Save my father, save my country, Gayoom’s daughter to Delhi

Bengaluru: Jailed former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's daughter and former foreign minister, Dunya Maumoon on Monday issued a strong appeal to India to push for the release of her father, a day after the ailing leader was instructed by a criminal court to prepare his defence against terrorism charges over an alleged plot to overthrow the government,  thereby ending the family's hopes that the 80 year old would be placed under house arrest. 

"I call upon India to assist and support the release of my father," Ms. Maumoon said, issuing a heartfelt appeal to Delhi to remember that it was Mr. Gayoom who had built and sustained the relationship between the Maldives and India for thirty years. 

Warning that the Maldives “experiment with democracy maybe failing” and that the future of her country remains “uncertain”, she told this newspaper: “Friends have to be there in times of need. It is important that India be with us and is seen to be with us, the Maldives and the Maldivian people in supporting the country and assisting in whichever way as possible, in a purely advisory role." 

Her appeal to India to step in and help end the crisis between President Abdulla Yameen and Mr. Gayoom, his half-brother and political mentor comes at a particularly sensitive time with the Maldivian leader seen as actively trying to woo China and limit India's strategic footprint in the archipelago.    

In the first open criticism of the crisis by a member of the Gayoom family, Ms Maumoon said that "Democracy in the Maldives is a crisis point.     

It is a serious crisis, with far reaching consequences.. there is a cycle of vengeance.”  In an oblique reference to the falling out between the two half-brothers that many say was a result of Mr Gayoom’s reluctance to endorse a second term for President Yameen,” Ms Maumoon said, “Both sides in the conflict have a moral obligation to set aside personal grudges and prioritize on national interest. We all have a duty to ensure that this democracy survives this crisis and we leave a better nation for the future generations. International parties such as the UN and India, have a moral and justified role in sincerely helping us to achieve this.”

Calling on the Male government, headed by her estranged uncle President Yameen to allow her father to move back home, Ms, Maumoon, who had stepped down as state health minister after her father and brother were detained in early February, added, “I sincerely hope that justice will be served and seen to be served.” Mr Gayoom had raised the issue of his poor health and age, at his court appearance on Sunday. 

“I call upon the government once again to consider my father’s age. The government, should on humanitarian grounds, allow him to move back home. He poses no threat to society, and they must consider the fact that he has served his country for so long. He has already spent 80 days in jail,” she said.

Ms Maumoon’s brother,  lawmaker Faris Maumoon was produced in court on Monday. Her brother-in-law has also been detained. 

Appealing to the  international community to step in, she admitted that it had been a “painful and difficult time for the family.”

“My father was taken into custody. My brother is being held, and now my brother in law. It is a very difficult situation for me, my mother and sister. I believe my father is entirely innocent. He would not do anything that goes against the constitution and the laws of the country. That holds true for my brother and brother in law.”

Admitting she quit her post as minister of state in the health ministry at the express wish of her father, she said, “The future of our country remains uncertain, our experiment with democracy may be failing.” 

With only months to go before key elections, she said, “For now, I remain an independent who can voice my opinion on various issues.  I continue to call for dialogue and discussion, but people are not tolerant or willing to listen to each other. Instead hatred and divisions are winning and as a society, the wounds are deep and raw.”

The international community should play an advisory role, and put the country back on the path to peace, she said. “With so much  division in our society, it might be a good thing to bring in an international party. We should not be dictated to by other countries or organizations. Ultimately, the decisions have to be taken and owned by Maldivians. We, Maldivians have to lead the process.”

Apart from Mr. Gayoom who served as president of Maldives from 1978 to 2008, the Maldivian chief justice Abdulla Saeed and top court judge Ali Hameed have all been formally charged with terrorism over the alleged plot to overthrow the government alongside Gayoom’s son Faris and his son in law and several opposition leaders.  “The crackdown was not just aimed at the opposition Maldives Democratic Party, but rather at the opposition as a whole; members aligned with the breakaway faction of the ruling PPM, especially my father and brother, suffered the most,” she said.

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