The responsibility of building the Maldivian nation as a republic does not belong only to the president, declared President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom as he called on opposition parties to set aside differences and protect the interests of the country.
Addressing the nation at the celebration of Republic Day (November 11) late Thursday at Dharubaaruge convention centre, President Yameen hailed the first president of the Maldives, the late Mohamed Amin Didi, as the founder of the “Republic” of Maldives, ending a monarchy that dated back centuries. However, President Yameen declared that whereas all state responsibilities had been placed in the lap of the president in the early days of the republic, such is not the case at present.
Shedding light on the “mutiny” orchestrated by President Amin’s deputy which subsequently saw the tragic death of Amin Didi, President Yameen cautioned the nation to keep people that desire power to rule under a watchful eye. Such incidents are instigated by conflicts that arise between leading powers of a nation, he stated.
“I am in no way referring to my Vice President Jihad, absolutely not,” President Yameen added as he expressed full confidence in the loyalty of his deputy Abdulla Jihad.
“What I’m trying to say is that [presidents] must be wary of vice presidents [as we celebrate] the Republic Day,” said the president in an indirect throwback to his previous deputy Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor, who has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for an assassination attempt on President Yameen last year September.
While stating that the Maldives does not belong to one man, the president nonetheless warned of the presence of those who wish ill upon the country alongside the well-wishers. Lauding the service of former presidents, namely his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s regime despite the current political feud between the two Gayooms, President Yameen also said that the Maldives had been set back over the past ten years due to internal political rivalry and turmoil.
He described the actions of some entities as “saddening” in the face of major development projects he has set in motion, such as the recent threat posted on social media to blow up the 25 storey tower of state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, which is one of the heftiest projects undertaken by this government.
Bridging the gap between political differences
Referring to the ongoing development of the bridge connecting capital Male and airport island Hulhule, President Yameen said, “Today we should build a bridge not over the ocean” but a bridge to close the gap between political differences.
President Yameen stressed the priority of submitting to established laws even when bridging political differences, declaring that the interests of the nation must be held above that of any political leaders.
“It is not right to describe the sentence passed upon a criminal offence as the doing of the government. It is not the government that conducts the trial, nor is it the government that takes the case to trial,” said the president.
He said that most people do not fully comprehend their actions when they cross legal lines. He also declared that all criminal offenders will be judged equally for their crimes despite their identities, saying that he knows of no justice in discriminating among them.
Raising the question whether it should be the number of jails or peacekeepers that ought to be increased in response to talks of rising crime in the country, President Yameen stated his government believes that self-improvement is the first step to making things right.
He extended the invitation to bridge the gap in political differences to the political parties that are currently opposing his ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
“But even I can only shake [your] hand if you take mine.”
President Yameen also bid others not to request of him what he cannot grant. Asserting that lengthy jail sentences passed on criminal offenders serve as a lesson to both the perpetrators and the community, he declared that showing clemency to those who have infringed certain rights and laws “would be very difficult for this president.”
“No satisfaction and pride in leaving the Commonwealth”
In his speech, the president also responded to internal and international criticism aimed at his government’s decision for the Maldives to leave the Commonwealth. President Yameen described the decision as extremely tough and distressing.
However, he reiterated his belief that no external association holds the right to interfere with the Maldives’ domestic affairs.
The Commonwealth had first taken action against the Maldives over former president Mohamed Nasheed being sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges for the arbitrary detention of a judge while he was in power.
President Yameen requested that all who wish well for the Maldives to not violate the interests of the nation and make way for progress and development.