By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
I have mentioned before many times that former President Gayoom was making a big mistake in re- entering politics once again after having announced that he would retire from public life.
Gayoom had literally ruled Maldives for over three decades with unquestioned authority and had enjoyed the power and the wealth that go with it. It was thought that he had entered into a deal with the present administration of President Nasheed that he would keep away from politics after obtaining very generous terms of retirement.
Gayoom himself had not treated his predecessor or his family well. They were chased out of Maldives permanently. Knowing very well that the skeletons in the ‘cupboard’ will be dug out, he did the right thing in seeking a deal so that he is left out of harm’s way. President Nasheed despite pressure from his colleagues in the MDP did leave Gayoom alone.
Yet Gayoom, overtaken by greed for power or perhaps pressure from his relatives, returned to Maldives hurriedly to campaign for the DRP candidates in the local elections conducted recently. The party did fairly well though it lost badly in the two major towns of Male and Addu Atoll. At that time I had pointed out that it was not a good idea for Gayoom to return to politics. (See paper no. 4290 of South Asia Analysis Group dated 23rd January, 2011).
There is no doubt that Gayoom could claim credit for the smooth transition to democracy and no ‘Jasmine Revolution’ was needed. He had let the tourism industry to flourish despite objections from some of the religious extremists and more importantly kept the Islamists under control. Having provided a good constitution, he should have remained as a great “Patriarch,” keep away from politics and at the same time ensure smooth and peaceful transition. He could have as well attended to more critical social and environmental problems confronting the country in his retirement and remembered in history as the maker of modern Maldives. But he chose to stand for presidential elections. He did not do badly either though he lost in the “run off.”
Now old skeletons are being dug up. The “Week” of 20th February from India, has extensively written about the family of Gayoom of having indulged in an illegal oil deal with Myanmar worth over $800 million and a report is now said to be submitted to the current President Nasheed by a Singapore Consultancy firm Grant Thornton. When questions were raised about the veracity of the report, the author Chakravarty said on 13th February that he stood by the report and added that these were not allegations but based on details found in a document!
I have mentioned all these as a background to the latest public statement of Gayoom made on 17th of this month when he said – I quote-“ I regret to inform the general members of the DRP and the public that I no longer support Ahmed Thasmeen Ali ( current president of DRP) contesting the 2013 presidential elections as Thasmeen had said that he does not need my support” in a programme “Coffee with DRP.” “I apologise to the members of the DRP as Thasmeen Ali was elected to the leader’s post with direct facilitation from my side.”
It was just eleven months ago that Gayoom personally handpicked his successor Thasmeen Ali to lead his party DRP and the latter was unanimously elected. Differences have been brewing between the ‘Supreme leader’ Gayoom and the President of the party Thasmeen Ali for some time now, ever since the deputy leader of the party Umar Naseer was sacked from the party. Gayoom’s family members openly alleged that Thasmeen was ‘ill-treating Gayoom’.
On 3rd March, Yugna Maumoon, the daughter of Gayoom, said that Thasmeen was behaving in a dictatorial manner
On 10th of March, Gayoom shot off a twelve-page letter to Thasmeen listing his grievances. What was surprising and shocking- was that Gayoom said that he was writing to “protect the Islamic faith of the Maldivian people,” thus bringing religion into play when the differences were purely personal( an ego problem).
In the letter, Gayoom made the following points:
* Thasmeen showed dictatorial characteristics. – taking decisions against the party council’s decisions like sacking the deputy Uma Naseer
* Not fighting sufficiently in opposing the decision of the government to lease Male international airport to the Indian company GMR.
* Going for a coalition with DQP of Dr. Hassan Saeed without proper discussions within the party.
* Dismissing of Umar Naseer on a personal grudge.
* Contributing only 300,000 RF for his presidential campaign. (Yet this did not at that time deter Gayoom from nominating Thasmeen as his successor)
* Not following the party charter and not having regular council meetings.
* Not accompanying Gayoom’s son Ghassan for parliamentary election campaign in one of the parliamentary constituencies.
* Taking the advice of other outsiders sidelining him (Gayoom).
Essentially the grievances are personal in character and Thasmeen is being accused of not taking the advice of Gayoom regularly in running the party affairs and in not taking proper care of his relatives. In essence, not paying proper attention to “dynastic politics” which is very much in vogue in this part of the region!
Thasmeen is said to have replied point by point in a fifteen-page response. The 32 member DRP council which met since then has endorsed the leadership of Thasmeen Ali.
Gayoom’s criticism of Thasmeen became personal when on 18th March, he said that the biggest problem of the DRP leader Thasmeen Ali is in voting in People’s Majlis for his personal gains. In the same breath he praised the former Speaker and one of the richest in Maldives-Gasim Ibrahim as an ideal person “exemplified for his honesty and truthfulness.”. Gasim was harassed during Gayoom’s time and jailed for some time for the opposite of what Gasim is being praised now!
The net result is that the DRP, which is a formidable opposition is in the brink of splitting up into two or more parties. The coalition partner PA led by Gayoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen is alleged to be behind the split and yet he declared a few days ago that his party for the present will stick with DRP.
The advantage as of now thanks to the re-entry of Gayoom is with MDP ( can we say the ruling party?) which has been making steady gains ever since it failed to get a majority in the parliamentary elections and has been facing stiff opposition on every issue including the appointment of cabinet ministers till now.