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Campaign trail: one-man debate

Daily roundup of news from the campaign trail.



daily roundup of headlines made by the candidates, running mates and their surrogates on the campaign trail.

September 16

  • Adeeb sold Embudu lagoon for US$3 million, I changed it to US$40 million: president (Mihaaru)
  • Income earned by the country will reach MVR82 billion in 2023: president (PSM)
  • MMPRC corruption couldn’t be stopped because of a problem with the system: President Yameen (Mihaaru)
  • There was negligence of MMA and banks in MMPRC corruption taking place: president (Raajje)
  • Failure to stop MMPRC theft blamed on institutions (VFP)
  • President Yameen is opposed to rent control! (Avas)
  • Rent control is not a solution, supply has to be increased: president (Mihaaru)
  • The problem of high rent in Malé: not a problem for President Yameen! (Raajje)
  • President doesn’t believe gangs operate in the Maldives (Mihaaru)
  • It is hard for me to refer to certain people as gangs: president (VFP)
  • I didn’t see report made by environmental experts on state of Kulhudhuffushi mangrove: president (Raajje)
  • Maumoon was opposed to implementing death penalty: president (Avas)
  • I don’t believe decentralisation is most suited to the Maldives: President Yameen (Raajje)
  • The decentralisation system is unsuited to the Maldives, it has failed: president (Avas)
  • I have realised hopes beyond what the public hoped for: president (Mihaaru)
  • I will create 600,000 jobs by 2023: president (Avas)
  • Not even the MDP’s entire campaign team can debate the president: Nihan (Mihaaru)
  • The entire MDP can’t compete with the president in a debate: Nihan (Avas)
  • Opposition candidate is making useless pledges because he doesn’t know what’s in the budget: Minister Thoriq (PSM)
  • Shaheem to scholars: I’m working for Yameen because he doesn’t spread false religions (Raajje)
  • You must say no to opposition ideology in order to be free of foreign influence: Dr Shainee (PSM)
  • First lady begins Malé atoll trip (PSM)

On Sunday night, President Abdulla Yameen took part in a one-man debate organised by Maldives National University. The opposition candidate declined to participate. Citing executive control over independent state institutions, the opposition said there was no guarantee the debate would be fair.

The questions were ostensibly collected from students and faculty and prepared by an MNU technical committee.

Asked about the unprecedented theft of nearly US$80 million from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, Yameen denied any responsibility. The president authorised the lease of islands for resort development, he conceded, but was unaware that tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb – whom he later elevated to the vice presidency – was stealing the acquisition payments.

Cheques signed over to the MMPRC were funnelled into private bank accounts. “Tracing what happens to that money is not the government’s responsibility at all,” Yameen declared. The suspicious transactions should have been flagged by the Bank of Maldives or the clearance department at the central bank, he said.

On gang violence, Yameen said there was no research to warrant labelling “neighbourhood groups” as criminal gangs or to say that they were funded by politicians. He repeated the false claim that “violent crime such as brutal stabbings” has fallen 35 percent.

The president opposed rent control to curb exorbitant prices in Malé. The solution is increasing supply to meet the demand, he said, whereas imposing a cap would criminalise landlords and disincentivise private sector leasing.

The Maldives is not yet “mature” enough for decentralised administration, he said, accusing opposition-controlled island councils of obstructing the central government.

He went on to claim there was no “scientific research” to show that large-scale dredging of lagoons or the reclamation of the Kulhudhuffushi mangrove caused irreversible damage to the environment.

The president also dismissed concerns over mounting debt. International financial institutions, foreign investors and credit rating agencies concur that the economy is strong enough to repay loans taken to spur “transformational” growth, he said.

The new 25-storey hospital would offer the best services in the region whilst diagnostic facilities “up to the same standard as Malé” would be developed in atoll health centres, he pledged.

Promising full employment, housing for all and doubling of GDP per capita if re-elected, Yameen said he would govern as “a single president” whereas his challenger would be beholden to a “power sharing” agreement with four opposition leaders.

  • Ibu and Faisal together to Kaashidhoo (Raajje)
  • We will reclaim land in Kaashidhoo and develop a resort: Ibu (Mihaaru)
  • We will build a new school in Kaashidhoo and develop a resort in the lagoon: Ibu (Raajje)
  • Many pledges from Ibu for the small population of Vaavu atoll (Avas)
  • We will reclaim land for Vaavu atoll islands: Ibu (Mihaaru)
  • Ibu pledges to review allocation of flats and award to the deserving (Raajje)
  • The government should take initiative and check on the people: Ibu (Vnews)
  • The president does things behind us: Ibu (Avas)
  • The president only does something when the coalition does it first: Ibu (Mihaaru)
  • We will develop Kudahuvadhoo as an urban centre: Ibu (Raajje)
  • Ibu to eight islands today: the picture is very clear, we will win (Avas)
  • We will reduce electricity bills of corner shops: Ibu (Vnews)
  • Ibu’s vision: We will connect Hinnavaru and Naifaru (Avas)
  • Kuduhuavdhoo teachers with Ibu too (Raajje)
  • Ibu is a born leader: Faisal (Mihaaru)
  • Ibu is “a born leader”: Faisal (Avas)
  • We will provide opportunities through schools for students to develop their skills: Faisal (Vnews)
  • We will ensure justice for the families of murder victims like Dr Afrasheem and Anas: Faisal (Raajje)
  • Denial of opportunity to fulfil responsibilities of the Majlis is reason enough to say no to the government: Faisal (Mihaaru)
  • You have to say no this government for denying the opportunity to hold them answerable: Faisal (Vnews)
  • The president is trying to catch the public on an empty hook: Shahid (Mihaaru)
  • Yameen sees the public as a school of bigeye scad (small fish that bites without bait) to be caught on an empty hook: Abdulla Shahid (Raajje)
  • “There is no hadith about the colour yellow” (Avas)
  • We will see many PPM members come out against Yameen this week: Nadira (Raajje)
  • Azim calls on public to remove Yameen from his post on September 23 (Vnews)
  • There’s no political heavyweight left with President Yameen: Azim (Raajje)
  • It wasn’t the campaign he finished in Fuvahmulah, it was his political career: Maleeh (Vnews)
  • They won’t dare steal the vote with such passion and excitement among the public: Shidhatha (Raajje)

Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ started the day with a visit to Kaashidhoo island. Unlike most trips, he was accompanied by his running mate Faisal Naseem, who represents the North Malé atoll constituency.

As the island lies apart from the rest of the atoll, Ibu pledged to reclaim land from its lagoon to develop a resort. Promoting guesthouse tourism to enable people to earn an income without migrating to the capital is a key policy, he stressed. He pledged to consult the public before launching development projects.

Agricultural centres would be established to ensure a fair price and subsidies would be reintroduced for farmers, he pledged.

Speaking on Meedhoo island the previous night, Faisal cited the unseating of a dozen lawmakers and the “military siege” of parliament as grounds to vote the president out of office. The legislature has been paralyzed for over a year and unable to exercise oversight or hold the executive accountable, he said.

After Kaashidhoo, Ibu visited five islands of Vaavu atoll, the least populous atoll in the country. He pledged to reclaim land on some islands to award plots for new homes. He also pledged to improve healthcare facilities and to provide loans to expand mid-market tourism.

From Vaavu atoll Ibu travelled to Kudahuvadhoo in Dhaalu atoll. Speaking at a well-attended rally on the island Sunday night, the lawmaker criticised delays in publishing the ruling party manifesto with less than a week to the election.

President Yameen failed to deliver on his 2013 pledge to balance the budget within three years, Ibu noted, adding that public debt has since grown to MVR50 billion (US$3.2 billion).

In contrast to Yameen’s administration, Ibu pledged that a coalition government would restore transparency and respect the constitution. The most common appeal he hears from people is a plea to establish justice, he said.

Ibu’s pledges for Kudahuvadhoo included developing the south-central island as an “urban centre” with a new hospital, school, commercial harbour, and well-paved roads.

The opposition has surmounted obstacles placed in the way of a free and fair election and would continue to do so in the six days left, he assured supporters.