By S. Chandrasekharan
After doing “shadow boxing” for a while with his own party men, former President, Gayoom announced the formation of a new party called “Progressive Party of Maldives.”
This should not have come as a surprise to those who have been watching the developments in Maldives, as Gayoom had been openly accusing the DRP leadership since March this year of acting “dictatorially” and violating the party charter.
Thus Gayoom was leaving a party that was created by him on July 21, 2005 when the country was moving towards a multi party democracy and ditching the current leader of the party Thasmeen Ali-a person chosen by him personally.
When Thasmeen took over, Gayoom was made the “honorary leader” ( Zaeem ) of the DRP. The understanding was that he would for all practical purposes give up politics and have a role like that of a senior adviser.
It now transpires and Gayoom has admitted that he never had any intention of giving up politics and alleged that he resigned from the DRP- the party he created could not be reformed despite all his efforts!
In a press conference on 4th of September to a private channel Gayoom declared that he was forming the party to achieve “very important” national purposes that included:
- Strengthening Islam in the country and maintain Islam as a religion that they all love and respect.
- To protect their independence and sovereignty
- To establish a strong democratic system in the country
- Ensure happiness and prosperity to the people.
- To reform the country to make it a place where people want to live
- Uphold public order, peace and stability and facilitate equal opportunity for everyone to advance.
Why is he using the “Islamic Card” now when Islam is in no danger in Maldives? The danger as one commentator has said in the Minivan News on the same day of the press conference is from the Muslim leaders themselves-. He said and I quote
The Muslim needs leaders who can go beyond petty sloganeering and asserting a hollow supremacy…. needs leaders who understand that for a religion to maintain its greatness, it principles need to be as dynamic as the human cultures and societies themselves . . . what is needed is a change of guard and a new class of leaders who are not afraid to take the much harder route- one of accomplishment and progress; to create a world where a tyrant like Gadafi or terrorist like Osama never again gets mistaken for a ‘Muslim leader’.
Democracy itself is not in danger in Maldives now or before. What we saw was that the ruling party ( that was in a minority!) was thwarted at every stage to establish democratic traditions and move forward with the new constitution.
President Nasheed had respected the majority decisions of the Majlis though such decisions ran counter to good governance- like the appointment of cabinet ministers or of the judicial decisions. He did not use his presidential position to countermand such decisions.
Those outsiders who have been following the developments in Maldives would confirm that despite all the hiccups and obstructive tactics of the opposition, democracy is taking firm roots in a country that had seen only authoritarian regimes until very recently.
Gayoom could have achieved the objectives mentioned in his press conference through the coalition partner – People’s alliance led by his half brother Abdulla Yameen. Instead we find that Yameen had also ditched the party he created and was the one of the first to register himself with the new party.
In the press conference, Gayoom did not say anything about his intention to contest the next presidential elections. He may still do, though there are other contenders like Yameen who had earlier declared his intention to do so.
We come back to the question as to why Gayoom is plunging into active politics once again when he could have retired with all the benefits he obtained and led a life of a senior statesman?
It looks that the deal he had with the present regime to abstain from politics in return for certain benefits no longer holds good. His past conduct under the three decades of absolute rule may come to haunt him. Perhaps, (it is only a guess) he feels that he has to be in the driving seat in active politics to save himself.
Two issues have come up already.
The present government has ordered the reopening of investigation of the 2003 Maafushi Jail shooting. A Special committee consisting of the Housing Minister, the Attorney General and the Defence Minister has been formed by the President in this connection.
There was an investigation of the riots earlier and the report of January 2004 that has not been published mentioned that there was no emergency situation and that shooting of the prisoners was neither a proportional response nor reasonable means of control.
The Officer who ordered the shooting, Captain Adam Mohamed was granted clemency by Gayoom. A former prison guard who was recently arrested for the shooting in 2003 revealed that the order to shoot came from the “top.”
More dirty details of the unfortunate incident may come out now.
Gayoom was also the Minister of Defence and National Security at the time of the riots.
Second- the scandal involving former President Gayoom and his half brother Abdulla Yameen in the 800 million oil deal has also been revived and it was revealed on 3rd August that the National Security Committee has proposed to summon Gayoom to investigate his involvement in the deal.
The scandal related to buying of subsidised oil through the Singapore Branch of Maldivian State Trading Corporation and selling it to the Burmese Military Junta at black market premium rates.
It looks that President Nasheed is slowly giving up the idealistic positions he has been taking all along. One recent example is the way Maldives has responded to the Human rights violations of Sri Lanka during the last stages of war against the LTTE. Its representative said at the United Nations that one should take note of the violation not only on what happened during the last stages of war but also much earlier thereby diluting the whole thrust of the argument of gruesome violations that took place towards the close of the war when 40,000 civilians were killed.