Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives’ former president of 30 years, has asked the civil court to stay a lawsuit filed against him by MPs loyal to Abdulla Yameen, his half-brother and current president, for the control of the ruling party.
The court is scheduled to hear the complaint for Monday, but the Progressive Party of the Maldives has asked for proceedings to be halted until September, when Gayoom returns to the Maldives from a private trip to Malaysia.
The 78-year-old head of the ruling party had suspended its committees and launched a reform program when Yameen loyalists sought to expel his son, MP Faris Maumoon.
Abdul Aleem Adam, a party official, said the Yameen faction no longer have a case against Gayoom as he had cancelled the suspension of the party’s committees on July 14.
The PPM’s executive council will not be able to meet in Gayoom’s absence, Aleem said, as the party’s charter mandates the party leader to be presiding over council meetings. “Unless the president dies or is incapacitated, we cannot hold a council meeting,” he said.
Gayoom’s absence also means the party will not be able to decide who will represent it at the court, he said, noting that a civil court ruling issued during dispute resolution hearings in mid-July, when the two factions met at the civil court for an out of court settlement, had ordered the party’s council meet to make the decision.
The case went to trial when the two parties were unable to reach an agreement despite three hearings.
MP Ahmed Shiyam, one of the three plaintiffs, has previously said they were going forward with the complaint alleging that Gayoom was continuing to obstruct PPM activities.
The feud between the two brothers broke out into the open in mid June when Gayoom refused to grant Yameen the party’s ticket for the 2018 polls without a primary, despite a petition signed by a majority of its council. Then in July, Gayoom spoke out against a government-sponsored bill authorizing the lease of islands and lagoons without a bidding process. His son broke a three-line whip when he voted to reject the bill.
The party’s disciplinary committee defied Gayoom’s suspension and expelled Faris and two other Gayoom loyalists, but the PPM secretariat later said their removal was illegal.
On July 22, Gayoom held a council meeting at the request of MPs, but the Yameen faction walked out in protest of Faris’ presence at the meeting.
The feud has left the party in disarray and Yameen without allies at a time of a growing opposition movement to arrest him on charges of corruption and human rights abuses. The Maldives United Opposition, a coalition of former senior officials of Yameen’s administration and the opposition parties, has now launched daily protests.
Yameen has called the PPM split a “big gift to the opposition.”
The president’s main support base within the PPM comprises of its 47 MPs. He also commands the support of six others who belong to the Maldives Development Alliance, a ruling coalition partner.
Signs of dissent, however, have emerged within the parliamentary group.
Several MPs have spoken out against a government-sponsored bill to recriminalize defamation. On Saturday, MP Mohamed Musthafa was removed from an instant messaging group on Viber. He was accused of leaking conversations had on the group to the media.
The bill has drawn fierce criticism from journalists, human rights groups and the international community.
Gayoom’s reform agenda meanwhile aims “to free the party from corruption” and “hold elected representatives accountable.”