Cablegate: School of Hard Knocks: Maldivian Parties Learning About

Published: Tue 15 Dec 2009 12:25 PM
DE RUEHLM #1142/01 3491225
P 151225Z DEC 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) SUMMARY: On December 7 and 8, PolOffs traveled to
Maldives to meet with political parties tomee Party (DQP), a member of the coalition
party that recently broke away from government. As expected, there
were dissenting opinions on the current state of the country but
also several points of agreement, such as the inexperience of
government appointees, the need to strengthen independent
institutions, particularly the judiciary, and the lack of political
dialogue among government, opposition and coalition parties. END
2. (U) Background: Mohamed Nasheed founded MDP in November 2003
while in exile. Until the presidential elections in October 2008
when Nasheed became the country's first democratically elected
president, it served as the main opposition party. Its stated goal
is the promotion of human rights and democracy in Maldives. MDP has
26 of the 77 seats in parliament. It is the second largest political
party in the country, with 28,995 members. MDP was confident it
would soon surpass DRP's membership of 30,215.
3. (SBU) PolOffs met with MDP Secretary General Hassan Shah and
MDP members Imthiyaz Fahmy and Ahmed Hamza on December 7. All are
members of parliament. MDP members stated that while political
pluralism was a new concept the country had embraced, with 13
political parties and 450 candidates competing for 77 seats at this
year's first parliamentary elections, handling the new-found
freedoms under the new constitution was something they were still
grappling with. They understood that differences in views and
opinions were part of democracy but stated the need for a strong,
viable opposition that was not driven solely by politics and
resorted to opposing for the sake of opposition.
4. (SBU) MDP members acknowledged that independent institutions
had to be strengthened to ensure checks and balances. Particular
attention was given to the judiciary, which was composed of the same
people appointed by the previous administration when there was no
strict separation between the executive and judiciary. Moreover,
there was no codification of Islamic law, and the judiciary was
faced with the challenge of reconciling Islamic law with common law.
5. (SBU) On accusations that the government and MDP were trying
to impose their agenda on issues concerning the reduction of the
civil service and the decentralization model of seven administrative
atolls instead of the 21 administrative regions preferred by the
opposition, MDP reported that these were not "dictatorial policies"
as described by the opposition, but measures that the government was
trying to implement in accordance with reforms contained in the MDP
Manifesto which was circulated during the presidential campaign.
MDP also noted the unlimited freedom of expression enjoyed by the
opposition stating that this was a right that MDP would be unable to
exercise if DRP was still in power.
6. (SBU) According to MDP, despite differences in opinions, they
were usually able to come to some agreement with the opposition and
in jest stated, "If we can't bend them in parliament, we bend them
outside." MDP noted that they were working towards garnering support
from other members of parliament as they recognized that the lack of
a majority was a major obstacle in moving their agenda. All
challenges considered, MDP stated that they believed that the
country was progressing quickly.
7. (U) Background: The chairman of the DRP is former president
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The DRP's stated aims include the facilitation
of greater prosperity for the people, increasing public
participation in governance and promotion of Islamic principles.
DRP has credited Gayoom as the "architect of the social and economy
progress that the Maldives has attained over the past
COLOMBO 00001142 002 OF 004
quarter-century." The DRP has 28 out of the 77 seats in parliament
and is the main opposition party.
8. (SBU) On December 7, PolOffs met with Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, DRP
Deputy Leader and Abdulla Mausoom, DRP Secretary General. Both are
members of parliament. PolOff also met separately with Speaker of
Parliament Abdulla Shahid, a member of the DRP, who discussed
parliamentary issues but on occasion spoke on behalf of the party.
The DRP leaders stated that the newly-established democratic
institutions required strengthening, noting that the judiciary was
unprepared for its independent role. DRP believed that the
judiciary's authd consultations.
9. (SBU) DRP representatives stated that while the government had
announced plans to reduce the civil service and had removed
subsidies on print media under the pretext of the global financial
crisis, it had increased its expenditure on an inordinate number of
political appointees. DRP was also critical of the government's
decision to abolish Island Development Committees (IDCs), elected
bodies of five to seven members, functioning as a local council,
after courts ruled they no longer had legal authority under the new
constitution. DRP described the move as undemocratic and said it
would challenge the decision. (NOTE: The government has since
instituted a temporary measure of appointing advisory boards that
will administer the islands until local council elections are held.
10. (SBU) On renewing ties with Israel, Shahid indicated that
DRP was not opposed to the government's decision but supported a
gradual restoration of ties dependent on progress made on peace
talks. On former president Gayoom's leadership in DRP and the future
of the party, Shahid speculated that Gayoom was reluctant to retire
from politics for fear of being made redundant and defenseless in
the face of the ongoing corruption probe by the government. Shahid
urged the United States and other western governments to intervene
by providing assurances to Gayoom that he would be protected from
what he believed was a witch hunt. Shahid stated that DRP supported
any investigation into allegations of corruption but it should be
within the confines of established institutions to ensure due
11. (SBU) Shahid expressed concern that Gayoom's continued
involvement in DRP would be detrimental to the party because it
could lose the next generation of supporters who would associate the
party with Gayoom and his 30 year regime. He indicated that the
next party congress, where party leaders will be elected, was
scheduled for the middle of next year. Shahid, nevertheless, spoke
highly of Gayoom, whom he described as a learned man and an Islamic
scholar who had plenty to contribute outside politics. He noted
that Gayoom was among the first to speak on environmental protection
long before it became "fashionable". Shahid asserted that democracy
existed during Gayoom's administration and described the transition
to the new government as "a new era of democracy."
12. (U) Background: The Adhaalath Party is two of its members, Dr. Abdul
Majeed Bari and Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed. The party's
president is Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed.
13. (SBU) PolOffs met with Asim Mohamed, Adhalaath Party's
interim Vice President on December 7. Mohamed stated that the
perception that Adhalaath was a religious party was inaccurate.
While admitting that their grassroots were more conservative, he
denied being an Islamist party. Asim had previously described the
party as "center, conservative left." He noted that though some
party leaders were religious scholars trained in the Middle East,
they also had scholars, such as himself who were trained in
COLOMBO 00001142 003.2 OF 004
14. (SBU) Mohamed noted that their critics ran the gamut from
those who thought they were too conservative and those who did not
think they were conservative enough. These conservative critics had
argued that the principles of democracy were not consistent with
Islam and had accused them of not doing enough to protect Islamic
culture. Mohamed indicated that extremism can be traced to the
growth of Wahhabism, independent prayer groups, and the lack of
accurate information on Islam. In a bid to protect Maldivians who
study in Pakistan from extremist ideals, Mohamed indicated that
Adhaalath was working with the Pakistan government to obtain a list
of approved educational institutions.
15. (SBU) Mohamed stated that the government did not consult
with them on the decentralization issue, the plan to reduce the
civil service and renewal of ties with Israel. Although they were
in favor of the seven administrative regions proposed by the
government, understood the need for a leane the island level, a backlash could
been prevented. Mohamed also noted the lack of experience of the
government's appointees. Mohamed, however, defended the government's
move to create appointee posts at the island level to oversee the
island chiefs, claiming that it was necessary since the government
wields little authority with the island leaders whose loyalties lie
with the previous regime.
16. (SBU) Mohamed disclosed that Adhaalath was "reasonably
comfortable" with the government's foreign policy as they recognized
that the country could not live in isolation. They pointed out,
however, the need for increased participation and consultation with
coalition parties, especially since the parties had members to whom
they answer. Mohamed maintained that it might take a couple of
years, but democracy and due process would eventually take root.
Meanwhile, the party stated that norms of conduct would have to be
developed to avoid inflammatory debates that created a divisive
17. (U) Background: DQP was founded in January 2009 by Foreign
Minister Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, also a founding member of the Dhivehi
Rayyithunge Party (DRP), and Dr. Hassan Saeed, Attorney General
under Gayoom's administration. The DQP was part of the Maldivian
Democratic Party (MDP) led coalition government. The DQP describes
itself as "centrist, with focus on rule of law to consolidate
democracy, the improvement of social conditions and a free market
approach to solving economic issues." The DQP has two seats in
Parliament. Dr. Saeed resigned his post as special advisor to
President Nasheed on the anniversary of the new government's 100
days in power. In October 1, 2009, the DQP pulled out of the
government coalition claiming it had failed to deliver on its
promises. Dr. Shaheed joined the ruling MDP. (NOTE: In October 2008,
Dr. Saeed and Dr. Shaeed ran on an independent ticket as President
and Vice-President respectively. END NOTE.)
18. (SBU) PolOff met with Hassan Saeed, co-founder of the DQP,
on December 8. Saeed was heavily critical of the government and
President Mohamed Nasheed, whom he asserted was a "Mugabe in the
making." Saeed stated that people in the government might be new
but the old system, with a top-heavy government, an abundance of
political appointees, and a state-media dominated press was firmly
in place. He noted that while the previous administration had 500
appointees, the current government had 690, most of whom were
claimed that President Nasheed personally threatened to cancel the
business contracts of the two DQP members of parliament if they
supported the vote and bribed them with lengthy extensions on their
contracts if they voted against it. He claimed that Shaheed's
decision to join MDP was due to pressure from the government.
Members of the judiciary had also reportedly been harassed by the
police on orders from the government. Saeed stated that police at
COLOMBO 00001142 004.2 OF 004
the top levels revealed that the government had placed wiretaps to
monitor senior opposition members and concluded that with Nasheed,
there would be no democracy in the country.
20. (SBU) Democracy is clearly in its infancy in Maldives.
There is marked uncertainty as both the government and the
opposition movement face unfamiliar challenges and responsibilities
that come with their new roles in the democratic process. The
government's primary concern is ensuring its survival, which it
believes is threatened by weak institutions and a fractious
opposition that has called for its overthrow. It is possible that
the government is employing strong arm tactics, as alleged by the
opposition, against institutions and persons it determines is
undermining its authority. Post will watch these developments
21. (SBU) DRP is struggling with its subordinate role and is
still coming to terms with its defeat in the hands of what it
regards as inexperienced and untrained "activists," who know nothing
about governance. DRP has been very vocal in its criticism of the
government's policies, most recently the removal of government
subsidies for print media. While DRP has called this decisioious administration.
22. (SBU) Adhaalath reportedly has a long-term deal with the
government involving high-level positions for its members. The first
being the establishment of a Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which is
now headed by two of its members. The recent appointment of an
Adhaalath member as Minister of State for Home Affairs was
reportedly in exchange for its support of the government's foreign
policy on Israel. A third post at the Ministry of Education is
supposedly in the offing. As long as the government fulfills its end
of the bargain, it reportedly can depend on Adhaalath's continued
23. (SBU) Although DQP has attributed the souring of its
relationship with the government to its "failure to implement
reforms", it is possible that Saeed, who competed with Nasheed
during the national elections, still harbors ambitions for the
presidency. Some have surmised that DQP has recently been asserting
itself as it needs to be seen as an active organization by the
Elections Commissions, which will soon be allocating funds for
political parties.
24. (SBU) The government, by way of MDP supporters, has been
accused of using the streets as a venue for pushing its policies. If
the government hopes to move its agenda, the ruling party has to
recognize that while the demonstrations served its purposes when it
was the opposition, it is now faced with the bigger task of running
a country, which would require engagement of coalition partners and
opposition alike. At the same time, the opposition also has to learn
that a stable democracy requires a constructive opposition.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media