Former SAARC Secretary General calls for President’s impeachment as husband maneuvers party swap

Former SAARC Secretary General Dhiyana Saeed has demanded that President Mohamed Nasheed be impeached after alledgedly violating the constitution by detaining Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

Saeed’s statement follows her five-minute arrest last weekend for refusing to leave Republic Square during a nearby opposition-led protest.

Saeed recently resigned from her SAARC post after criticising the government after the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) responded to a police request to arrest and detain Abdulla Mohamed on January 16, after the judge filed a case in the high court to overrule his police summons.

Saeed, the youngest and first female to hold the SAARC post, demanded that parliament oppose the President.

Speaking to Minivan News following her resignation last week, Saeed said the judge “has to be dealt with within the confines of the law,” and identified his detention as “very clearly unconstitutional.”

“If you look at the how the government has acted these last three years you can see a trend. The government thinks any means to an ends is alright,” she added.

According to the SAARC charter, interference in the internal affairs of other states is a violation of the secretary general’s role.

Saeed’s statement was aired on opposition Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and JSC member Gasim Ibrahim’s television station VTV on January 19. Yesterday, Saeed’s husband and owner of J Hotels, Abdulla Jabir,  announced his switch from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to JP, of which he is now deputy leader. Saeed herself remains a member of MDP, according to local media.

Saeed told local media that while her need to call for the President’s impeachment was regrettable, she maintained that her aim was to deliver a “strong message” disapproving of the government’s “direct attack on the state of Maldives”.

Suggesting that she speaks for a general public, Saeed told  media that even those who do not attend protests are opposed to the government’s actions, and vowed to not sit quietly on the sidelines. In response to the government’s criticism of her loyalty, she pointed out that no one was more loyal in politics “than was Chemical Ali to Saddam Hussein”.

She added that all Maldivians were obliged to defend the constitution, and maintained that her comments were “not for any political benefit.”

Saeed had not returned phone calls at time of press.

Under the constitution a president can only be impeached with a two-thirds vote from parliament. Parliament currently contains 77 members (MPs), 35 of which are aligned with MDP, 36 represent opposition parties and six are independent.

According to the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair, Saeed’s request “is the wrong math. Even if all the opposition pulled together they wouldn’t pass the vote.” Zuhair added that the MDP has seen increasing public support in recent years.

Noting that Saeed is “not even a barrister”, Zuhair identified her call for impeachment as “just competitive political talk” which does not threaten the unity of the government. He added that her statement is a larger protective strategy currently employed by lawyers with close ties to JP leader, Gasim Ibrahim.

“You have to go to the chronological beginning,” Zuhair said, stating that Saeed, lawyer Azima Shukoor, Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz, and opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) leader Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed held legal posts under the former regime.

“These are all legal people – birds of a feather so to speak – pulling together to protect their past from exposure,” he said.

“Their interpretation of the law has not been consistent with the government; instead they are protective of the former regime,” Zuhair continued, adding that they had all denied defendants access to lawyers during the judicial process.

Shukoor has consistently defended members of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s family and new political party, Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM). Jameel, who served as Justice Minister under the former regime, recently accused the government of conspiracy with Christians and Jews to spread “vice” within the country.

“Gasim pays a maintenance fee for his lawyers – they receive a monthly fee for staying on his side,” Zuhair said emphatically.

Meanwhile, Abdulla Jabir explained his shift of allegiance last night on Gasim’s VTV.

“The President wanted to make this place into New York overnight,” he said. “It is a good thought but we have to do things based on the resources at hand. [But the President] does not listen to financial experts.”

After stating that the MDP had gained significant public approval, Jabir accused the President of overshadowing party achievements by trying to “destroy the system for his own benefit”.

“President Nasheed cannot be a hero again. He will be a zero. Nobody will respect him,” Jabir said.

Making reference to the government’s use of the military to arrest Judge Mohamed, Jabir warned that tour operators “are dismayed with the Maldives” and listed overspending, nepotism and uninformed financial decisions as chief grievances against MDP.

Jabir’s party change has not surprised the government.

“Jabir was more interested in protecting his business interests,” Zuhair suggested, adding that financial compensation “was a likely factor” in Jabir’s party switch-over. Jabir was recently awarded a mid-market tourism project in Laamu Gan Asseyri, part of the government’s new tourism initiative.

Zuhair said he believed the MDP party’s infrastructure had been “too tedious” for Jabir as well.

“In MDP you have go through various elections, starting with small councils and going up through the national council, in order to get to the top. Other parties don’t operate like that, I believe. The same night [Jabir] joined [JP] he was appointed deputy leader,” he said.

During his VTV address Jabir announced that a candidate from the JP would contest in the 2013 elections.

Swapping political parties in the Maldives plays much like a game of cards, betting included. Recalling Saeed’s resignation, Zuhair said Jabir had requested MDP “not to tarnish his wife’s good name. The next day, the couple was pushing to start their own political party – like  mum-and-dad shops in the UK,” he explained.