Sunday, August 8, 2010

My opponents try to silence me through fraud charges: Gayoom

Former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom yesterday dismissed fresh allegations that he had swindled the country to the tune of US$ 400 million as baseless and a conspiracy by local and international forces to defame him.

In an interview with the Sunday Times last night, Mr. Gayoom, who is in Sri Lanka to promote the mission of a foundation named after him, said the allegations were not new and kept resurfacing because he was still being seen as a major threat to the present Maldivian leadership and their international sponsors.

He said these forces were so well connected and active that articles defaming him had appeared even in the New York Times newspaper.

Now out of active politics, Mr. Gayoom, who ruled the Indian Ocean archipelago for more than 30 years, said the allegations that he had played out US$ 80 million in tsunami aid from the government of Qatar had been proved untrue and a Maldivian court had given a ruling in his favour.

"These allegations not only resurface but they grow in magnitude. First they said it was US$ 40 million, then the amount rose to US$ 80 million and now it stands at US$ 400 million. This is an attempt to silence me, for my political opponents still see me as a major threat," said the former President who charged that the country's assets were being sold to foreign companies in a haphazard manner that threatened the national interest.

Mr. Gayoom insisted he had no intention to return to active politics even though there had been many requests from Maldivian and foreign friends urging him to come back to politics and sort out the mess the country had fallen into.

Refusing to be drawn into any comments on the current crisis, Mr. Gayoom said it was he who initiated the process of liberal political reforms in the Maldives.

When pointed out that the very reforms that he had initiated had propelled his country into a political crisis, the 73-year-old leader said that it was not the reforms that were at fault but how these reforms were being adhered to or respected by the powers-that-be.

He said the reforms he initiated not only envisaged a multi-party liberal democracy but also aimed at good governance with independent judiciary and public institutions, but sadly many of these institutions had become highly politicized.

He said concentration of too much power in one single institution - the executive presidency - would be the main cause for the present crisis. Mr. Gayoom said he was thankful for the mediation efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to solve the current political stalemate in the Maldives, saying it was the Sri Lankan President's true love for the neighbouring country that led him to undertake the troubleshooting mission.

Mr. Gayoom, in January this year quit as the leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party which he led from 2005 to 2010 and his party bestowed him the title of "Zaeem" or Honorary Leader. Mr. Gayoom said his public life was restricted to his work related to his foundation which sought to contribute to the social development of the country he loved and served for three decades.

He said his foundation wanted to achieve its goal through education based on moderate Islam, which he described as a powerful force capable of solving the Maldives social ills such as the acute drug abuse problem.


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