Gayoom welcomes prospect of President Waheed standing in PPM primary

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said yesterday that he had not ruled out the possibility of current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan standing in the next general election as a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate.

“The president, or anyone else, can join PPM if they want, and if they win the [party’s] primary, they will become our presidential candidate,” Gayoom was quoted as saying by Sun Online.

When questioned on elections by Indian newspaper The Hindu during his recent visit to Sri Lanka, President Waheed himself said he was “contemplating” running for “a second term” in office after coming to power in February.  He added at the time that a final decision on the matter would be taken over the next few months.

Waheed is currently leader of the Gaumee Ittihad Party (GIP), which has no representation in either the People’ Majlis or local councils and just 898 registered members, according to the latest figures from the Elections Commission (EC).

By comparison, the PPM has 17,298 members with another 1,233 membership forms awaiting processing. The PPM is the minority leading party in the People’s Majlis.  PPM spokesman Ahmed Mahlouf was not responding to calls at the time of press regarding Gayoom’s comments.

Under parliamentary rules of procedure, bills to raise or lower taxes and import duties can only be submitted on behalf of the government by an MP of the president’s party.

The GIP has not been invited to this week’s inter-party talks, which seek to reach consensus on how to proceed following the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report on August 30.

President’s Spokesman Masood Imad has said that Waheed will appear at the talks, but in his capacity as leader of the country rather than leader of his party.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Faiz, Deputy CEO of Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) and a GIP council member, told Minivan News today that Waheed’s decision regarding his party affiliation was his own to make.

When asked whether he would follow Waheed to the PPM, should he join the party, Faiz responded:

“I am a supporter of Waheed as an individual. My political path will follow any route Waheed’s career takes.”

When speaking with reporters before leaving for India last night, Gayoom is reported as saying that he had yet to rule out his own candidacy for the PPM primary, for which no date has yet been set.

Back in May, the PPM’s Deputy Leader Umar Naseer said that, although anyone could contest the PPM primaries, he did not expect Waheed to stand for a second term. He added that he would back Gayoom should he decide to stand for the nomination.

The former President of 30 years, Gayoom retired from active politics in 2010, becoming Honorary Leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – the party he founded to contest the country’s first multi-party presidential elections in 2008.

However, after losing the election to Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), divisions within the DRP led Gayoom to form a breakaway party – the PPM.

Following the controversial resignation of Nasheed in February this year – which resulted in former Vice President Waheed taking up the presidency – the MDP have campaigned relentlessly for early elections.

President Waheed maintains that he is bound by the constitution, which mandates that polls be held no earlier than July 2013, as well as stating repeatedly his belief that further legislation is needed to prepare the country for fresh elections.

“We do not have a legal frame work for a coalition government. And, unless we put these basic building blocks of legislation in place, we will face the same problems again,” he told The Hindu last week.

“What’s the point of having an election if you haven’t solved some of these problems?” he asked.

Both the EU and the Commonwealth have urged the current government to schedule elections for this year, although Waheed has expressed his opinion that these institutions have now changed tack.

“Those who have been demanding early elections before the end of the year now realise that it was premature…We have a Constitution. I will uphold that Constitution,” he told The Hindu.

Back in April, the US government pledged US$500,000 (MVR7.7 million) for an elections programme to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.


Yameen rejects VP’s request that judge be released and suspended

Parliamentary group leader of the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Mulak constituency MP Abdulla Yameen has rejected Vice President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s request that Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed be released from military detention but suspended from the Criminal Court bench until all charges against him have been cleared by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

The JSC was tasked with investigating allegations against the judge last year, however its efforts were blocked by a Civil Court ruling. The Judge was arrested by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) on January 16, 2011, after attempting to block his own police summons.

Speaking against the government’s order to have the judge arrested, the Vice President first stated his opinion on Saturday, January 21. He gave a press conference the following day, asserting that the judge’s detention was unlawful.

After questioning by police yesterday, Yameen rejected the Vice President’s statement as “unacceptable”, local media reports.

While PPM does not wish to interfere with the JSC’s investigation, Yameen argued that it should be conducted within the boundaries of law.

Since the judge’s arrest PPM and other opposition parties have led protests outside the Maldive Monetary Authority (MMA), the closest point to the no-protest zone surrounding the President’s Office and government buildings.


Vice President on official visit to Saudi Arabia

Vice President Mohamed Waheed has departed the Maldives for an official visit to Saudi Arabia.

Dr Waheed’s visit is mainly focused on lobbying the upcoming Maldives Partnership Forum, or Donor Conference, to be held on 28-29 March.

The vice president met with the Saudi Finance Minister Dr Ibrahim Al-Assaf on 20 March, briefing him on the Donor Conference and thanking the Saudi government for its support of the Maldives.

Dr Al-Assaf said Saudi Arabia would participate in the Donor Conference and would continue its support to the Maldives.

Vice President Waheed then met with Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

They discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to strengthen them, especially in the areas of economic cooperation.

Governor Prince Salman assured the Maldives of further economic assistance, saying it was the duty of Saudi Arabia to assist Islamic countries around the world.

Vice President Waheed then met with Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Dr Mohamed Bin Obeid Al-Marzoi.

Dr Al-Marzoi said it would encourage GCC countries to participate in the Donor Conference and the GCC itself would participate in the Conference.


Total shark ban to imposed on 1 July decides cabinet

The long-expected ban on shark trade and export of shark products will come into effect on 1 July 2010.

The decision to impose the ban, which was meant to come into effect on 1 March 2010, was made yesterday in a cabinet meeting chaired by Vice President Mohamed Waheed.

At the meeting yesterday, the cabinet also decided the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture would assist shark fishermen to find alternative livelihoods.

The cabinet also decided to ratify the Agreement on the Establishment of South Asian Regional Standards Organisation (SARSO).

One of the main objectives of this agreement is to develop standards for the region, and to facilitate intra-regional trade.

Cabinet members noted that with the ratification of this agreement, ‘consumer confidence on Maldivian local products will improve’.

The Maldives will also benefit from SARSO assistance in formulating national standards for products.