Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, leader of the divided Progressive Party of Maldives, has rebuffed the government’s demand for executive councils to approve representatives for the upcoming all-party talks.
The president’s office asked all political parties to send the names of council-endorsed representatives in letters sent out yesterday – after Gayoom decided that his son Ahmed Faris Maumoon and MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim will attend on behalf of the PPM.
“As some members of the council protested, walked out, and caused loss of quorum at the last council meeting, and because some members sued the party’s president in a court of law, a meeting of the party’s council cannot be held at present,” Gayoom said in his reply to the president’s office today.
MPs Faris and Waheed will be the PPM’s representatives, he insisted.
A majority of the ruling party’s council is backing President Abdulla Yameen in a battle for control of the PPM between the incumbent and former presidents.
Yameen’s “faction” walked out of the last council meeting in July after objecting to the presence of MP Faris, who they insist was expelled by the party’s disciplinary committee after voting against a government-sponsored bill at his father’s behest.
Abdul Aleem Adam, the PPM’s deputy secretary general, told the Maldives Independent that Gayoom has the authority to appoint representatives as it is an “administrative matter.”
“The president’s office cannot meddle in the party’s internal affairs,” he added.
The government renewed invitations for all-party talks shortly after the Commonwealth’s democracy watchdog placed the Maldives on its formal agenda in late September. The Maldives is facing suspension if an intractable political crisis triggered by the jailing of opposition leaders is not resolved by March.
The allied opposition parties have since heeded the Commonwealth’s call for “time-bound dialogue without preconditions.”
But both the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and the Adhaalath Party have criticised the government’s demand for councils to approve representatives.
“Why are the government’s representatives participating in talks without their names being approved by the cabinet?” MDP secretary general Anas Abdul Sattar asked in a tweet.
The Adhaalath Party advised the government not to impose conditions as both the public and the international community would question its sincerity ahead of the talks.
MDP Spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy told the Maldives Independent that the party will inform the government of its representatives today. The party’s national council decided to authorise its leadership to assign representatives.
Last week, Imthiyaz told the press that the MDP will ask for an investigation into a plot to launder US$1.5 billion through the Maldives’ central bank that was revealed in an Al Jazeera corruption exposé aired last month.
The investigation should be conducted by a commission with members from international organisations, which he said is essential to restore trust in the country’s financial sector.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who is living in exile in the United Kingdom, has submitted information from the Stealing Paradise documentary for a professional forensic audit.
If Yameen is found to be complicit in the money laundering scheme, the MDP said a course of action must be decided upon in the UN-mediated talks.
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, the government’s lead representative for the talks, told reporters last Thursday that the government is open to discussing the release of opposition leaders and has agreed to mediation by the UN.
Shainee said the government is awaiting the return of UN envoy Tamrat Samuel in mid-October.
Gayoom is meanwhile pushing ahead with his agenda to reform the PPM. Last week, he gathered information about the functioning of the party’s internal committees as set out in a timeline.
Only the disciplinary committee, dominated by Yameen loyalists, refused to cooperate, according to Deputy SG Aleem.
In late August, Yameen vowed to resolve the feud with Gayoom in a meeting with MPs. But the factional strife shows no sign of abating.
The long-rumoured rift became public in late June after Gayoom refused to grant his half-brother the PPM ticket for the 2018 presidential election without a primary.
Gayoom later launched his reform agenda after accusing ruling party lawmakers of facilitating corruption and reversing democratic reforms.