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President's authority must fall within Constitution, Gayoom says

Fathmath Shaahunaz
30 October 2016, MVT 12:13
Ruling PPM leader and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom speaks during the press conference on Thursday. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN
Fathmath Shaahunaz
30 October 2016, MVT 12:13

The president may only wield his power and authority within the framework of the Constitution and laws, declared former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in a tweet on Saturday.

Gayoom’s tweet of Clause 106 in the Constitution came in the wake of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)’s office being handed over to its adviser and incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s faction of the divided PPM late Friday. While the police had barricaded off the area, the assets inside the office had also been cleared out.

The Constitution’s clause which Gayoom’s tweet refers to states that “The principles of governance of the State being determined by this Constitution, the President shall uphold, defend and respect the Constitution, and shall promote the unity of the State” and “The President shall exercise Executive authority as provided for in the Constitution and law.”

The public feud between Gayoom and his half-brother President Yameen, which divided PPM into two factions, had exacerbated to the point where Gayoom has officially withdrawn his support for President Yameen’s government.

Speaking at the press conference attended by PPM members loyal to Gayoom at SHE Building after he and his faction were denied entry to PPM office to participate in the party’s fifth anniversary celebration late Thursday, Gayoom declared that the government, which had come into power holding the country as its first priority, is currently acting in violation of the law, regulations and democratic policies. With the separation of powers disrupted, he stated that one voice has dominated all three powers of legislative, executive and judicial.

The former president described the current situation of the nation as authoritarian with all citizens forced to bow before a single entity. Noting the recent exposes on corruption within the government, he said that the state-controlled parliament has passed laws and amendments debilitating to the public.

The conflicts in PPM arose when Gayoom and a number of other PPM members criticised President Yameen being given an elections ticket without a primary as a violation of PPM’s charter. Subsequently, two lawmakers loyal to Yameen filed a lawsuit against Gayoom, accusing him of violating the party charter and impeding effective functioning by refusing to hold party council meetings. The lower court had ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, ordering Gayoom to hand over party control to its founder President Yameen, thus deepening the feud between the two factions of PPM. Gayoom had appealed the case at both the High Court and Supreme Court, protesting that stripping his powers and handing them to a symbolic position such as the party adviser violated PPM’s charter. However, as the case had already been filed at the appeal court by another member of PPM privately before Gayoom, following which the High Court had upheld the Civil Court’s verdict, his appeals were consequently rejected.

The two factions of PPM had gathered in front of PPM office on Friday night as the office was being cleared out. Clashes had risen between the two factions with heated disputes between Gayoom loyalists and the police.

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