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Page added on April 21, 2009

Gayoom should “step down from active politics”

As the first female MP and a stalwart of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Aneesa Ahmed is a household name. Minivan News brings you the second in a two-part interview with the DRP parliamentary leader on the future of the party, whether she thinks Gayoom should step down as party leader and the auditor general’s report on Theemuge.
What do you think the failures of the current government are?
Very little consultation. This again as an outsider because I don’t know what goes on in the government. This is my perception. And president Nasheed says or does things as and when he fancies doing it.
He talks about cutting down on expenses at the same time I don’t see that happening especially considering the number of political appointees that he’s brought into this government during this period of five months.
He also said that if he was elected he would bring in people who were efficient, who are educated, into his government and try to administer properly. But I don’t see him doing that. I see a number of political activists who have had no experience, not only experience but also the education required.
What have the government’s successes been?
Pension for the elderly. Although it’s not administered in the best manner, he’s started doing it. There are a lot of grievances among those who are not actually benefiting.
I have personally met with people who have complained, saying because he or she belongs to DRP or because he or she was seen at DRP rallies, they are deprived of the social benefit. Just because they belong to DRP or are supporters of the former president. It’s wrong, that should never happen.
What President Nasheed is failing to realise is that he is the president now. He is not the MDP chairman anymore. Once he assumes the office of the president, he is the president of all Maldivians, so to him MDP member, DRP member, Social Liberal Party member should have no difference. As far as he’s concerned, all Maldivians should be equal to him but that again he’s failing to do.
And another thing I don’t like is that he is the president and he’s not holding the dignity of the president in MDP rallies. He becomes the activist he was. That again is wrong. People of the Maldives wouldn’t want to see their president coming to that level. He’s the president and he should hold that office with the dignity he’s expected of.
Not only the language but the way he speaks, his whole gestures. The worst happened in MDP campaign launch when he said all DRP candidates are corrupt. He should never have thought of that. Never have openly said that because he is the president. He’s the president of DRP members as well.
What does DRP stand for? What does it want to bring to people?
DRP would like to make sure that the government is accountable to the people. There’s a lot of people saying we want to bring down President Nasheed’s government. No, we don’t want that.
President Nasheed was elected by the people for a minimum period of five years. And we would like him to remain as president but we want his government to function properly.
And these promises that he’s making, I’m not saying that they are empty promises but they are promises that I am sure he knows he won’t be able to fulfil in such a short period of time.
Because first of all the whole world is in economic recession and we are a country that has very little natural resources. We have to depend a lot on external funding and it’s not forthcoming now so why would you want to go and promise to people things that you know you can’t do for a period of time?
And that he should stop doing and that’s what DRP should make sure his government stops doing.
What do you think DRP stands for now that it is in opposition and how do you think it is functioning as an opposition party?
Well DRP hasn’t been very strong as an opposition party. I think there are a number of reasons for it. Because we were defeated in the presidential elections and all members, DRP members just couldn’t take it. We’re more or less in apathy right now.
Also because we all know that this is an interim parliament so Majlis is not that active. And because of the eight presidential nominees in Majlis, things have been made pretty difficult because we lost the majority in parliament and the government members are very brazenly working to exercise the power of their majority in parliament.
All that combined, the DRP MPs don’t have the will or the motivation to fight. It’s a matter of time. So when the elections are complete we are hoping that we would have a greater majority.
I’m not saying an absolute majority, but we are hoping for a greater majority of the opposition parties in parliament after the elections and then I think the opposition will function as a proper opposition and hold the government accountable.
It seems as if the opposition feel as if it is their role to remain partisan at all times and take the opposite stance to the government no matter what the issue. What do you think?
That’s not how an opposition functions and we don’t believe in that either. Those of us in the parliament don’t feel as if we’re saying no or opposing whatever the government proposes. We weigh the pros and cons of it.
Do you think Gayoom should step down as party leader?
President Gayoom is the founder of DRP. And a large number of DRP grassroots members are members because Gayoom is there. They call it Maumoon’s party even. So to them if Maumoon is not there, DRP is no more.
So they will have no allegiance to DRP. So at least until elections are over, until things are a little bit stable, I think he should remain in DRP. But my personal view is that once this is over and things have stabilised, he should step down from active politics.
Who would make a good replacement?
That I can’t say.
What do you think about the auditor general’s report on Theemuge?
What I personally feel is if he has found discrepancies, he should not have come out in public immediately and get the Anti-Corruption Commission or the Prosecutor General to look into the matter and do it properly because President Gayoom, until he is proved to be guilty of the things, should be given the dignity he deserves as the former president.
Because there’s a provision in the constitution [Article 128 of the constitution states a person who has served as president without committing any offence shall be entitled to the highest honour, dignity, protection and financial privileges]. Because of that provision he should be given protection until he’s proven guilty.
I’m not saying that the government should not look into these matters. They should look into everybody, all of us, those who were in the government earlier. If they have any suspicions of wrongdoing by any of us, definitely the government should look into it. But these are allegations which are unsubstantiated.
So just because he has a report, I cannot say that he has really looked into all the areas he has to, which I think the Anti-Corruption Commission should do and then only if they find the former president and his government guilty of wrongdoing, guilty of misappropriation of government funds, then of course the matter will have to be taken care of by the courts.
How would you feel if the allegations turned out to be true?
I would be very disappointed. I would be sad. But whoever holds public office must take that responsibility. If that responsibility is not taken then he or she should be treated by law because it’s public money. You can’t abuse or misuse the authority that is given to you by being a public person.

As the first female MP and a stalwart of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Aneesa Ahmed is a household name. Minivan News brings you the second in a two-part interview with the DRP parliamentary leader on the future of the party, whether she thinks Gayoom should step down as party leader and the auditor general’s report on Theemuge.

What do you think the failures of the current government are?

Very little consultation. This again as an outsider because I don’t know what goes on in the government. This is my perception. And president Nasheed says or does things as and when he fancies doing it.

He talks about cutting down on expenses at the same time I don’t see that happening especially considering the number of political appointees that he’s brought into this government during this period of five months.

He also said that if he was elected he would bring in people who were efficient, who are educated, into his government and try to administer properly. But I don’t see him doing that. I see a number of political activists who have had no experience, not only experience but also the education required.

What have the government’s successes been?

Pension for the elderly. Although it’s not administered in the best manner, he’s started doing it. There are a lot of grievances among those who are not actually benefiting.

I have personally met with people who have complained, saying because he or she belongs to DRP or because he or she was seen at DRP rallies, they are deprived of the social benefit. Just because they belong to DRP or are supporters of the former president. It’s wrong, that should never happen.

What President Nasheed is failing to realise is that he is the president now. He is not the MDP chairman anymore. Once he assumes the office of the president, he is the president of all Maldivians, so to him MDP member, DRP member, Social Liberal Party member should have no difference. As far as he’s concerned, all Maldivians should be equal to him but that again he’s failing to do.

And another thing I don’t like is that he is the president and he’s not holding the dignity of the president in MDP rallies. He becomes the activist he was. That again is wrong. People of the Maldives wouldn’t want to see their president coming to that level. He’s the president and he should hold that office with the dignity he’s expected of.

Not only the language but the way he speaks, his whole gestures. The worst happened in MDP campaign launch when he said all DRP candidates are corrupt. He should never have thought of that. Never have openly said that because he is the president. He’s the president of DRP members as well.

What does DRP stand for? What does it want to bring to people?

DRP would like to make sure that the government is accountable to the people. There’s a lot of people saying we want to bring down President Nasheed’s government. No, we don’t want that.

President Nasheed was elected by the people for a minimum period of five years. And we would like him to remain as president but we want his government to function properly.

And these promises that he’s making, I’m not saying that they are empty promises but they are promises that I am sure he knows he won’t be able to fulfil in such a short period of time.

Because first of all the whole world is in economic recession and we are a country that has very little natural resources. We have to depend a lot on external funding and it’s not forthcoming now so why would you want to go and promise to people things that you know you can’t do for a period of time?

And that he should stop doing and that’s what DRP should make sure his government stops doing.

What do you think DRP stands for now that it is in opposition and how do you think it is functioning as an opposition party?

Well DRP hasn’t been very strong as an opposition party. I think there are a number of reasons for it. Because we were defeated in the presidential elections and all members, DRP members just couldn’t take it. We’re more or less in apathy right now.

Also because we all know that this is an interim parliament so Majlis is not that active. And because of the eight presidential nominees in Majlis, things have been made pretty difficult because we lost the majority in parliament and the government members are very brazenly working to exercise the power of their majority in parliament.

All that combined, the DRP MPs don’t have the will or the motivation to fight. It’s a matter of time. So when the elections are complete we are hoping that we would have a greater majority.

I’m not saying an absolute majority, but we are hoping for a greater majority of the opposition parties in parliament after the elections and then I think the opposition will function as a proper opposition and hold the government accountable.

It seems as if the opposition feel as if it is their role to remain partisan at all times and take the opposite stance to the government no matter what the issue. What do you think?

That’s not how an opposition functions and we don’t believe in that either. Those of us in the parliament don’t feel as if we’re saying no or opposing whatever the government proposes. We weigh the pros and cons of it.

Do you think Gayoom should step down as party leader?

President Gayoom is the founder of DRP. And a large number of DRP grassroots members are members because Gayoom is there. They call it Maumoon’s party even. So to them if Maumoon is not there, DRP is no more.

So they will have no allegiance to DRP. So at least until elections are over, until things are a little bit stable, I think he should remain in DRP. But my personal view is that once this is over and things have stabilised, he should step down from active politics.

Who would make a good replacement?

That I can’t say.

What do you think about the auditor general’s report on Theemuge?

What I personally feel is if he has found discrepancies, he should not have come out in public immediately and get the Anti-Corruption Commission or the Prosecutor General to look into the matter and do it properly because President Gayoom, until he is proved to be guilty of the things, should be given the dignity he deserves as the former president.

Because there’s a provision in the constitution [Article 128 of the constitution states a person who has served as president without committing any offence shall be entitled to the highest honour, dignity, protection and financial privileges]. Because of that provision he should be given protection until he’s proven guilty.

I’m not saying that the government should not look into these matters. They should look into everybody, all of us, those who were in the government earlier. If they have any suspicions of wrongdoing by any of us, definitely the government should look into it. But these are allegations which are unsubstantiated.

So just because he has a report, I cannot say that he has really looked into all the areas he has to, which I think the Anti-Corruption Commission should do and then only if they find the former president and his government guilty of wrongdoing, guilty of misappropriation of government funds, then of course the matter will have to be taken care of by the courts.

How would you feel if the allegations turned out to be true?

I would be very disappointed. I would be sad. But whoever holds public office must take that responsibility. If that responsibility is not taken then he or she should be treated by law because it’s public money. You can’t abuse or misuse the authority that is given to you by being a public person.

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