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President defends track record in farewell address

Yameen made no mention of his petition to annul the September 23 election.



President Abdulla Yameen defended his record in an address to the nation Wednesday, signalling acceptance of his election defeat despite challenging the results at the Supreme Court.

Yameen repeatedly stated he was serving his final days in office. No mention was made of his bid to annul the September 23 election, which was dealt a blow Tuesday by the apex court’s refusal to call secret witnesses.

The jailing of political opponents “might have been the biggest challenge my government faced,” he conceded, but remained unapologetic.

“I established justice through the courts tasked with it by the Maldivian constitution,” he said in the televised address, which was announced by his spokesman minutes before it began.

“Sentences were implemented after appeals were completed at all stages. If there is disquiet among the public over that, I would say there’s nothing I could do about that. But I did what had to be done for the sake of most Maldivian people and the whole Maldivian state.”

The ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled included two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, leaders of opposition parties, several lawmakers, and the country’s chief prosecutor.

In the face of widespread condemnation and threats of sanctions, the government was adamant there were no political prisoners.

The outgoing administration always acted within legal bounds and everyone was equal before the law, the president insisted.

When his legacy is assessed, Yameen urged the public to consider his accomplishments in solving longstanding problems, improving healthcare and education, and strengthening the economy.

The utmost priority was sovereignty and national security, Yameen stressed, warning against external threats.

“The basis of all the work and policies of my government was ensuring peace and security of the nation. In doing this, I would have done things that various political figures found difficult. The five years I have spent in government were not easy for me.”

He defended the decision to leave the Commonwealth over “unbearable” meddling with domestic affairs.

Yameen thanked his supporters and urged those who did not vote for him to safeguard the country’s independence.

He would remain “a loyal citizen who wishes well for the nation” and “move forward with political work together with thousands of people.”

The address is being viewed as a second concession speech.

Yameen first conceded hours after provisional results showed he lost by a record margin of 38,653 votes.

But a week later, he claimed he should have received more than 96,000 votes (42 percent).

The ruling party has since been staging nightly protests over alleged undue influence over the independent electoral body.

With the Supreme Court due to rule on his election challenge, Wednesday’s address was his first public appearance since he spoke at the protest on October 1.

Yameen said what he failed to do was “learn people” and accused estranged allies of pursuing self-interest.

“I couldn’t learn at all when these five years went by why these changes have come to people’s ideology and thinking, and I couldn’t learn under what kind of influence the thinking of political leaders and the Maldivian people changes at the speed that it does,” he said.