The Anti-Corruption Commission summoned MP Faris Maumoon for questioning on Tuesday afternoon, drawing accusations of intimidation and harassment ahead of the upcoming no-confidence vote against the speaker of parliament.
Questioning the watchdog’s timing and motivation, Faris told reporters outside the ACC office that the summons was a sign that the no-confidence motion will pass.
“I was not summoned in connection with an investigation into allegations made against me. I don’t know of any allegations against me by an institution,” he said, declining to disclose the complaint that the anti-graft watchdog is investigating.
According to local media, Faris was questioned over an audit report about the misuse of funds at the former presidential palace during the final years of his father’s 30-year reign.
Shortly after the rift between former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and President Abdulla Yameen became public in mid-2016, ACC President Hassan Luthfy had told state media that the commission was planning to question the former president over the presidential palace audit.
But other members of the commission subsequently told newspaper Mihaaru that the ACC was not looking into allegations against Gayoom.
Gayoom – who withdrew support for his half-brother’s administration in late October after losing a bitter power struggle with Yameen for control of the ruling party – was meanwhile stopped from taking his military bodyguards with him on a private visit to India last week shortly after he declared support for the no-confidence motion.
A breakaway faction of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives headed by Faris is leading the push to remove Maseeh.
The vote is scheduled to take place on March 27. On Tuesday, a conversation on a Viber group of the PPM was leaked to local media, in which Yameen told MPs to make sure they are in Malé three days before the vote.
“Don’t believe that this is just a vote taken against Maseeh,” he wrote.
Despite Yameen’s faction of the PPM ostensibly controlling 45 seats in the 85-member house in addition to five seats held by coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance, both Gayoom and Faris have maintained that the no-confidence motion will be passed with the support of ruling party lawmakers.
But PPM MPs on Yameen’s side have dismissed the motion as an attempt to divert attention from a forthcoming multi-billion dollar investment in Faafu atoll and the official visit of Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Faris told Raajje TV on Saturday night that more than 42 votes have been secured, suggesting that significant pressure will be brought to bear on lawmakers ahead of the vote.
“Our task is to see if we can maintain [MPs] in their stance until the vote,” he told reporters yesterday, calling on MPs to remain steadfast in the face of inducements and threats.
But four lawmakers later returned to Yameen’s faction amid allegations of government pressure on their business interests. The remaining four are MPs Faris, Mohamed Musthafa, Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim from the PPM and Hussain Areef from the MDA.
A day after the motion was submitted with 26 signatures, Waheed said on Twitter that his daughter was fired from her job at the president’s office.
On Monday, PPM MP Ahmed Rasheed’s wife was appointed deputy minister of education, taking the number of deputy ministers at the office to ten.
Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussain told the press yesterday that the ACC is delaying the release of its investigation report of the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal to influence the no-confidence vote.
The watchdog is trying to “intimidate some MPs among us by showing that the names of those who they want to could be included in the report,” he alleged.
Newspaper Mihaaru meanwhile reported last week that the government has resumed awarding projects to PPM MP Saudhullah Hilmy’s Swift Engineering after he returned to Yameen’s fold in January.
The government had cancelled contracts worth MVR66 million (US$4.3million) awarded to the construction company after the lawmaker was seen at a press conference by Gayoom’s faction.
Last week, the company was reportedly awarded a project worth more than MVR9.6 million (US$622,600) to build ten classrooms on the island of Makunudhoo in Haa Dhaal atoll.
I have been asked to appear before @acc_maldives This appears to be politically motivated harassment before the Speaker's no confidence vote
— Ahmed Faris Maumoon (@afarismaumoon) March 13, 2017
Be strong @afarismaumoon the entire PPM membership is with you.
— Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (@maumoonagayoom) March 14, 2017
Admire your strength in the face of such blatant intimidation @afarismaumoon.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) March 13, 2017
As expected, harassment & intimidation of Parliamentarians by Government has begun! Rough & tough times ahead. We will not give up! https://t.co/1mXuZPqHua
— Abdulla Shahid 🎈 (@abdulla_shahid) March 13, 2017
Shameless use of Independent Commissions to intimidate critics.All agencies of the State are mandated to serve the people,not the President. https://t.co/riOvz6tOmV
— Eva Abdulla 🎈❓ (@evattey) March 13, 2017