Leaders of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) launched vitriolic attacks against former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at a rally Tuesday night, following his departure from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to lead the newly-formed Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
In a series of fiery speeches, MDP MPs and party leaders dubbed PPM “the property inheritance party” created to “set up a family dynasty” and condemned the former President’s return to active politics.
“We thought the person who ruled this country for 30 years was finished, but we’re now seeing the formation of the Private Property of Maumoon,” said MP Ali Waheed, former deputy leader of the DRP who defected to the ruling party in May. “We stayed quiet but it was Maumoon who picked off one teeth after another from DRP and now he’s saying DRP is toothless and forming PPM with people who need false teeth.”
The MP for Thohdoo added that he “came to the MDP to put a stop to this”.
“I want to call on [DRP Leader] Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and [Speaker of Parliament] Abdulla Shahid today, if you’re toothless, come to a party that has teeth and bite Maumoon,” he said.
Ali Waheed claimed that in the wake of MP Alhan Fahmy’s dismissal from DRP in late 2009, Gayoom sent a text message to DRP MP Ahmed Nihan’s phone from Singapore asking Waheed to call Fahmy “a rat.”
On Gayoom’s stated reasons for forming a new party, Ali Waheed said that the Maldivian constitution protected Islam and national sovereignty, neither of which required the the former President’s protection.
Ali Waheed accused Gayoom of undercutting young leaders of the DRP, predicting that “at the last minute” the former President would ask Umar Naseer and Abdulla Yameen – potential contenders for the PPM presidential ticket – to step aside to make way for his presidential bid.
Meanwhile after verifying the required 50 application forms, the Elections Commission (EC) approved the PPM’s request to register the new party today with Gayoom’s son Farish Maumoon as the party’s temporary liaison. Gayoom’s four children, along with half-brother MP Abdulla Yameen and nephew MP Hamdhoon Abdulla Hameed, were also members of the Z-DRP council formed after the ‘Zaeem’ faction’s split from the DRP.
“We have not forgotten”
In her remarks, outgoing MDP Chairwoman Mariya Ahmed Didi criticised Gayoom for refusing to rule out an attempt to return to power after inviting “educated youth” to join his party.
Mocking Gayoom’s request to reporters at Monday’s press conference to ask only one question at a time “because I might forget,” Mariya said that “[Gayoom] might have forgotten how [he] ruled for 30 years, the Maldivian people experienced those 30 years and remember it well.”
President Mohamed Nasheed told her that if the government arrested Gayoom or sought retribution or revenge, said Mariya, it would discourage the emergence of strong opposition parties.
Nasheed explained that “we have come out for a bigger picture and must be patient and lower our hearts,” Mariya said, expressing gratitude to MDP member for “the patience you have shown.”
“We are seeing that when the public has been very patient, some people mistakenly thought that people have forgotten the experience of 30 years,” she continued. “I want to tell President Maumoon, we do remember. We remember the brutality, we remember Evan Naseem and those who were killed with him.
“We remember what happened to our ballot boxes, how island chiefs sat on it and replaced ballot papers to get 98 percent [in previous presidential referendums] so that you could say ‘I’m the President.’ I want to tell Maumoon we have not forgotten how you destroyed our young generation with drugs so that they will not oppose you. We remember the level of corruption in this country in the past.”
MP Alhan Fahmy – who was dismissed from the DRP for voting against the party line in a no-confidence motion against Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed – meanwhile argued that the fledgling democratic system in the Maldives would not allow Gayoom to stage a come-back.
“There is only one way an autocratic ruler can come back,” he explained. “That is, the ruler can return to an autocratic government. Today our system is a democratic system. That means when Maumoon tries to enter the system, it will flash in big letters: ‘Access Denied’.”
Alhan said the “message MDP wants to send Gayoom” was that – as recent events in the Middle East have borne out – deposed autocratic regimes could not return to power.
“I have a two year-old child and whenever anyone asks him ‘what happened to Maumoon?’ he will immediately reply ‘he fell’,” Alhan continued, adding that presidents in democratic countries are not toppled from power but leave after completing their terms in office. “When you fall, you can’t climb back again. You have to stay on the spot where you fell.”
Meanwhile in his speech, President Nasheed asserted that there was no possibility of Gayoom returning to power.
“It is not something we should be concerned about in the least,” he said. “We know the history of this country and what happens to former rulers. [But] because what we want to see from this country is a different reality, we still keep saying ‘lower your hearts in victory’ and this is what we will keep doing in the future.”
Gayoom should be offered “the respect and honour due to a former President,” said Nasheed, assuring supporters at the rally that Gayoom’s political activities would not cause them “any harm whatsover.”
“That is not something that will happen in this country anymore,” he insisted. “Before concluding I do however want to tell you what happened to Ali Rasgefaan [Sultan killed in battle with an invading Portuguese garrison in 1558]. When he reached Maafanu [ward of Male’] and looked back, there were only two people behind him. He was buried there with those two. The Prime Minister of Andhiri Andhiri [Portuguese overseer] was Thufasha, who was Ali Rasgefan’s Prime Minister. Nothing new will happen in our country. This is a very ancient island. We are living with a thousand of years of history. Do not be worried at all.”