Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has hit back at an appeal by President Abdulla Yameen at a public rally, urging the former president to unite and guide the ruling party, as “an attempt at deceiving the public.”
The 78-year-old noted that his half-brother’s secretariat had publicly refused to invite him to the Progressive Party of the Maldives’ fifth anniversary rally, and went on to stand by his public withdrawal of support for Yameen, accusing the president of coercing employees of state-owned enterprises to attend the rally.
Yameen, who is at war with Gayoom over control of the ruling party, appears to have outmanoeuvred the former strongman, by winning supreme court support for a ruling that put him in charge by effectively stripping Gayoom of his powers as elected leader of the party.
However, opening his speech at the well-attended gathering on Thursday, Yameen had said: “This is a happy night. But the happiness would be greatly enhanced if our party’s president was with us. Without a doubt, a shadow has been cast upon this rally because our party’s president is not with us.”
The rally followed Yameen faction’s ransacking of the ruling party headquarters and refusal to allow Gayoom to hold a public gathering last week.
Yameen also added: “I want to say to the president of our party, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, come with us. Guide us. We are ready to walk along with you, patiently, according to the party’s principles and its council.”
The president went on to describe the two MPs who launched the lawsuit against PPM as national heroes.
Majority Leader Ahmed Nuhan and MP Ali Arif repeated the appeal.
Gayoom issued a statement Sunday, condemning the appeal and calling for an inquiry into Yameen’s faction alleged coercion of state-owned employees to attend the rally.
Gayoom’s public withdrawal of support from Yameen was justified because “the use of fear and coercion shows that they do everything by force and influence,” the statement read.
Yameen’s claim that his supporters were forced to take court action to gain control of the PPM came only after several attempts at dialogue failed, was false, the statement added.
The Anti Corruption Commission has launched an inquiry into the use of housing ministry staff and equipment to prepare for the rally, local media report.
Gayoom himself has been accused of misusing state resources during his thirty-year reign.
Umar Naseer, Yameen’s former home minister and a Gayoom supporter, tweeted in response: “Mr. President, meet me in a primary race to decide whose PPM has the grassroots support. Ballot box is the surest way to resolve this divide.”
The Yameen faction claims that 12,000 people attended the rally, but his opponents put the figure at 4,000.
Gayoom’s daughter, Yumna Maumoon, said the lack of applause demonstrated that people were forced to attend. “No spirit, support or smiles. People really were forced,” she said in a tweet.
Ali Zahir, the spokesman for the Maldives United Opposition, a broad coalition led by the Maldivian Democratic Party and the Adhaalath Party, said: “Only 3500 turned up despite massive expenses, 13 chartered flights, bribery, and misuse of the security forces, government offices and state owned enterprises.”
Referring to the government’s refusal to lease space for public gatherings and crackdown on street activities, he added: “Let the MUO have the space and the opportunity to hold a rally, we will show you our real numbers, Insha Allah.”