President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, on Sunday, stated that he does not believe that violent gangs operate in Maldives.
Speaking at the presidential debate hosted by Maldives National University (MNU), the president stated that he is reluctant to categorize an entire section of the population under such a negative label, while taking into consideration that there is no officially approved definition for the term 'gang' and the fact that valuable social work is carried out by youth groups and clubs.
Dr. Ibrahim Hassan, who moderated the debate held in preparation for the presidential election slated for September 23, also posed a question regarding the widespread belief that gangs receive political funding. The president stated that while there are no official findings to support such claims, the 65 percent decrease in gang violence during the past five years proves that gang violence is not politically motivated.
Despite these statements, Maldives Police Service (MPS) has repeatedly highlighted the issue of escalating gang violence, while several cases of violence have been reported in the past month. The parliament also passed a bill regarding the issue.
When questioned regarding policies he would introduce to manage gang violence if he is re-elected, the president pledged to drastically decrease rates of violence, but stated he would require more than five years to provide a long-term solution. He explained that the deep-rooted causes of the issue must be identified before it can be solved.
Since the joint opposition's presidential candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, had declined the invitation, only President Yameen, the candidate of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), participated in the MNU debate.
The president also addressed issues regarding society, the justice system and the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) corruption scandal that surfaced during his presidency