No end in sight for PPM row as factions press for action against MPs

No end in sight for PPM row as factions press for action against MPs
August 15 21:15 2016

A ruling-party faction loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is complaining over delays by an internal committee in responding to petitions seeking disciplinary action against five of its MPs.

The five, who are loyal to Gayoom’s half brother, current President Abdulla Yameen, are accused of belittling Gayoom, who heads the Progressive Party of the Maldives, and failing to consult the party’s executive council on matters before the parliament and a recent lawsuit filed by MPs against Gayoom.

Abdul Aleem Adam, the PPM secretary general, says the disciplinary committee is required to make a decision within seven days of receiving a complaint.

“We have now sent three letters asking the committee to make a decision.”

The complaints were filed in early July, in apparent retaliation for the disciplinary committee’s expulsion of Gayoom’s son, MP Faris Maumoon, after he defied Yameen’s orders in a vote over bidding for tourism leases.

The PPM secretariat had overturned the decision, claiming the committee had failed to follow due process.

MP Riyaz Rasheed, the deputy leader of the 47-member parliamentary group, has meanwhile threatened to file for action against some six MPs who also defied Yameen’s orders during a vote on a bill criminalising defamation. Three voted No, and three others did not attend the vote.

“That is not something we even have to discuss. Action will be taken against MPs who violated the whip line,” Riyaz is quoted as having said by Sun Online.

The feud between the Gayoom brothers has left the PPM in disarray.

Some MPs have now left or been removed from the parliamentary group’s instant messaging group on Viber.

The MPs who were removed from the Viber group last week are Ahmed ‘Red Wave’ Saleem and Mohamed Musthafa.

Saleem subsequently resigned from the parliament’s public finance committee on Thursday, and told Sun Online that he was “not afraid of action by the government or the party.”

MP Saud Hussain, who had voted in favour of the defamation bill, left the Viber group on the same day in protest over “discrimination between MPs,” according to local media.

The five MPs that the Gayoom faction is seeking action are Ahmed Nihan, the majority leader, Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the party’s deputy leader, Ali Arif, Ahmed Shiyam and Mohamed Shahid.

Ali Waheed, who chairs the seven-member disciplinary committee, says members “have been too busy or are out of Malé” to schedule a meeting.

“I am not in the country today either, but we are trying to have the meeting by the end of the week,” he went on, dismissing allegations of discrimination between MPs. He says the committee has not received requests for action against the six MPs who defied Yameen’s orders in the most recent vote.

Meanwhile, some MPs the Maldives Independent spoke to have expressed concern over the power struggle, and raised fears it may weaken the party.

“I do not think fighting is good, even if it is within a home environment. A party is also a family. I hope this feud is resolved soon, especially since the two are brothers. Hopefully they will talk it out,” says MP Ahmed ‘Avista’ Assad.

MP Abdulla ‘Bochey’ Rifau meanwhile denied knowledge of any factions. “There is no problem within the PPM that we cannot solve,” he says.

Previous attempts at resolving the dispute appear to have failed, with MPs sitting on the party’s executive council staging a walkout in July over Faris’ presence at the meeting.

The 47-member parliamentary group appears to be Yameen’s main support base within the party. He also commands the support of six others who belong to the Maldives Development Alliance, a ruling coalition partner.

The long-rumoured rift between the two brothers broke into the open in June when Gayoom refused to grant Yameen the PPM ticket for the 2018 polls without a primary, despite a petition signed by a majority of its council.

The former president of 30 years has now launched a reform agenda to free the party from corruption and restore democracy.

In addition to the internal rift, Yameen is also battling an opposition coalition seeking to oust him on allegations of corruption and human rights abuses.

Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih