying to “mislead people”.

”DRP had confirmed that we will present amendments to that bill and try to keep ballot boxes in other countries where Maldivians live,” he said.

But, MDP MP Mohamed Hamza dismissed Nihan’s claims as “all lies”.

”We presented two amendments, first one to at least allow people from islands living Male’ to vote,” Hamza said, ”the second one to hold the elections as widely as the elections commission could,”

He said that DRP MPs rejected both even though they understood it would deprive people of the right to vote.

DRP MP Ahmed Mahloof said the DRP raised the problem at the meeting with the EC and warned that article four would “become an issue”.

”[But] the EC wanted to make it different from other elections,” he said.

Mahlouf said President Nasheed was unhappy that the bill states all appointed island and atoll councilors should be dismissed.

“We want as many people to take part in the vote,” he said.


Copyright laws presented to parliament

Parliament today voted to proceed with a bill on copy right laws submitted by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

MPs voted unanimously to send the bill to the economic affairs committee for review.

Introducing the draft legislation, MDP MP Mohamed Thoriq said the proposed copyright laws would create a legal framework to protect intellectual property in the Maldives and thereby “encourage creativity”.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Mausoom said while the party supported to the bill, it needed some amendments: ”Software protection was not fully provided in the bill,” he said.

A significant proportion of software used in the Maldives, including by government agencies, are pirated copies. Historically this has been due to the both the ready accessibility of unlicensed software and the comparatively high cost of legitimate licenses in the developed world. For example, a copy of a popular accountancy software package that costs Rf25 (US$2) at a shop in Male’ can run to several thousand US dollars if bought legitimately.

As the bill was connected to the productivity of the country, Mausoom added, it was very important to make it as comprehensive as possible.

Maldivian Democratic Party MDP MP Mohamed Mustafa concurred that the bill was important to the Maldives as ”copyright should be protected in the country.”

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan said that the bill was necessary but noted that ”there are amendments that should be brought to the bill.”

Nihan said that there were people who had become mid-level businessmen by selling the pirate copies of softwares and other products.

‘There are fake iPhones, blackberries and other types of mobile phone sold in the market,” he said. ”This business of fake models and products should be prevented.”