Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has urged the high court to rule fairly in the dispute over the leadership of the bitterly divided Progressive Party of Maldives.
After concluding hearings today, the high court is due to decide whether the civil court was right to hand over control of the ruling party from Gayoom, the PPM’s elected leader, to his half-brother, President Abdulla Yameen.
The ruling was appealed without Gayoom’s knowledge by a man who was not party to the dispute, forcing the former president’s lawyers to file a third party intervention.
Gayoom’s lawyer Husnu Suood reportedly told the court today that the appellant Abbas Wafir is an associate of MP Mohamed Shahid, one of the two lawmakers who sued the PPM leader.
Suood contended that Wafir’s intent was to deprive Gayoom of his right to appeal, which amounted to contempt of court.
But Chief Judge Abdulla Didi interrupted the former attorney general and said the court will decide on the question of contempt. The judge said the court will not hear further arguments on the point.
In a message read out on his behalf by his daughter Yumna Maumoon, Gayoom meanwhile urged the court to hear his separate appeal in order to “protect the rights and interest of all of the PPM’s members”.
The controversial civil court judgment came after the two PPM MPs petitioned the court to order Gayoom to lift the suspension of the party’s governing council, a majority of which is controlled by Yameen’s loyalists.
The court cited Gayoom’s refusal to obey its orders to reconvene the council and ordered Yameen, the party’s chief advisor, to resume council meetings under his leadership.
As the party’s charter does not grant administrative powers to the advisor, a ceremonial role Yameen assumed after winning the presidency, Gayoom’s lawyers argued that the court’s order was in contravention of the charter.
But PPM MP Ibrahim Riza, representing MPs Shahid and Ahmed Shiyam, said the pair sought the order from the civil court because Gayoom brought the party to a halt. Yameen is the most senior party official in the absence of the sacked vice president, he argued.
Since last Sunday’s ruling, both Gayoom and Yameen’s factions have held council meetings and appointed loyalists to key positions. Both sides are also preparing to field candidates on behalf of the party in the upcoming local council elections.
The PPM split was triggered in June by Gayoom’s refusal to endorse his half-brother for the 2018 presidential election and intensified when MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon was expelled for voting against a government-sponsored bill at his father’s behest.
After accusing ruling party MPs of facilitating corruption and undermining democratic reforms he initiated, Gayoom then suspended the PPM council and launched an agenda to reform the PPM.