Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been accused of “hijacking” the Progressive Party of Maldives as a power struggle with President Abdulla Yameen for control of the ruling party intensified today.
A widening rift between the brothers spilled over to the public yesterday after the PPM’s disciplinary committee was asked to take action against MP Faris Maumoon for voting against controversial changes to the tourism law at Gayoom’s behest.
Gayoom, the leader of the PPM, ordered the party’s secretary general last night to seek his permission before calling meetings of the executive council and other committees. He also stripped PPM deputy leader, Abdul Raheem Abdulla, of authority to administer party affairs.
Following last night’s developments, several PPM council members and MPs met with Yameen at the president’s office this afternoon.
MP Abdul Raheem told the press after the meeting that Gayoom does not have the authority to seize control of the party.
“We have been advocating for democracy. So I don’t believe that one man can hijack the entire party,” he said.
“President Maumoon can’t do it that way either. The party has a council. According to the party’s standing orders, the most powerful organ is the council. President Maumoon cannot [seize control] without consulting the council.”
He went on to accuse Gayoom of bringing the ruling party to a standstill. But efforts are underway to “peacefully” resolve the dispute, he added.
Gayoom meanwhile met with his supporters at the PPM office this afternoon, including former Home Minister Umar Naseer, son Faris Maumoon, and former MP Hamdhoon Hameed.
Senior officials during Gayoom’s 30-year reign, Aneesa Ahmed, Rashidha Yousuf, and former Justice Minister Ahmed ‘Seena’ Zahir, were also spotted going into the office.
The 78-year-old has reportedly formed an “advisory council” comprised of loyalists.
Questioned by reporters after he came out of the office, Gayoom refused to comment on the purpose of the meeting.
He left after wishing the journalists a happy Eid.
Secretary General Mohamed Tholal told the reporters that a press conference will be held tonight.
Rumours of a rift between the Gayoom brothers first surfaced in July 2014 after PPM MPs voted against the former president’s preferred candidate for prosecutor general.
He also publicly opposed controversial amendments brought to the constitution last year that authorised foreign freeholds in the Maldives.
Some PPM activists meanwhile took to Twitter in Gayoom’s defence last night. Several political appointees, however, declared their support for Yameen.
Aminath Nadira, a PPM council member, said she was fired from her post as executive coordinator of the gender ministry Wednesday night, after she tweeted her support for Gayoom’s stand. Nadira was first appointed as a deputy minister, but she was demoted to executive coordinator last year.
In a tweet late last night, Gayoom thanked Nadira and all PPM members for “selflessly” serving the party and the country.
Nadira is reportedly a member of the advisory council formed today.
Speculation of PPM’s internal strife resurfaced recently after Gayoom rejected a petition signed by a majority of the PPM council, including two of his four children, asking him to grant Yameen the party ticket without a presidential primary.
Reporting by Xiena Saeed