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Cablegate: Former Maldivian President Maumoom Abdul Gayoom's

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UNCLAS COLOMBO 000090

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS ECON EFIN
SUBJECT: FORMER MALDIVIAN PRESIDENT MAUMOOM ABDUL GAYOOM'S
RETIREMENT FROM POLITICS AND THE NEW OPPOSITION LEADER

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: At a press conference on January 25, Abdul Maumoom
Gayoom, former Maldivian president and leader of the main opposition
Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), announced his retirement from
politics ahead of the party's national congress, stating that it was
time for the "younger generation" to take over the helm. On
February 2, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, DRP deputy leader, became the
party's new leader after no other members submitted their names for
the leadership post. According to party rules, if there is only one
candidate for a position, that person is automatically selected.
Thasmeen's appointment officially will be endorsed at the party
congress on February 20 and 21, where members will also be electing
four deputy leaders, a 27 member National Council, and a ten member
Party Council. Current party rules state that the DRP leader will
also be the party's presidential candidate. The next presidential
election is scheduled for mid 2013. END SUMMARY.

PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DETAILS GAYOOM PLANS
---------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On January 28, Abdulla Shahid, a member of the DRP and
Speaker of Maldivian parliament telephoned Ambassador Butenis
regarding Gayoom's decision to retire from politics. According to
Shahid, Gayoom would endorse Thasmeen as the party's next leader.
Shahid requested that Ambassador urge the GOM to respect Gayoom's
privileges. Gayoom had reportedly been physically harassed and mobs
had shot at his house. Some security was provided by members of the
Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), but once he left the party,
Shahid was concerned that Gayoom's status would change, and he would
no longer be entitled to certain privileges. On plans after his
resignation, Shahid said Gayoom, who was very fit and a proponent of
moderate Islam, intended to establish a humanitarian foundation.
Gayoom wrote to President Obama after his speech in Cairo and has
yet to receive a response.

3. (SBU)On parliamentary issues, Shahid stated that despite having
to operate under old rules and the inexperience of new MPs on
parliamentary procedures, parliament had a good record, having
passed six important bills and debated 20 issues before it broke for
recess at the end of 2009. Shahid was optimistic that new rules
would limit hours of debate and would provide more time for
committee to work on bills submitted for review. Shahid concluded
that if the government encouraged dialogue, it could expect
increased cooperation from parliament. The next parliamentary
election is scheduled for June 2014.

NEW DRP LEADER AHMED THASMEEN ALI
---------------------------------

4. (U) Thasmeen, a Member of Parliament, deputy leader of the DRP,
and running mate of Gayoom at the 2008 presidential elections, had
always been in the running for the DRP leadership. A soft-spoken
man, he reportedly gets along well with President Mohamed Nasheed,
to whom he talks regularly about parliamentary matters. Some have
questioned Thasmeen's selection, with one online blog referring to
it as a "coronation, not a congress." Thasmeen is one of the
country's wealthiest businessmen, owning several beach resorts and a
tuna production company. He has a degree in Economics from Warwick
University in the U.K. and a Masters in Political Science from the
American University in Cairo. Thasmeen was said to have bankrolled
much of the DRP presidential and parliamentary campaigns, gaining
him influence with the party. Thasmeen's wife, brother, and
sister-in-law are also members of parliament. In 2009, Thasmeen was
hit with corruption allegations after an audit of the Bank of
Maldives (BML) revealed that 60 percent of loans issued in 2008 were
granted to businesses associated with influential political figures,
including Thasmeen's tuna production company. In December 2009, a
civil court ordered Sultans of the Seas, another company closely
associated with Thasmeen to pay the BML over 50 million USD in
unpaid loans, fines and accumulated interest.

BUTENIS

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