High level delegation to pay last respects to late Saudi King Abdullah

A high level delegation from the Maldivian government has travelled to Saudi Arabia to pay respects and offer condolences to the royal family and people of Saudi Arabia on the passing of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The delegation includes Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, and Minister at the President’s Office Abdulla Ameen and is scheduled to meet the new Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Meanwhile President Abdulla Yameen described King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as “a leader of exceptional quality and courage” following the monarch’s passing on January 24, after a lung infection.

“With the King’s passing away, a light on enlightenment in the world has gone. His demise would be a great loss to his people, to the Muslim Ummah, and to the entire world,” said Yameen.

King Abdullah has been succeeded by his 79-year-old brother Salman bin Abdulaziz, who visited the Maldives in February last year before donating MVR18.4 million (US$ 1.2 million) for 10 new mosques in the islands.


Vice President should not be a “spare part”: Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed last night told state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) that a vice-president should not be treated like a “spare part”.

Speaking in the second of a series of TVM interviews with next month’s presidential candidates, the incumbent president stated his belief that the vice president ought to have more responsibility.

“I believe that changes are needed. A vice president should not be a spare part that replaces the president if he resigns or passes away. The people choose a vice president after careful consideration. They vote for two people, the president and the vice president, on the same ticket,” President Waheed said.

Waheed assumed office on February 7, 2012, after being elevated from his position as vice-president to Mohamed Nasheed. President Nasheed resigned amidst chaotic scenes as police mutinied following weeks of anti-government agitation.

Waheed told his interviewer, Leeza Laurella, that Nasheed had reneged on a prior agreement to hand the vice-president powers over foreign policy – giving preference to fellow Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members.

Soon after Waheed assumed the presidency, his frustration with his previous role was described by his then-special advisor Dr Hassan Saeed in a leaked audio recording.

“There was no major role for President Waheed in the previous government. Very many days [spent] bored in the office… When an educated man like him whiles the day away being like this, going on the Internet… really it is sad. This is how Waheed was,” said Dr Saeed.

Prior to his political career, Dr Waheed was notable for being the first Maldivian to gain a doctorate as well as being the first person to appear on Maldivian Television, anchoring TVM’s first broadcast in 1978.

After a short period as a member of the People’s Majlis, Waheed spent a number of years working for UNICEF, eventually becoming Deputy Regional Director for South Asia.

Role in February 7

Responding to the repeated accusations that he did not fulfil his responsibilities in supporting President Nasheed during the February 2012 crisis, Waheed told his interviewer that Nasheed had not asked for his counsel.

“President Nasheed did not call me. If he wanted to talk to me, he could have asked the SPG (Special Protection Group), the same group that protects us both. He could have handed me the phone through them, could he not?”

Maintaining that the events of February 7 marked the final stages of a conspiracy in which Waheed was complicit, the MDP have repeatedly accused Waheed of failing to fulfill his duties as second in command.

Mentioning a late night meeting with anti-Nasheed figures just days before the transfer of power, Waheed told TVM that Nasheed had been informed of the meeting and all normal procedures followed.

MDP MP Mariya Didi manwhile published a report in June 2012 arguing that Waheed’s failure to fully discuss this meeting with the rest of the cabinet represented a violation of his responsibilities as the vice-president.

Waheed had been open on a number of previous occasions regarding his marginalisation in the decision making process, in 2010 describing the Nasheed administration as a “one man show”.

Nasheed will stand against Waheed in September’s poll, having chosen Dr Musthafa Luthfy as his running mate. When making the announcement, the MDP stipulated that Luthfy would call an election immediately should Nasheed be “killed or incapacitated” rather than assuming the presidency himself.


Waheed yesterday explained that he had chosen his current running-mate, Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) leader Thasmeen Ali as he is “well-mannered and keeps his word”.

During the interview he also denied that he had described the Adhaalath Party as containing extremist elements – comments which prompted the religious party to leave Waheed’s ‘forward with the nation’ coalition in June, later allying with the Jumhoree Party (JP).

Yesterday’s interview, the second in a series featuring all the presidential hopefuls, followed Friday’s combative encounter with Jumhoree Coalition candidate Ibrahim Gasim.

Following Gasim’s discussion with Laurella, JP deputy leader Ilham Ahmed told local media that the JP would be considering a boycott of the station. Ilham argued that, contrary to the shows title – with ‘siyaasath’ meaning ‘policy’ – the presenter asked Gasim a series of personal questions in an attempt to damage his reputation.

“This was done with the intention of demeaning a person under a systematic plan. We don’t believe that this could have been done under press freedom,” he explained to reporters from Haveeru. “We have seen TVM going after Gasim.”

Ilham also insisted that the show had made repeated attempts to make Gasim appear “odd”.

The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) defended its station, telling local media that Gasim’s TVM interview was conducted within its editorial policy.

It was announced in June that TVM would be scheduling a presidential debate featuring all four candidates for September 1.


Vice President advocates for creativity at art awards ceremony

Nausheen Ahmed Nashid of Thaajuddeen School won the first prize of the “My Dream Home” children’s art competition, organised by Sunfront Private Limited.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed spoke at last night’s award ceremony, held at Nasandhura Palace Hotel. Thanking Sunfront for organising the competition, he said artistic expression is an important factor in academic success.

The Vice President said the underdevelopment of creative skills would undermine a child’s growth in other areas.

The Vice President was pleased to note the high number of participants in the competition.


Government is still “one man show”, says Vice President Dr Waheed

When Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed appeared as the first-ever guest on VTV’s new show Hoonu Gondi (Hot Seat) on 12 April, he took the opportunity to say he was “not completely satisfied” with his job.

The aftermath of the Vice President’s interview has brought his comments to television shows, newspapers and blogs, with headlines exploiting his words as criticisms directed to President Mohamed Nasheed and his leadership.

Speaking to Minivan News, Dr Waheed said although he usually does not do interviews, but in a small community like Malé “people know when someone is not happy” and he felt he needed to speak out.

“I made a fairly measured response [to the question], careful not to be too critical of the government,” Dr Waheed said. “It is time to get rid of that fear of speaking out.”

He said people had been waiting for him to say something about his role as the country’s first elected vice president, and felt he needed to express “what is good, and what is not working” in the current government.

“This is also my government. Clearly there are ways it could be stronger,” he said.

Dr Waheed said he felt the government should be “shaped in the spirit of democracy and good governance,” adding that “we still have a lot to learn.”

He said he held the responsibility to tell the people who elected him how he felt about the government, their over-all performance and his role in it. “It’s my responsibility to express my feelings,” he said, “I think people in power should express themselves.”

Dr Waheed’s feelings were that the “way we function in [this] government is not too different to what it used to be. It’s still one man running the show,” he said, but assured he was “not picking issues” with the government, but “talking about democratic process.”

One of the main reasons for his dissatisfaction was that he doesn’t feel he is sufficiently involved in the decision-making process. “I don’t feel I am able to contribute, that consultation is not there.”

He said that while it was the president’s privilege not to consult him on everything, he thought the core of a democratic government should be “more inclusive and participative.”

“The people of the Maldives didn’t elect me to sleep for five years. I believe I am part of the leadership of this country and it is necessary for me to be involved,” Dr Waheed said. He added “the government will be stronger if the president consults with us.”

He also expressed concern over the fact that the current government won the 2008 elections on a coalition-party platform, but is now being run by a single party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

However Dr Waheed said this was “nothing that can’t be fixed”, as the government “is going through a learning process.”

He also believes the government is doing a good job in delivering their promises to the people.

“For any government, the first few months have to go into planning,” Dr Waheed said. “There has been a lot of work laying those foundations and results will be seen shortly.”

As the Maldives has not yet celebrated its second year under a democratic government, the vice president is sure these issues can still be resolved.

He said the government must be “much more consultative. We need to be more clear on what is being assigned and how that can be achieved.”

Dr Waheed defended his statements on ‘Hot Seat’ by reiterating that “I don’t see why we should be hiding our feelings now. We did not bring about this change to work in despair.”

He noted that despite the headlines today, “everything is OK” between him and the president.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the vice president’s interview “was not in an official capacity [as vice president], but as a party leader.”

“If he was going in official capacity we would get a notice, but this time it did not happen,” Zuhair said.

Dr Mohamed Jameel, president of the Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP), one of the parties that joined the MDP-led coalition that elected President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration in the 2008 elections, said he “agrees with Vice President Waheed completely.”

“I think [lack of consultation] is the very reason why many politicians from the coalition went away,” he said, adding “this is the final blow in the coffin.”

He said the problem was the government’s attitude: “Ever since they were elected, they have been saying it was a win for the MDP only.”

Dr Jameel said he thought the MDP had been “hijacked at gun point by their activists” and now the government was “conveniently giving into their demands.”

President of the Adhaalath party Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed, another coalition partner, said all the coalition parties had been having problems for a while “due mainly to political competition.”