Maldives President expands cabinet: Report
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
New Delhi, Feb 12, IRNA -- Maldives' new President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Sunday inducted seven members into his expanded cabinet, including the country's first woman Attorney General and an aide of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as he tries to cement his position as the head of a 'unity government'.
Seeking to end a raging political crisis that erupted after the dramatic resignation of first democratic-elected president Mohamed Nasheed last week, his former deputy drew new members of his cabinet from different political parties.
Waheed also left key portfolios like Foreign Affairs and Finance vacant, apparently to bring Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on board. Nasheed has refused to accept Waheed's legitimacy to rule the picturesque Indian Ocean island nation.
Nasheed refused to back down from his demand for fresh elections and snubbed US calls for a compromise and led yet another major rally last night here, demanding snap polls to determine the genuine wishes of the people.
'We want an election and we will campaign for it,' PTI news agency quoted Nasheed as telling a large gathering of his supporters.
Among the new cabinet ministers, is Azima Shakooru, the Attorney General of Maldives, who is the lone woman to get a ministerial berth. Incidentally, she was appointed as the first woman Attorney General way back in 2007 during Gayoom's regime.
Hassan also inducted into his government Mohamed Husain Sharif Mundu, the spokesperson of Gayoom's Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which ruled the tiny nation for three decades.
Asked if his appointment confirms former president Mohamed Nasheed's allegation that the 'coup' was engineered by his party, Mundu replied, 'I am not the only party in the government.'
Mundu pointed out that the current President has left certain cabinet berths vacant and is keen to have Nasheed's MDP on board. The government is yet to appoint Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Finance, Housing and Fisheries. He is yet to announce his Vice-President also.
Asked when Gayoom, who is currently in Malaysia, will return, Mundu said 'soon.'
Meanwhile, after over two days of lull about 200 MDP supporters today gathered outside the 'Majlis' (parliament) carrying banners, less than 100 metres from the Indian High Commission. Anti-riot police arrived at the scene. The police has set up barricades on the road leading to the Majlis.
Earlier in the day, the Male city council in an emergency meeting passed a resolution declaring that Waheed's government is illegal and he should step down.
All but one of the members of the city council have been elected on MDP ticket, in the first ever elections that were held last year. Sources said, the passing of the resolution is of little practical purpose as the council have only a few public buildings and mosques under its control.
Both the police and the army are out of their control. After the passing of the resolution by the council, newly-appointed advocate general Azima Shakooru was hurriedly made to take oath as the member of the Judicial Service Commission.
Meanwhile, sources said, fresh arrests were made in Addu Atoll, including the deputy mayor and two councillors.
Sources said Maldivian MP Mustafa has been taken to court in a cheque bounce case, that has been pending for a long time. Sources said, cases pending against few other MDP MPs were also being revived. The move seems to be a strategy by the current regime to apply pressure on the MPs, either to defect or be disqualified from the Parliament.
Some of the banners outside the 'Majlis' read 'terrorising of our MPs will not work.'
Some other banners sought the release of MDP MP Mohamed Rasheed, who was arrested in Addu few days back.
Protesters at the site said the police extended his arrest remand for five more days today. The MDP members today said that three councillors from Isdhoo, Laamu Atoll were picked up by the police and assaulted. There were, however, no independent confirmation of the said incident.
Earlier, replying to another query on what will be Gayoom's role in the new government, Mundu said, 'Not a direct role...They did speak to each other over the phone. The current president has said he would like to seek his advice when needed and the former President has said he is always open to that advice.'
Mundu was given Youth Affairs and Sports portfolio.
Incidentally, lawyer Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, also a former member of Gayoom's regime, was made the Home Minister soon after Hassan took over from Nasheed who resigned on Tuesday.
Other members of his new cabinet Ahmed Jamshed (Health and Family), Ahmed Mohamed (Economic Development), and Ahmed Shamshed (Transport and Communication).
Ahmed Adheeb was appointed the Minister for Tourism and Asim Ahmed was appointed the Minister of Education.
The appointments came a day after US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake met both the president and the former president, and backed the government's proposal of a national unity government.
However, Nasheed who has not accepted the legitimacy of Hassan's government, refused to back down from his demand for a fresh election and snubbed US calls for a compromise.
He addressed a public gathering last night outside his house and reiterated his stand that the country needs a snap election to determine the genuine wishes of the people.
'We want an election and we will campaign for it,' Nasheed told a large gathering of his supporters last night.
Nasheed also repeated his accusation that the police and military were detaining supporters of his Maldivian Democratic Party and called for an independent investigation into what he insists was a coup.
Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 30814293
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