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Cablegate: Maldives: Majlis Provisionally Confirms New 14-Member

VZCZCXRO9957
PP RUEHBI
DE RUEHLM #1022/01 3181235
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131235Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8889
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1132
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 8134
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 6341
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 4582
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2388
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 4539
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3643
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 8776
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 6175
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO 0771
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3022
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 COLOMBO 001022

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SCA/INS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KDEM MV
SUBJECT: MALDIVES: MAJLIS PROVISIONALLY CONFIRMS NEW 14-MEMBER
CABINET

REF: COLOMBO 1009

1. (U) SUMMARY: On November 12 President Nasheed secured approval
for his new 14 minister cabinet. The cabinet represents each of the
six parties and groupings that make up the ruling coalition. The
cabinet's approval came amidst a power struggle between Nasheed and
former President Gayoom's DRP party during which the President
removed eight non-elected Majlis members who had been appointed by
Gayoom. Those members are now challenging their removal in court.
No matter how the court rules in the case we expect the MDP to call
new Parliamentary elections quickly. Embassy recommends short
congratulatory letters from the Secretary to Foreign Minister
Shaheed, and from Secretary Gates and Admiral Keating to Defense
Minister Faisal. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) President Nasheed secured the approval of the Majlis
(Parliament) for his new cabinet on November 12. A large majority
of the 38 members present voted to confirm the 14 ministers as a
group. (Note: there were discrepancies in various media reports
about the exact vote count.) The cabinet has five MDP ministers,
four from the Republican Party coalition (including one from the
islamist Adhaalath Party), two ministers from the "New Maldives"
group, two aligned to Vice President Waheed's National Unity Party
and one for Ibra's Social Liberal Party. The confirmation of the
Cabinet was for a 30 day transitional period to allow uninterrupted
government operations. President Nasheed will need to re-submit the
individual names for parliamentary approval within the 30 day
window.

3. (SBU) The confirmation of the new cabinet came amidst a power
struggle between the new government and former President Gayoom's
DRP. Following the old constitution, President Gayoom had appointed
eight non-elected members to the Majlis. Under the new constitution
which ushered in multi-party elections, there will be no appointed
members of the Majlis to be elected by February 2009. With the
defections of the "New Maldives" ministers and Qasim's Republican
Party to the opposition alliance, Gayoom's DRP depended on the eight
appointees for its 27 to 23 majority in the Majlis. After his
election, President Nasheed announced his intention to replace
Gayoom's appointees with his own. The DRP opposed this move, citing
the constitutional provision which states, "The People's Majlis in
existence at the commencement of this Constitution shall continue
until such time as the first elections of the People's Majlis under
this Constitution are held." According to several of the Gayoom
appointees, each received a call in recent days from a person who
identified himself only as "Colonel" informing them that their
services would no longer be needed. The former appointees have now
filed suit against President Nasheed before the Supreme Court asking
to be re-instated.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: The language in the Constitution, while not
explicitly barring the replacement of Gayoom's appointees, appears
to leave ample room for a legal challenge to the dismissal of the
appointees. Observers speculate that the recently-established
Supreme Court, also appointed by Gayoom, may decide to sustain the
challenge. In that case, Nasheed may need to offer some concessions
to the DRP in order to get his individual cabinet nominees
re-confirmed. Some senior MDP members have told us the government
may attempt to move up the date of the Parliamentary elections in
order to complete the transition more quickly.

5. (SBU) Brief biographies of the most important new ministers
follow, organized by their party affiliations:

MALDIVIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY
--------------------------

Minister of Defense and National Security Ameen Faisal is a West
Point graduate and former officer in the Defense Forces. In the
1990s he was a senior member of the National Security Service. He
also received mid-career traiing at Fort Benning. Under President
Gayoom, he was detained on political charges on four separate

COLOMBO 00001022 002 OF 004


occasions, mostly for periods of less than two months. He served a
seven-year sentence from 1989-1996, however. Faisal has served as
MDP Shadow Minister for Defense since 2006. Observers call him an
MDP moderate with broad appeal and good organizational skills. He
was elected President of the MDP's key Male' constituency and is in
charge of all 48 party branches within Male. In a brief but warm
conversation with Ambassador following the inauguration he pledged
to continue the Maldives' close military cooperation with the U.S.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Ibrahim Didi is a prominent
dentist from an elite Male family and a member of the MDP National
council. Observers describe Didi as a key player in the MDP, who
was actively involved in the party's fight for democracy. He was
arrested during demonstrations in March 2006.

Minister of Finance and Treasury Ali Hashim, a businessman, is a
former vice president of the MDP. He was MDP Shadow Minister of
Finance and Planning from 2006 to 2007. He has a reputation as a
shrewd political tactician and strategist. Hashim was involved in
the MDP-Government negotiations facilitated by the British at the UK
High Commissioner's residence in Colombo, Westminster House, in
2006.

Minister of Housing, Transport and Environment Mohamed Aslam was
born September 30, 1970. From 2005 until recently, he was MP for
Seenu (Addu) Atoll and a Member of the Special Majlis that drafted
and passed the new consitution. Previously he was MDP Shadow
Cabinet Minister of Transport, Communication and Technology from
2006 to 2007.

Attorney General Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed is a lawyer. She was
formerly a presidential appointee from 2005 and was also an ex
officio member of the MDP and Executive Director at the Attorney
General's office.
Previously she was a State Attorney at the Attorney General's
office.

"NEW MALDIVES"
--------------

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Shaheed went to school in Male and
Colombo. He got a BA in International Politics and Strategic Studies
from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and a PhD in International
Relations from the University of Queensland, Brisbane. Shaheed has
spent most of his career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In
2005 President Gayoom elevated him to Foreign Minister during a
major cabinet shakeup. A reformist, he co-founded the "New
Maldives" movement within the ruling DRP along with his colleague,
then-Attorney General Hassan Saeed. In 2006 Shaheed founded the
Open Society Initiative, which aimed to promote human rights,
tolerance and democracy. He resigned from his post in August 2007,
complaining that a conservative guard within Parliament and the
Cabinet was resisting his reform proposals. Embassy maintained
close and regular contact with Shaheed since 2005. He expressed his
personal thanks to the USG and the Embassy for our support of the
democratic reform program. Shaheed favors close relations with the
U.S. and made the decision to open their embassy in Washington.

Minister of Civil Aviation and Communication Mohamed Jameel Ahamed
(DOB October 13, 1969) graduated from the International Islamic
University in Malaysia with a Bachelor of Laws in 1996. In 1998 he
received a Masters in Comparative Law from the same university. He
specialized in Banking Law. He went on to get a PhD in Criminal Law
from SOAS, University of London. Jameel became an MP in July 2005,
seving as Minister of Justice in Gayoom's government from July 2005
until August 2007. Jameel was a prominent member of the "New
Maldives" group with Ahmed Shaheed and Hassan Saeed in August. In
July 2007, Jameel defied conservative Islamists to nominate three
women judges to the bench - the first time women were admitted to
the judiciary in Maldives. He and Saeed resigned from the
government in August 2007, accusing President Gayoom of failing to
act against rising Islamic militancy and of blocking reforms. Like

COLOMBO 00001022 003 OF 004


the other New Maldives Ministers, Jameel appreciated U.S. support
for democratic reforms in Maldives and favors close relations with
the U.S.

ADHAALATH (JUSTICE) PARTY
-------------------------

Minister of Islamic Affairs Abdul Majeed Bari was previously the
Director of the Centre for the Holy Quran and Director of the
Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. Dr. Majeed was also a lecturer
at the College of Islamic Studies and at the Faculty of Shar'ia and
Law. He founded the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party in
August 2005.

JUMHOOREE (REPUBLICAN) PARTY
----------------------------

Qasim Ibrahim (born 1950) is one of the most successful businessmen
in the Maldives. According, to Maldives' folklore, Qasim started
out as a servant boy in Gayoom's wife's family. He set up his own
business in 1976, trading in commodities such as rice and tobacco.
His company, Villa Group, has since become the largest in the
Maldives, with interests in tourism and inter-island marine
transport, shipping, fishing, and oil, as well as imports and
exports. Qasim was a deputy leader of the DRP and Minister of
Finance and Treasury until his resignation from the party and the
post in July 2008. In August 2008, Qasim joined the Republican
Party and subsequently became the party's presidential candidate,
securing 15% of the vote in the first round. His control of
important ministries and his personal wealth mark him as one of the
most important power brokers in the new government.

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Ali Sawad has an academic background in
human rights. He studied at India's premier law school at the
University of Bangalore and worked as a journalist for the Times of
India. He has a PhD in Human Rights Law from the University of
Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Ali Sawad is affiliated with the
Republican Party and was Qasim Ibrahim's running mate in his recent
presidential campaign.

NATIONAL UNITY PARTY
--------------------

Minister of Education Musthafa Luthfee was the Tourism Minister
under President Gayoom. His background is in education, however.
He has spent several years working in the Ministry of Education and
reportedly holds a doctorate in education. Luthfee became a
confidant of National Alliance presidential candidate Wahaad Hassan
Manik. He was subsequently selected as vice-president of the
National Alliance Party. In a brief aside with Ambassador after the
inauguration, Luthfee expressed hope that his Ministry could expect
cooperation on education with the U.S.

SOCIAL LIBERAL PARTY
--------------------

Minister of Human Resources, Youth and Sports Hassan Latheef worked
as a secretary in the Attorney General's Office in the 1990s for two
years, and at the Department of External Resources (MFA) for one
year. Latheef left Maldives in 1997 to attend Middlesex University
in the United Kingdom, receiving a Bachelors in Law in 2000.
Latheef then returned to the Maldives where he worked at the
Attorney General's Office as a State Attorney. His duties included
drafting legal opinions for various ministries. He also represented
private litigants before the Civil Court and the High Court. In 2003
he returned to United Kingdom to pursue a Masters in Crime, Law and
Society at the University of Manchester. Latheef became Assistant
Director of the Maldives Port Authority in March 2005, advising the
management on legal issues. His political career began when helped
to found the MDP along with Mohamed Nasheed, Ahmed Mausoom and
others in 2003. He later left the MDP to join the Social Liberal
Party (SLP), which was registered in May 2008. He served as SLP

COLOMBO 00001022 004 OF 004


Deputy Leader and served as spokesperson for Ibrahim Ismail's
presidential campaign.

BLAKE

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