MDP MP calls for investigation into allocation of 50 Hulhumale’ flats to MNDF officers

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Rasheed has requested the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) and Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) investigate the proposed allocation of 50 flats in Hulhumale’ to military officers.

MP Rasheed made the request in a letter forwarded to both commissions, according to an MDP statement.  The request, sent to the two commissions, claims that the allocation of 50 flats to officers in the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) is a “clear violation of the people’s rights.”  The allocation is to be taken from 1000 residential properties currently being constructed in Hulhumale’.

Rasheed claimed in his statement that the government has already decided to built flats in certain areas to provide housing for military officers, and therefore “taking away 50 flats belonging to the people” paves way for corruption.

If the government decides to give flats to MNDF today, he warned in future that more flats would have to be awarded to police and customs officers, as well as other independent institutions.

Meanwhile, the statement says that MP Rasheed had described the allocation of the flats as an example of the current government’s use of “undue power and influence” to attack people’s constitutional rights, asking the two commissions to investigate such actions.

He has there requested both commissions to block the allocation of the 50 flats to military officers and return the residences to the people.

Earlier this month, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim announced that 50 flats on the island of Hulhumale’ will be awarded to military officers alongside financial assistance to help them keep up with payments.

He said that a committee headed by Brigadier General Abdulla Shamal will oversee the awarding of the properties to candidates from a “pre-set criteria” and officers from all ranks are expected to be included in the scheme.  The MNDF has announced it will also provide assistance to officers facing difficulties in meeting the required payments on schedule.

ACC Deputy Chair Muaviz Rasheed today said that he could not confirm if the commission has received the case concerning the military flats, or if an official investigation had started as he was currently on leave.

Rasheed did note that another investigation into the development of a military training facility on Thanburudoo island as a surf resort was currently underway.  He said no decision has yet been taken on the case.

Prior to the announcement on awarding flats to military officers, the news broke about the development of a tourist surf resort on the island of Thanburudoo under the newly established MNDF Welfare Company.

The decision attracted heavy criticisms from the local surf community after the MNDF confirmed that the island was to be awarded to a third party, identified as Singapore-based group Telos Investment, without an open bidding process.

The Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) hit out at the proposed resort development on Thanburudoo – known to be a popular surfing spot – claiming it will substantially reduce local access to an already limited number of high-profile waves in the country.

However, Telos Investment President Dr Gunnar Lee-Miller told Minivan News at the time that it would be issuing a statement soon regarding the project and the potential impacts on national surf development.

“To be sure, there is a robust surf development plan for local surfers and fruitful discussions with Maldivian Surf Association Leaders have already commenced,” Dr Lee-Miller responded by SMS earlier this month. “We care greatly about the development of Maldivian surfers both in Male’ and the outer atolls.”

Minivan News had not yet received a full statement from Telos Investment about their plans.


Police launch street and sea clampdown over fears of pre-CNI unrest

Police have this evening launched new measures detailing increased scrutiny of the capital’s streets and surrounding waters to try and control fears over a potential outbreak of unrest in the build up to the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) Report.

Police have today announced that extra traffic check points will be stationed around the streets of Male’, while some areas will be closed off entirely.  Boats docking in the city’s will also be searched, with some vessels potentially being sent back to their point of origin.

The intensified security measures are being introduced as the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) this week alleged rumours had been spread by “mutinying” officers that certain sections of the police planned to take to the capital’s streets to create “havoc”.  The accusations have been rebuked by the police.

Maldives Police Service Assistant Commissioner Hussain Waheed today told reporters that authorities had decided to strengthen security across the capital and other islands, in order to “not give any opportunity to create unrest”.

“We have received information that some people are negotiating with former inmates released under Second Chance Program to create unrest in Male’,” Waheed observed while speaking at a press conference held today to announce the special operation which has come into effect at 6:00pm today.

During the operation, which will continue indefinitely, police said, they will be visiting mass gatherings in the capital.

According to Waheed, Marine police will also assist in searching boats and other vessels coming to Male’, while some boats may be “diverted” by the police.  Groups of political activists have traditionally been brought from other islands to the capital in the past to participate in significant political rallies.

“We will take strict action against anyone attempting to disrupt peace and security of the nation.” he added, contending that the police have the authority to disperse a gathering without a warning if they find it to be provoking unrest.

However, he said the police will provide full support and security services to the demonstrations held “peacefully and within the contours of laws”.

Fears are growing across the Maldives over escalation of unrest and violence as the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) findings are scheduled to be released on Thursday, in a bid to provide details about the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintains he was forced to resign in an opposition backed military-police coup.

The party recently alleged mutinying sections of the police planned to create unrest and violence on the streets of Male’ as senior politicians began contemplating the release of findings by the CNI.

However, Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef refuted the claims when speaking to Minivan News yesterday, adding that the party’s comments reflected what he said were attempts by former President Mohamed Nasheed to “erode public trust” in the police and create “fear” among the general public.

“The police are always professional. Right now we are taking precautions regarding information we are receiving,” he claimed

Haneef added that the authorities would be stationing officers around the country, adding that the police would “not tolerate unrest”.


Nasheed “highest authority liable” for Judge Abdulla detention: HRCM

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has concluded former President Mohamed Nasheed was the “highest authority liable” for the military-led detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Along with Nasheed, the report concluded that the former president’s Defence Minister, Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, was a second key figure responsible for the decision to detain Judge Abdulla on January 16.

The commission stated that the judge was not physically harmed during the 22-day detention at the military training island of Girifushi.  However, the HRCM did claim that the government had “violated his human dignity” and made attempts to manipulate the judge through a psychologist who visited him at the facility where he was detained.

These alleged attempts at manipulation were said to include efforts to remove the judge from his senior position, as well as forcing him to leave the country, the commission’s findings stated.

“The investigation reveals the highest authority liable for the arrest and detention of Judge Abdulla at Girifushi, as well as depriving him of fundamental constitutional rights, is former President Mohamed Nasheed.  Under him was the former Minister of Defence and National Security Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu who gave orders to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF),” the HRCM added.

“Furthermore, as this operation was carried out by the MNDF, the [commission] believes that the Chief of Defence Force, Moosa Ali Jaleel should take responsibility.  Those who issued unconstitutional orders and those who obeyed the orders must also share responsibility on various levels,” the commission added.

The commission’s findings released on Tuesday (August 21), concluded that Judge Abdulla’s arrest was a clear violation of both the country’s laws and its constitution.  The report also stated that judge’s human rights and fundamental freedoms, guaranteed under international law, were also denied.

HRCM explained that its investigation had found that the pair were both behind the “unlawful orders” to approve the judge’s arrest, which was a violation of article 46 of the Constitution, particularly violation of Article 12 clause (a) of the Judges Act.

Article 44 of the Maldives Constitution states: “No person shall be arrested or detained for an offence unless the arresting officer observes the offence being committed, or has reasonable and probable grounds or evidence to believe the person has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence, or under the authority of an arrest warrant issued by the court.”

Article 12 clause (a) of the Judges Act states that a judge can be arrested without a court warrant, but only if he is found committing a criminal act. The same article also states that if a judge comes under suspicion of committing a criminal act or being about to commit a criminal act, they can only be taken into custody with a court warrant obtained from a higher court than that of which the judge presently sits on.  This warrant has to be sought by the prosecutor general.

However, the commission observed that the warrant was not obtained.  Additionally, orders to release the judge by the Supreme Court, High Court, the country’s lower courts and the prosecutor general were ignored.

Both Nasheed and Tholhath, alongside former Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel, Brigadier Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad are already facing charges for their alleged role in detaining Judge Abdulla in January.

The charges include a breach of article 81 of the Penal Code: “Arresting an innocent person intentionally and unlawfully by a state employee with the legal authority or power vested to him by his position is an offence. Punishment for a person guilty of this offence is imprisonment or banishment for 3 years or a fine of MVR 2000 (US$129.70).”

These charges were filed by the Prosecutor General’s Office in July, based on the findings of HRCM investigation, which were not publicly released at the time.

The judge was arrested by the military on request of police after he blocked a summons to present himself to the police headquarters for questioning and later opened the court outside normal hours to order the immediate release of current Home Minister and Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.  Jameel was arrested after the President’s Office requested an investigation into so-called “slanderous” allegations he made that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

The government contended that the judge was a “threat to national security” after he lodged an appeal at High Court to cancel police summons, which granted an injunction until it reached a verdict on the appeal.

The Nasheed administration accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.

In August 2010, the judge was publicly accused by the police of “obstructing high-profile corruption cases.”

However, the commission’s report concluded that its investigation proved that Judge Abdulla was not a threat to national security, on the grounds that no meeting of the National Security Council was held at the time.

The Commission also observed that its requests and attempts to visit Judge Abdullah were unfulfilled by the MNDF and government.  Conversely, it  deemed the arrest as an attempt to “influence” his role as Criminal Court chief judge.

The HRCM report also identified what it called breaches of multiple rights and freedoms of Judge Abdullah during the detention process.  These were said to include; the right to be treated equal before law and right to the equal protection and benefit [article 20];  right to life, liberty and security [article 21]; freedom to travel or move within and outside the country [article 41]; Procedurally Fair and and lawful administrative action [article 43];  the right to be to be informed immediately of the reasons for detention and to be brought within24 hours before a Judge [article 48(a) and  (d) ]; right to the assistance of legal counsel [article 53] and no subjection to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, or to torture under [article 54].

Furthermore, it noted that the arrest of the Judge contravened section 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”

Furthermore, violations were said to include, the right he “not be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” [section 9] and similarly not being subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to suffer attacks upon a person’s honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks [section 12].

HRCM has also observed that “anyone who is deprived of their liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful” under section 9(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the same declaration, section 10(a) states that: “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

It also states that the “Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance” prohibits the arrest, detention or abduction of a person against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.

“Therefore, the [arrest of Judge Abdullah] was carried out in contravention of the aforementioned rights and freedoms guaranteed under the international declarations.” the HRCM concluded.


Male’ festival aims to clear HIV “misconceptions” among migrant population

A “HIV Awareness Festival” being held this weekend in Male’ aims to provide free advice and medical examinations, alongside activities for those interested in learning about HIV/AIDS in a friendly environment, organisers have said.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the main organiser of the festival, the aim for the event is to promote HIV/AIDS awareness amongst a rapidly growing migrant population in the Maldives – identified as one of the most vulnerable groups to contract the deadly virus.

It is an opportunity to connect migrant workers to the available HIV preventive and curative services in the Maldives as well.

“The festival will create a platform for migrant workers to obtain information on prevention of HIV/AIDS and clear misconceptions through activity-based interaction in their native languages,” a press statement about the event read.

The festival will begin at 4:00pm in Sultan Park and throughout the event, stalls will be providing basic healthcare checks, for dental and eye health, voluntary counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS – all free of charge.

A jumble sale will also take place, while snacks and music will reflect the different food and cultures of migrant populations.

According to the organiser, the stall activities are supported by various foreign embassies and civil society organisations.

HIV situation in Maldives

Compared to many countries in the region, the Maldives had been found to have a low prevalence of HIV.

As of December 2011, state figures reveal a total of 15 HIV cases were detected among Maldivians, while 289 were identified among the expatriate migrant labour force.

However, the challenge remains to maintain the low prevalence rates amid widespread high risk behaviours.

Heath Minster Dr Ahmed Jamsheed has contended that these high risk behaviours – including unsafe injecting, unprotected sex with multiple partners, serial monogamy, group sex, gang rape, commercial sex, and unprotected male-to-male sex – have put Maldives at the brink of an HIV/AIDs explosion.

Recent studies suggest that migrant construction workers, injecting drug users, female sex workers, men who have sex with men, seafarers, resort workers and young people are the seven groups at the most risk for contracting deadly virus.

An unknown number of 80,000 to 110,000 foreign workers – almost one-third of the total local population – is estimated to be working in Maldives – primarily in the construction and service sectors.

Thousands of them are undocumented workers who have entered the country illegally, possibly escaping the mandatory HIV screening process.

Through the Global Fund Supported Programme in the Maldives, health authorities and UN agencies are working to run outreach programmes on HIV, targeting the groups most vulnerable to contracting HIV and strengthening national HIV preventive mechanisms.


Mother of abandoned guest house baby a 13 year-old minor, police confirm

The manager of a guest house in Male’ has discovered a six month old baby left alone in one of the property’s rooms on Monday (August 20), prompting a police investigation that today revealed the child’s mother to be a 13 year-old minor.

According to local media reports, the child was discovered by the manager of the M. Hudhufas guest house in the capital after he heard the baby crying for several hours. Upon entering the room, he discovered the child alone and unharmed.

The Maldives Police Service was alerted to the scene immediately, with the baby being taken into state care temporarily while a search was conducted for the child’s parents.

A girl claiming to be the child’s mother later came to the police station by herself after officers called the mobile number she had provided while checking into the guest house.

“We called the number to confirm if she was the baby’s mother and asked her to report to the station. When she came, we found out that she was just a 13 year-old girl,” Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said.

When asked about the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy, Haneef noted that no further information could be revealed about the case at this stage, as the mother was a minor herself.

A police investigation is currently ongoing in collaboration with the Gender Ministry.

Haneef also declined to confirm if the police were investigating the details of how the minor became pregnant or if there was suspicion she may have been the victim of abuse.

“We have now returned the girl and her baby to her family,” he added.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem also pointed out that in cases involving minors, “no conclusions” should be drawn until an investigation into the matter was completed.

When asked if a minor who gives birth to a child out of marriage could face criminal charges, Shameem said that it was “very unlikely”.  He contended that, under the law, a child below 18 cannot give their consent for sex – therefore any resulting pregnancy is deemed to be the result of sexual abuse.

“For example, in this case, we need to determine first if she is in fact the mother of the baby or not. Then we need to find out how she got pregnant and where her parents were when this happened, because they are responsible for looking after their underage children,” Shameem added.  “She is a minor so she cannot give consent [for sex], so police need to investigate the case. It it is very unlikely in such cases for minors to be charged and prosecuted,” he explained.

The “Stringent Punishments for Perpetrators of Sexual Violence Against Children Act’ explicitly states that a child below 13 years of age cannot give consent to any form of sexual relationship, which will be deemed as abuse – a punishable criminal offence.  If the child is aged between 13 to 17 years of age, the court must similarly deem that she or he cannot give consent to any form of sexual relationship unless proven otherwise in court.

However, given the history of cases of unmarried pregnancies in the country – often resulting from sexual abuse or unsafe sex – women or girls have traditionally faced the brunt of legal repercussions and widespread stigma. Subsequently, there have been a number of recent incidents reported in media where pregnant women have been forced to take desperate measures, such as self-induced abortions, infanticide or leaving babies abandoned.

In June, police recovered the body of a newborn infant buried in the outdoor shower of a house on Shaviyani Feydhoo island. The baby’s mother was identified as a 15 year-old school student.

Meanwhile, over the last two years, three newborns have been found dead in the country, with another two incidents where newborn children were discovered abandoned but alive. Two foetuses were reported discovered during this two year period, one hidden in a milk tin and the other at the bottom of Male’s municipal swimming pool.  Another fully-developed baby was thrown into a park having apparently been strangled with underwear tied around its neck.

The two babies found abandoned and alive have now been placed under state care.

The Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) has described these incidents, as well as the figures detailing an increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, as evidence of a sexual health crisis in the Maldives.

Nazeera Najeeb, who leads the reproductive health unit of the CCHDC, told Minivan News in an interview earlier this year that the centre was witnessing an “alarming” increase in cases of underage and unplanned pregnancies, where some girls are getting pregnant “without even knowing it”.

“These unwanted pregnancies are subsequently resulting in more unsafe abortions, baby dumping or infanticide,” she noted.

Najeeb added: “Not just that, sexual violence committed against girls such as sexual abuse and rape, remains at alarmingly high levels. In most cases, abused girls did not even know what happened to them, because no one talks to them about it.”

To curb these perceived problems, she stressed the need for implementing a comprehensive sex education curriculum in and outside educational institutions to create greater awareness on sexual and reproductive health subjects.

Though the concept of sex education is widely supported by health authorities, including Health Minister Dr Ahmed Jamsheed, efforts to implement such practices nationally have been limited.


Over 60 resort workers on Randheli island rushed to hospital with severe food poisoning

Over 60 people working on construction of a resort on Randheli island have been rushed to hospital today after suffering from severe food poisoning.

According to an official from Noonu Atoll Regional Hospital on Manadhoo island, the resort workers currently receiving treatment at the hospital today mostly included expatriate workers from Bangladesh and India.  A few Maldivians were also said to be admitted, according to the hospital source.

The official said that they started receiving the sick resort workers with food poisoning at around 2pm.  A few workers were taken to health centres on nearby islands as the hospital was overwhelmed by the sudden surge of patients.

Extra beds and blankets were provided in order to hospitalise the sick resort workers after the 18-bed site found itself at maximum capacity, the hospital source added.

“All of them were diagnosed with food poisoning. They were vomiting, having severe headache and stomach pain and some were suffering loose motions as well,” the official explained.

It is unknown how the resort workers came down with food poisoning.  The resort, according to local media reports, is being developed for Louis Vuitton Moet et Chandon Hennessey (LVMH). The resort developer was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

The hospital official said; “some patients are saying they got sick after eating a fish, possibly rotten.”

He added that none of the resort workers are now in serious condition, but were being kept under observation.

In a statement, the Maldives Police Service said it had assisted with transporting the affected workers to hospital for treatment.


Website aims to connect blood donors and thalassamia patients with SMS registraton

A website launched this month will enable thalassaemia patients in the Maldives to find blood donors by sending a single text message, according to developers of the service.

With almost 18 percent of the population registered as carriers, the Maldives has the world’s highest incidence of the crippling genetic blood disorder.  Patients diagnosed with thalassaemia major must receive regular blood transfusions and treatment throughout their life.

Currently, over 500 patients with the condition are registered  at the National Thalassaemia Centre (NTC) in Male’.

According to the developers of  “Blood Donor Online Database”, the new system will ease the burden of thalassamia patients and their families by helping to find willing blood donors quickly and easily.

“By using this unique online directory, available blood donors can be identified quickly and contacted via a simple SMS, saving valuable time for you and your loved ones. Also a simple SMS would enable to register blood donors,” local IT firm, Shell Tech claimed on their website.

The system has been designed in collaboration with national telecom service provider Dhiraagu, which supports the automated SMS system linked to the database website.

Blood donors can register with the database by sending an SMS to 678 with the keyword “REG” and their Identity Card (ID) number.

Meanwhile, thalassaemia patients or their relatives seeking donors can type the allocated atoll code and island name (location), along with their required blood group and send via SMS to 678.  This text will be sent to a donor with the needed blood type.

Listed blood donors names will be automatically forwarded to the blood seekers, once registered and will be available for searching on the website.

Each SMS sent through the blood donor service, will be charged at Rf1 (US$0.60).

According to the Chief Executive of Dhiraagu Ismail Rasheed, all revenue raised through the SMS charges will be donated to the NGO, Maldives Thalassaemia Society (MTS).

He added that the company supported the development  of the online blood donor database as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.

The other telecom service provider in the country, Wataniya, will also soon join the initiative allowing its customers to register to the database, Shelltech company noted.

Meanwhile, Thalassaemia Society welcomed the initiative as a “good beginning”, and urged potential donors to register as soon as possible.

On World Thalassaemia Day, 8 May, this year, Minivan News reported on the current challenges facing the country’s thalassaemia patients, as well as inequalities in the services available for them in Male’ and the wider atolls.

The Maldivian Thalassaemia Society contended that authorities have “largely neglected” the rights of local patients, who face numerous challenges to stay alive, especially those in the Maldives’ smaller inhabited islands.

“We see huge inequalities in the provision of medical treatments and services to thalassaemia patients living in the islands and services available from the centre established by the government in Male.”

Even though the government has arranged for blood transfusions on the islands, the MTS claimed that for various reasons, the service and necessary medications are unavailable, forcing patients to cover the high costs of travelling to other islands or the capital in order to get blood transfusions.  These transfusions are often a matter of life or death for patients.

In response to multiple concerns raised by the group, the government has decided to revamp the system by joining the Nastional Thalassamia Center and the National Blood Transfusion Center to create the “Thalassaemia and Other Hemoglobinopathy Center” – which needs to established under the Thalassamia Control Act.

Health Minister Dr. Ahmed Jamsheed told local media earlier this month that all necessary administration work had now been completed and the centre would soon start functioning. He said at the time that the utmost importance was being given to ensure Thalassaemia patients from the islands receive free health care.


MNDF training island of Thanburudhoo to be developed as resort

Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has confirmed plans to develop a tourist resort on the island of Thanburudhoo, currently being used by the military for training and recreational purposes.

The confirmation comes just a week following the registration of the MNDF Welfare Company, created in a bid to generate income to fund welfare services for the armed forces by investing in various businesses, including the tourism sector.

Speaking to Minivan News on Sunday, Lieutenant Abdullah Ali explained that the MNDF is not going to play any direct role in the development of the resort, and that the island would be leased to a third party.

He claimed that the concept of developing the training island as a tourist resort was approved by the former government in 2010, but that work had stalled “for various reasons”.

“However, we have started that process again, and the discussions are continuing,” Lieutenant Ali said.

He also added that the MNDF Welfare Company is “going to be involved” in the project.

“MNDF Welfare Company is going to do tourism, real estate and other potentially lucrative businesses in the future. Our aim is to help reduce state expenditure by self-generating revenue to fund welfare services of the defense force.” Ali observed.

Former Tourism Minister Dr. Mariyam Zulfa confirmed to Minivan News that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government endorsed the Thanburudhoo project back in 2010, but said the President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration had never decided to involve the Defense Ministry or MNDF’ in the project.

“MDP believes in a center right system where the government has little or no control over the economy and promote privatisation. Defense Ministry or MNDF – whichever name u call it – it is still the government. So we would of course never support them to be involved in the project.” Zulfa observed.

She added: “As you know during Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom several uninhabited islands were given to various ministries. So the only reason Defense Ministry’s name appeared in the documents was because the island was registered under the ministry.”

Dr. Zulfa stated that the proposal was initially submitted by individual named Dr Gunnar Lee-Miller, who proposed to develop Thanburudhoo as a surfing resort. The nearby waters host beautiful dive sites and a popular surf-break, which attract many local and foreign surfers.

“We though it was a good proposal and supported it at the time, but the lease transfer was not signed,” Former Tourism Minister contended. “However, I don’t have any details of what happened with the project, following the MDP’s ousting from power on February 7.”

Minivan News contacted Gunnar Lee-Miller seeking to verify whether he was still negotiating with the authorities to secure the island, however Lee-Miller said that it was “not a good time” and hung up the phone. Further attempts to seek comment were met with no response.

Lee-Miller is identified as the President of Telos Investment, a private investment holding firm based in Singapore. The firm is leading the Five Islands project, which involves the development of three integrated resorts over five islands and nine square kilometres of lagoon in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. The project was contracted to the company under former government’s Corporate Social Responsibility(CRS) scheme, in return for establishing high-end sporting facilities in the country.

A speaker profile for Lee-Miller on the website of the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) states that the developer “was recently appointed Senior Advisor to the Maldives National Sports Council assisting in all national sport and sport tourism development projects.”

Surfer controversy

Several local surfers have meanwhile raised concerns on social networks, claiming that the Thamburudhoo project involved dredging and reclaiming  the surrounding area of the island reef, which would destroy the popular surfing spot.

Banzai Bongo, a well-known local surfer, wrote on Facebook: “This is going to affect the natural current flow of the surrounding waves such as Jailbreaks, Honkies, Sultans and Pasta. Moreover, it will destroy dive spots around this area. So the government’s best interest is to annihilate our natural resources which includes world class surf sites and dive sites.”

Bongo called for surfers to “save these waves like we all stood against the state and saved the Trestles. Save it for or children, save it for the future.”

The Maldivian Surfing Association (MSA) said it would be issuing an official statement.


Police arrest 37 year-old man on suspicion of raping two teenage girls

A 37 year-old man has been arrested for allegedly raping two teenage girls after forcing them to drink alcohol.

The girls – aged 15 and 16 – were raped in the late hours of Tuesday at a rented house on Hulhumale’ island, according to the police.

Staff Sergeant Ismail Ali said the case was reported to the police around  2:30am. The man alleged to have raped the girls was arrested soon afterwards.

The identity of the suspect was not revealed by police as the investigation is ongoing.

“This case is very serious and we are currently investigating it. So no further information can be revealed about the suspect or the case at this stage,” Staff Sergeant Ali noted.

This is the second reported incident of rape this year. In January, police arrested five suspects for allegedly gang-raping a 17 year-old girl in Addu City.

Among the many forms of sexual, physical and emotion violence inflicted on several hundreds of women and girls in Maldives, rape is identified as the most heinous crime, and is being reported at alarmingly high levels.

According to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, 13 rape cases were reported last year alone, of which most were gang rapes and involved minors.

The state-run hospital IGMH’s Family Protection Unit meanwhile reported in 2010 that the centre received 42 cases of rape between 2005-2010. Most cases similarly involved minors.

In 2008 the Global School Based Student Health Survey (GSHS) conducted among 1516 students from secondary school also signaled an astonishing amount of sexual violence, with 17 percent of students reporting being “physically forced” to have sex.

Despite the record high incidence of rapes, the country’s penal code does not classify rape as a separate offence and therefore cannot be prosecuted under any act – a key reason for the distressingly low or non-existent figures on rape convictions.

In HRCM’s initial findings submitted to UN, the commission pointed out that other provisions of the law are used to criminalise rape and that the Prosecutor General’s Office uses sexual assault or forced sexual misconduct charges depending on the gravity of the offence.

“A man can be convicted of rape in the absence of a confession only if there are two male witnesses or four female witnesses willing to testify,” the commission added.

Following a study of reported crimes and convictions in 2010, a coalition of NGOs condemned the performance of the judiciary and the state for its treatment of criminal cases, especially those concerning rape.

They “note with great concern that there is not a single case of ‘rape’ in the statistics maintained by either the PG or the Criminal Court” in 2009.

Information provided by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to Transparency Maldives states that in 2009 ten cases of rape were reported to police, eight of which were investigated and five sent to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office. However, Criminal Court statistics showed zero cases under ‘rape’ were prosecuted in 2008 and 2009.

At the time, Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem said the discrepancy was “a misunderstanding of technical terms.”

“If consent is lacking, regardless of whether or not there was intercourse, the case would fall under sexual misconduct,” he said.