Opposition leaders welcome Gayoom back to Maldives

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was welcomed back to the Maldives by opposition leaders and supporters Wednesday night after nearly three months overseas.

He was greeted at the Velana International Airport by leaders and lawmakers from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, Jumhooree Party and Adhaalath Party as well as loyalists from the divided ruling party.

Gayoom joined forces with opposition parties in March to challenge his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen’s grip on power. The new alliance sought unsuccessfully to remove Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed and gain the parliament’s majority.

Gayoom told reporters at the airport that the opposition alliance is not working for the advancement of any particular party or leader. “As a Maldivian citizen, I also want to participate in these efforts as much as I can. That is for the benefit and well-being of the whole nation,” he said.

Asked if he anticipated arrest or prosecution like other opposition figures, Gayoom said he has not committed any offence that would warrant jailing.

Gayoom met separately with the opposition politicians at the airport’s VIP lounge before heading to Malé

A sizable crowd of supporters, including MDP leadership figures and activists, gathered near the official jetty to welcome the former president but was pushed back by riot police. Gayoom walked over to the supporters behind police lines and shook hands with several people.

Gayoom left in early March to visit his ailing sister-in-law, who passed away on May 31. The former president’s son, MP Faris Maumoon, was prevented from visiting his dying aunt due to a travel ban.

Opposition leaders told reporters that Gayoom’s return has renewed hope for the reform efforts.

“We have a new momentum to win this with the experience and philosophy of Gayoom. God willing, our work will be successful. We will remain in this together,” said Minority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Gayoom’s first public appearance with opposition figures drew criticism from Yameen’s faction of the divided Progressive Party of Maldives.

“An extreme of selfishness in the name of reforming the country,” tweeted MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the PPM’s deputy leader.

MP Dr Abdulla Khaleel, the PPM’s secretary-general, suggested that Gayoom’s former adversaries were exploiting him to further their cause.

The Progressive Party of Maldives was split into rival factions led by the estranged Gayoom brothers after the civil court in October controversially stripped the elder Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader.

In late March, the Yameen faction’s disciplinary committee expelled Gayoom himself from the PPM. The police subsequently took down the PPM flag and its logo from Gayoom’s office.

When Gayoom left for India in early March, his military bodyguards were prevented from accompanying him during the trip after he declared support for removing the speaker.


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