President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza has given assurances that the government coalition of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan remained strong, despite a differing of opinions between pro-government parties regarding the bill proposing the Maldives’ withdrawal from the Commonwealth.
“The coalition is strong, there are no issues with that. It shows that even on issues on which we disagree, we can work together. That’s what being in a coalition is all about,” said Abbas.
“Nasheed’s coalition split within 21 days – we are already passed this date. There are no long term issues,” he added.
A bill to withdraw the Maldives from the Commonwealth was submitted to the Majlis on April 29 and has been labelled in the local media as “not responsible” by the leader of coalition member Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.
Speaking with local newspaper Haveeru, Thasmeen criticised the decision not to consult with other parties within the coalition. The bill was submitted by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Ilham and Dhivehi Qaumee Party, also a part of the coalition, (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed.
Deputy leader of the DRP, Ibrahim Shareef, today said that the party was in general support of the government: “But we cannot give in where the party’s core values are at stake.”
“We will try to run the ministries allocated to us and will support the government on matters we agree upon. On matters we disagree we will vote against,” he said.
When asked about the core values that divide the PPM from the DRP, Shareef said that he was unsure of the specific values of the PPM.
He said that the core values of the DRP were an open economic policy, private enterprise, equality and justice, democracy and the protection of law for everyone equally.
Leader of the DQP and Special Advisor to President Waheed, Dr Hassan Saeed, wrote an opinion piece for Haveeru on April 26 entitled: “Voters need to know what the party stands for”.
In the article he wrote: “We need political parties with clear political platforms. But before this we need to understand where those policies come from. What are the values that underpin them?”
He argued that clearer differentiation between parties would enable voters to make informed choices. Otherwise, Dr Saeed argued that voters fall back on reasons such as personality politics.
He argued that this was “the most dangerous because it can lead to a crude populism where big personalities attempt to outbid each other with unkeepable promises.”
The PPM, headed by the former President of thirty years Maumoon Gayoom, was formed in October 2011 following acrimonious divisions within the DRP. Gayoom had previously announced his retirement from politics but has become increasingly active in 2012.
The decision to forward the bill followed comments by Gayoom criticising the recent Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) statement. The statement criticised the government’s apparent failure to establish an impartial body to investigate the events that led to Nasheed’s resignation. It also repeated prior calls for fresh elections to end conjecture over the legitimacy of the current government.
Days before the submission of the withdrawal bill to parliament, Gayoom was reported as having questioned the necessity of the Maldives’ Commonwealth membership.
Gayoom became the Maldives’ third President in 1978 and the country joined the Commonwealth in 1982.
Gayoom was reported by Haveeru, however, to have argued that the nature of the body had changed since that time, resulting in a situation that no longer benefitted smaller nations.
“The actions of the Commonwealth have changed since then, to a point where we now have to have a rethink about the whole situation. That’s how much the world has changed now,” he claimed.
Gayoom’s said his comments were also based on the fact that the country had never itself been a former colony unlike neighbours such as India and Sri Lanka.
Earlier in the month, on the eve of the CMAG meeting, Gayoom warned PPM supporters that the country must be wary of foreign attempts to “intervene in our internal affairs”.
A PPM MP spoke to Minivan News following the announcement of the bill, saying: “From my view it is not something that has been discussed within the PPM yet,” the MP said yesterday.
“I have previously expressed my concern that [leaving the Commonwealth] is not the best way to solve this issue. It is not really a choice we can take,” said the MP who wish to remain unnamed.
The DRP’s Ibrahim Shareef said that DRP’s united stance was, “Categorically, we would not support a withdrawal from the Commonwealth.”