Yameen accuses govt of ‘buying and selling’ MPs

Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom speaks during a PNF campaign event on February 11, 2024. (Photo/Infinite Moments/Aman Latheef)

Former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has accused President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s administration of engaging in the practice of “buying and selling” parliamentarians.

In a gathering held on Sunday night to introduce parliamentary candidates endorsed by the People’s National Front (PNF) – a new party founded by Yameen that has yet to officially register with the Elections Commission – Yameen spoke about the recent defection of 13 MPs from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to the main ruling People’s National Congress (PNC).

He described it as an “unseemly” event in Maldives’ parliamentary history.

“I do not believe that any sane person would believe they had a sudden epiphany and just changed overnight, after their years-long criticism of everything we did,” he said.

Yameen interrupted his speech to ask one of the candidates – Adam Shafiu – who is contesting the B. Thulhaadhoo seat – about his opinion regarding the matter.

Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom attends a PNF campaign event on February 11, 2024. (Photo/Infinite Moments/Aman Latheef)

“What I wish to ask regarding this is… This practice is now rooted within the current administration… So Shafiu, a parliamentarian represents their constituency, so do believe a parliamentarian should act in accordance with their own opinion and ideologies or represent that of the constituents who elected them? Shafiu, what is your opinion regarding this change and this trade business? Can you tell us?” he asked.

Shafiu provided assurance that he would not switch parties, to which Yameen responded “you have passed my test.”

13 lawmakers from the MDP defected to the PNC and presented their membership forms to the party’s leader, President Muizzu on December 28, 2023.

Addressing the gathering held to celebrate their defection, President Muizzu said they joined the PNC because they were against the attempts by MDP to sabotage his administration.

He said that it was not something parties run based on democratic principles would do, and expressed confidence more MDP lawmakers would leave the party for PNC.

Former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom greets supporters gather outside his residence on October 1, 2023. (Sun Photo/Maahil Athif)

MDP alleges the parliamentarians were bribed. In a TV interview last month, the party’s chairperson Fayyaz Ismail suggested PNC spent MVR 60 million to bribe the lawmakers.

The allegation is denied by the government.

Yameen, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2022 on charges of bribery and money laundering in connection to the sale of V. Aarah, was transferred home on October 1, 2023 – a day after President Muizzu won the presidential election.

But less than a week after President Muizzu took office in November, Yameen left the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – PNC’s coalition partner – and initiated efforts to form PNF.

Yameen loyalists are angry the conviction against former president still stands, despite repeated promises during the campaign to free him.