Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef, currently at the centre of an internal Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) investigation over whether audio recordings of his voice seemingly attacking former president and leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom are genuine, believes factions within his party are trying to “stifle freedom of expression” in a bid to seize leadership.
Shareef, himself a deputy leader within the DRP, said he had no idea whether the party was undertaking an investigation into the legitimacy of his voice recordings, adding that he “didn’t care”. However, the deputy leader alleged that he was concerned that the dispute was being used to try and take party leadership of the DRP from incumbent Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.
“Doctored or not, I have not said anything in the manner [of the recording],” Shareef said. “If there is something that I want to say I will speak my mind, but people are trying to make a mountain out of nothing.”
However, claims that the recording was doctored in such a manner as to try and unseat the existing DRP leadership have been denied by some of its members, who believe the recordings are both authentic and against documented party policy.
The dispute last week saw crowds gathered outside DRP headquarters calling for the resignation of Thasmeen and Shareef in response to the broadcast of the allegedly doctored audio clip expressing a preference for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) over former president Gayoom.
Shareef told Minivan News that he believed the audio clip was being used by factions of certain supporters within the party to “intimidate” and attack the current party leadership to further their own personal aspirations.
“It is sad that the very people who are claiming that party leaders [such as dismissed former Deputy Leader Umar Naseer] can only be fired from the DRP by its congress are calling for different rules now,” he said. “It is sad that they are trying to intimidate and stifle freedom of expression in the party.”
In regards to his own future, Shareef said he believed that he would remain in his role with the DRP despite the furore over the audio clip and that “justice will be done” in terms of maintaining democratic rule within the party.
He alleged that factional disputes had formed within the DRP due to some individuals “concerned solely with their own interests” instead of trying to improve the nation.
“There are some in the [DRP] who believe it is not a party of the people,” he said.
However, fellow DRP member and MP Ahmed Nihan denied that the audio recordings were being used as part of factional disputes between Thasmeen and other members, alleging the issue was linked to the articles of association concerning public and private comments about fellow party politicians.
“Since day one we are a democratic party, so this issue is not about factions,” he said. “We do not allow our party members to make claims that attack any other member.”
Despite respecting Shareef, Nihan alleged that the DRP deputy leader had a “track record” of making similar claims to those allegedly spoken in the audio recording.
“I believe that it is Shareef’s voice and was made over the last few days,” he claimed. “I do not have any doubt that he will make similar statements in the future.”
Despite calling for a public apology from Shareef towards Gayoom – a request said to be backed by a petition signed by thousands of DRP supporters and “well wishers” of the former president – Nihan said that he hoped a compromise could be found that could see a stronger DRP emerge from present disputes.
“For the benefit of the party we want to find a common solution,” he said. “But when [former Deputy Leader] Umar Naseer was dismissed by a party disciplinary committee, action was taking against him very quickly and without an investigation.”
Reports of factions within the DRP have circulated since Naseer’s departure last December, leading to violent confrontations at an official party meeting held the same month that required police intervention after the dismissed deputy leader attempted to gain entry to the event.
The disturbance was linked to a growing war of words between Thasmeen and Naseer, with the latter still choosing to campaign with the DRP ahead of this month’s local council elections alongside Gayoom.
Outside of reported factional disputes within the DRP, Shareef said that allegations first surfacing this month in India-based publication The Week claiming former President Gayoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen was involved in an international money laundering racket had no impact on the party or its operations.
Yameen, who is himself leader of the People’s Alliance (PA) party, has rubbished the allegations, which implicated him as “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through the State Trading Organisation (STO) before selling it through shipping fraud at a premium rate to the Burmese military junta.
Whether proven or not, Shareef said that as far as the DRP was concerned, the case would have no impact on its operations and that the party encouraged its members to work within the country’s laws and regulations.
“If there is suspicion of anyone regarding corruption or theft of state assets then it must be investigated,” he said. “We are a party that is working for the benefit of the people.”