Maldives Decides 2013

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Minivan News has launched ‘Maldives Decides 2013’, a hub of content concerning the four candidates competing in the 2013 presidential election.

Each candidate’s entry includes an overview of their recent political history with extensive links to relevant articles published by Minivan News, an overview of their policy positions, and a brief analysis of their support base.

The hub also includes an unofficial poll, links to Minivan News’ ongoing election coverage, and resources provided by the Maldives Elections Commission.

Additionally, all candidates have been sent and invited to respond to the following 10 questions, which will be published unedited as received:

  1. What about your personal experience makes you suitable to become President?
  2. What are the top three challenges facing the Maldives, and how do you intend to address these?
  3. Given the present state of the economy, how are you going to get the money to fulfill your pledges?
  4. Is there a need for judicial reform, and how do you intend to address the state of the judiciary should you be elected?
  5. How do you expect the events of 7 February 2012 to affect voter sentiment at the ballot box?
  6. Is Islamic fundamentalism a growing concern in the Maldives, and how should the government respond?
  7. What role should the international community play in the Maldives?
  8. Why should a woman vote for your party in the election?
  9. Why should a young person vote for your party in the election?
  10. What will the Maldives be like in 10 years time, should you be elected in September?

Minivan News hopes ‘Maldives Decides 2013’ is of value to its readers, and looks forward to a free, fair and inclusive election on September 7.

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Feel free to discuss this project below, or send enquiries directly to [email protected]


Umar Naseer refuses to apologise to PPM

Deputy Leader of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer has said that he will not apologise to the party, after alleging that its recent primaries in which he stood as a prospective presidential candidate were rigged in favour of former President Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen.

Speaking to press in front of the foreign ministry after returning from Singapore, Naseer said that revealing the truth was not something a person should have to apologise for.

Umar said he did not believe that the party’s disciplinary committee would dismiss him from the party. He also said that if the committee decides to dismiss him, there would be a “massive earthquake” in the party and the PPM would be devastated.

Umar Naseer told the press that he did not file the allegations with the party’s committees because all the committees were under the influence of his opponent in the primaries, Yameen.

He also said that he was used to being suspended and dismissed from political parties – a reference to the events that saw him ejected from the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) prior to its split into the PPM.

Umar Naseer reiterated that the persons who should apologise were the ones he claimed cheated in the party primaries.

On April 7, the PPM disciplinary committee accepted a case forwarded to the committee by the party council against Umar Naseer, after he refused to publicly apologise.

In September 2010, when Umar Naseer was the Deputy Leader of Dhivehi Rayyiithunge Party (DRP), the DRP council filed a case against Umar at the Disciplinary Committee for forging a press release and causing division in the party.

Later in December 2010, Umar Naseer was dismissed from the party – an incident that eventually led to a splintering of the DRP into a new party under Gayoom, the PPM.

The Disciplinary Committee of PPM has said that it might take two weeks to decide on Umar’s case.

An audio clip of a phone conversation leaked to social media last week depicts a professed Yameen supporter attempting to buy the votes of Naseer supporters through a person identified in the clip as Ahmed ‘Mujey’ Mujthaba.

Mujthaba – who seemed to have been involved in Yameen’s primary election campaign on Gemanafushi in Gaaf Alif Atoll – was given instructions to trade cash for votes on the island.

According to the audio recording, MVR 300,000 (US$ 19,455.25) was wired to Mujthaba, of which he was to distribute MVR 200,000 (US$ 12,970.17) among potential voters while he was to keep the remaining MVR 100,000 (US$ 6,485.08) for himself as “a small reward”.

The party made no comment on the clip.


“I will lead Maldives out of a failing democracy, we don’t want a phobiocracy”: PPM presidential candidate

The newly elected presidential candidate of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdulla Yameen on Tuesday night delivered his first address to supporters following the conclusion of the primaries.

“Our motto is ‘nation first’”, Yameen stated. “Any other parties who genuinely want to join us can come knock on our door anytime. You are welcome at any time, whether it be day or late at night.”

“I am not trying to be elected President for want of a castle. I don’t want such a palace. It is also not with the intention of challenging competitors. This is why I’m telling my opponent in the party itself, too, to stop competing with me. I do not intend to compete with anyone. I am here to fight the battle of solving the many issues our country is facing now,” Yameen said.

“I want to repair the damaged social fabric of this country. I want to bring Maldives out of this failing democracy, save it from the impeding dictatorship and establish a modern democracy as facilitated by the systems set in place by our Constitution. We do not want a phobiocracy. We want development and modernisation.”

While the losing candidate who contested against Yameen, Umar Naseer, held his own rally on Monday night, PPM announced Tuesday’s rally to be “the first gathering held by the party after the primaries”.

The statement was made after Naseer aired serious allegations against Yameen during Monday night’s rally, accusing him of a variety of offences including forming alliances with drug cartels, vote buying and various other forms of corruption.

Meanwhile, the party’s council released a ruling after an emergency meeting held Tuesday afternoon, ordering Umar Naseer to offer a public apology for the comments he had made and for holding a gathering ‘against the party’s regulations’ before the commencement of Wednesday night’s official rally.

The council further ruled that should Naseer fail to put forward an apology within the assigned duration, the council would take further disciplinary action against him.

Umar Naseer was not responding to calls at the time of press. Local media has meanwhile reported that he refused to comment on the matter.

Playing in defence

“Many attacks have come at me from inside and out. I do not wish to defend myself, but I will make some comments here for your sake, as you should know the character of the person to whom you have pledged support,” Yameen told the crowds.

“I swear upon Allah that none of the things I have been alleged of doing can be proven against me. I am here with much more stability than that. If I had such actions on my conscience, I would not have stepped out for public service.”

“Just so as to offer consolation for you all, I am saying this. I am not a rich man. I do not own apartments in other countries. I do not control gangs. I am not involved in the illegal drug trade. I do not have even a small connection with the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali,” Yameen said.

“I would like to add that for the sake of our party, let us stop making allegations like this. We are far more responsible and well-established to be making comments of this nature.”

“Most democratic primaries ever held”: Gayoom

PPM Party Leader former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom addressed the hundreds of party supporters at the rally, stating that the recently concluded party primaries were “the most responsible, free and fair, transparent primaries ever held by a political party in the country to date.”

“Both candidates who competed in the primaries showed high competitiveness in the spirit of democracy,” Gayoom stated.

“These historic, free and extremely fair primaries were won by Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. I congratulate him in your name and mine,” Gayoom continued.

“At the same time, Umar Naseer, who could not win the primaries, also contacted me via phone after the results were announced. He said to me that he accepted the results, and extended congratulations to Abdulla Yameen. He further said he believed the primaries had proceeded in a very fair manner. Naseer also said that the campaign office he had built was from that moment on gifted to PPM, and hence I would like to thank him for the democratic example he has displayed with these actions,” he stated.

Both Gayoom and Yameen have claimed that the party has 31,000 “genuine” members now, and called on the members to each find two new members by the end of May.

“This is not difficult. If we each get two more members, we will soon have 93,000 members and with a little more effort we can easily achieve 100,000,” Gayoom said.

“Our party has the highest number of genuine members now. By that I mean that all 31,000 of our members have submitted complete details of themselves to authorities, including even their fingerprints. The other parties have not done so,” Gayoom alleged.

Official figures on the Elections Commission website show that PPM currently has 22,383 members, with an additional 1671 forms awaiting clearance.

“Our loyalties should be to the party, not to Maumoon”: Gayoom

“Our party always acts in accordance with law and regulations, and it must continue to do so,” Gayoom said. “All party members must follow the party’s regulations. No one is above these regulations. We are obliged to act in accordance with the regulations, or else people will start acting as they please, which would lead us astray from our objectives.”

Gayoom referred to the breaking up of his previous party Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) into factions, stating that he had made a stand for Umar Naseer when DRP had tried to dismiss him from the party in breach of their regulations.

“I stood up for his rights, but then DRP started acting towards me in a very demeaning manner. They went on TV and said they did not need me, my advice or opinions. And so, I had to leave that party. This is an experience I have had related to the importance of following regulations.”

“Article 69 of our regulation states clearly that all PPM members must pledge allegiance to the presidential candidate. We cannot say that we will support him if he acts in any particular way. That is simply not an option,” Gayoom said.

“Our loyalties should not lie with an individual. It should not be pledged to a certain Maumoon, or to anyone besides Maumoon. It should be towards the party itself, with our policies and principles,” he stated.

Furthermore, Yameen called out to Naseer to work with him to lead the party to further successes.

“We were able to win 17 of 20 recent by-elections. This is because of the strength of having worked together, which is why I call out to Umar Naseer to come work with us,” Yameen said.

“The primaries were a test of character of the whole party and its individual members,” Yameen said. “We must not let any weakness seep into the party. Our brother Naseer, who was unfortunate this time and lost the primaries, must also display his test of character now. Our party is larger than any of us individuals,” he continued.

“My biggest strength is that our fountain of wealth, fountain of experience, party leader Gayoom, is here to guide me and our party and lead us. This is my ultimate happiness,” Yameen stated.

Autism Awareness Day

With April 2 declared Autism Awareness Day and marked widely throughout the Maldives, many speakers at the rally pledged support to families with autistic patients.

“Today is the internationally marked day for families with autistic kids to raise awareness in countries of the challenges that they face. Thus, in commemoration of this day, I really wish to extend my heartfelt sympathies, love and support to such children, and so I have now done that,” Gayoom stated.

Presidential candidate Yameen said in his speech, “This is the Autistic Day, isn’t it? If one is not autistic, whichever way one looks, one would doubtless see the development that has been brought to this country in the 30 years.”

Yamin’s comments, though applauded at the  rally, were criticised in social media as being offensive and insensitive.

Responding to criticism and demands for an apology, PPM Spokesperson Ahmed Mahloof initially tweeted “Yameen’s comments on autism are being twisted by MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party) members after watching our rally and not being able to digest it.”

He then tweeted an apology on behalf of Yameen, stating “Yameen apologises if there was any misinterpretation of his comments with regard to autism.”

Yameen has since released an official statement on Wednesday, echoing Mahloof’s allegations of political opponents distorting his words and apologising if there was room for misinterpretation.

He also pledged to advocate for the rights of persons with special rights, and offered assurance that such persons will be given equal opportunities in the instance that PPM wins the September 7 elections.


MP Yameen accuses National Movement of damaging diplomatic relations with India

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Parliamentary Group Leader Abdulla Yameen has said in local media that any damage to relations between India and the Maldives  is the result of the actions of the National Movement.

During an interview with private broadcaster DhiTV on Tuesday (December 18), Yameen claimed that the airport was not withdrawn from GMR due to the pressure of National Movement, which had strongly opposed the deal.

He added that the decision to void the airport development agreement was made by the coalition government after all parties backed the move, according to the Sun Online news service.

Yamin also alleged that during rallies held by the National Movement, some participants spoke in a tone about GMR and the airport development that might have caused diplomatic issues with India.

According to Sun Online, Yameen was also quoted as claiming that the ongoing protests and rallies being held by the National Movement were unnecessary.  He added that the Maldives might have to face difficulties due to the recent activities of the National Movement.

Earlier this week, National Movement steering committee member and Minister of State for Finance Abbas Adil Riza said efforts would be taken to “break up” parliament should its dispute with the Supreme Court continue.


Mohamed Shihab appointed Minister of Finance and Treasury

Mohamed Shihab, a member of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), has been appointed as Minister of Finance and Treasury by President Mohamed Nasheed.

Shihab previously held the post of Political Advisor at the President’s Office. He has also served as Minister of Home Affairs under the current administration.

Presenting Shihab with his ‘Letter of Appointment’, President Nasheed emphasised his confidence in Shihab’s capability in executing the financial and economic reform policies of the country.

Mohamed Shihab assured the President that he would put forth his utmost effort as Finance Minister.

Parliament is expected to vote on the appointment when it returns from recess in March.

Previously a member of the MDP’s former coalition partner Jumhoree party, Shihab replaced Jumhoree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim as Home Minister 21 days into the Nasheed administration.

In late 2010 the cabinet resigned en masse to protest the “scorched earth politics” of the opposition-majority parliament, which it accused of obstruction and attempting to wrest executive control.

Shihab was among seven ministers whose reappointment was rejected by parliament in November 2010. He has since been serving as Political Advisor to Nasheed.

Opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf told Minivan News today the party would discuss the nomination in its parliamentary group before signalling its position.

“It is important to fill the post,” Mahlouf said, adding that “we don’t expect to have any difficulty discussing Shihab’s nomination.”

“I don’t think Shihab is coming from a background in finance, he has instead been Home Minister and an advisor,” Mahlouf explained. “But he is experienced in politics, he served in Parliament for 17 years, and he has been a speaker. I think we see him as someone we can communicate with easily.”

Mahlouf said Shihab’s communication skills were superior to those of former Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz, who he claimed did not have a good relationship with Parliament.

Calls to opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) were not answered at time of press.

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Shihab’s appointment as Finance Minister follows the resignation of Ahmed Inaz, whose credibility was compromised when MDP activists found him in covert conference with Mulaku MP Abdulla Yameen of opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in a non-residential poorly-lit area of Male’ at 12am.

Inaz was subsequently taken to MDP headquarters, where activists demanded his resignation. He resigned two days later along with the State Minister of Finance Ahmed Naseer.

Directly following the encounter MDP activists suggested that Yameen was attempting to bribe Inaz, while others believed it was a set-up.

In June 2010, Yameen was arrested on charges of bribery and attempting to topple the government. The Supreme Court however ordered his release.

Prior to the presentation of the Letter of Appointment, Mohamed Shihab took the oath of office of the members of the Cabinet before the Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Areef.


Minister Aslam appointed acting head of Finance Ministry

Housing and Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam has been appointed as acting head of the Finance Ministry.

The appointment was made in the wake of Ahmed Inaz’s resignation from the post on December 29, following a covert meeting with Mulaku MP Abdulla Yamin of opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) on December 27.

The meeting, held in a car on a poorly lit side of Male’, was discovered by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists who demanded Inaz’s resignation.

State Finance Minister Ahmed Naseer also resigned on December 29, for undisclosed reasons.


DRP Leader Thasmeen “failed as majority leader”: MP Mahlouf

MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s (DRP) Z-faction are in the process of joining forces with minority opposition parties People’s Alliance (PA), Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) to form a new “opposition parliamentary group.”

After months of internal strife within the DRP, coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) broke its agreement with the largest opposition party this week at the behest of the Z-faction, threatening DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s status as the minority leader of parliament.

Formerly the majority leader, Thasmeen became minority leader at the beginning of the current parliament session in June when the ruling party secured 34 seats, making the parliamentary group leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the new majority leader.

Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf told Minivan News that the new parliamentary group will consist of MPs from PA, JP, DQP and a few Independent MPs along with about 11 DRP MPs disaffected with Thasmeen’s leadership.

“We will appoint a leader and deputy leader for the new parliamentary group very soon,” he revealed.

The DRP MP for Galolhu South added that embattled DRP Leader Thasmeen was “welcome to join” the new group.

“But it was Thasmeen’s failure that led us to form this opposition parliamentary group, he failed us as the Majority Leader,” Mahlouf said.

Mahlouf told Minivan News yesterday that 11 of the party’s MPs met with MPs of the minority opposition parties and an independent MP Saturday night “to discuss how to move forward.”

Parliamentary procedure prevented the Z-DRP MPs from forming a new party, Mahlouf claimed, but he speculated that the MPs would potentially leave the main opposition and operate either as independents, or join one or other of the opposition aligned parties.

If that scenario were to happen, the DRP would be reduced to 13-15 MPs and Thasmeen would no longer be minority leader, as the the new opposition PA-JP-DQP alliance would number 21-22 MPs.

Thasmeen has meanwhile hit out at the PA’s decision this week to split with the DRP. The PA had claimed lack of cooperation and “initiative” by the DRP leadership in holding the government accountable as the main reason for the decision.

The DRP leader told local media this week that the PA had to “take responsibility for the weakening of the opposition” due to the dissolution of the coalition.

Appearing on private broadcaster DhiTV last night, PA Leader Abdulla Yameen however contended that the termination of the coalition agreement did not entail “any disadvantage or loss to opposition parties.”

Yameen, half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and potential presidential candidate for 2013, explained that the party would still vote with the DRP to hold the government accountable.

“PA did not break the coalition to support MDP,” he said. “PA parted ways [with the DRP] because we believe that under our new management we can improve efforts to hold the government accountable.”

The opposition MP for Mulaku noted that six months had passed since the PA announced its decision not to follow the DRP’s whip line.

He added that the PA had voted with the DRP “91 percent of the time.”

Yameen said that “any weakening of the opposition” occurred “when the DRP-PA coalition was at its strongest.”

“The opposition parties were weakened when the [concession agreement to hand over management of the Male’ International Airport to Indian infrastructure giant] GMR issue emerged,” he claimed. “I was arrested. [JP Leader] Gasim [Ibrahim] was arrested. Where was DRP then? What hardship did they have to bear? No DRP senior officials were arrested.”


MDP MP presents resolution demanding investigation into blackmarket sale of oil to Burma

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa today presented a resolution to the parliament demanding the investigation of Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his half-brother Abdulla Yameen, for allegedly buying subsidied oil from OPEC and selling it on the international blackmarket to Burma.

The previously-aired allegations date from Yameen’s time as Trade Minister and head of State Trading Organisation (STO). Yameen is now an MP and leader of the opposition-aligned People’s Alliance (PA) party, and has insisted that any such trading was legal and that allegations of impropriety were politically-motivated.

In the motion, Musthafa claimed that Chief National Correspondent of CNN-IBN Sumon Chakrabarti had outlined how the fraud was conducted to local media, and provided evidence.

His resolution requests an investigation into what it describes as “the biggest corruption case in the history of the Maldives”.

Issues relating to the Singapore-based joint venture that allegedly carried out the deal, Mocom Trading Pvt Ltd, which was used established to carry out this fraud, were first raised by audit firm KPMG, Musthafa noted in the resolution.

The resolution states that later in 2004, audit firm Price Water House Coopers also audited the STO.

“This year the government handed the auditing to [forensic accountancy firm] Grant Thornton which found that the two audit reports contained legitimate concerns in their reports,’’ the resolution said.

If passed, the resolution would oblige parliament to investigate the matter. It states that it is the legal duty of the parliament to look in to that matter as the allegations concern commercial crime as high-level corruption.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said he fully supported such an investigation as it would “reveal the truth of it to the people.”

‘’There have been so many accusations against Gayoom and so far none of them have been proven,’’ Nihan said. ‘’This government has already spent US$2 million on bribing the journalist Chakrabarti and investigating the matter using other methods,” he alleged.

Nihan said Musthafa was “the black sheep” of the MDP Parliamentary Group, and accused the party of “often using him to present such resolutions and bills.”

‘’He always tell us outside the parliament that his policy is ‘no money, no talk,’’ he said. ‘’He must have been given some amount of money and if someone else gave more he will withdraw it, that is how he works.’’

Nihan said that similar allegations had been made by the current Home Minister Hassan Afeef that Gayoom took US $80 million dollars in tsunami aid given by the Qatari government.

‘’The court found Afeef guilty of defamation,’’ Nihan said. ‘’There are many such accusations against Gayoom.’’


MDP head office damaged in alleged arson attack

The head office of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suffered almost Rf 1 million in damage in an alleged arson attack last night, according to managing operator Ibrahim Manik.

”Photocopy machines, fax machines, printers, huge speakers, microphones, cloths and flags were burned in the arson attack at around 12:45am, last night after the MDP rally,” Manik claimed.

The arson attack caused more than Rf 900,000 (US$70,o00) in damage to the office.

Manik said that when he came back from dinner after the rally, some of the MDP supporters present at the head office claimed to have heard something hitting the roof.

”So we checked the area, because recently some people on different occasions have attempted to attack us with petrol bombs,” Manik claimed. ”We checked but did not see anything, but after a while we started smelling smoke in the area so I went to check the depository room.”

Manik said he saw clothes in the room on fire, and ”I called the people outside and told them the place was on fire.”

”We started to evacuate the room, but everything was destroyed after we evacuated. We controlled the fire using a water tap, but it was a dangerous attack and it caused us to lose much of our valuable property.”

Manik claimed the fire was the result of an attack orchestrated by “some opponents.”

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the case was reported to police, who were now investigating the case. Nobody has been arrested in connection with the matter, he said.

Recently a group of people attacked and destroyed the glass windows of shops belonging to Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) deputy leader Ibrahim Shareef.

In another incident, a group of people attacked the house and car belonging to People’s Alliance [PA] leader and MP Abdulla Yameen.

Very recently during an MDP protest, protesters threw stones at the house of Deputy Leader of PA Ahmed Nazim, breaking the window of the house’s first floor at midnight.