Rumors abound over PPM split on appointment of new vice president

Rumors once again swirled in Malé today that former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is opposed to his half-brother, President Abdulla Yameen, appointing the tourism minister as the new vice president. Gayoom, however, for a second time this week, denied favoring a particular candidate.

Newspaper Haveeru today said Gayoom had sent a text message to Yameen warning of negative public perception if the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb is appointed vice president.

The president of 30 years promptly denied the rumor on Twitter, reiterating that the appointment of a deputy is the sole prerogative of the president. “I did not send a message to the President asking him to appoint or not appoint any person as Vice-President,” the PPM leader tweeted from Oman, where he has been sent as a special envoy of the president.

A vote on incumbent vice president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed’s impeachment is expected next week.

Supporters are meanwhile continuing a social media campaign backing Adeeb for the position. The photo campaign has now gathered some 800 participants. But critics have questioned the need for a campaign noting the president is authorized to appoint whomever he desires to the post.

President Abdulla Yameen’s silence on the new appointment, rumors over Gayoom’s opposition and the “ISupportAdeeb4VP” campaign has triggered speculation that Adeeb’s appointment as the new deputy may not be as certain as it appeared in late June, when the Majlis passed a constitutional amendment that makes Adeeb eligible for the vice presidency.

The amendment sets new age-limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. Adeeb is 33 years old and was previously ineligible as the constitution had said candidates must be above 35 years of age.

Soon afterwards, the tourism minister reprimanded Gayoom’s son, newly elected MP Ahmed Faris, for his absence from the vote.

Accusing Faris of letting Yameen down, Adeeb said in a text message in English: “You cannot differentiate youth or any segment with educated, non educated, poor and rich, beyfulhu [aristocrat] or non beyfulhu [non-aristocrat] etc.”

In a second text message, Adeeb told Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MPs that President Yameen must be allowed to rule without internal resistance. “I have witnessed how difficult it is for HEP Yameen to rule with many frictions, I think we need to discuss this at party level,” he wrote.

Faris’ absence triggered speculation that Gayoom opposed Jameel’s impeachment.

Soon after Haveeru published its article today, Adeeb’s supporters took to social media expressing support for his appointment as the new presidential deputy. “The vice presidency is not reserved for individuals of a particular clan. We must change this way of thinking and allow opportunities for the younger generation,” wrote PPM member Hussain Shinan.

Moosa Anwar, one of the organisers in the campaign told Minivan News today that “the number of people participating in the campaign shows how much support Adeeb has.”

“The current vice president has fled to London and is not doing his job. We are sure Adeeb will make a better VP than Jameel,” he said.

Jameel left to London abruptly the day after the constitutional amendment was passed in Majlis. A 14-day notice for him to answer charges in an impeachment motion submitted to parliament by the ruling party expired today without a written response.

Rumours also spread today about the government is clearing out the vice president’s residence Hilaaleege. However, the Maldives National Defence Force spokesperson denied the claims.

President Yameen is meanwhile yet to publicly comment either on the vice president’s impeachment or a favoured candidate for the post.

Speaking to Minivan News today, president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said that “only the president will know who he will appoint to the post, if the post becomes vacated for whatever reasons.”

Yameen is reportedly seeking to replace Jameel over incompetence and disloyalty. In a meeting with the PPM parliamentary group last week, Yameen reportedly showed MPs proof of Jameel’s correspondence with opposition politicians ahead of a mass anti-government protest on May 1. In the messages Jameel reportedly asked if the opposition will let him assume the presidency if Yameen is ousted.

The opposition says Yameen wants to replace Jameel because he is fatally ill and is seeking a more loyal deputy ahead of a major surgery.

Jameel was not available for comment at the time of going to press. In an interview with the New Indian Express, he had labeled his impeachment a constitutional coup and suggested that the international community must intervene.

The PPM has secured the opposition’s backing for the impeachment motion, which was submitted with 61 signatures. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes will be required to vote Jameel out of office.

The parliament has also amended its standing orders to fast track the vice president’s impeachment.

The opposition’s backing for the amendment was widely perceived to be a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are currently engaged in talks to resolve a six-month long political crisis.


Parliament schedules approval of Vice President, cabinet appointments

Parliament is to resume tomorrow after being stalled due to ongoing political turmoil in the Maldives.

Votes scheduled include approval for the appointments of President Dr Waheed’s Vice President and cabinet ministers.

On February 16, Dr Waheed appointed Dr Waheedudeen, a local business tycoon who was also an Atolls Minister under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as the Vice President.

According to the constitution of the Maldives, cabinet members require the consent of the parliament.

Dr Waheed also appointed Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Jihad as Minister of Finance and Treasury, Dr Mohamed Jameel – Vice President of the then-opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP)as the Home Minister, Dr Asim Mohamed as the Minister of Education, Dr Ahmed Jamsheed as the Minister for Health and Ahmed Shafeeu as the Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture.

Prominent lawyer Azima Shukoor, who helped the former opposition win many court cases against Nasheed’s government, was appointed Attorney General. Dr Ahmed Shamheed was appointed Minister for Transport and Communication, Ahmed Adheed as Tourism Minster, Ahmed Mohamed as the Minister for Economic Development, Dr Ahmed Muiz as the Minister for Housing and Environment, Gayoom’s Spokesperson Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef as the Minister for Human Resources Youth and Sports, Mohamed Nazim as Defence Minister, and Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as Islamic Minister.

Shaheem had resigned as State Minister for Islamic Affairs under Nasheed’s government  following the burning of the Israeli flag in Republic Square over opposition to a visiting delegation of Israeli eye surgeons, whom Islamic NGOs had accused of coming to the Maldivies to illegally harvest organs. Shaheem was one of the speakers at the event, along with current Vice President of Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer, voicing anger at the acceptance of aid from Israel.

Current Health Minister Jamsheed was the Head of the Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) during Nasheed’s administration, but  later resigned saying he had no work to do in the CCHDC and that there no purpose in such a position.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile alleged that the new Vice President was one of the powerful businessmen who assisted the coup financially.

MDP obstructed the first attempt made by the Speaker to hold the first parliament sitting of the year, during which Dr Waheed was supposed to deliver his presidential speech. The sitting was eventually called off.

The second attempt was made to hold the sitting on March 19, in which Dr Waheed managed to delivered a truncated version amid MDP MPs heckling him and calling him “traitor”. Police meanwhile clashed with protesters outside the parliament.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the Speaker would ask for a vote to send the issue to the committee, and then MDP MPs would object to it because the party did not recognise the legitimacy of Dr Waheed’s government, and therefore the ministers and Vice President in it.

”Our stand is that we represent the government, so we will not give a response to the Presidential Speech given by the traitor,” he said. ”We believe that Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) is the main opposition party and they have to respond to the speech.”

Further complicating matters is that Dr Waheed’s party has no MPs in the parliament, a unforeseen circumstance unforeseen in the parliamentary regulations which requires an MP of the ruling party to present bills on behalf of the government.

”We will be actively involved in all the parliament’s work, but we will object to issues we find unacceptable,” Ghafoor said.

In the early hours of February 7, police and military officers defied orders of the then-President Nasheed and joined opposition in a protest held in Republican Square, demanding the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

At first a squad of police joined the protesters, confrontation between the police and army officers sparked the arrival of more police and eventually an attack on military headquarters.

Police officers demanded to see the then-police commissioner Ahmed Faseeh, who resigned hours later.

Former senior officers under Gayoom’s government then took over the police and started giving orders, which were obeyed.

Police and army officers then began calling for the resignation of the president, who remained inside the defence force headquarters with a handful of army officers still loyal to him.

Several attempts were made by Nasheed to control the situations, but the military and police split int two groups and spread throughout the city, joined by opposition supporters.

A large group carrying weapons such as iron bars, knives, machetes and other such items entered the state broadcaster in Galolhu and brought the station under their control.

Protesters in police vehicles and  army trucks were deployed near the MDP Office in Galolhu and the office was vandalised.

Nasheed subsequently resigned, allegedly “under duress”, and Dr Waheed took over the position.

There was a spike in lawlessness in Male’ City that day, as young people took advantage of the police being busy with politics, riding motorbikes in breach of almost all the road safety regulations, while others were seen rolling joints on the streets and carrying sharp weapons.

On January 28, newspaper Miadhu reported that Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Deputy Leader Umar Naseer had told private TV channel VTV that Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan would constitutionally become the next President of the Maldives after President Nasheed resigned from the post at the climax of the judicial crisis.

The paper at the time reported Naseer as saying that ‘’very soon the army and police will give up and leave the President because they know he is being trapped by increasing abuses of power and violation of the Constitution.’’’

‘’It may be tonight, tomorrow or a month from now when the defence forces and police decide to leave the President – and that is the deciding moment,’’ Naseer said. “At that time, Vice President Waheed will take over according to the Constitution. We do not have any wish to get positions of the new Government, but we expect the new government will be a national government.’’

MDP Parliamentary Group Media Coordinator and MP Mohamed Shifaz, MP Mariya Didi, MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa and MDP Spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’ did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.