Members of the Progressive Party of Maldives’ council loyal to President Abdulla Yameen walked out of an emergency meeting called by the party’s leader Tuesday night to resolve a worsening factional split.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told the press that the members who walked out objected to the presence of his son Faris Maumoon and Aminath Nadira, who they insist have been expelled by the party’s disciplinary committee.
“I said it’s up to you to remain here or not. But I don’t believe they have been expelled,” said the PPM leader.
The disciplinary committee is comprised of seven members, he added, but the pair was expelled with only three members in attendance.
MP Faris was found guilty of breaching the PPM parliamentary group’s whip line by voting against authorising the government to lease islands without bidding.
The long-rumoured rift between the Gayoom brothers broke out into the open last month when the former president urged PPM MPs to vote against the government-sponsored bill.
He also rejected a petition signed by a majority of the PPM council urging him to grant his half-brother the party’s ticket without a primary.
Gayoom subsequently suspended the party’s committees and launched a reform agenda, suggesting PPM MPs, who hold a majority in the parliament, were pushing through legal changes “that paves the way for corruption.”
Shortly after Gayoom spoke to reporters at the party’s office last night, the ‘Yameen faction’ held a press conference in an office reportedly being prepared for Yameen’s 2018 campaign, located on the seventh floor of the nearby Oxygen café building.
MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla said 21 out of 28 council members in attendance, excluding Faris and Nadira, walked out because the meeting was invalid due to their participation.
Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan said the complaint against Faris was forwarded to the disciplinary committee with the consent of 33 out of 47 PPM MPs.
The expulsion was justified because Faris voted against the party’s whip line twice, he said.
Mohamed Hussain Shareef, the former presidential affairs minister, contended that the disciplinary committee’s decision was valid and reached in accordance with the party’s charter.
Despite the last night’s events, Nihan stressed that the “minor disagreement” within the party will be resolved.
Gayoom also said he hoped the problems could be solved: “They will know very well now why I proposed the reform agenda. That it is not aimed at anyone but for reforming the party.”
The agenda was formulated because the party’s affairs were “worsening day-to-day” as a result of a loss of discipline and lack of respect for the party’s rules.
Gayoom said he offered examples of instances where the charter was violated, but some council members accused him of bringing the PPM parliamentary group into disrepute.
“I told them that isn’t so. I didn’t speak in a way that demeans you. What I said was the truth and how things really happened,” he said.
Instead of meeting him to discuss their grievances, Gayoom said the PPM MPs publicly accused him of “hijacking” the party and filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate his reform agenda.
Asked if he was willing to compromise, Gayoom said: “What did I do wrong? What do I have to do to compromise? I’m proceeding correctly. I’m working to reform the party. So I don’t see where I have to compromise. They didn’t make any demands.”
Gayoom broke out in laughter when asked if he would quit the party if he fails to resolve the dispute.
President Yameen was meanwhile expected to join last night’s council meeting. He reportedly met with the parliamentary group ahead of the meeting but did not attend the council.
Gayoom said Yameen has the right to attend council meetings as the party’s chief advisor.
“[Yameen] didn’t come to a lot of council meeting in the past. So I didn’t expect that he would attend tonight. But since it was reported in the media; I would have welcomed him with honour and respect,” he said.
The pair has not held one-to-one meetings to discuss the internal strife, Gayoom revealed.
In an address to the nation earlier this month, Yameen had said that failure to resolve the dispute through dialogue would be “a big Eid gift to our opposition.”