President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has nominated philanthropist and owner of Bandos Island Resort Mohamed Waheed Deen as his Vice President.
Parliament approval is required to make the appointment official.
“I have looked around and decided that Deen is the best choice who can work with me closely,” Dr Waheed said. “There may be better qualified people but I want to work with someone close to me and with whom I have full confidence in. I delighted that Mr Deen has agreed to work with me.”
Deen said he had been educated at the state’s expense and that this was an opportunity for him to repay the favor to the nation.
“In 1969, at the age of 16, I was sentenced to jail on charges of a coup. That day I decided to show that I am not a conspirator to a coup. And [decided] to serve the nation,” he said.
He said that he would work sincerely to fulfill the duties tasked to him by President Waheed, and support his efforts to develop the nation.
“My reason for accepting is that as a person who has been working all these years in different government posts, as well as a businessmen and human rights council member, it is time to serve the nation,” he said.
“When the nation is going in this direction – violence and destruction, innocent people losing their jobs – including Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). I do not want to see that. I want to see everybody treated equally. That is why I accept the post – because I believe the President [Waheed] and I have similar ideas, and that it is possible for me to work with him. As the President reiterated, we would like MDP to join the cabinet. I think there are great leaders among them. I hope to serve the nation and not a party.”
Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s party has challenged the legitimacy of the new government, following Nasheed’s resignation allegedly “under duress” on February 7.
Asked for his response to these allegations, Deen responded that it would be “very difficult to make decision [on the government’s legitimacy] 10 minutes after being nominated, as I am not yet the Vice President. I will be the Vice President when the Majlis (Parliament) accepts me, so that is a question I cannot answer.”
Dr Waheed said he would forward Deen’s name for a parliament vote tomorrow morning: “I hope parliament would approve him as the Vice President.”
The President said that he would work closely with the new VP, making a reference to Nasheed’s resignation as a “bitter result” of not working like that.
Dr Waheed also said that he will support an independent investigation into the reasons surrounding the resignation of his predecessor, adding that he is awaiting legal advice on how to proceed from the newly-appointed Attorney General and opposition-linked lawyer Aishath Azima Shakoor.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Dr Waheed also announced that he was developing a “roadmap” that he would propose to all parties “towards reaching peaceful resolution of the issues we are facing today.”
Dr Waheed also reiterated his desire for the MDP to participate in the cabinet, stating that he was “willing to restructure the cabinet” to accommodate the MDP if required.
The MDP has so far refused to participate in a national unity government as proposed by Dr Waheed, challenging its legitimacy and observing that the majority of the new cabinet appointments are key supporters of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the country for 30 years. Only two of the new appointments (the tourism and and health portfolios) have previously undeclared political affiliations.
In today’s press conference Dr Waheed insisted that he had reserved the decision to nominate the Vice President himself, despite pressure from opposition parties.
Deen is well known for his philanthropic works and is praised as “the founding father of local government in the Maldives” for spearheading efforts to introduce local governance through elected councils, before resigning as Atolls Minister in August, 2008.
Following the council elections, Deen established The Institute of Local Governance and Development, a private initiative to support the decentralisation process and promote good governance by providing training programmes, consultation and information to councilors.
Deen continues to support various non government organisations.
Last year, Deen joined in line with several tourism magnates to endorse the Nasheed’s economic reform program criticised by the then-opposition.
The government’s economic reform programme was necessary because “we do not want to keep the gap between rich and poor in this country anymore,” Deen asserted.
“What is the main reason a country becomes impoverished?” he asked. “I believe that one of the main reasons is refusal to tell the people the truth by many successive governments, many kings, until we have come to this point.”
In the Maldives’ long history, Deen continued, the public were indoctrinated to not criticise the government and given to understand that “only a particular group, from a particular family, could rule.”
Deen speculated that “the biggest challenge” the government’s economic reform agenda would face will be “changing people’s mentality.”
“This is the biggest problem facing our country today: [one side says] ‘everything is going right’ [while the other says] ‘nothing is going right,’” he explained. “So we have to educate our people, especially the councils.”
Deen also cautioned against unprincipled opposition to the government: “We could stay angry, hateful and disapproving and say ‘go on, run the government’ but sadly – remember this well – any harm this government suffers, the people will suffer many times over.”
Meanwhile, leader of Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Dr Hassan Saeed has been appointed as the Special Advisor to the President , a post he held during Nasheed’s administration before resigning on the 100th day.
Saeed was the former Attorney General during Gayoom’s administration, and was the first person to file complaints against Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in 2005, the detention of whom led to protests and ultimately the dramatic events of last week.