Political parties bill designed to “eradicate” Islamic ideology: Adhaalath Party leadership

Leaders of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party have claimed legislation passed by parliament last week requiring political parties to have a minimum of 10,000 registered members was a direct attempt to dissolve the party.

If the political parties bill passed on Thursday is signed into law, parties without 10,000 members would have three months to reach the legally required number or face being dissolved.

At a press conference on Saturday, Adhaalath Party Leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla said he suspected that “black money” from Indian infrastructure company GMR was behind the decision to insert the clause requiring 10,000 members.

Imran said the bill was intended to “eradicate” Islamic ideology from Maldivian politics and “defeat” the party’s efforts to oppose alleged attempts to secularise the country.

Imran claimed that “a person with a brain would not deny” that the decision by parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee to raise the prerequisite to 10,000 members from 5,000 at a late stage was made “because Adhaalath Party would be disqualified at that number.”

He further contended that the party’s recent campaigns to “reclaim the airport” from the GMR-led consortium and “reform parliament” was also “connected to passing that bill.”

“This is a big political and legal challenge [they] placed before Adhaalath Party. The way the political sphere in the country is shaped today, it is very important for a political party like Adhaalath Party to exist,” he said.

Imran also argued that the bill also violated the constitutional principle of equality.

Following preliminary debate in early 2010, the political parties bill was reviewed and finalised by the Independent Institutions Committee on December 10, 2012.

Writing in his personal blog (Dhivehi) in October, Independent Institutions Committee Chair MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed revealed that “a clear majority” voted in favour of requiring parties to gain 5000 members before it can be officially registered, and 10,000 members before becoming eligible for state funds.

“When the law is passed, the current registered parties with less than 5,000 members would be given a six month period to reach the figure. If a party fails to reach that figure by the end of the period, the particular party would be dissolved,” Nasheed explained.

However, the minimum number of members was later raised to 10,000 and the period shortened to three months before the draft legislation was presented to the Majlis floor for Thursday’s vote.

The political parties bill was passed with 64 votes in favour and four against.

According to figures from the Elections Commission (EC), Adhaalath Party has 5,881 as of December 27. In October 2011, the party had 6,140 members.

Only four parties out of 16 registered in the country have more than 10,000 members, including the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and Jumhooree Party (JP).

Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, chief spokesperson of the party, dismissed the notion that the minimum requirement of 10,000 members was approved for economic reasons as political parties were provided funds from the state budget.

Shaheem criticised provisions in recently-passed legislation on MPs’ privileges guaranteeing retirement pensions after one term as well as overseas medical treatment for MPs’ family members as untenable expenses by the state.

“When a MP serves a five-year term, the state has to pay him till he goes to the grave. And [the state] has to take care of him and his family,” Shaheem said.

If state funding for small political parties was too costly, Shaheem argued that a monthly pay of more than MVR 12,000 for island councillors was excessive as well.

Five-member councils in islands with very small populations had “nothing at all to do,” he claimed.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz meanwhile said that the membership clause was intended to get rid of the religious conservative party due to its efforts “on behalf of Islam” in recent years.

Muiz referred to the Adhaalath Party’s successful campaign against proposed regulations to authorise sale of alcohol in city hotels as well as its opposition to making Dhivehi and Islam non-compulsory subjects in higher secondary education. He claimed that the party also put a stop to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s attempts to strengthen ties with Israel and “bring Jews” to allow them to “exert influence in the country”.

Muiz, who also serves as the Adhaalath Party’s secretary general, called on “all citizens who love Islam” to sign up for the party.

Sheikh Ilyas Hussain, head of the party’s religious scholars council, meanwhile claimed that efforts to get rid of Adhaalath Party were intended to “erase” Islam from the Maldives and “spread secular activities in society.”

Following the parliament’s vote on the political parties bill, Adhaalath Party Sheikh Mohamed Iyash wrote on the party’s website last week that it was “essential for religious people to have political power given the state of the Maldives.”

“Religion and politics cannot be separated. Calls by some secular individuals to separate religion and politics are dangerous,” he wrote in response to a purported question regarding the “Shariah judgment” on signing for Adhaalath Party.

“Their [secular individuals’] intention is for religious scholars to not criticise any affairs of state and just stay in mosques praying and giving religious advice,” he wrote, adding that it was compulsory upon all Muslims to “enjoin good and forbid evil.”

A “religious political party” in the Maldives was therefore “necessary and obligatory,” he contended.

“Adhaalath Party is the only party formed to protect religion in the country. To say that all other political parties were formed for worldly purposes would not be demeaning them,” he added.

Sheikh Iyash wrote that it was “a big responsibility of every Maldivian citizen to find a way to maintain Adhaalath Party in existence.”

The Adhaalath Party has announced that it would hold a rally on Thursday night to launch a recruitment drive to increase membership.


President Waheed hosts “humanitarian leader” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Male’

Additional reporting by Neil Merrett.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has hosted a special dinner in Male’ to honour Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a renowned Indian national who is described on his official website “as a humanitarian leader, a spiritual leader and ambassador of peace”.

At an official dinner held Saturday evening, Waheed presented a plaque to Shankar in appreciation of his humanitarian work, although he is not thought to have conducted any activities in the country to date.

The government has informed local media that during the function, Waheed praised Shankar for advocating peace, noting the high importance at present for the people of the Maldives to also work in the spirit of unity and peace.

Speaking to Minivan News today, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said he had received no information whether Shankar would be conducting any projects in the Maldives.

“I know his organisation has some experience working in the areas of drug rehabilitation and social work,” he said, adding that the Gender Ministry would ultimately be responsible for any projects conducted in these areas should they go ahead.

Under Maldivian law, it is illegal for Maldivians to practice any faith other than Sunni Islam in the country.  The public preaching of other faiths is also outlawed.

However, addressing Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s claims of being a spiritual leader, Masood said that any attempts to make the visit a religious matter would be blowing the situation “out of proportion”.

“He has visited over 154 countries including Iraq and Egypt. There is a potential to let [Shankar] go back and talk about the Maldives in a nice way. That would be good for us,” he said.

Masood added that with Shankar having a strong number of supporters, which includes film makers, there was also a chance that high profile productions could be shot in the Maldives, promoting the destination further around the world and creating strong publicity for the country.

“Personally I have no problem with him being here. He is a social worker. It all depends on how you view him,” he added.

Local media has meanwhile reported (Dhivehi) that the President of the religious Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, had said that President Waheed’s meeting with Shankar should not be seen as a problematic issue.

“A person meeting with another person is never a problem. It is what is said or done in these meetings that could become a problem,” Sheikh Imran said.

He added that efforts were currently being undertaken to find out the exact nature of discussions during the meeting between Dr Waheed and Shankar, as well as the justification in the president deciding to meet a man “who is aiming to spread Hinduism”.


Pakistan’s ‘idolatrous’ SAARC monument set ablaze by protesters

A group of people in Hithadhoo, Addu City, have set fire to the allegedly “idolatrous” Pakistani monument erected for the SAARC summit in the early hours of the morning.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that the incident occurred before dawn today, and the perpetrators escaped before police arrived at the scene.

It is believed that the group threw objects lit with petrol and burnt one side of the monument, Shiyam explained, adding that no arrests have been made yet and police are investigating the act of arson.

According to an eyewitness in the Hithadhoo Power Park restaurant last night, which is located next to the monument, a group of people first attempted to torch the monument using petrol around 11pm.

However, their attempts were unsuccessful and the fires were quickly put out by Hithadhoo residents at the area.

SAARC Pakistani monument
Photo from Dhiislam website

Meanwhile, two young men who toppled the monument during an earlier protest led by members of opposition parties last Wednesday remain in custody, facing charges of damage to private property.

The protesters contended that the monument featured “idols and objects of worship” and demanded it be taken down.

The monument, which features engraved symbols of ancient civilisation of Pakistan and a bust of the country’s founder Mohamed Ali Jinah, had been removed by the Addu City Council last Tuesday night but was replace back on its plinth with a cover ahead of Thursday’s unveiling ceremony.

Monuments representing the eight SAARC nations were erected across Addu City and unveiled by heads of state and government during the summit.

A large crowd of Hithadhoo residents gathered for the official unveiling by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, after which they took photographs in front of the monument.

A member of the Pakistani delegation at the unveiling ceremony explained to Minivan News that the monument represented artifacts of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation and were not specifically religious symbols.

Following the first attempt to vandalise the monument, a second member of the Pakistani delegation told Minivan News that they approached the Foreign Ministry over the incident but was informed by an official that it had not occurred, and was a rumour spread by the opposition.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said yesterday that the delegation had not expressed concern to the Foreign Ministry, and noted that besides prosecuting those responsible for the damage, there was “little we can do.”

The attacks on the monument, said Naseem, had been instigated by people with “strange ideas”. He observed that there were statues of Buddhas in the National Museum in Male’. “Some people are not happy, but I’m not too excited about it,” he said.


Hithadhoo Councillor Hussein Hilmy explained that the monument was “designed and built by Pakistan”, and that the City Council had helped erect the monument.

Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari was not responding at time of press and officials at the ministry did not respond to inquiries today. Bari however told local media last week that the monument was “illegal” as it “represented objects of worship of other religions.”

Bari said he had discussed the matter with the Pakistani High Commission and requested it be taken down at the end of the summit.

Meanwhile, Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla told Minivan News today that the monument “should not be kept on Maldivian soil for a single day” and “should be removed immediately.”

SAARC Pakistani monument“We believe it conflicts with the constitution of the Maldives, the Religious Unity Act of 1994 and the regulations under the Act,” he said.

The monument was “illegal” because it depicted “objects of worship” that “denied the oneness of God,” he explained.

Imran contended that the engravings on the monument represented objects of worship for “a lot of other religions.”

The religious conservative party has asked the Prosecutor General’s Office today to take legal action, he revealed.

In a statement condemning the “idolatrous” monument, the Adhaalath Party’s Hithadhoo branch claimed that “no Maldivian of sound mind” would allow idols or iconography of other religions to be erected in the country.

The Pakistani monument was “part of efforts by adversaries of Islam to turn the faith that Maldivians embraced 900 years ago upside down,” the statement reads.

The party noted that under section six of the religious unity regulations, public displays of “symbols or slogans belonging to a religion other than Islam” were illegal, and called on those responsible for erecting the monuments to be “brought before the law protecting religious unity.”