Two ministers quit Maldives cabinet in protest

COLOMBO, Aug 6, 2007 (AFP) – Two senior Maldivian ministers have quit the cabinet accusing President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of obstructing reform, officials and dissidents said Monday. Attorney General Hassan Saeed and Justice Minister Mohamed Jameel quit Sunday blaming Gayoom, Asia’s longest-serving ruler, of blocking reforms ranging from a new constitution to independence of the judiciary.

The duo were members of the “New Maldives” reform group and the resignation was a blow to Gayoom ahead of an August 18 democracy referendum, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) founder Mohamed Latheef said.

“The Attorney General is one of the main architects in the reform process. Their resignations have really shaken the government to the roots,” Latheef, who operates out of Sri Lanka, told AFP.

Chief government spokesman Mohamed Shareef said the resignations were timed to make Gayoom and his government look bad ahead of the referendum.

“Their choice to quit is very disappointing and is very much a stab in the back to the president,” Shareef said by telephone from the capital, Male.

Earlier in the year, Abdullah Yameen, Gayoom’s younger half-brother and a hardl