Joyous celebrations on MDP’s tenth anniversary

Photo by Ahmed Azim

Supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held a joyous celebration of its tenth anniversary with a march in the capital Malé on Friday night.

Hundreds clad in yellow t-shirts and carrying yellow flags danced on the streets of Malé to live music. There were multiple lorries carrying a DJ, a mirror ball and a band of drummers.

The MDP is the first political party to register in the Maldives. With 46,608 members, it is the largest political party in the country.

The march ended with cake cutting at the Artificial Beach.

At the center was Mariyam Manike, who triggered pro-democracy protests in 2003 by throwing off the funeral shrouds that covered her son’s tortured body. Evan Naseem, 19 years, was beaten to death by prison guards.

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Photos by Ismail Humaam Hamid

MDP supporters marched on Malé’s thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu, but took a detour down the side streets near the residence of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, who is currently under house arrest.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13-years in jail on terrorism charges in March. His arrest and imprisonment triggered a long political crisis with daily protests. The opposition leader’s transfer to house arrest appears to signal a thaw between the opposition and the government.

“As we celebrate our tenth anniversary, we are once again at a crossroads. Every member of this party is fully aware of where this country is at and what has happened to me. The courage we require for the journey ahead has been measured. Our destination is clear,” Nasheed said in a written message to his supporters.

“It is MDP members who are most aware of the journey we must make to our destination. There are none more experienced and more capable to undertake this journey.

“The path to realizing the dreams of the Maldivian people lie with organizing ourselves as political party. The Maldivian Democratic Party will change the Maldives.”

Supporters at the march celebrated the party’s achievements, including an end to torture in jails, the fight for civic freedoms, introduction of modern election campaigns and manifestos, decentralized governance and a tax regime.

The first president of the MDP, Ibrahim Ismail said: “Members of MDP, you should all be proud today, to have preserved against adversity and come this far.”

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed missed out on the celebration as he is in the UK over fears he may be arrested and charged with terrorism.

Celebrations also took place all over the country, including in Addu City, the islands of Fuvahmulah, Kolamafushi, Alifushi, Bilehfahi, Naifaru and Isdhoo.


Defence Minister forbids soldiers to publicly participate in politics

The Maldives’ Defence Minister has ordered soldiers to surrender their rights to political participation, despite allegations he has forming a political party.

Minister of Defence and National Security Colonel (Rtd) Mohamed Nazim said soldiers must forgo rights granted to civilians, refrain from politics, and limit their political participation to voting only, as stipulated in the Constitution and military law.

Speaking at an early-morning flag hoisting ceremony on Sunday (April 21) as part of the military’s 121 anniversary celebration, Nazim stated that there is “no room for politics in the military as long as I remain in this office”.

“Every soldier has to accept that some of the rights granted to a civilian in an open society are restricted to a soldier. One of these rights is the right to participate in political activities. I would like to tell you that the Constitution and the military law have curbed these rights from the soldier for a greater and larger purpose,” Nazim stated, according to local media.

“I would like to tell you today, that the role of a soldier is done once you exercise your right to cast your vote, entitled to every person above the age of 18. I would like to bid from all military personnel to refrain from partaking in political activities,” he added.

Nazim “assured” soldiers he will not issue political orders as long as he remains Minister of Defence.

He also stated that welfare benefits would be given to the defence forces once the government’s budgetary constraints are relieved, according to local media.

“Keep quiet and obey”

Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem reiterated that military personnel cannot take part in any political activities or gatherings at any time. This includes registering for, or being a member of, any political parties.

Asked why the rule applies to military personnel, Raheem emphasised that orders must be followed.

“The MDNF does not want any soldiers participating in political activities. They have to keep quiet and obey,” Raheem said.

He explained that political activities even in a personal capacity are not allowed.

“Soldiers are not seen as ever being off duty, even when they are on leave or in the barracks,” Raheem said.

“The only time military personnel can politically participate is when they go to vote. They can decide for themselves who to vote for. Around 7-10 years ago soldiers could not vote,” he added.

Nazim was not responding to calls at time of press.

Nazim already involved in politics: MDP

“Nazim seems to be swallowing his own words and reflexively wriggling back,” claimed Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“Nazim had political ambitions and wanted to profit, but he is trying to cover that up now because the [Maldivian] people won’t accept it,” said Ghafoor.

“They pulled of a coup, but couldn’t sustain it. Now Nazim’s trying to look more mainstream,” he added.

Ghafoor alleged that Nazim had himself created an as-yet unregistered political party called the Maldivian Industrial Development Alliance.

He also accused Nazim of seeking to emulate Turkish and Pakistani history, whereby a military-affiliated political party gains political power in order to maintain the status quo and influence civil affairs.

“The forms were filled [to create the party] and he could then attract all the armed forces to his political entity,” said Ghafoor. “It would also be used to protect and sustain Waheed.”

“The MDP’s position is that uniformed civil servants and military personnel should be able to vote. Any citizen should have the right to vote, but it doesn’t mean your institution should be engaged in politics,” Ghafoor stated.

Anniversary celebration

Following a week of practice preparations, the MNDF celebrated the 121 anniversary of the security services Sunday (April 21) with the Commander in Chief’s Force and Fleet Review as well as a “show” for spectators.

Thousands of Maldivians gathered near Raalhugandu and the Tsunami Monument areas of Male’ – in addition to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain, Defence Minister Nazim, and other senior government officials – to witness the spectacle.

“I wanted to bring my son to watch the baghee (traitor) show,” the father of a toddler told Minivan News.

The celebratory events began with an MNDF parade of soldiers carrying assorted firearms, a military band, as well as three armored vehicles, a tank, and firefighting vehicles.

Five Coast Guard ships of assorted size “steamed” by the east coast of Male’, with smoke billowing fromtheir decks in the national colors of red, green and white.

The MNDF also staged a “show” whereby terrorists hijack a local fishing boat.

“The MNDF made it a show so the public could enjoy [themselves] and get a feeling for how the MNDF conducts operations, it was not actually how a tactical operation would be run,” Colonel Raheem said.

Following a helicopter reconnaissance fly-by of the hijacked boat, six small coast guard vessels descended on the fishing dhoani.

The special forces, coast guard, and marine corps then “destroyed the terrorists” to gain control of the dhoni, followed by a casualty being airlifted out, Raheem recounted.

A portion of the special forces show also included “an attack of the terrorist hideout on land”.

“Dead” bodies accompanied by fake blood could be seen sprawled on the pavement.

“The parade was of no cost, since soldiers had the equipment and uniforms already. Additionally, coast guard vessels are in daily use anyway,” said Raheem.

“All of the MNDF’s units combined forces to take part in the anniversary,” he added.

Although the MNDF was not established in name until 2006 – two years after the National Security Service (NSS) was split to create the Police Service – the presence of Maldivian security forces has remained constant, according to Raheem.


Elections Commission approves 17th political party

The Minister of State for Home Affairs and former Deputy Commissioner of Police Mohamed Fayaz has been granted permission by the Elections Commission (EC) to form a new political party, reports local media.

Assuming the newly formed National Industrial Alliance (NIA) can find 3000 members, it will become the 17th political party in the Maldives.

The NIA’s platform will focus on achieving economic freedom through investments and job opportunities for citizens as well as “bringing about a ‘revolution’ to Maldivian businesses and medium-sized companies” via government assistance and “other sources,” according to Sun Online.

Fayaz stated the NIA will cooperate with the government regardless of which party is in power.


MDA interim leader promises pre-school construction during party membership drive

Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) interim Leader and tourism magnate MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam has pledged during a campaign to boost his party’s membership that he will build pre-schools on the islands of Landhoo and Fodhdhoo in Noonu Atoll.

Shiyam’s Sun Online news service reported today that he had promised that the foundations for at least one of the pre-school buildings was expected to be laid during the year.

Addressing the pledge today, a senior MDA member told Minivan News that all funding for the proposed school buildings would be provided by Shiyam himself in a “personal capacity”, adding that the decision was not politically motivated, but rather a service to the public.

Shiyam’s campaigning for the recently formed MDA follows the passing of a new bill in parliament requiring political parties in the country to have a minimum of 10,000 registered members.

Should the bill be signed into law, parties without the sufficient number of members would be given three months to meet the target or face being dissolved.

During campaigning yesterday, Shiyam said that despite Fodhdhoo being small in terms of population, all islands – regardless of their size – were entitled to fundamental rights.

“You are like any other people. You as well deserve the fundamental rights that the rest of the people enjoy. I will do whatever I can to ensure that fact stays that way,” he was reported as saying.

During a rally held later the same day on Landhoo Island, Shiyam said that the development of the nation required educated young people to come forth, adding that the country had fallen into a grave state due to a lack of honest political leaders.

“Those who come to power need to have a very strong understanding of the public sentiments and should have the quality to respect the views of the people. Leaders who lie and deceive should never come in front of the people,” he claimed.

“Immense Support”

Speaking to Minivan News today, MDA Deputy Leader Ali Mauroof claimed that the party was “receiving immense support” from Noonu Atoll and expressed confidence in reaching the 10,000 member limit as stipulated in the newly passed political parties bill.

“Noonu Atoll is the native Atoll of both me and our leader [Shiyam], so we are receiving immense support from the islands. You would know about this support if you see our Sun Online [news service]. We believe we could get 90 percent of the entire population of the Atoll,” he said.

Asked about the immediate aims of the MDA, Mauroof said that the party’s first target was to attain 10,000 members.  He claimed the MDA’s longer-term strategy was to become the “largest political party” in the country.

Mauroof also criticised the recently passed political parties’ bill, dismissing it as an attempt to “destroy” smaller political parties.

“The reality is that in a democracy, you would not see bills made to destroy smaller political parties. There are democracies which allow hundreds of political parties. That is what democracy is,” he said.

Mauroof also claimed that Shiyam’s pledge to build two pre-schools in Noonu Atoll had been made in a “personal capacity” rather than directly through the MDA.

“Our leader was the one who advocated for providing pre-schooling facilities in the islands. It was his proposed bill on pre-schools that were passed into legislation by the parliament and currently being enforced. This is not something new too. Our leader has built pre-schools in Dhaalu Atoll as well,” he explained.

He added that Shiyam was building pre-schools not as a “political motive” but as a social responsibility to “contribute to society”.

“We did not condition anyone to join the party. We did not give any reward or pay anybody to join the party. People are joining us willingly and voluntarily. Even the pre-schools are not built under the name of MDA,” he added.

“Not a cult-party”: MDA

Deputy Leader Mauroof also claimed that the MDA would display the “best internal democracy within the party” by adhering to democratic and transparent principles and best practices, adding that there would be no grounds to call them a “cult party”.

“We have our own party charter. Everything will be done in accordance with the party charter. This party will host the best internal democracy within the party. We would not have spiritual leaders,” he said.

Mauroof added that all decisions by the MDA were expected to be made by the party’s council, which he claimed would ultimately decide on its future political alignment.

“We are not enemies of any political party. We can work with any party for interests of the country. However, the decision to field or support a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections and making coalitions would be decided by the party’s council at the most appropriate time,” he added.

Mauroof added that their policies would reflect the needs of the people and their betterment.

“We will be a party that will work on strengthening democracy, bringing development and prosperity to the country,” he added.


MDA was officially given the permission to establish itself as a political party on June last year by the elections commission. The party officially held its inaugural convention on December 10, 2012.  It was at this convention where the party elected Shiyam as its interim leader along with appointing other key leadership positions.

The tourism magnate was elected interim leader with 335 votes out of 362 ballots cast.

According to Shiyam’s Sun Online news website, 362 members attended the meeting at Traders Hotel, which was authorised to proceed by the Elections Commission after it had verified the attendance registry.

Under the regulations governing political parties’ which is still in force, at least 300 members are required to attend an inaugural convention of a newly-formed political party, while 3,000 signatures are needed to form the party.

The MDA becomes the 16th political party to be registered in the Maldives since 2005.


“Do we really need political parties?”: Dr Mausoom

A bill on political parties presented to the parliament by the government yesterday triggered debate over the merits of the political system in the Maldives.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Abdulla presented the bill to the parliament on behalf of the government, with the stated aim of strengthen the democracy of the country and to provide a peaceful way to participate in political activities.

The bill contained aspects such as what a political party should and should not do and how members should be disciplined, how political parties can legally earn money and how a person can resign and join another political party.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Mausoom said that the country was “now in chaos because of the invention of political parties.”

”The peacefulness and unity among us has changed,’ ‘Mausoom said. ”The question in our hearts is: ‘Do we really need political parties?’.”

He proposed to amend the article 18 of the bill in the committee stage.

Independent MP Ahmed Amir said that the question on his mind was why MPs were not included in the list of people “who cannot be a member of any political party.”

Amir claimed that the majority of the population “does not support political parties in the country.”

“More than 50 per-cent of the population of above the age of 18 is not involved in any political party,” he said.

DRP MP Rozaina Adam said that now it was too late to make bills governing the conduct of political parties.

Rozaina proposed to add a article whereby the Elections Commission (EC) was obligated to provide places for political parties to hold their meetings.

”When the opposition tries to hold a meeting we don’t usually get a place,” she claimed. ”So I suggest we design the bill in a way that political parties would have to get permission from the EC to hold meetings and they provides a place.”

She said that she had noticed that the screening of private phone calls was now very popular.

”I see they regularly screen our private phone calls – I wonder if this would not be spying, a power that the government has,” she said. ”I wish that when the bill gets passed there would be a solution for these types of things.”

MDP Chairperson and MP Mariya Ahmed Didi said she recalled a time when political parties were not registered, on the assumption that the invention of a political party system would disperse society.

”But people sought in their own ways to express their opinions and raised their voice for a political party system,” she said, ”and after listening to their voices parliament made a law permitting parties.”

She said that independent MPs also work together as a political party.

”They also holds meetings among them and speak one word,” she said.

DRP MP Ahmed Mohamed said he was against party system “now and then.”

”Forming a political party in a such small country is like playing with fire,” Mohamed said.

”I say, we hold a vote to see if people like or dislike having political parties,” he said. ”Like other MPs have said, the majority of the population does not belong to any political party.”

”In a family, Mum, Dad and their kids are in different parties, so the unity among them gets ruined,” he said.


Small political parties to be abolished, says EC

The Election Commission (EC) has announced it will look to abolish all political parties with less than 3000 members.

According to TVM, the president of the election commission Fuwad Thaufeeq said the commission would make improvements to its political party regulations.

Fuwad said that the new regulation is being drafted and would be submitted to parliament next week.

Part of the new regulation will state that a new party will have three to six months to gather the required 3000 members.