President Abdulla Yameen has given himself a 50 percent pay bump, backtracking on an election pledge and revealing the hike as the country experiences its second state of emergency under his rule.
Yameen was speaking at a rally in the capital Wednesday night that was attended by about 500 people, many of whom were sporting the ruling party’s signature colour of shocking pink.
It was his second public appearance since announcing a state of emergency, which follows the government’s refusal to enforce a Supreme Court order to release political prisoners.
The state of emergency suspends around 20 constitutional rights including freedom of assembly. Ruling party events are unaffected, but riot police have been seen roughing up opposition supporters who have been out on the streets demanding the enforcement of the apex court’s ruling.
Yameen used his speech to make several digs at his opponents such as his 82-year-old half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is languishing behind bars as part of a presidential purge.
“Remember, you won’t be able to find a more sincere president than me in recent history,” he told the crowd. “I have not made big palaces for me to live in. Even before I was elected, I told you I do not want to live in luxury. I do not want to take a huge wage,” Yameen said, referring to Gayoom who lived in luxury during his 30-year rule.
“I did not expect to live in an official residence, recently I sold my house and had to move when my house was being built. I have not taken an island, I haven’t taken a resort, I haven’t taken a house.”
“Until I moved to Hilaaleege (the vice president’s official house), I took only half of my salary. Today, I will tell you why I have to take my full wage now.”
“The people who wrote our constitution said only the president’s children who are not of age will be allowed to live with the president. It was because people were jealous that Maumoon’s children grew up, ate and lived with state money.”
“I have two grown children, a son and a daughter. They are both married and have their families. I have to rent places for them to live in. I wouldn’t touch state funds for things like this. This is why I have to take my entire salary.”
“But Allah hasn’t made me poor. I have friends, this is not state money, I have friends who wish me well. They know how I’m living, and they know I wouldn’t touch state money.”
His full salary is MVR 100,000 (US$6,464) a month and comes from the state.
Yameen also talked about getting a “revelation” from God about how the “judicial coup” was planned.
“I have gotten some investigative reports of what’s happened since Thursday (the day of the Supreme Court ruling). With God’s grace, I have had an epiphany.
“We know there is something wrong with the system because for four days we were on our knees. The only thing that saved us was the security forces who believed that there was an attempt to destroy the rule of law.”
He appealed to nationalist sentiment in his speech, a response to former president Mohamed Nasheed’s call to India for military assistance.
“It’s like these people think that if you have some dollars, you can buy everything. No, there are things you can’t buy. Some things are more sacred. The conscience of the Maldivian government is more sacred. This land is more sacred. The colours of our flag are more sacred.
“This is what they do not understand. You don’t take over the Maldives by bringing in foreign troops.”