JP defection is no loss to government, says Gayoom

The Jumhooree Party’s (JP) departure from the Progressive Coalition causes no loss to the government, says Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Arriving in Malé after attending an environmental forum in New Delhi, Gayoom told media that the current government remains “strong and steadfast”.

“Initially, we had a coalition between three political parties, now there is one between two. The coalition with JP broke apart due to some disagreements that arose a while ago. However, the coalition with MDA [Maldives Development Alliance] remains very strong,” he said.

The JP has today responded by suggesting that the PPM leader was unwilling to see violations committed by the ruling coalition.

The party officially joined the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last week, after having officially left the coalition, though relations with the PPM were effectively severed in May last year.

After describing the opposition’s claims to be defending the Constitution as laughable last week, Gayoom again criticised the agreement.

“If they claim to be protecting the Constitution, then they must also tell us exactly how the incumbent government has acted against the Constitution. They haven’t been able to do so. The truth is, they don’t really have much of essence to say about this,” he told media.

The former 30-year ruler asserted that the administration of his half-brother Abdulla Yameen respects the Constitution, rejecting claims that the replacement of the auditor general last October, and the dismissal of two Supreme Court judges in December, was unconstitutional.

He insisted that those actions cannot be described as undermining the Constitution, as they were taken “lawfully through the establishment of laws”.

“These laws are made in ways that the Constitution allow us to. We can’t make any laws that go against the Constitution, as the contradicting clauses will themselves become void. So these actions were conducted in accordance with what the Constitution stipulates,” he explained.

Doesn’t want to see: JP

JP Spokesperson Ahmed Sameer has subsequently dismissed Gayoom’s comments, stating that the current government’s unconstitutional actions are “apparent for all to see”, suggesting that Gayoom chooses not to acknowledge them.

“Gayoom sees them, knows about them, and is deliberately using the majority that the PPM currently has to undermine the rights of the people,” alleged Sameer.

“We citizens should be deeply concerned if a man who ruled for such a long time cannot even recognise violations of people’s rights while it is happening right in front of him”.

He went on to give various instances in which the party believes the government has acted unconstitutionally.

“One of the first statements by the President’s Spokesperson was a justification of why President Yameen did not mention the judiciary in his presidential address in the parliament. He then said that the judiciary is absolutely strong and without fault. Why then did he bring such a major change to such a solid institution later on?” asked Sameer.

The spokesman went on to say that, when deciding which two judges to remove from the Supreme Court bench, the government had dismissed two of the judges most trusted by the public, while allowing a “disgraced judge” to remain in position.

He also pointed to the proposed constitutional amendment submitted to parliament, seeking to restrict persons over 65 years of age from running for presidency.

“The constitution clearly states that any citizen can run for an elected position. How then can this amendment be in accordance with the law?” he asked.

“It is a deeply concerning matter that Gayoom is turning a blind eye to the atrocities against the Constitution being committed by the rule of his party,” Sameer concluded.

The Progressive Coalition currently controls 49 of the Majlis’ 85 seats, while the opposition alliance – which has pledged to work together both inside and outside the Majlis – has a combined 34 MPs.

Related to this story

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PPM condemns suggestions that tourism minister plotted festival arrests

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has condemned former President Mohamed Nasheed’s criticism of the government and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb regarding the Anbaraa music festival arrests, calling on the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to act more responsibly.

Speaking at a radio show on opposition aligned  97 Minivan Radio yesterday, Nasheed said that the police arrest of 79 people from the two-day music festival on Anbaraa Island was a pre-planned and politically motivated act to suppress the youth.

Nasheed went onto suggest that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb was behind it.

Denying the allegations, the PPM condemned Nasheed’s comments, describing them as an “uncivilised” attempt to sabotage the implementation of PPM’s youth manifesto as well as the other youth development efforts of the government.

“The young tourism minister is a person who works very hard at national and international levels to bring development to country, without giving any regard to political ideologies,” read the statement.

“This party does not believe Ahmed Adeeb who is also the vice president of the party would do any favors to anyone for his political or personal advantage, or do anything that could harm anyone.”

In the press release, the PPM called on Nasheed to put an end to “the politically motivated defamatory remarks” against the current Maldivian government, PPM and the VP of the party Adeeb.

Nasheed alleged that Adeeb had purposefully put a large number of people into the same place in order to arrest them.

“President Yameen, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and their partners are once again working to oppress and suppress the youth, and to rule for a life time as they want by keeping them [the youth] from speaking out. This is a political plot,” Nasheed told 97 Minivan.

Recalling an incident from 1979 when then-President Gayoom arrested a large group of youth before allegedly torturing them, Nasheed suggested that the youth did not open their mouths to talk about it until Gayoom’s 30 year administration was over.

He subsequently called upon people to come out in defense of the youth, and warned that failure to do so would result in more hardships in the future.


Auditor General’s Office to verify disputed figures in finance ministry audit report

The Auditor General’s Office has said it is verifying whether Vimla Construction Pvt Ltd was in fact given an advance payment of MVR 198.1 million (US$12.8 million) in February 2009 as flagged in the finance ministry’s 2011 audit report.

In a press release last week, the Auditor General’s Office said it was in the process of “further checking and verifying” the disputed figure stated in the audit report (Dhivehi) released earlier this month following questions raised in the media over its authenticity.

The case highlighted in the report concerned a large advance payment for delivery of construction materials for a tsunami-related housing project in Gaaf Alif Atoll.

Vimla has claimed in local media that the company received MVR 5 million (US$324,254).

“The audit report did not state that the advance payment to Vimla Construction for the Gaaf Alif housing project was made in violation of the law and regulations,” the press release stressed, adding that the audit office did not make any recommendations concerning the advance payment.

The case was uncovered during auditing of the finance ministry records, the press release added, and the figures were based on information collected from the ministry for its 2011 audit.

Auditors met with senior officials of the finance ministry on February 24, 2013 to verify the figures stated in the audit report and invited feedback from the ministry in a letter sent on March 19, 2013, the press release revealed.

“However, as a result of not receiving comments for the Ministry of Finance and Treasury’s 2011 audit report as of its publication date, this office believes that errors in the figures concerning the cases highlighted in the report are possible,” the Auditor General’s Office conceded.

The press release added that the Auditor General’s Office regretted “any difficulties” or “diminished name or reputation” caused by inaccuracies contained in its audit reports.

The press statement concluded by providing assurances to the public on the professionalism and impartiality of the audits conducted by the office.

The case flagged in the finance ministry’s audit report for 2011 concerned payments made on February 18, 2009 – just over three months after the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) administration took office.

However, following the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012, President Dr Mohamed Waheed appointed members of then-opposition parties to cabinet and senior government posts.

Current Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad was also the finance minister during the last year of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year reign.

Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru last week that the office has uncovered a number of issues in the tsunami-related reconstruction projects commenced by the Gayoom government in Gaaf Alif atoll.

Niyaz told the local daily that the finance ministry’s audit report for 2011 was published after a long period awaiting comments from the ministry.

“There could be a mistake since they have not said whether there is anything they object to or not,” he was quoted as saying.

Tsunami reconstruction

Niyaz also revealed that the Auditor General’s Office was in the process of completing a special audit of the tsunami reconstruction projects, which would also shed light on the disputed advance payment made to Vimla Construction.

According to the section of the audit report dealing with the advance payment, the “Reconstruction and Development of Gaaf Alif Atoll Project” was to be undertaken with loan assistance from the Saudi Fund.

However, in 2011, the finance ministry spent MVR 17.6 million (US$1.1 million) out of its special budget to transport material needed for the project from the Hithadhoo Regional Port in Addu City to Gaaf Alif atoll.

While Vimla was contracted for the project and given an advance payment, the report explained that a foreign company named Performance Builders was contracted under a “deeds of assignment” on March 25, 2010 to replace Vimla on the project as the local company had been unable to complete the contracted work.

According to local media, the project was eventually awarded to the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) after Performance Builders also failed to complete the work. The government-owned company reportedly faced a loss of MVR 17 million (US$1 million) due to nonpayment.

The case is currently the subject of an inquiry by parliament’s Finance Committee.