President Abdulla Yameen has rejected a request for a meeting with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-Jumhooree Party (MDP-JP) alliance to discuss 13 demands issued at a mass rally on February 27.
Briefing the press last night following a meeting of the MDP-JP joint party commission, JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim said the parties formally submitted the 13 demands in writing and sought meetings with both the president and Home Minister Umar Naseer.
“When we sent the demands, the home minister has replied saying ‘I have heard the demands and I will meet a team assigned by you.’ So his appointment has been arranged for 10am on Thursday morning. We sincerely thank the home minister for that on behalf of both our parties,” Ameen revealed.
“However, the president said in response to our letter, ‘if you want to meet regarding something that would be beneficial to the public, I can make time for you,’ and that it cannot be done any other way.”
The demands included immediately releasing former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, repealing amendments to the Auditor General’s Act that saw the removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, empowering local councils, and investigating serious corruption allegations against senior government officials.
Other demands issued at the protest march included continuing electricity subsidies, fulfilling campaign pledges to provide subsidies to fishermen and farmers, and reversing a decision to impose import duty on fuel.
“The home minister has seen that these [demands] are beneficial to the public, but unfortunately our honourable president has not yet seen it. We are extremely saddened by this,” Ameen said.
President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told local media today that the president did not have the authority to release suspects in detention while on trial, noting that the judiciary was an independent branch under separation of powers.
The president was open to discussions if the opposition proposed matters that were both beneficial to the public and within the president’s powers and constitutional responsibilities, he said.
After discussing President Yameen’s rejection at the inter-party commission (IPC) last night, Ameen said the parties decided its leaders – Gasim Ibrahim from the JP and Chairperson Ali Waheed or MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ from the MDP – would directly request an appointment with the president to discuss the prosecution and trials of Nasheed and Nazim.
Criminal proceedings against the pair were being conducted unfairly and unjustly, Ameen reiterated.
The parties also discussed continuing joint efforts, Ameen said, adding that decisions of the ‘joint activities committee’ would be implemented.
Ameen stressed that the activities would take place within legal bounds, adding that its purpose was achieving results desired by the public.
The MDP-JP nightly protests continued near the city council hall last night.
Meanwhile, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed told the press that the party could not remain inactive while former President Nasheed’s trial was “going rapidly towards a sentence.”
“So we have discussed at our commission about the MDP undertaking special extra efforts to free President Nasheed,” he revealed.
The joint commission discussed affording the space for the MDP to conduct further activities without undermining the alliance with the JP, Waheed added, calling on supporters to join the party’s “direct action”.
Waheed said the government’s lack of an adequate response to the thousands of Maldivian citizens who participated in the protest march was regrettable.
“So now we are going to have to take our efforts to another level. God willing, within bounds of Maldivian laws and regulations, we will carry out our peaceful protest and direct action in various ways in the coming days,” he said.
A special committee has been formed within the MDP to oversee the activities, he continued, appealing for party members to remain united and to channel discontent within the party “as positive energy.”
While the party was attempting to peacefully resolve the crisis through negotiation and dialogue, Waheed said MDP believed “other activities” should be scaled up.
The government was opting for the “path of ruin” with its lack of response to the peaceful protest march, he continued, noting that the opposition did not seek a violent confrontation or incite unrest on Friday.
Waheed also said the party could not “go forward” without Nasheed and that the current leadership would not stand in the way of supporters’ love for the party’s elected president.
“We will give the space both within this [joint] commission and our party for [supporters] to raise their voices,” he said.
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