Gayoom condemns Thasmeen’s leadership of opposition in 12-page letter

A letter from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom denouncing the current leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) reflects the concerns of a wide number of members over the party’s opposition of government policies, such as the privatisation of Male’ International Airport, MP Ahmed Nihan has said.

The letter was linked to on Haveeru in Dhivehi. Minivan News is currently working on an English translation.

In the letter, Gayoom accuses Thasmeen of “dictatorial” characteristics and claimed he was writing the letter “in order to protect the Islamic faith of the Maldivian people and the sovereignty of the Maldives.”

Following his retirement from politics in February 2010, Gayoom endorsed Thasmeen as his successor to the leadership of the opposition. Thasmeen was then appointed to the leadership unopposed during the party’s congress.

However, after months of infighting between two factions – one loyal to Thasmeen and the other to dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer – and speculation as to which side the party’s ‘Honorary Leader’ would back, Gayoom’s letter finally puts the former President’s card on the table.

“Disputes and conflicts always arise within the party, as you are leading the party against the democratic manners, and in a dictatorial way,” Haveeru translated Gayoom as saying.

Gayoom’s particular point of contention with Thasmeen was his “taking decisions without the advice of the party’s council and against the council’s decisions” – namely, an apparently unanimous decision made by 21 council members in an urgent meeting in on June 24, 2010, to fight the government’s leasing of Male’ International Airport to Indian infrastructure giant GMR.

“Decisions are being taken on force and on your influence on several organs of the party, outside the system of the party. This should not be the case in a party that is being run on values of democracy and transparency,” Gayoom said.

The former President criticises Thasmeen for the party’s dismissal of Umar Naseer, accusing his of having “a personal grudge” against Naseer. Gayoom said he had requested Thasmeen resolve his difficulties with Naseer outside the Council, and retract his request with the Elections Commission to remove Naseer from the party.

“I was given the short answer of ‘out of the question’. Your answer proved to me that you have a personal grudge towards this particular Deputy Leader, Umar Naseer, as you have not taken an action against the other Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed, who was involved in the matter to the same extent as Umar Naseer,” Gayoom stated.

“I believe that every political leader should be free-minded and patient in order to be able to live with people of different ideas. It is democracy. I believe that the severe action taken by you against the Deputy Leader [Umar Naseer] proves the small scope of your political views,” Gayoom said, in Haveeru’s article.

Gayoom also attacks Thasmeen for contributing only Rf300,000 (US$23,300) to his campaign for the 2008 Presidential election – a campaign Gayoom said cost Rf33 million (US$2.6 million), and criticised him for not accompanying Gayoom’s son Ghassan on his campaign trip to Thaa Atoll during his bid for the Thimarafushi constituency in the 2009 parliamentary election.

Gayoom further accused Thasmeen of trying to damage his reputation by following the recommendations of a British public relations firm, The Campaign Company (TCC). The same firm was used by Hassan Saeed, leader of the minority opposition and now coalition partner Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), during a PR trip to the UK last year in a bid to gain international support for the opposition. The firm employed an individual named Peter Craske to arrange meetings with politicians and journalists, who falsely presented the DQP as “an alliance between the DRP and MDP parties.” Craske later acknowledged the error in an email letter to Minivan News.

Gayoom claimed that TCC’s cofounder, Jonathan Upton, visited the Maldives and recommended that Thasmeen sideline him.

“[Upton] did not have any idea of the views of the Maldivian people and the political situation of the Maldives. His recommendation to keep me aside, without knowing the support of the majority of the Maldivian people as they have seen the development and changes during my presidency, was not a politically mature recommendation,” Gayoom said. “You are showing characteristics that cannot be prevented after being deceived by the words of people who are unaware of the political scenario of this country.”

The letter puts the writing on the wall for Thasmeen and is likely to split the opposition’s membership. There was heightened speculation this week that the party would actually split into two parties and potential names were reportedly being circulated among MPs through SMS – however the fight for the right to keep the DRP’s name is likely only beginning.  Thasmeen is showing no sign of bowing to the wishes of the former President, and has already told local media that he considers the letter “slanderous” and dared Gayoom to make it public.

Thasmeen’s ability to use his democratic mandate – though unopposed, he was still elected – to survive the  factional struggle within the opposition will serve as a bellweather both for the extent Gayoom’s continuing influence in the Maldives and the potential for Maldivian parties to mature beyond personality politics.  However if Thasmeen remains, the split opposition could mean an easy re-election for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in 2013, given the party preferences in the recent local council elections.

DRP MP Nihan, who said he is yet to fully read the leader sent by Gayoom, believes Gayoom’s correspondence reflects dissatisfaction among a number of “ordinary members” during the last ten to eleven months concerning the leadership of his successor.

Thasmeen was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press concerning the letter.  However in response he has written his own letter stating that he will “stand firm and with full confidence” of winning the presidential election 2013.

“In my trips to more than 100 islands during the local council election campaign, members of the party, heads of the party’s wings and supporters have assured me of giving their full cooperation and have asked me to continue with this work,” Thasmeen said in a letter, translated by Haveeru.

Earlier this week, DRP MPs from both sides of the spat said they believed a split within the party appeared imminent; with some members even considering potential names for new political bodies as internal divisions and infighting between factions has continued to escalate.

These factions relate in part to a war of words between the supporters of Thasmeen and dismissed Deputy Leader Umar Naseer that has continued to escalate, at times, into violent confrontations over the legitimacy of decisions taken by the party’s council, such as the latter’s removal.

In light of these divides, Nihan said he believed the letter, without having read it in detail, was not so much part of a vendetta against Thasmeen from factional rivals in the party, but a reflection of complaints that Gayoom has received from party members dating back almost a year.

“There have been reports received by Mr Gayoom as to what has been seen as mismanagement on the part of Thasmeen,” he said. “Ordinary members of the party are very unsatisfied with party leadership and they have complained to Maumoon [Gayoom] about this.”

One of the key issues Nihan stressed that was behind the complaints levelled against Thasmeen had been in the work of the party to hold the government accountable for its actions, particularly in terms of deals such as the decision to allow Indian infrastructure giant GMR to manage and devlope a new terminal building at Male’ International Airport.

“Like with the GMR issues, there is a sense that Thasmeen hasn’t done enough to oppose this,” he said. “The divided thinking in the party has really been seen in the last six months from around when the airport was handed over [to GMR] in November.”

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told Minivan News in November that a coalition of political parties formed in opposition to the GMR airport deal remained committed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) focusing on legal recourse to try and prevent the privatisation agreement.

“We simply believe the deal is not in our national or security interests,” Thasmeen said. “With the privatisation of other [existing or soon to be] international airports in the north and south of the country, the state will not have an airport under its control.”

Thasmeen soon came under fire amidst allegations that both himself and fellow party member and Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid has taken bribes from GMR to hinder opposition to the deal. Both politicians and GMR have denied the allegations, which they claimed were a complete “fabrication” by political opponents.


DRP “disintegrating” as factions mull new party possibilities

At least one MP of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has claimed the party is on the brink of “disintegrating”, and will almost certainly split due to infighting.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that realistically, the formation of separate parties could only be stopped by nothing short of a “miracle” reconciliation between its current leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and the party’s ‘honorary leader’, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

A growing split between Thasmeen – endorsed by Gayoom on his retirement and elected unopposed – and a faction consisting of dismissed former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer and serving party members including MP Ahmed Mahlouf, has engulfed the party since December.

The Umar Naseer faction of the party campaigned alongside former president Gayoom during a tour of a number of islands ahead of last month’s local council elections.

However, the disputes between these factions this week have appeared to reach crisis point as members of Gayoom’s family publically criticised the current leadership on television.

Gayoom’s daughter Yumna Maumoon said Thursday evening that DRP members were concerned that Thasmeen was ruling the party dictatorially, as well as failing to properly oppose the government of President Mohamed Nasheed. An official DRP statement later denied Thasmeen was able to act in such a way under the party’s required conventions and suggested its leader still had the full backing of members.

Yet according to Nihan, some in the party are already considering potential names for a new party potentially based around the identity and ideas of Gayoom himself, but it was a development he said that was ultimately regretful for the DRP.

“[Until yesterday] I have been actively campaigning for the party since it began. It is therefore a very sad moment that the party is disintegrating,” he said. “We have worked for the best of the party and for the legacy of Gayoom so we can all experience better things. This now seems unlikely due to misconception and misinformation.”

Although no decision is claimed to have been taken as to then formation of a new political party, Nihan added that it was clear that Gayoom, who remains honorary leader of the DRP, was “very unhappy” with the recent conduct of Thasmeen.

Nihan said that concerns had been raised about comments allegedly made by Thasmeen on broadcast media such as DhiTV, where he was alleged to have shown disrespect to the former president.

These concerns come on the back of leaked audio excerpts allegedly of DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef stating a preference for the rival Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) over a DRP led by Gayoom. Shareef later claimed that the recordings were his voice, but had been doctored out of context and leaked to the press.

Nihan said that now Thasmeen had publically spoken out in a manner that was disrespectful to the former president and DRP leader, the situation of factions within the party had been complicated further.

The MP went on to praise Yumna Maumoon’s decision to speak out for her father.  “What she did was excellent, coming out in support of her family,” he said.

Nihan stressed that the situation was not irreparable, but that keeping the DRP as a singular entity was unlikely.

“Maybe if some sort of miracle happens and these people can sit together and sort out their problems there may be a resolution,” he said. “Otherwise there will be a new party.”

While claiming to not side with either supporters of Thasmeen or Naseer in the DRP dispute, Nihan said he believed that it was down to the current party leader to try and solve the problems threatening to split the party.


Nihan said that should the “inevitable” occur and the factions go their separate ways in the political landscape of the Maldives, the survival of the DRP name was irrelevant compared to the importance of having Gayoom’s backing.

“It is important to remember that Mr Gayoom is retired and will not contest, he has clearly indicated that he will not run,” said Nihan. “However, we [the party] will always be with his ideas of politics.”

Nihan claimed that if a new party was to be formed, he had already received unofficial suggestions about new titles via SMS; such as a possible party under the Dhivehi acronym of the DRSP.

Adding that no formal decisions had been made on the issue, the MP said that the rights to use the actual DRP name was not thought to be too important as opposed to ensuring the support of Gayoom himself to party members and voters.

However, Nihan claimed that as he had been the designer of the party’s sailboat logo, under recently passed intellectual property laws, he held the rights to the image.

“I designed the logo, which received over 700 votes to be adopted as the symbol of the party on 21 July 2005,” he said. “If anyone tries to make a big deal of the issue then we can claim it. They have never paid me for the use of [the logo].”

DRP leader Thasmeen, Ahmed Mahlouf, Umar Naseer and representatives for Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were all unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, DRP MP Rozaina Adam said that according to the party’s rules, former President Gayoom’s position as ‘Honorary Leader’ did not give him a say in the political running of the party.

“The political leader of the party is Thasmeen. He is the one who is legally responsible for the actions of the party. It is the DRP Council that votes on a course of action, not former President Gayoom,” Rozaina said.

She speculated that much of the tension within the party revolved around the Council’s decision last year to send former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer to the party’s disciplinary committee, which made the decision to remove Naseer from the DRP.

“It was the Council that voted to send Umar Naseer to the disciplinary committee, which made a decision regarding the issue, not Thasmeen himself,” Rozaina said, adding that it was doubtful whether Thasmeen even had the authority to change the decision of the committee.

The DRP had a review committee, Rozaina said, “but Umar did not even apply for that. Instead he went and complained like a little boy to Mr Gayoom, to try and get him to change the decision.”
A split was looking inevitable, she suggested.

“Right now it looks like we are heading towards that. A lot of members in the Gayoom faction have been talking about creating a new party. It probably will split – I don’t see us getting along or working together.”
Even in the event of a split, Rozaina said it was unlikely that the opposition’s parliamentary majority would be threatened. While there were five DRP MPs on Gayoom’s side, both sides were still working against the ruling MDP, she said.

The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), led by former Attorney General Hassan Saeed, has already joined Thasmeen’s side of the DRP as a new coalition partner.

Rozaina said the party’s other coalition partner, the People’s Alliance, had been leaning in support of Gayoom’s side.

“There’s been a lot of rumours that [PA Leader and half brother of Gayoom] Abdulla Yameen is behind all this, and that this is something he has been planning from within,” Rozaina suggested.

DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom told Minivan News that while he had no comment on any specific allegations, he was “very happy” with the democratic processes within the party.

“Every decision is made in a democratic manner,” he said.


Opposition coalition shows strain in scuffle over committee meetings

The major opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), headed by Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and “honorary leader” former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has issued a statement accusing its coalition partner of “misleading the people over DRP.”

Together the DRP and the People’s Alliance (PA), led by Gayoom’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen, form a majority in the country’s parliament, however recent tension between the two parties suggest the coalition is under strain.

”We condemn and regret the action of PA,” said the DRP in a statement. ”Unlike the PA, the DRP has elected many candidates for the upcoming local council elections and these sort of irresponsible actions will have an effect on all the DRP candidates, all supporters of DRP, and all the opposition parties.”

The DRP observed that Yameen had spoken to local media DhiTV and SunFM about the long delay between DRP and PA committee meetings, and said that Yameen has  put the blame on Thasmeen.

”All he said was intended to smear respect for the party and was very wrong,” read the DRP statement.

Thasmeen, the party claimed, had struggled to hold meetings with the coalition despite agreeing to hold the meetings at any venue and time Yameen wished.

”Both sides agreed that meetings would be organised by PA deputy leader Moosa Zameer, but up until now, a time and venue has never been organised,” said the party.

DRP explained that Yameen had failed to attend a DRP/PA parliamentary meeting for almost one and half years, “and has also informed other members not to attend these meetings.”

The party requested Yameen stop speaking “irresponsibly”.

Yameen recently told local radio station SunFM that all the work done in parliament to make the government accountable was performed by PA, and said that there were 22 issues at the committee stage being delayed because DRP was not cooperating with the PA.

He also claimed that the government was able to make the GMR Airport deal because an amendment to the Financial Act was kept on Speaker Abdulla Shahid’s table for too long, rather than presenting it to the parliament chamber.