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Gasim urges MPs who switched sides to leave ruling party

The return of lawmakers from the Jumhooree Party and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party who switched to the ruling party will “automatically” solve the problems facing the Maldives, JP leader Gasim Ibrahim said.



The return of lawmakers who switched to the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives will “automatically” solve the problems facing the Maldives, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim declared Sunday night.

In his first speech at a political rally for more than two years, Gasim said the nine JP MPs who joined the PPM were elected because of the party’s hard work and financing of their campaigns.

“To maintain the peace and security of the nation, to bring prosperity for the nation, to perfect the rights of the people for them – all of that will be settled if you nine come here,” he said at a rally held at the party’s headquarters in Malé to officially hand over tickets to 94 candidates contesting in the local council elections.

He added that the four MPs from the Maldivian Democratic Party who defected to the PPM should also return to the main opposition party.

“When matters reach the state where this nation is plunged into chaos and disorder, with no justice to be had, or when our various institutions are brought into disrepute, you should look carefully, look back and see, if that step you took was skewed or wrong, then rectify it,” he said.

Gasim went on to say that the independence of oversight bodies and the separation of powers envisioned in the constitution have been compromised.

Power and money can be fleeting, he said: “Look what happened to Hitler? What happened to Pharoah and Haman? Everything came to an end in a moment.”

Gasim’s remarks come ahead of a vote of no-confidence against the speaker of parliament on March 27 with a breakaway faction of the PPM expressing confidence that President Abdulla Yameen will lose his previously comfortable pro-government majority in the 85-member house.

The PPM had won 33 seats in the March 2014 parliamentary elections, but nine JP MPs, four independent MPs, and four MDP MPs later joined the ruling party.

Madaveli MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed was elected as an independent but had joined the JP before he switched to the PPM.

Gasim said Muaz’s election would have been “impossible” without his financial assistance and campaigning.

He also criticised the elections commission for ordering the party to change its flag and logo. The electoral body had cited new regulations on the use of the national flag.

The JP is the third largest party in the country and Gasim’s endorsement was pivotal in deciding the last two presidential elections.

The business tycoon is the chairman of the Villa Group, which operates businesses in tourism, shipping, import and export, retail, fishing, media, communications, transport and education.

After the JP formed an alliance with the MDP in early 2015, the tourism ministry seized five properties leased to Villa for resort development and the central bank froze Villa’s bank accounts over US$90 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines.

The crippling freeze was lifted after the two-time presidential candidate announced his retirement from politics and backed the government in several crucial votes, including a constitutional amendment that barred him from contesting in the 2018 presidential election.

Speaking at last night’s rally, MP Abdulla Riyaz, the JP deputy leader, said the party will strive to secure Gasim’s candidacy for next year’s election by either repealing or challenging at court the amendment that set an upper age limit of 65 for the presidency.

Gasim will turn 66 ahead of the 2018 presidential election.

Meanwhile, after Gasim backed former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s decision to withdraw support for the government in late October, the tourism ministry took over the Kaadehdhoo domestic airport from Villa Air after terminating a 50-year lease agreement.

Earlier this month, the high court also ruled against Villa over the government-owned Housing Development Corporation’s seizure of plots of land leased to the company from Hulhumalé.

Gasim said last night that Villa’s cases are progressing at the high court “swiftly like a ball” and suggested that the company’s accounts could be frozen again.

“I’m not that worried about it. It was what Allah gave me. When the time preordained by Allah is up, it will slip from my hands. But I am sad that I might not be able to pay salaries for my 5,000 employees,” he said.

After the company’s accounts were frozen in May 2015, Villa had advised some 4,500 employees “who find it hard to work with us to rebuild the company again” to resign and promised to pay outstanding salaries at a later date.

Gayoom has meanwhile welcomed Gasim’s remarks.

Photo from Vnews