Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has praised ruling party MPs who voted against restricting freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, condemning the recently passed bills as “unconstitutional”.
Gayoom, who heads the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, said the lawmakers who voted against the party’s whip line did so “in line with the PPM’s principles and objectives”.
“My hope is that other PPM MPs will follow the example of these MPs and work genuinely with courage for the sake of the nation and the public,” he said in a statement issued on Thursday.
Several MPs of the 47-member PPM parliamentary group either said No, abstained, or did not participate in votes to pass both the heavily criticised anti-defamation law and a bill restricting protests to designated areas in the capital.
Some of the MPs have reportedly been “demoted” from influential parliamentary committees and transferred to the privileges committee and the ethics committee.
The PPM parliamentary group leaders have also threatened disciplinary action against the MPs who defied President Abdulla Yameen’s orders in both votes.
Gayoom’s latest statement suggests the factional strife between loyalists of the former president and the incumbent continues unabated.
The feud between the Gayoom brothers became public in June when Gayoom refused to grant Yameen the PPM ticket for the 2018 polls without a primary.
In Thursday’s statement, Gayoom went on to express concern with the current administration’s push to narrow fundamental constitutional rights.
“Under the reform agenda I announced in 2004, I worked with the support of the people to bring in a modern democracy to the Maldives. But now we are seeing the loss of the features of modern democracy and the restriction of the fundamental rights I tried to assure for the people through the constitution,” he said.
Gayoom ratified the current constitution in August 2008.
The recent bills passed by the ruling party-dominated parliament are also in contravention of the PPM’s principles, he added.
Gayoom said he has been “repeatedly” urging the party’s lawmakers not to support such proposals.
In early July, the PPM’s disciplinary committee expelled Gayoom’s son, MP Faris Maumoon, after he voted against a government-sponsored bill at his father’s behest.
The PPM secretariat, however, refused to enforce the decision, claiming the committee had failed to follow due process.
In apparent retaliation of Faris’s expulsion, the Gayoom faction then sought disciplinary action against five MPs, accusing them of belittling the former president, failing to consult the party’s executive council on matters before the parliament, and filing a lawsuit against Gayoom.
In late July, Yameen’s loyalists meanwhile walked out of a PPM council meeting in protest against the participation of Faris.
Gayoom later said the walk out vindicated his decision to bypass the council in moving ahead with his PPM reform agenda.