President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, due to its majority in the parliament, was the most powerful government in recent history. But today, on his second anniversary in power, Yameen’s administration is destabilized by scandal. A minor blast on the presidential speedboat, labeled a bomb plot by the government, has resulted in the arrest and impeachment of the vice president, the firing of the defence minister and police chief, and exposed massive corruption within the police force and the tourism sector.
Tens of millions of dollars are missing in revenue and several firearms are said to be missing from the state armory. Citing imminent attacks, Yameen declared an unprecedented state of emergency, which lasted six days instead of the intended 30, earlier this month.
But there is no push for reform among the supporters of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives. The majority I spoke to said Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was to blame for the government’s woes, and thought a purge of his loyalists would put the government back on the right track.
“I never liked Adeeb,” said Aida Ismail, who works at the Football Association of Maldives. “He sought power from the beginning and in my opinion that’s not a good thing. And this [a bomb on the boat] is how he repays the president after all he has done for him. I’m very disappointed.”
The PPM now stands firmly behind Yameen, said Ibrahim Yousuf, the party’s youth wing leader.
Adeeb’s loyalists, however, said his expulsion from the PPM and his arrest would result in the loss of young supporters for the party and the government. “One of the successes of this government is the support of the youth. They earned this trust by showing a new hope for the young people. But now, since Yameen has sacked Adheeb, a young man himself, the people will question the government,” said Moosa Anwar.
Adeeb, for many, signified a turn away from the elite family rule associated with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Yameen’s half-brother who ruled the Maldives for 30 years. Since Yameen assumed power, rifts had been appearing between Gayoom loyalists and new cohort of young supporters Adeeb brought in.
In response to Moosa’s claim, the PPM held a press conference on October 31, where MP Abdulla Rifau denied claims of young supporters leaving the party. Only two or three people had left the party since Adeeb’s expulsion, he claimed. “Adeeb’s arrest is no impediment to progress. All cabinet ministers are very busy with work.”
Yameen must now consolidate power, many PPM supporters said.
“I don’t think reform is needed for the party. But this is a critical moment. We do need to find out if there are individuals in the party who are not sure of his or her loyalty to the government. They should leave now,” said Inaz Ali, a member representing PPM on the southern Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Council.
Some even went so far as to deny the apparent infighting within the government and PPM.
“I don’t think there is any dispute within the government or PPM,” said Fathimath Zaina, who works at the first lady’s office. “Things were a bit unclear, once this is all cleared up, there will be enough room for the president to go forward with his agenda. Yameen is a very active leader and I am confident that he can go through this with.”
Corruption is a crime common in any government, said Hussain Shakir, a PPM member on the Dhaalu Atoll Council.
While many said tackling corruption was important, there was no talk of shoring up of watchdog institutions, such as the Auditor General’s Office and the Anti- Corruption Commission, which the opposition says, have been stacked with ruling party loyalists or threatened into silence.
The solution for many appeared to be a purge of specific individuals.
“Of course there is corruption, but as the president has said that doesn’t mean the whole government is corrupted. This is an opportunity for us to get rid of the corrupt elements within the state. The government will be much stronger than before, after this,” Shakir said.
Mohamed Ali, a PPM council member in northern Noonu Atoll, said problems are bound to arise in an infant democracy – a line often pushed by the foreign ministry.
The public must be patient and play along, he said.
“We are still at an early stage of democracy and this is the period where you identify the problems and find solutions to it. This current situation is proof that our democracy is indeed working. The people are able to identify problems and call for better laws and regulations,” he added.
Only one man among the PPM supporters I spoke to said he no longer supported the government.
Ameen Shafeeu, a young sound engineer and an ardent supporter of Yameen, said the level of corruption inside the government was alarming. He was concerned that Yameen has not put forth a plan to tackle graft.
“The president has admitted to corruption within the police and independent institutions. But it is not clear to me how he got to that conclusion. So until that is clear I don’t know if I can vote for him again,” he said.