Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom delivered an impassioned speech on the civil war roiling the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives; his half-brother and incumbent President Abdulla Yameen has seized control, sending in the police to block Gayoom from accessing its headquarters on Thursday.
The 78-year-old former strongman withdrew support for Yameen, accusing him of cracking down on dissent, and condemned, for the first time, the jailing of opposition leaders under his three-year rule.
“Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Progressive Party of the Maldives. On this happy occasion, I extend warm greetings to the members of the party, members of the council, MPs, members of various committees, the party’s secretarial staff, the two vice presidents of the party, and the party’s advisor, the leaders of the party’s branches and in general all of the members of the party.
The PPM, without a doubt, is a very successful party, the most successful party seen to be active in the past five years. Today, the PPM is the party with the most number of valid members in the Maldives. This is a major success, one we achieved in a very short period of time, with Allah’s grace. The PPM has also won in elections against all other parties in the past five years, including the parliamentary elections in 2014. Without doubt, the past five years have been very successful for the PPM. This is because of the hard work of the PPM’s beloved members, and the support of its secretarial staff and members of its branches. I would like to extend my thanks and greetings to all of these individuals.
The internal strife facing the PPM at present was caused by the fact that some PPM members and its internal committees have violated its charter. For any organization facing such a challenge, the best way forward is to return to its fundamentals principles. To remind itself the goals it was set up to achieve. It is constant remembrance that will expose its wrongdoings and show the path forward for reform.
We, too, must remember our party’s aims. We can then rectify mishaps and take steps for reform. Without a doubt, remembering and reminding others are sacred in Islam. [Quotes Qurani’c verse]
So we must remember and remind ourselves of our founding principles, and act upon them. Article 10 of the party’s charter states, in detail, the goals of this party. I will read out some of them; maintaining the Maldives’ status as a 100percent Muslim nation and protecting Islam and preserving our sovereignty and independence, establishing the democratic values enshrined in the Maldivian constitution, ensuring the system of separation of powers and preserving the independence of the judiciary and independent oversight bodies, eliminating corruption and providing equal opportunities for all citizens, holding public and elected officials accountable, economic prosperity, reducing our debt, recovering property stolen from the public, and ensuring that the Maldives is a country free from foreign economic interests.
All of this is written, in clear and simple words, in our party charter. So we must reflect on whether we are able to achieve these goals, or not. If not, why? And what we can do to to remedy the situation.
As we mark our fifth anniversary, it is important that we carry out such an exercise. Then, we can find out where we went wrong and at which point we stayed off the right path, and take action for reform.
Actions for reform are good – we must constantly strive to reform ourselves, and our societies and political parties. There is no wrong in that. We may make mistakes, it is human nature. But it is important to examine what went wrong and find a remedy. That will put us on the path to achieving our goals. Otherwise, we will stray from our path, fail to achieve our goals.
“In this vein, when one looks at the prevailing political landscape in the Maldives, one sees a different picture. The democratic principles enshrined in our constitution are not gaining a foothold in the country. For example, the space for political parties to operate in the country is getting narrower and narrower by the day. The leaders of political parties are facing serious challenges; some are in jail or under some other form of detention. The Political Parties Act, our constitution and Islamic principles oblige us to be politically active, to create awareness and find the right path. That the space for such activity is being narrowed is a major obstacle to democracy.
I would like to touch on tonight’s events. Today is the PPM’s fifth anniversary. Two to three weeks ago, the PPM council decided to hold a colourful celebration to mark this day. At first, we checked if we could rent Dharubaaruge for the occasion. We were told that the space was booked from the 27th to the 30th, but that the 31st night was available. We agreed and made a payment and received confirmation of the booking. A few days later, all of a sudden, we were told that the space was not available. That it was needed for an examination. They are yet to return the money they took from us.
Then, we checked to see if any other public space was available, such as the carnival. Those who had booked the venue said we could have it. But that government permission was required. So we requested permission from that ministry. And they told us they only respond to a specific council, another council they believe represents the PPM. They said we do not recognise you, our council. So that venue was not available. We could not obtain the meeting halls of schools, political activities were supposedly banned at schools, the streets were not available, walking on the streets have been prohibited. In this manner, political space has now narrowed to the extent that we are no longer able to breathe
“In any case, we decided we would hold this rally at the PPM headquarters. Inside the office premises that we have rented, not even outside. So after we had made the necessary preparations, we were barred from entering our offices. We were denied access. The police set up barricades and cordoned the area off. When I attempted to go, I was told not to, so I refrained. And I came here. This shows that democracy in the Maldives has been broken, destroyed, and we are constrained. This is not how we envisioned it to be. We want to live freely. Freedom is a blessing from God. No individual can obstruct this freedom, and it is enshrined in international conventions, the charter of the United Nations and our constitution. It must not be obstructed. It is a right afforded to all human beings. However, today, we are being limited, confined to a small space.
Our party charter calls for the separation of the three powers, and the independence of the judiciary and oversight bodies. But that is not what we are seeing today. “The three powers are no longer independent of the other. They have merged into one. We do not know who is running it all, but all three speak in the same voice. There are nearly four hundred thousand people living in our country, there are several parties, and numerous individuals serving in numerous posts, but we do not hear any of their voices. We are all being forced to obey one person. We are not on track to achieving this goal stated in our charter.
Reducing our debt is included in our aims. But from what I hear, our debt is only increasing day by day. Foreign influence is growing over our nation, despite our party charter stating that we must save our country from foreign economic forces.
Eliminating corruption is among the party’s goals. But let us ask ourselves, is corruption decreasing? Is it getting eliminated? Are we taking action to do so? No. The truth is, the biggest corruption scandal in the country’s history – the MMPRC corruption, when more than MVR 1.2billion was embezzled, the relevant authorities were not aware of such a massive scandal.
What is even more concerning is that when leaders of institutions are removed over allegations of corruption, a week or two later, these persons are appointed to a higher post elsewhere. I do not believe these are steps taken to eliminate corruption.
Holding public and elected officials responsible is also among our party’s goals, but we do not see that happening. No one is being held accountable. Providing equal opportunity to all – that is also among our party’s stated goals. But we are not afforded equal opportunities. Instead, others with power and influence deprive the ordinary man of opportunities.
I have tried very hard to resolve these problems, because I’m the elected president of this party. I remain in this position with the grace of Almighty Allah, and for that I offer my gratitude, and I thank the members of our party. It is my duty to fix wrongdoings carried out by our party. This is not work that can always be carried out publicly, and I have tried to do it quietly, within the party, I tried to reform our party, closing off stray paths, to ensure that we remain on the right path. But I was obstructed.
The word reform has now become one that causes anxiety to some, that beautiful and holy word, is one some do not want to hear. Allah sent all of his prophets to reform their societies, not for any other reason. This is stated in the holy Quran. Reform is a must. But in our party the word “reform’ has become unacceptable. Anyone who utters that word is seen as someone who is against the government, or an MDP member. We are not MDP. We are defending the principles of our party. That is what we are trying to achieve.
Now, those who work for reform have had their powers undermined. Even if I do not state this in detail, you know that this is how it’s happening. The path of democracy is the ballot box. To vest authority in elected individuals. The president of the Maldives is elected through a direct vote. So are members of parliament. This is the path of democracy. Hence, the authority to govern a party must lie with person elected by its members. I do not say this because I am the head of a party or because of my current circumstances. This is a democratic principle, accepted across the world. Any organization claims it is democratic, it must be governed or administered by a person elected by members of that organization. Not a person designated by outsiders. This is a principle accepted across the world. But that principle has been broken in the Maldives. This is what has happened within our party. Its elected leader’s powers have been removed by other institutions. This is not democracy.
Now let’s look at what has happened within our party. When I thought about it, I saw that it was because some people who were not originally of our party, people who did not share our ideology, joined our party. They did not share our philosophy. For example, the PA [People’s Alliance]. A lot of PA members joined us. And now, they are running everything. This is a PPM government, but just consider the number of PPM officials versus the PA officials in government posts. And in oversight bodies too. For example, the elections commission, the body that we have had most issues with, the president of the commission is a member of the PA. We have been deceived by people wearing our beautiful uniform, wearing this color [points at his pink tie], but they are people who do not believe in our values. It is their voices that are being heard, not the PPM’s voice, not the PPM’s philosophy. That is what I think has gone wrong.
I believe the unlawful attempt at usurping the powers of PPM’s elected president, by coercing state institutions, is a severe warning to other parties. It is the PPM today, but tomorrow it may be the Jumhooree Party, Adhaalath Party, the MDP or the MDA. No party must watch on, saying they are not affected. We must learn lessons from this. It is crucial that we all unite and work together in defense of democracy, the constitution and the citizens. If not, the Maldives will be plunged into a bottomless and dark pit.
Next, I want to say something very important. This is a PPM administration. It was elected through the sincere and hard work of PPM’s members. It was elected by all of our work. We elected it to implement the pledges outlined in the PPM’s manifesto. To advance the PPM’s values and ideology. The PPM’s ideology is one that prioritizes this nation. That is why our motto is ‘First and Foremost, the nation’. A PPM government will and should prioritize the interests of the nation. A government that puts forward its own interests over that of the nation is not a PPM government.
We have seen laws passed that deprive people of their rights. For example, the Defamation Act, or the law permitting the lease of our islands and lagoons without a bidding process, many such laws, the law that allows Maldivian land to be sold to foreigners. These constitute huge losses to the Maldivian people. I do not want the party that I belong to act in this manner. I do not want to bear responsibility for such actions. Because people do hold me responsible, won’t they? I am the president of the PPM. This is a PPM administration. There are many who believe the government’s actions are endorsed by the party president. People ask me, they call me, they do not believe what I say. I tell them I am not informed when such laws are passed. They were also done without our council’s say. Our charter states that our parliamentary group must consult with the council when making decisions on matters of national importance. But which of these issues has been brought before the council? None! When the Maldivian constitution was amended, [the council] was not consulted. I informed the leader of the parliamentary group in writing to follow the party’s rules and consult with the council. But he did not do so, he did not even answer the letter.
Hence, I now believe that the current government is not one that respects the party’s values and ideology. Since I am the elected leader of the party, I, too, have to bear some responsibility. So I have decided to withdraw my support I have given to this government from this moment on. I will not, my conscience does not believe that I should bear any responsibility for what is happening. I do not want it to be said that I was the president of the PPM when a PPM government acted in such and such a manner.
So I have withdrawn the support for the current PPM government. God Willing, I will not support this government in the future.
I say so with great sadness. I have refrained from saying so. I have asked to meet with the party’s advisor to discuss these issues, but it has been over a year since I last met him. So how do can we make reforms through dialogue when that opportunity did not exist? I do not want to carry this burden on my shoulders any longer. This is why I have said what I said.
Even so, I will continue governing PPM. God willing, I will maintain the PPM’s status as the most successful party in the Maldives. The PPM council will continue in its work, it will continue meetings. Its decisions will be implemented. We will ensure that this party is the most popular, the party that works in the interest of the public.
May Allah bless our work. Thank you.