Maldives pres refuses to rule out dialogue to mend ruling party fences

President Yameen speaks during a ceremony held to mark the defection of government aligned Jumhoory Party (JP) lawmaker Ilham Ahmed to PPM on Thursday. MIHAARU PHOTO/AMINATH SHIFLEEN

President Yameen speaks during a ceremony held to mark the defection of government aligned Jumhoory Party (JP) lawmaker Ilham Ahmed to PPM on Thursday. MIHAARU PHOTO/AMINATH SHIFLEEN

Despite the bitterly deep divisions within the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom Thursday expressed confidence the dispute could still be resolved through dialogue.

Speaking during a ceremony held to mark the defection of government aligned Jumhoory Party (JP) lawmaker Ilham Ahmed to PPM, president Yameen locked in a bitter power struggle with half brother and PPM leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom insisted that the dispute could still be repaired internally.

Despite the president’s statement, two lawmakers loyal to his faction had filed a successful civil lawsuit to wrest party control from the elder Gayoom.

The civil lawsuit filed by two lawmakers loyal to president Yameen accused the elder Gayoom of violating the party charter and impeding its effective functioning.

The court had ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, finding Gayoom guilty of violating the constitution, party charter and political party law.

The party control had been handed over to Yameen in the capacity of chief advisor which is a default position afforded to the party’s successful presidential candidate by the party’s charter.

Defending the lawsuit, president Yameen said the party had grounded to a halt leaving council members no other choice.

He expressed deep disappointment over the emergence of two factions as a result of the fallout with his half brother.

“I want to take this opportunity to tell all party members that this whole thing has been the biggest disappointment for me. But I still refuse to believe that this can’t be resolved through dialogue,” Yameen stressed.

Gayoom had moved quickly to rally council members loyal to him and held a meeting where members had backed his decision to ax three members from the party including deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla.

The council had also filled the vacant secretary general’s post and signed off on Gayoom’s reform program.

An eerily calm and smiling Gayoom later told reporters that the court order completely violated the party’s charter.

He had urged the court to hold off on enforcing the order until an appellate court ruling.

Hours later president Yameen chaired a council meeting of his own with his council also appointing a new secretary general.

Both factions since had forwarded documents related to the respective council sit-downs, while Gayoom had asked the Elections Commission to declare the opposing sit-down as invalid.

Gayoom had argued that according to the party charter, the authority to call council meetings is vested in the party leader and not the chief advisor.

Elections Commission refusing to be dragged into the row, has insisted that it would abide by the court ruling.

Gayoom had assumed full control of the party amid a fallout from his failed attempt to get his party lawmakers to vote down a government proposed amendment to the Tourism Act which sought to bypass the bidding process in island lease for tourism.

The resistance from Gayoom quite glaringly irked his brother especially after he began to publicly criticize and oppose recently passed controversial laws.

Gayoom however, has described the laws to restrict protests, media and free speech as clear violations of the party’s value and charter.

The rift between the brothers deepened after Gayoom’s lawmaker son voted against recent government proposed laws prompting his uncle to oust him from the party.

The party’s disciplinary committee had ignored a ban on all party sit-downs imposed by Gayoom to oust his lawmaker son Faaris Maumoon who had voted against the tourism Act amendment from the party.

Gayoom quickly rejected the disciplinary committee’s ruling and announced a reform program in a desperate bid to wrestle back control of his party.

Soon after, the elder Gayoom called a council sit-down in an attempt to resolve the rift, only to witness a faction loyal to Yameen walk out of the meeting.

Any hope for the two brothers to mend ties soon evaporated after two PPM lawmakers loyal to president Yameen filed a lawsuit claiming that Gayoom had hijacked the party by suspending its internal committees and announcing a reform agenda.

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