South Asia

From Old Foes to New Friends: Maldivian Opposition Unites in London

Credit: Twitter

Former President Mohamed Nasheed (centre) and other members of the Maldives United Opposition. Credit: Twitter

New Delhi: After being granted refugee status in the UK, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed will lead a “united opposition” partnership on Wednesday in London, alongside his erstwhile political rival, former Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, and political parties whose leaders have been jailed by President Abdulla Yameen.

A website of the Maldives United Opposition is already live, with a resolution also being prepared to be issued for the launch of the new platform.

Speaking to The Wire, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, international spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party, said that “a united opposition has come together because President Yameen has derailed democratic transition”.

“We would like to see an interim transitional government that would prepare the groundwork for a return to democratic elections in 2018,” he said.

The gathering at the Royal Overseas League, London, will see the who’s who from among the island nation’s political opposition, many of whom now residing in exile in the UK. A number of special invitees will also be attending, including conservative members of parliament (MPs) and well-known British Indian entrepreneur Lord Karan Bilimoria.

Nasheed had recently been granted asylum in the UK – five months after he left the Maldives on a temporary medical leave from his 13-year sentence after having been convicted under the Maldives’ anti-terrorism law.

During most of their public career, Ahmed and Nasheed had been on opposite sides of the political spectrum, trading barbs at each other.

Jameel fled the Maldives before the parliament impeached him on grounds of “incompetence” and “dereliction of duty” last July. A day after the impeachment, Yameen’s then closest aid, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, became the new vice president, but lasted just four months.

An explosion on the presidential speedboat led to Adeeb being charged with trying to assassinate Yameen and his wife. Adeeb’s treason trial is still continuing in the Maldives. His wife, Fathimath Liusha, will represent him at the launch of the new coalition.

Similarly, Adam Azim, the brother of the former Defence Minister Colonel Mohamed Nazim – convicted for eleven years – will be part of the opposition alliance.

The Islamist Adhalaath party, one-time allies of Yameen’s ruling coalition, will be represented by party Vice President Ali Zahir. The leader of the party, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, was also sentenced to 12 years on terrorism charges, slapped on him after his speech at a May Day rally.

Besides, Ahmed Mahloof, an independent MP who was earlier part of the ruling Progressive Party of Madives (PPM), also travelled to London for the launch.

Ghafoor said that the coalition would be “open” to the PPM joining the “national unity government,” but obviously without Yameen.

Members of the new opposition alliance got together for a luncheon meeting on Tuesday, ahead of the formal launch.

The only no-show, officially, could be from the Jumhoree Party, whose leader, Gasim Ibrahim, returned back to the ruling coalition’s fold after the government put pressure on him financially by targeting his resort empire.

There has been pressure from the international community, through the Commonwealth and the United Nations, to bring political stability back to the strategically-located archipelago by promoting talks between the government and the opposition. But the have efforts have not shown much signs of life thus far.