President alleged to have met with Thasmeen as Gayoom withdraws support for opposition leader

A “secret” meeting between President Mohamed Nasheed and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Ali Thasmeen, is alleged to have taken place yesterday as the opposition party leader faces intensified criticism from his predecessor and former President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In a series of media alerts issues to the press, Umar Naseer, a former DRP deputy leader dismissed from the party in December, has claimed that President Nasheed was “secretly” meeting with Thasmeen and other party members thought to include MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom at Aarah island.

Gayoom publically announced on Thursday that in his position of the DRP’s ‘honorary leader’ he would no longer be backing Thasmeen as his preferred candidate to stand for the party during the country’s next Presidential Election – slated for 2013 – over concerns he has about his successor.

Both the President’s Office, Thasmeen and a number of DRP representatives were unavailable for comment on the alleged meeting at the time of going to press.  Yet the developments have highlighted apparent divides within the main opposition party that continue to grow between its current leader and Gayoom.

Gayoom had previously appointed Thasmeen to succeed him as party leader back in February 2010.

With the formation of factions within the DRP between supporters of Thasmeen and backers of Umar Naseer, who had campaigned with Gayoom during the DRP’s national campaigning for last month’s local elections, the nation’s one time leader issued a statement on Thursday that derided his successor for acting solely to serve his personal interests in the Majlis.

In his statement, Gayoom accused his successor of voting on matters involving personal interest, noting that business tycoon and Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim had not participated in such votes, while he also withdrew support for Thasmeen as a future presidential candidate.

The DRP ‘Honorary Leader’ noted that his former running mate has not addressed any of the main points he included in a 12-page letter issued on 9 March.

The issues addressed in the letter were said to include a failure by Thasmeen to propose the bill on privileges and protection for former presidents, despite claiming that he would personally present it to the floor during a DRP council with Gayoom in attendance.

The latest statement notes 14 points in response to the claims in made by Thasmeen in a letter that he had drafted.

These points focused on a number of issues such as:

• Gayoom disputed Thasmeen’s claim that the DRP council decided on 17 November, 2008 to hand over day-to-day management of the party to Thasmeen.

“It was my decision alone. The party’s charter does not the council authority to make such a decision. I made the decision and informed the council at the meeting that day,” he wrote.

• Gayoom denied Thasmeen’s claim that it was the former president’s decision not to seek a coalition with the Republican Party despite “signals” to the contrary.

“The council felt that since DRP got 40.6 percent and MDP only 25.1 percent in the first round, it would be easier for us to get 10 percent more votes than for MDP to get an additional 25 percent,” added the former president.

• Gayoom denied recommending former Attorney General Hassan Saeed and former Justice Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed face the party’s disciplinary committee for dismissal. “The council decided that day only to send the case of those two to the disciplinary committee, not to recommend them for ‘dismissal.’”

• Gayoom denied not providing details of the coalition agreement with his half-brother Abdullah Yameen’s People’s Alliance (PA) party. He went on to claim that the fact that nobody asked him demonstrates the confidence they had in his leadership.

• Gayoom wrote that Thasmeen could not claim credit for the party’s parliamentary election successes as Gayoom himself had toured the islands.

“Most DRP members believe that DRP’s success in the parliamentary elections was mainly because of my efforts. I know that Deputy Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, too, believed this very well at the time. The proof is that he requested that I travel to the constituencies where five of his family members were contesting to win support,” he added.

• Gayoom claimed that he believes it was his call for a membership drive that has seen an additional 10,000 people register with the DRP in the past two years and not Thasmeen’s as he claimed. He further accused Thasmeen of holding onto a lot of membership forms until after he became leader to submit it to the Elections Commission.

• Gayoom denied casting aspersion on either the DRP parliamentary group or council. “What I said was that most affairs of the parliamentary group and the council were being managed by the leader in violation of the party’s charter as well as democratic principles. That is a fact.”

• Gayoom accused Thasmeen of securing a majority of the council through arm-twisting and pleading before the vote on Umar Naseer’s dismissal case, adding that the disciplinary committee was not independent or fair.

• Gayoom alleged that the leaders of other opposition parties leaders had complained that the DRP did not consult with them contrary to Thasmeen’s claim.

• Gayoom claimed the DRP’s Youth Wing (headed by MP Ahmed Mahlouf) was excluded from the party’s ongoing “Coffee with DRP” campaign aimed at young people.

• Gayoom disputed claims from Thasmeen that he had been informed of the hiring of British consultant Jonathan Upton to aid his political career.

“I was told about him by another council member.” The consultant was hired to formulate strategies to improve the party’s appeal among the public and offer advice for the DRP’s 2013 presidential campaign.

Gayoom wrote that he met Upton in October 2010 after being asked by the council member to do so. Thasmeen noted in his own letter that Upton was hired to advise Thasmeen’s political career and not the DRP per se, while Gayoom responded that he had heard Upton had advised Thasmeen to get rid of the former president from the party.

• Gayoom also looked at recent issues such as a leaked audio clip reported to have been made by DRP spokesperson Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef about his party campaigning that led to a number of complaints and protests outside the party’s offices.  He added that the least Thasmeen could have done with regard to the leaked audio was to send the matter before a party committee.

“However, [Thasmeen] did not want to do anything of the sort within the party.”  Shareef later claimed that his voice had been doctored in the audio clips and was being used by some party members in attempts to seize leadership of the DRP.

• Gayoom also criticised how Thasmeen had used an official statement to detail an amount of money supplied to the former presidents’ family.

“While in his letter, the leader stated that he gave a large amount of money to my daughter Yumna Maumoon and her husband Mohamed Nadheem during the 2008 presidential campaign, I wonder why he did not mention either the amount or the date it was given,” he writes, adding that he “deeply regrets” the way the matter was revealed in Thasmeen’s letter.

Yumna told DhiTV the amount came to Rf300,000 – this is disputed by Thasmeen’s faction.

• Thasmeen had also “placed serious obstacles” to DRP becoming a strong political party by not holding the government accountable and taking measures against those within the party who try to stop the government’s harmful policies, the former president claimed.

“In this as in many other things, [Thasmeen] continues to act dictatorially in violation of the party’s charter and democratic principles,” he writes.

“Therefore, since Ahmed Thasmeen Ali became DRP’s leader because I directly paved the way for him, I sincerely ask the forgiveness of DRP’s beloved members.”

• Gayoom added that he would no longer support Thasmeen’s potential presidential campaign after his successor was alleged to have declared to the media last Thursday during “Coffee with DRP” that he no longer needed the support of his predecessor. “I would like to regretfully inform DRP’s beloved members and the general public that I do not support Ahmed Thasmeen Ali being DRP’s presidential candidate for 2013,” Gayoom stated.

“I do not believe that there is any need for further debate on the points I have noted in this statement,” Gayoom concluded in the letter.