Friday, December 2, 2011

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (Maldivian: މައުމޫނު އަބްދުލް ގައްޔޫމް) (born December 29, 1937) was President of the Maldives from 1978 to 2008. After serving as Minister of Transport, he was nominated as President by the Majlis (Parliament) of the Maldives and succeeded Ibrahim Nasir on November 11, 1978. He eventually became the longest-ruling head of government in Asia. After 30 years in office, Gayoom was defeated in the October 2008 presidential election and was succeeded by the opposition leader, Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party on November 11, 2008 – exactly 30 years to the day he first came to power.[1] Gayoom also served as the leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party from 2005 to 2010. Remaining as the opposition leader from November 2008 onwards, in January 2010 Gayoom retired from active politics and was bestowed with the title of "Zaeem" (Honorary Leader) by the third congress of the DRP. Gayoom's tenure was marked by allegations of autocratic rule, human rights abuses and corruption, charges that he denies.

Career and politics
Education and family life : Maumoon Abdul gayoom is the son of Abdul Gayoom Ibrahim (Maafaiygey Seedhi Dhoni) and Khadheeja Moosa. His father had 25 children from 8 wives. Gayoom is the 10th child of his family.

Gayoom spent most of his youth in Egypt. He was part of a group of 15 students chosen at the initiative of Maldivian Mohamed Amin Didi to get an education abroad. At the age of 10, in 1947, he headed for Egypt. However, because of the troubles which led to the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-1949, his layover in Ceylon, scheduled to last several days, lasted for two and a half years during which he studied at the Royal College of Colombo. He did finally reached Egypt in March 1950, after the end of the conflict.

Gayoom frequented al-Azhar University. He spent six months learning Arabic, allowing him to join the faculty and graduating with honors in 1966 at the top of his class. He was congratulated by Gamal Abdel Nasser. He then obtained another degree in the same field at the American University in Cairo.

During his studies, he led a group of 14 Maldivian students who sent a letter to Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir. They asked him to reconsider his desire to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Following this letter, their scholarships were removed and the students were then taken under care of the Egyptian government. But this support stopped after graduation in 1966, and Gayoom was then forced to stop his studies.

In 1965, Gayoom met Nasreena Ibrahim, a student who had just arrived in Cairo from the Maldives for her studies. She was then 15 and Gayoom was 27. Four years later, they married in Cairo, on 14 July 1969. A few weeks after his marriage, he joined Ahmadu Bello University in Kano, Nigeria as a lecturer in Islamic Studies and moved there with Nasreena. In 20 March 1970, at the age of 20, Nasreena gave birth to twins, Dhunya Maumoon and Yumna Maumoon. Nasreena went back to Malé when expecting their third child. She gave birth to their first son, Farish, in Malé, on 31 March 1971. Nine years later, during Gayoom's presidency, a second son, Ghassan, was born on 12 June 1980.

During Gayoom's time in Egypt, he had become particularly interested in Egyptian politics. He closely followed the revolutionary movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Free Officers Movement of Gamal Abdel Nasser. He attended several public meetings of the Muslim Brotherhood where celebrated orators like Sayyid Qutb railed against Britain, imperialism and King Farouk's government. In July 1952, Gayoom was at the Muslim Brotherhood camp, on holiday, when Gamal Abdel Nasser seized power in a bloodless military coup. In his book A Man for All Islands, biographer Royston Ellis wrote, "Maumoon regarded it as a privilege to be able to hear Sayyed Qutb".

Early career in the Maldives
When his two year contract with Ahmadu Bello University ended, he returned to the Maldives in 1971. Three weeks later, he joined Aminiyya School as a teacher of English, arithmetic and Islam. In 1972, he was appointed as the manager of the government shipping department.

On 12 March 1973, Gayoom was placed under house arrest for criticising President Ibrahim Nasir's policies. He was tried in court and sentenced to banishment for four years on 14 May 1973. On 21 May, he was taken to Makunudhoo Island of Haa Dhaalu Atoll. After serving five months of his sentence, Gayoom was released on 13 October 1973 as a result of an amnesty following Nasir's re-election for a second five-year term.

In 1974, Gayoom was appointed as under-secretary in the Telecommunications Department. After ten weeks, he was promoted to director of the department. During this period, he worked as a part-time teacher in some private schools, teaching Islam, Arabic and English.

On 28 July 1974, Gayoom was again arrested for criticising Nasir's policies. This time he was kept in solitary confinement in a prison in Malé nicknamed 'China Garden' (Chinese fishermen were once detained there). This prison was later demolished in Gayoom's presidency and the Islamic Centre was erected on the site. After 50 days in jail, he was set free in September 1974.

Six weeks later, he was appointed as special under-secretary in the office of then Prime Minister Ahmed Zaki. The post of Prime Minister was abolished with the removal and banishment of Ahmed Zaki from office, on 6 March 1975. With this decision, Gayoom's position disappeared as well and he was notified of his dismissal when he was in Colombo. However, when he returned from Colombo, he was made the Deputy Ambassador of the Maldives in Sri Lanka. In 1975, he was sent to the United Nations for two months as a member of the Maldives delegation, part of the department of External Affairs (as the Foreign Ministry was then called). After nine weeks, he was appointed the Deputy Minister of Transport. One year later, he was tenured at the United Nations from September 1976 to January 1977, until Nasir summoned him back at the end of the UN session. In 29 March 1977, Gayoom was appointed as Minister of Transport, making him a member of Nasir's cabinet. He held the post until 10 November 1978.

As Ibrahim Nasir's second term was coming to an end, he decided not to see re-election and. In June 1978, the Citizen's Majlis was called upon to nominate a presidential candidate as required under the then-existing Constitution. There were 45 votes for Nasir (despite his stated intention not to seek re-election), with the remaining 3 votes for Gayoom. Another ballot was therefore called on 16 June, where Gayoom received 27 votes, allowing for his name to be put forward as the sole candidate.

Five months later, he was elected with 92.96% of the votes as the new President of the Maldives. The grand reception of his inauguration was held at Majeediyaa School on the night of 10 November 1978. In a 1983 referendum, he was re-elected on 30 September for a second term, polling a record 95.6%. On 23 September 1988, he was re-elected for a third term with 96.4% of the popular vote. On 1 October 1993, he was elected for a fourth term with 92.76% of the popular vote. On 16 October 1998, Gayoom was elected for an unprecedented fifth term of office, this time with 90.9% of the popular vote. He was last re-elected to a sixth five-year term in October 2003 with 90.28% of the vote. In all cases, he was the sole candidate, having been nominated by the Majlis.

The President of the Maldives is both the Head of Government and Head of State, with very little distinction between the two roles. Therefore, Gayoom was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Maldivian armed forces, the Maldives National Defence Force.

In a 2007 referendum, voters approved a presidential system with direct election of the president, the option favored by Gayoom, rather than a parliamentary system.

Dictatorial rule and corruption
Gayoom has been criticised by Maldivian media and opposition parties as a dictator with his rule described as autocratic. He also has been accused of nepotism, due to the fact that several family members, in-laws and close relatives have been granted high posts in his government and cabinet. According to Amnesty International, in the year 2003 "there were severe restrictions on freedom of the press, and political parties were unable to function."

Gayoom's opponents and international human rights groups have accused him of employing terror tactics against dissident, such as arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, employing torture, forcing confessions and politically motivated killings. There have also been several allegations of corruption. Even after Gayoom was succeeded by Nasheed parliament’s majority is still controlled by Gayoom.

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