Maldives calls for action against Israeli leaders

The Maldives called on the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza last year and urged “prompt action to be taken against Israel and its leaders.”

The Maldives made the call in a statement delivered at the 29th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at an interactive dialogue with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict.

“The Maldives also noted with deep regret the complete non-cooperation of Israel with the Commission, where the Israeli Government did not allow the Commission to enter the territories,” the foreign ministry said in a statement today.

“The Maldives condemned the well planned attacks, which were carried out during very specific times, such as ‘iftar’ and ‘suhoor’ – the Ramadan meal times, which maximised the number of civilian casualties.”

The Maldives also called on Israel to “respect the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine to self-determination and statehood.”

The foreign ministry explained that the United Nations Human Rights Council considers the plight and situation of human rights of the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, under item seven of its agenda, “which faces resistance from the United States of America and some Western States.”

“The Maldives has on every occasion reiterated its strong position that Agenda Item 7 should continue, as long as the occupation continues,” the foreign ministry said.

In August last year, the Maldivian media organised a ‘Help Gaza’ telethon and raised a record MVR29.4 million (US$1.91 million). The funds have since been used by the International Federation of Red Crescent (IFRC) to construct 100 housing units in Gaza for displaced Palestinian families.


PPM candidates win six council by-elections by default

Candidates from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have won six out of nine council by-elections scheduled for August 1 after no other candidates stood for the vacant island and atoll council seats.

The six seats include the Meemu Dhiggaru constituency atoll council seat, and one seat from the Kaafu Maafushi, Vaavu Felidhoo, Haa Alif Muraidhoo, Thaa Madifushi, and Shaviyani Kanditheemu island councils.

By-elections will take place for vacant seats on the Haa Alif Dhidhoo, Haa Dhaal Naivaidhoo, and Noonu Hebadhoo island councils on August 1 between independent candidates and ruling party candidates.

The by-elections were triggered by the resignation of several island and atoll councillors.

In April, the ruling party was accused of vote buying after handing over air-conditioners to a school in Raa Atoll Alifushi, shortly before an island council by-election.

The opposition had also accused  the PPM of vote-buying and bribery in the Dhiggaru constituency parliamentary by-election earlier this month after the donation of x-ray machines and air conditioning units to the constituency.

President Abdulla Yameen had also pledged to provide a 140 kilo-watt power generator for Dhiggaru and urged constituents to vote for Faris to ensure development.


Parliament approves three new ministers

The parliament today approved President Abdulla Yameen’s appointments of Iruthisham Adam as health minister, Ahmed Zuhoor as youth and sports minister, and Dr Ahmed Ziyad as Islamic minister.

All three nominees were approved unanimously with 66 votes in favour. Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MPs also voted to confirm the appointments.

In a cabinet reshuffle in late May, President Yameen dismissed then-youth minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, replaced him with then-health minister Ahmed Zuhoor, and promoted then-deputy gender minister Iruthisham Adam to the health minister.

The parliament has meanwhile also approved Dr Mohamed Asim, from Henveiru Vaijeheyge in Malé, as the new Maldivian ambassador to Bangladesh.

Asim’s nomination was approved with 67 votes in favour. He had previously served as ambassador to Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.


Disgraced ex CSC chair to be appointed high commissioner to Malaysia

President Abdulla Yameen has nominated the disgraced former chairperson of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) as the new high commissioner to Malaysia.

Mohamed Fahmy Hassan was removed from the CSC by parliament in 2012 after he was found to have sexually harassed a female staff member, but the Supreme Court had blocked the dismissal as “unconstitutional.”

Upon assuming office in November 2013, President Yameen appointed Fahmy as the deputy high commissioner to Malaysia.

In late May, the foreign ministry recalled former high commissioner Mohamed Fayaz from Malaysia saying he had failed to “adequately promote Maldives’ foreign policy interests in Malaysia.”

Fahmy was nominated for parliamentary approval today. The parliament will vote on the appointment following evaluation of the nominee by the national security committee.

The Supreme Court overruling parliament’s dismissal of Fahmy had meanwhile led to both Fahmy and his replacement Fathimath Reeni Abdul Sattar arriving for work.

The CSC eventually blocked Fahmy from accessing its offices in September 2013. A source said Fahmy’s fingerprint access was rescinded after the former commissioner continued to come to the office for a few minutes every day.

Fahmy was alleged to have called a female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”it won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

According to local media, the woman told her family about the incident, who then called Fahmy. Fahmy then sent her a text message apologising for the incident, reportedly stating, ”I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations, Fahmy told Minivan News previously that the female staff member had made up the allegation after she learned she had not won a scholarship to Singapore offered by the CSC.

Correction: this article previously said that President Yameen had appointed Fahmy as high commissioner to Malaysia. This is incorrect. The president had only nominated Fahmy’s name.


Ministerial task force formed to combat dengue outbreak

A ministerial task force was convened today to formulate a national level response to a dengue outbreak across the Maldives.

An 18-year-old pregnant Maldivian woman and a migrant worker died of dengue fever in the past week while the Health Protection Agency (HPA) warned of an increase in the incidence of the mosquito-borne disease.

The government began mosquito fogging in Malé and the atolls this morning.

Some 374 cases of dengue has been reported so far this year, of which 125 were reported from Malé and 112 were reported in June.

Health minister Iruthisham Adam, home minister Umar Naseer, and defence minister Moosa Ali Jaleel attended the high-level meeting today along with a number of senior government officials, police officers, and officials from the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

The health minister said mosquito fogging will take place in the capital and affected atolls for the next seven days. The ministry is also cleaning out mosquito breeding sites in collaboration with the housing ministry, environment ministry, home ministry, and the security services.

Last year, the health ministry said dengue fever has become endemic in the Maldives since 2004 with annual outbreaks.

A relatively severe outbreak of dengue in 2011 saw a record high 12 fatalities.

A total of 1,083 dengue cases were reported in the Maldives in 2012. The HPA has previously said that construction workers face an increased risk.


President ratifies amendment to constitution

President Abdulla Yameen has ratified today a constitutional amendment setting new age limits of 30-65 years for presidency.

The parliament yesterday passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming trip artisan support.

A total of 78 MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives-Maldives Development Alliance (PPM-MDA) coalition and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) voted in favour of the proposed change.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace vice-president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who is 33 and ineligible for the post.

The constitution previously stated that presidential and vice presidential candidates must be 35 years of age.

Pro-government MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence, but opposition politicians and some media outlets have claimed that President Abdulla Yameen is seeking a loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery.

Several PPM MPs have said that Adeeb will become the next vice president, but Jameel can only be replaced if he either resigns or is impeached with a two-third majority of parliament.

The revision to article 109(c) marks the first time the constitution has been changed since its adoption in August 2008.

The MDP and JP parliamentary groups issued three-line whips Tuesday night for its MPs to back the amendment, prompting speculation of a deal with the government, after former President Mohamed Nasheed’s house arrest was extended to eight weeks.

MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has said that the main opposition party stood to gain more from backing the amendments than opposing it.

The amendment was submitted earlier this month by MDA MP Mohamed Ismail, who said during the preliminary debate that he proposed the 65-year cap as the president should be “young, intelligent, daring, active, and energetic.”


Maldives awarded Indian Ocean’s leading beach destination

The Maldives has been recognised as the ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Beach Destination’ at the World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony 2015.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) managing director Abdulla Ziyath accepted the award on behalf of the Maldives.

Some 150 industry leaders from 20 countries attended the awards ceremony at the Kempsinki Seychelles Resort Baie Lazare on Saturday night.

Seychelles took the title of ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Destination.’

Maldivian resorts and hotels meanwhile won in several other Indian Ocean categories, including leading culinary hotel (Conrad Maldives Rangali Island), leading green resort (Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa), leading hotel suites (Royal Island Suite at JA Manafaru, Maldives), leading leisure hotel (Hulhulé Island Hotel), leading luxury resort (Cheval Blanc Randheli), leading luxury water villas (Ocean Suites at Paradise Island Resort & Spa, Maldives), leading villa resort and spa (Ayada Maldives), and most romantic resort (Baros Maldives).

The Ibrahim Nasir International Airport won the Indian Ocean’s Leading Airport award while Trans Maldivian Airways won the leading seaplane operator award.

Get Into Maldives Travels was recognised as the Indian Ocean’s Leading Travel Agency.

The MMPRC said in a statement on Sunday that the World Travel Awards brand is “globally recognised as the ultimate hallmark of quality”.

The awards covers the globe each year with a series of regional gala ceremonies staged to “recognise and celebrate individual and collective successes within each key geographical region.”

The Maldives hosted the first Indian Ocean World Travel Awards in 2013.


CSC to challenge ruling on sick leave allowance

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has decided to challenge an Employment Tribunal ruling that established that the commission cannot deduct a civil servant’s service allowance for sick leave.

A CSC official told local media today that the commission will appeal the ruling at the High Court this week.

The tribunal last Wednesday ruled in favour of a senior project officer at the fisheries minister in a dispute with the commission. Naseef Mohamed had contended that the deduction of MVR66.76 from his service allowance in January when he called in sick for a day was arbitrary.

The tribunal ordered the commission to reimburse the deducted amount within 14 days.

The three members on the tribunal ruled unanimously that deducting the service allowance does not fit any of the circumstances specified in the Employment Act that allow deduction of salary or wage payments.

The commission reportedly began imposing pay cuts for sick days under new civil service regulations enacted in December.

All employees of the fisheries ministry have meanwhile signed a petition to permanent secretary Dr Abdulla Naseer seeking reimbursement of deductions from their service allowance.


Government submits bills on national disasters, foreign service, and writing off traffic fines

The government has submitted legislation to the parliament today on national disasters, the foreign service, and writing off traffic fines.

Earlier this month, President Abdulla Yameen pledged to write off fines accumulated for traffic violations and illegal parking.

According to the president’s office, the amendments to the 2009 land transport law also proposes introducing “modern” measures against traffic violations and offering legal authority for the police to impound, sell, and demolish vehicles.

Speaking at a function with youth supporters on June 6, President Yameen observed that the fines for some motorcycles impounded at the tow yard has reached up to MVR80,000 (US$5,188), which most youth were unable to afford.

“We have submitted a bill to the People’s Majlis to write off debt or arrears built up like this. So from the day this bill passes, those youth will no longer be in debt,” he declared.

Yameen said the pro-government majority will pass amendments to the land transportation law before Ramadan or during the current session of parliament.

The legislation on national disasters meanwhile proposes a framework for protecting the country from natural and other large-scale disasters.

The foreign service bill proposes the establishment of a ‘foreign service’ entity comprised of the foreign ministry, overseas diplomatic missions, and consulates. The legislation specifies the mandate and responsibilities of the foreign service.