Gayoom’s new party to be called Progressive Party of Maldives

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom announced today that the new party formed under his leadership is to be called the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Speaking at a live press conference at private broadcaster DhiTV, Gayoom revealed that the party’s charter has been drafted and registration forms would be submitted to the Elections Commission (EC) today.

“We are forming a new political party to achieve very important national purposes,” he said. “That is to strengthen Islam in the country and maintain Islam as a religion that we all love and respect, to fully protect our independence and sovereignty, to establish a strong democratic system in the Maldives, ensure happiness and prosperity to the people, to reform the country to make it a place where people would want to live, uphold public order, peace and stability, and facilitate equality opportunity for everyone to advance.”

Gayoom explained that he resigned as ‘Honorary Leader’ (Zaeem) of the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) yesterday because his efforts to reform the party over the past several months were unsuccessful.

Gayoom invited experienced politicians, “capable and educated youth” and skilled professionals to join the party. The former President expressed gratitude to those who assisted and supported the formation of the Progressive Party.

Asked repeatedly by reporters if he intended to contest in the party’s presidential primary, Gayoom stressed that he had not made a decision and would do so “when the time comes.”

“My answer is that the time [for a primary] has not come and we’ll know when it does,” he said, refusing to rule out a possible bid for the presidency in 2013.

On whether his role as leader of the new party contradicted an announcement in February 2010 that he was retiring from active politics, Gayoom said he made the decision based on the assurance that the DRP would function “according to certain principles.”

“At the time and even up till yesterday, I was at the most senior post of one of the largest political parties in the country,” he said. “So how can it be said that the person in the highest post of a political party is not involved in politics? Up till yesterday I was in politics. Today I am forced to create a new party because of the state of the nation and because it has become necessary to find another way for the country.”

As “a lot of citizens” had pleaded with him to form a new party, said Gayoom, he made the decision as “a national obligation.”

In his letter of resignation submitted yesterday, Gayoom said he was “forced” to leave the party he had formed on July 21, 2005 because the DRP had become “politically toothless” and DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali was “acting dictatorially” and violating the party’s charter and democratic principles.

“And you [Thasmeen] keep saying clearly in the media that you do not need my counsel,” reads the letter shared with local media. “The consequence of that was the loss of hope citizens had in this party. And DRP getting the bad name of the party that gives way to the government while remaining in name a responsible opposition party.”

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali however dismissed the main points raised in Gayoom’s letter yesterday as “baseless claims” offered to defend his decision to resign.

The Zaeem-faction’s activities hampered DRP’s efforts to hold the government accountable, Thasmeen wrote in response, and would be “written in Maldivian political history as a shameful [episode].”

Thasmeen asserted that Gayoom decided to leave the party because he could not influence the party’s day-to-day management and functions in his ‘honorary’ role.

“Since the party’s charter does not give you that role, the fact that you tried to get your way together with a few people within the party regardless of what happened to the party is evident for all to see,” Thasmeen’s rebuttal reads.

The minority leader of parliament noted that three former DRP deputy leaders – former Attorney General Hassan Saeed, former Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim and current Independent MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam along with other cabinet ministers – left the party to form new parties and compete against Gayoom in the 2008 presidential election.

Gayoom meanwhile said today that he had not received the letter and could not comment on its contents: “There are no personal problems between me and Ahmed Thasmeen Ali,” he insisted.


Z-DRP raises spectre of British imperialism and loss of Islamic identity

President Mohamed Nasheed was elected in 2008 “with the help of the British conservative party and imperial powers,” the Zaeem-faction of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) claimed in a video message Thursday night, featured during a rally held to launch the Z-faction’s autonomous activities to celebrate the party’s sixth anniversary.

“In the two years since this government came, 22 people were killed on the street, Islam was challenged and defied,” the video message intoned. “[The government] made drinking alcohol and using drugs commonplace, appointed drug users and convicts to senior posts, sold the country’s assets to foreigners, lost control of the economy, locked down the High Court, and members of the ruling party hijacked the Deputy Speaker of parliament along with opposition MPs.

“Sickness is commonplace and the health system has been demolished. In the meantime, leaders that Zaeem Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom] brought to the political arena have abandoned his ideology and are now trying to chart a new course for their ship away from him.”

Addressing supporters after the video presentation, former President Gayoom said that the DRP’s “greatest national duty” was “to ensure that the Maldives remains a 100 percent Muslim country,” with “full independence and sovereignty.”

“The independence of the country and our faith are very much related,” he said. “The Maldives will only remain a country with complete freedom, independence and sovereignty if it remains a 100 percent Muslim country.”

If that status should change, said Gayoom, “there is no doubt that our independence will be threatened as Maldivian history has taught us the lesson that every time we lost our independence it was because some group tried to turn the Maldivian people to the wrong religion.”

He stressed that allowing freedom of religion “in a tiny country like the Maldives with a small, homogenous population” would create “disagreement and division among the people and lead to bloodshed.”


The narrated video presentation – set to black and white reels of British monarchs and ships in the Male’ harbour – sketched a history of the Maldives’ “enslavement” under British colonialism and Indian Borah merchants to independence on July 26, 1965.

“In 1834, [Robert] Morseby came to the country on behalf the British governor in Bombay to draw [maritime] charts of the Maldives,” the narration began. “But the territorial chart wasn’t the only chart the English were drawing.

“They were drawing charts of our internal affairs and the economy, too. [They] connected Maldivians with the Borah traders who upheld the interests of British imperialism, and arranged for them to be permanently settled in Male’.”

The British then proceeded to “divide and rule,” sparking a feud between two royal families led by Athireege Ibrahim Didi and Kakaage Mohamed Rannabadeyri Kilegefaanu, both of whom had “significant political interest in the trade of the Borah.”

In late 1886, Ibrahim Didi or Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu deposed the reigning Sultan, who was replaced with Mohamed Mueenudeen III, known as Kuda Bandarain.

“It cannot be believed that the English played no part in the great atrocity that was the coup attempt through arson [Bodu Hulhu] in 1887,” the narrator states. “The leader of the coup, Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu, was a British citizen.”

Before heading out to set fires in Male’, the arsonists “performed black magic inside Velaanage” and ate the heart of a 15-year-old boy who had died that day.

“Eventually those who committed [the acts of arson] were found and caught,” the narration continued. “Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu and his accomplices were punished and banished. [But] before too long, the English meddled with the investigation and forced the Sultan to free Ibrahim Dhoshimeyna Kilegefaanu.”

The Maldives “became enslaved by the British” on December 16, 1887 when “the Sultan was intimidated and coerced into signing the protection agreement.”


The Z-DRP video message observed that the Maldives as a British protectorate was characterised by “poverty and the struggle for the throne by powerful families” as well as political instability and the secession of three southern atolls.

“As a consequence of the country becoming a British protectorate, after 87 years the Maldives was among the poorest five countries in the world,” the narrator explained. “The British could not bring democracy to the Maldives. There was no education system, no health system and no domestic economy. And justice was not served either.”

Former President Ibrahim Nasir secured independence in 1965 but “began his own business using state resources.”

“When Nasir left office in 1978, he owned seven resorts, numerous plots of land in Male’, a shipping line and counted a number of shops among his businesses,” the narrator claimed.

The condition of the Maldivian people “was changed by our national hero and proud Zaeem [beloved leader] of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party.”

The video message argued that the ex-President “empowered Maldivians spiritually, intellectually, socially and physiologically.”

“After empowering Maldivians upon these pillars through the service of a golden 30 years, he took the country out of the list of the world’s poorest states,” the narrator stated. “[Gayoom] introduced principles of modern democracy, separated powers of the state, and introduced a multi-party system [in 2005].”

“Now the situation has darkened again,” the Z-DRP warned. “But what the people still want, north and south, and all across the country, is the ideology [of Gayoom’s reign] that empowered them.”

“True independence”

Meanwhile in his speech Gayoom explained that true independence included “freedom of thought, economic freedom and cultural freedom as well.”

“Passing our economic affairs into the hands of foreigners, just saying that we have political freedom, is not ensuring independence at all,” he contended.

Democratic governance “is the best form of governance,” said Gayoom, and the reform agenda launched in 2004 “to bring modern democracy to the Maldives has, by the grace of God, been successful.”

“As a result of [the road map for reform] the Maldives has become a complete democracy,” he said. “A complete and perfect constitution was devised, independent institutions were established, political parties were formed, the fundamental rights of the Maldivian people were protected, justice was established. All this was done and complete before 2008.”

The new constitution was ratified on August 7, 2008, two months before Gayoom was ousted in the country’s first democratic multi-party election.

Gayoom however went on to say that “renewed efforts” were needed “to bring back democracy to the country.”

“I won’t go into too much detail on this,” he said. “However even as the video we just saw explained, the situation is deteriorating on a daily basis. The people are becoming impoverished and their rights are being violated.”


Comment: Will the real DRP please stand up?

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), the main opposition party of Maldives held their last congress in February, 2010. During this congress there were two main lines of thought regarding electing their presidential candidate.

One group, led by Umar Naseer, proposed the presidential candidate should be elected through a party primary. The other group, led by the DRP council, proposed that such a primary was unnecessary and the leader of the party will be the party’s presidential candidate.

After much heated debate and talks during party meetings and local television, the issue was to be decided by the members of the party, at their upcoming congress. A vote was taken and more than 95 per cent of the attendees of the DRP congress voted in favour of the proposal made by the DRP council to make the elected leader of the party their presidential candidate.

The issue was solved. The presidential candidate of DRP would be its leader. This means Thasmeen will be the candidate from the DRP, for the 2013 presidential elections.

For a while it at least appeared to me, as an outside observer, that the debates were forgotten and everyone was working together. But as time passed, DRP started to show hints of a divide. Before long, the divide deepened and today DRP is split into two unequal parts. There is the main DRP under its leadership, and there is its “Z faction” as they now call themselves.

Z faction seems to be functioning under the leadership of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the former president of the Maldives. The letter Z in the name of this faction stands for Zaeem, an affectionate reference made to Gayyoom. Zaeem is an Arabic word, translated as ‘the honorary leader’. This honorary position was awarded by the DRP leadership to Gayyoom, who played a major role in founding DRP.

Gayyoom was thought to have resigned from politics for he announced his resignation in January 2010. So people expected him to spend his time away from the local political scenario. But if he did resign at that time, he seems to have re-entered politics and is now seen as an active member of the Z faction of DRP. Some even associate him as the reason why the Z faction was born.

Z faction, as the name indicates, is a faction of DRP. But on Saturday, after returning back to Male’ from a recent trip to India, Gayyoom announced that the Z faction of DRP is “the real DRP.”

My question is can this even be a legitimate faction? I think as long as they call it a faction of DRP, it cannot be legitimate before the DRP approves of its legitimacy. I don’t think the DRP will approve of its legitimacy because no matter what the supporters of Gayoom would like to call it, Z faction is formed of a rebellious group of DRP members.

The main leadership of DRP considers the Z faction as DRP members who do not accept decisions made by the party’s councils and committees. This is except for one person – Umar Naseer, whose name has been struck off the DRP membership register. Even though Umar Naseer and others who belong to the Z faction think Umar is still a deputy leader of DRP, DRP leadership considers him one of their ex-deputy leaders.

It is also worth noting here that most relatives of Gayyoom that I have seen on televised meetings of DRP are now seen in the frontline of the meetings held by the Z faction. So the Z faction is seen mainly as Gayoom, his relatives and supporters.

Representatives of a few minor political parties can be seen in the meetings held in the name of the Z faction of DRP. Many such meetings are solely or partially supported by the People’s Alliance (PA). PA’s leader, Yameen can be seen playing an active role in most of these meetings. Because of this and based on the comments made to local newspapers, until very recently, I was under the impression that Z faction is trying to promote Yameen as their presidential candidate. Like probably everyone else, I too was speculating. But now, I am thinking maybe I was wrong. I am now speculating that Z faction wants to bring Gayoom back as the president of this country.

Z faction has their own leadership which they selected only last week. I am not aware of how they chose their leadership. I only know that they announced the names of their leaders and council members. All of Gayyoom’s children hold posts in this newly announced leadership. This is not surprising to many of us because it is also widely speculated that Gayoom wants to create a dynasty. This will not be easy to achieve in the views of many political analysts.

Last Thursday night, Z faction held a meeting at the Artificial Beach. This was to publicly announce their leadership, amongst other things. In this meeting they tell us that Z faction holds the thinking of Gayoom. They also tell us that it is a democratic organisation. I cannot understand how it can be both. From what I understood, Z faction revolves around Gayyoom. How can an organisation that revolves around someone be democratic? If they love democracy so much, why did they split from the main DRP in the first place?

According to what they said, recently some of the council members of Z faction have even met foreign diplomats in Colombo, as the leading opposition party of the Maldives. They even discussed issues that are of national interest. I wonder what the foreign diplomats will think of this group. I also wonder whether they presented themselves as those belonging to a faction of DRP. If the members of Z faction met the diplomats, as members of DRP, then yes, they are indeed the leading opposition party. If they met as members of Z faction, I disagree.

Z faction is not a registered political party. Z faction is not DRP. Yet the members of this faction claim they are the “real DRP.” If they are the real DRP, why call it Z faction? Why not just DRP? For me, it appears that the Z faction is trying to highjack DRP and then bring a coup to it.

Even though the DRP congress decided that their presidential candidate will be their leader, in the minds of those belonging to Z faction, this issue has not been solved. Z faction does not want Thasmeen to be the presidential candidate from DRP. They want their favourite person to be the DRP presidential candidate. And because, under existing party regulations, this will not be possible, they have to search for an alternative means to do this. The result is the birth of Z faction.

Legitimate or not, the creation of Z faction has hit DRP hard. The biggest opposition party has not disintegrated but is weakened. All because one man wants to fulfil his dreams?

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