“Vast majority” of PPM members will remain loyal to former President Gayoom: MP Nihan

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan has claimed the “vast majority” of supporters will remain loyal to the party despite uncertainty over the future allegiance of senior figures like Umar Naseer and Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed.

MP Nihan told Minivan News today that should either Naseer or MP Ilham leave the PPM, most members would still remain loyal due to their support for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the principles under which he founded the government-aligned party.

The comments were made as the PPM’s internal disciplinary council yesterday concluded a hearing against Umar Naseer, who recently lost out on standing as the party’s presidential candidate during its primary.

He later alleged that his sole opponent in the contest, MP Abdulla Yameen; was backed by the Gayoom family and PPM parliamentary group, controlled all of the party’s organs, including the council and election committee, and had “rigged” the primary in his favour by ballot stuffing, falsifying the count and “pouring black money” to buy votes.

He further alleged that criminal gangs, convicts and drug smuggling “networks” were part of Yameen’s campaign team.

Yameen, who is also half brother of former President Gayoom, denied the accusations, while the PPM later asked Umar to apologise for his remarks or face disciplinary action.

Umar’s case was yesterday (April 14) sent to the PPM Council’s for a decision on whether he should face expulsion from the party after refusing to apologise to Yameen or defend himself at the subsequent disciplinary hearing.

Nihan added that the next council meeting concerning Umar’s position in the PPM was “expected shortly”, although no decision had yet been taken over whether he would be allowed to remain with the party.

Despite the party’s rhetoric, Umar was quoted in local media today as claiming he would reveal his future political plans at a rally scheduled for Friday (April 19).

“I will let my supporters know the path I have chosen,” he was quoted as telling Haveeru.

Meanwhile, Ilham Ahmed today announced his decision to resign his vice presidency role within the PPM, refusing to provide further details to local media at the time.


MP Nihan claimed that the resignation was not thought to be related to Umar Naseer’s disciplinary hearing yesterday.

He went on to state that Ilham had in the past been a strong supporter of Gayoom dating back to before the PPM was founded after a number of its MPs broke away from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

“He was elected with the blessing of Maumoon. Ilham has always played the political game well,” said Nihan.

Taking the example of other previous Gayoom supporters such as MP Ali Waheed – who eventually joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – Nihan alleged that some in the party believed Ilham had strong business links with presidential candidate and MP for the fellow government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), Gasim Ibrahim.

“We heard Ilham’s been connected with Gasim for sometime now,” he added.

Nihan said that both Ilham and Umar currently remained with the party and could play a significant role ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.

However, Nihan said that should they both defect to other political parties, he did not expect more than several hundred PPM members to leave with them.

He added that even in the case of a possible defection from the two senior party members, both would also be limited in terms of viable political parties they could side with. Nihan also questioned the stability of forming political coalitions in the Maldives.

“The Maldives will not be stable under a coalition,” he said. “We also have to consider the international community in all this, such as the UK, and our neighbours in India and Sri Lanka, there is a big struggle at present.”

MP Ahmed was not responding to calls at time of press, while a spokesperson for Umar Naseer claimed he “did not give interviews to Minivan News.”

When contacted earlier today, the PPM office in Male’ said it did not “know anything” regarding Umar Naseer’s hearing.

“Unprecedented move”

Addressing developments within the PPM today, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that the government-aligned party had used the People’s Majlis to attack President Dr Mohamed Waheed in what he claimed was an “unprecedented” move.

Hamid argued that amidst speculation over the respective futures of Umar Naseer and Ilham Ahmed, the PPM was finding itself “alone” politically, while the president was by contrast expanding a coalition of parties ahead of September’s elections.

“Political entities – aside from MDP – are all remnants of the past. They are products of the past dictatorship, and they are now splintering. It’s a classic example of a dictatorship breaking up, fragmenting,” he claimed.

“It’s a [Gayoom] family thing being played out politically. His family is split in two between backing Waheed or the PPM and Gayoom is keeping both sides afloat, so he can play the game to the end and win.”

Parliamentary criticism

Meanwhile, Two PPM MPs publicly criticised President Waheed at today’s sitting of parliament, with MP Ali Arif slamming the country’s leader for “harassing” the legislature. He also accused President Waheed of discontinuing public services and development projects, while using state funds to finance his election campaign, according to local media.

PPM MP Shifag ‘Histo’ Mufeed, formerly of the MDP, alleged that the president was planning to use an expected MVR185 million (US$12 million) from raising the airport departure tax to US$30 for his presidential campaign.

“I think this is the biggest atrocity after the Nexbis atrocity,” Shifag said, referring to ongoing legal wrangling over an agreement to use a border control system provided by a Malaysia-based IT firm that was approved by the government.

The implementation of a similar Airport Development Charge (ADC) by Indian infrastructure group GMR was previously a major point of contention for senior figures in the Waheed administration, eventually paving the way for the US$511 million foreign investment project to be declared void by the government last year.


Standing committee proposes merging MP living allowance with basic salary

The Standing Committee of the Parliament has decided to propose that the Public Finance Committee cancel the living allowance of MVR20,000 (US$1,297) paid to MPs, recommending that the amount be added to their basic salary instead.

MPs currently receive a basic salary of MVR42,500 (US$2,756) and a living allowance of MVR20,000 (US$1,297). They also receive an additional allowance of MVR20,000 (US$1,297) for attending committee meetings, although some MPs have declined from taking it. The total average monthly earnings for an MP comes to MVR 82,500 (US$5,350).

Chair of the Standing Committee, Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem stated, “Article 102 of the Constitutions says that the parliament can decide on these salaries. That is why the committee is making this recommendation to the Public Finance Committee.”

Article 102 of the Constitution states: “The president, vice president, members of the Cabinet, members of the People’s Majlis, including the speaker and deputy speaker, members of the judiciary, and members of the independent commissions and independent offices shall be paid such salary and allowances as determined by the People’s Majlis.

Abdul Raheem further stated that although the basic salary would then increase to MVR62,500 (US$4,053), the take-home pay would be less than that for an average MP.

“An MP will be getting a take-home pay of MVR58,135 (US$3,770), while the Deputy Speaker will get MVR71,000 (US$4,604) and the Speaker will get MVR73,150 (US$4,744). An MP’s pay has to be equal to that of a High Court judge, while the deputy speaker’s salary is equivalent to the pay of a Supreme Court judge. The Speaker will be paid at the same level as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” Abdul Raheem explained.

“We have not really increased our salaries. We are just streamlining decisions on the matter which have been previously made in parliament. We will not be taking a penny more than now. It is only the salary structure that we are altering.”

When asked about the impacts the change in amount of the basic salary would have on pensions, Abdul Raheem responded saying “No change will come to it at all. Yes, the living allowance will be merged and made as part of the basic salary. However, the pensionable pay will remain at MVR42,500.”

Meanwhile Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News today that he personally did not support the living allowance amendment.

“The public is often concerned about MPs’ salaries and privileges. I don’t think the parliament should be so often adjusting our pay in this manner. DRP always gives its members a free whip as far as MP’s privileges are concerned, so I can confidently say that I will not support this change,” he said.

Mausoom added that if the living allowance was merged with the basic salary, one notable impact would be that the take-home salary of an MP would be somewhat decreased.

“Seven percent of basic pay is deducted as pension, and then the state matches it with an equal part. If the living allowance is included in the basic pay, it would then become part of the pensionable wage.”

“It’s not about whether the pay is going higher or lower. I don’t think we should keep on adjusting our pay up or down,” Mausoom said.

Minivan News tried contacting MP Ahmed Nazim and MP Ahmed Amir. Both members were not responding to calls at the time of press.