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Maldives president takes aim at opponent

Yameen challenged the opposition candidate to answer to the alleged “betrayals” of the MDP government.



President Abdulla Yameen on Sunday night challenged his opponent in the upcoming election to answer to the alleged crimes of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party government.

The September 23 contest is not between the incumbent and MDP candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu,’ Yameen said, but a referendum on whether Maldivians have the right to determine the direction of the country, its interests, nationhood, Maldivian character, and Islamic identity.

“All of these features were betrayed in the past [by the MDP],” he contended, launching his first direct attack against the joint opposition candidate.

The MDP parliamentary group leader since 2011, Ibu was named an alternative candidate in place of exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed, the target of a campaign of vilification at PPM rallies over the past few years.

The MDP’s 2018 manifesto includes policies pursued during Nasheed’s three-year administration, Yameen continued, posing several questions to the veteran lawmaker.

Ibu should assure that he would not sell off state assets and he should explain the “sale” of the international airport to Indian developer GMR as well as the subsequent loss borne by the state, he said.

The candidate should say whether the death penalty would be implemented and explain why civil service pay was deducted in 2009, he said.

Ibu’s pledges include reversing limits on civil service overtime pay.

Yameen went on to allege that the MDP had influenced the February 1 Supreme Court order for the release of his jailed opponents, a shock ruling that triggered a controversial state of emergency and a round up of alleged coup plotters.

He also criticised Ibu’s pledge to privatise the State Trading Organisation’s businesses apart from the import of staple foodstuff and other essential goods.

The improved financial capacity of state-owned enterprises is key to the current growth trend, he argued, which was preferable to legal disputes that arise from awarding infrastructure projects to foreign companies.

Yameen declared himself an “honest” ruler who has been serving with sincerity.

He was speaking at a ceremony held to hand over the presidential ticket of the Progressive Party of Maldives, during which his running mate Dr Mohamed Shaheem officially joined the ruling party.

In his remarks, the Islamic university chancellor pledged to be a loyal deputy worthy of the president’s love, heaping praise on Yameen for defending Islam and developing the country.

– Maumoon Reform Movement –

In the nearly hour-long speech, Yameen also took aim at a group of PPM MPs loyal to his half-brother, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was expelled from the ruling party following an acrimonious leadership dispute last year and jailed on obstruction charges last month.

Last week, Gayoom’s supporters formed the ‘Maumoon Reform Movement’ to represent the former strongman in the joint opposition presidential campaign.

But the PPM needs no reform, Yameen said, as the party’s ideas for reform were stated in its founding philosophy and policies, which remain unchanged.

Yameen revealed that he is the only one left from a seven-member committee that advised Gayoom ahead of the PPM’s formation in late 2011, accusing his former colleagues of joining the opposition for short-term personal interest.

The PPM controlled “a super, super majority” in parliament before it was split into rival factions, he recalled.

Yameen went on to say that apostasy and irreligious behaviour of some youth must be “remedied” if the Maldives is to remain “a homogenous society.”

Incomplete religious education was at fault, he suggested.

“I want the Maldives to always have 100 percent Muslim Maldivians. There are problems in our syllabus. That’s why I invited Dr Shaheem to join us,” he said.

As with all PPM events, the rally was broadcast live on state media. Ahmed Ikram, the deputy managing director of the state-owned Public Service Media corporation, was the emcee of the event.

Photos from the president’s office.