GMR wins arbitration case, tribunal deems airport deal was “valid and binding”

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Indian infrastructure giant GMR has won its arbitration case against the Government of Maldives (GoM) for the premature termination of its airport development agreement in 2012.

In a letter sent to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the company explained that the tribunal has said the 18 month tribunal found the agreement to have been “valid and binding”.

“GoM and MACL [Maldives Airports Company Ltd] are joint and severally liable in damages to GMIAL for loss caused by wrongful repudiation of the agreement as per the concession agreement,” read today’s letter.

“It has always been our firm belief that the cancellation of our  concession agreement amounted to wrongful repudiation by the Government of Maldives and the Tribunal has upheld this standard,” wrote GMR Company Secretary C.P. Sounderarajan.

The determining of liability – the first of two phases of arbitration – will now be followed by the determining of compensation owed, with the Indian company seeking US$1.4billion – a figure which exceeds the Maldives annual budget.

Current Attorney General Mohamed Anil has recently expressed his belief that the government was liable only for GMR’s initial outlay of US$78million, plus any costs for construction work completed after the 2010 deal was agreed.

The President’s Office has said that the attorney general will provide a briefing on the case later today.

With the compensation fee yet to be decided, the impact of the tribunal’s decision is still unclear, although the World Bank has previously noted that it would place severe pressure on the country’s already “critically low” foreign reserves.

Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, spokesman for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party  – under whose tenure the deal was brokered has described the decision as a “major breakthrough”.

Void ab initio?

As well as ordering the Maldives to pay GMR’s Malé International Airport Limited (GMIAL), US$4 million within 42 days for cost of proceedings, GMR have revealed further details of the award.

According to GMR the private arbitration proceedings – disclosed in line with its regulatory requirements – deemed the deal “not void for any mistake of law or discharged by frustration”.

The decision to cancel the deal was made in November 2012 by the administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed, with then Attorney General Azima Shukoor declaring the deal void ab initio – meaning that the contract was invalid from the outset.

Shukoor further cited English contract law of ‘frustration’, which acts as a device to set aside contracts where an unforeseen event either renders contractual obligations impossible, or radically changes the party’s principal purpose for entering into the contract.

GMR have today revealed the tribunal’s finding that the collection of Airport Development Charge and Insurance Surcharge – contentious points preceding the contracts termination – to have been lawful under Maldivian law.

The US$511 million agreement to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) – signed during the tenure of former President Mohamed Nasheed – represented the largest foreign direct investment in the Maldives history.

Legal and political wrangling regarding the deal began before GMR had even assumed management of the airport, however, with the then opposition attacking the deal as part of an increasingly fervent anti-government movement which would eventually lead to the controversial resignation of Nasheed in February 2012.

Concession and compensation

The previous December a case filed in the Civil Court  by opposition parties ruled that the Airport Development Charge – key to the agreement’s financial viability – was deemed illegal.

Following the ruling, the Nasheed government reached an agreement with GMR to deduct the lost revenue – anticipated to have been US$25 million per year –  from concession payments owed to the government.

This decision resulted in further tensions after the fall of the Nasheed government, with GMR contract’s detractors – now in office -receiving a series of bills as the lost ADC revenue eclipsed any concession payments owed.

The ADC matter was subsequently referred to the Singapore arbitration court – as agreed in the initial concession agreement – while senior figures in the government pleaded with Indian PM Manmohan Singh to cancel the agreement, citing growing anti-Indian sentiment in the country.

In today’s letter, GMR revealed that the tribunal had ruled both the charge, and the subsequent adjustment was also “lawful and binding on MACL and GoM”.

The termination of the contract was accompanied by a cooling of relations with neighbour India as well as questions regarding foreign investor confidence in the Maldives – both issues that incumbent President Abdulla Yameen has sought to address since his election in November.

Future investment

Yameen – whose Progressive Party of Maldives has distanced itself from termination of the GMR deal, despite being the largest party in the coalition government at the time –  has pledged to create an environment conducive to further foreign investment.

As well as introducing plans for special economic zones within the country, Yameen’s government has embarked on a drive for foreign investors – suggesting that even GMR would be welcomed back to work on new projects.

“We are going to open up the Maldives in a huge way to foreign investors. Our thirst cannot be quenched. The opportunity to foreign investors is going to be enormous,” said the president in April.

Projects outlined at a landmark Singapore Investment Forum included the further development of Malé International Airport, though Yameen has said that overall management would remain in Maldivian hands due to its national commercial and security importance.

New plans for redevelopment of the airport will include foreign investors – an issue that continues to cause controversy – under the management of the state-owned MACL.

MDP Spokesman Hamid today suggested that the tribunal’s decision would deter further investment and foreign financing in the Maldives and – depending on the compensation amount – could result in the state’s bankruptcy.

Hamid reiterated his party’s recent calls for GMR’s reinstatement, stating the the MDP would be considering further legal action following the tribunal’s decision.


Foreign minister calls for Muslim self-assesment over negative image of Islam

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon has called for a thorough self-assessment to identify the reason Islam is being associated with intolerance, terrorism, violence, and backwardness.

Speaking at the 41st session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dunya suggested that although Muslims could blame the West and Western media, Muslim societies must make a self-assessment as to why Islam is being tarnished by images linked to terrorism.

“Muslims were once the pioneers of science and technology. Today, we have to accept the reality that Muslim societies are on the brink of falling into an abyss for creativity,” said the foreign minister in Jeddah.

“It is beyond imagination, or within the realm of belief, to think that we can overcome these dark times? Let us recommit ourselves to work together to overcome our challenges. United and strong we can once again become the standard bearers of tolerance and innovation,” she said.

Condemning Islamophobia, Dunya also argued that the chaos seen in the Muslim world today is a result of not exercising true Islamic ideals.

“Islamic principles and values of justice and equality of all humans, and the right of citizens in having a say and a stake in their governments is well in line with modern democratic values,” she said.

Urging the OIC to unite in support for democratic change around the world and in Islamic societies, Dunya said Maldives was an emerging democracy that is striving to advance its democratic institutions and to cherish the values of Islam.

Stating that Islam emphasises the equal rights and responsibilities of men and women, she called on the OIC to work to protect, safeguard, and guarantee the rights of Muslim women around the world.

Concern over the ‘tarnished image of Islam’ was also highlighted in OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani’s statement.

He called on ‘European leaders’ to reflect internally “before accusing Islam of racism, Nazism and committing massacres against others” and called for the rights of Muslim minorities around the world.

“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemns terrorism wherever it is and confirms, as in all international agreements and resolutions in this regard, that terrorism has no religion, nationality, doctrine, color, or race,” said Madani

“It is rather a phenomenon that should be combatted and addressed wherever it is and whatever its source may be. Accordingly, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation rejects and condemns any attempt to render terrorism equivalent to Islam, a religion espoused by more than two billion people throughout the world.”

Madani noted that terrorism, religious, and sectarian extremism, and the rights of Muslim minorities outside the Muslim World were primary concerns of the OIC.

Concepts of human rights, the rights of women and children, and religious practice were also listed a key interests of the group.

A statement from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was also delivered yesterday at the conference, in which he commented on issues faced by Muslim communities around the world, particularly in Myanmar, Mali, Central African Republic, Syria, Palestine and Iraq.

Stating that a humanitarian crisis is quickly unfolding in Iraq, Ban Ki-moon called for a national security plan against terrorist threats, saying that OIC members can play a key role in creating a positive and enabling environment for a national dialogue in Iraq.


Human Development Report highlights Maldives’ regional divide

The UNDP’s second Human Development Index (HDI) report for the Maldives urges stakeholders to address regional inequalities which remain a “major challenge” towards human development.

The first sub-regional HDI report of its kind, titled ‘Bridging the Divide: Addressing vulnerabilities, Reducing inequalities’ was officially launched today, analysing the disparities between the Malé region and the outer atolls.

“Where one is born within the Maldives determines many of the opportunities and choices available to a person,” reads the report.

“Remote islands with small populations have limited accessibility to services including schooling, healthcare, social services, job opportunities and face overall isolation.”

Since its first HDI report in 2001, the Maldives has graduated to middle income country status. Today’s report, however, noted that while the nation’s HDI score is 0.688 – placing it in UNDP’s medium development bracket – the regional analysis reveals stark inequalities.

While the atolls’ development was revealed to be 0.627 in 2012 – placing it in the mid-level HDI group, alongside countries such as South Africa and Indonesia – Malé’s HDI was 0.734, putting it in the high development bracket next to Azerbaijan and Mauritius.

Used as a measure to gauge people’s choices in life – accounting for access to education, nutrition, healthcare, security, political and cultural freedoms – Norway currently tops the Human Development Index (0.955), while Niger ranks last (0.304).

The global average HDI average is 0.694.

The Divide

‘Bridging the Divide’ notes that income and educational choices are the most notable of the inequalities faced by those born outside of the capital.

“A person living in Malé is likely to complete three years more of schooling than a person living in the atolls,” explained the report.

It was also noted that the average income for a person living in Malé – equivalent to US$4251.90 – is one and a half times that of a person living in the atolls.

The report noted that rapid internal migration to the capital Malé has itself become a cause of inequalities

“In-migration to  Malé has led to a sharp increase in living costs, poor housing conditions, overcrowding, pollution and a general sense of frustration and impatience in the public.”

After categorising the Maldives into seven regions, the report showed regions 2 and 6 – containing Noonu, Raa, Baa, and Lhaviyani atolls in the north, and Gaafu atoll in the south – to be under performing.

The best performing region contained the central Meemu, Faafu, and Dhaalu atolls – reflecting the concentration of the tourism industry in the Malé area.

The HDI report recommends enhancing the benefits of of tourism – which has taken the Maldives from one of the world’s poorest nations in the 1970s to having South Asia’a highest GDP per capita today – to the wider population.

It was noted that the rich-poor divide was being exacerbated as the tourism industry “operates as a powerful oligarchy and has given rise to an elite class that owns much of the country’s wealth”.

While acknowledging the recent growth of the guest house industry, the report argues that the bulk of the luxury resort industry provides little opportunity for local small and medium enterprises.


Core physical vulnerabilities identified in the report included the Maldives’ small land mass, lack of natural resources, while economic weaknesses focused on the heavy reliance on tourism and a high external dependence on imports.

Such vulnerabilities reduce the ability of institutions to address inequalities, with the report suggesting that solution lies in “building resilience through improved spatial planning, increasing targeting and effectiveness of social protection measures, restoring fiscal and macro-economic stability and diversifying the growth base.”

It was acknowledged that considerable improvements in poverty levels, life expectancy, and access to education had been assisted by “fiscal prudence” between the mid 90s to the mid 2000s which must return in order to continue the country’s HDI progress.

The effective targetting of vulnerable groups – those facing more than one impediment – is needed in order to design policies and programmes to address their development needs. The removal of blanket subsidies was one example of such a policy change.

The development of a hub and periphery model in the atolls – improving local services and relieving the pressure on the capital – was mooted alongside the completion of governmental decentralisation.

Finally, it was suggested that long-term thinking among political leaders – beyond a five-year election cycle – is key if human development is to be enhanced in the island nation.

“Political parties and political leaders need to start thinking beyond the ballot,” read the report. “With democratic transition, the country’s long-term development planning process has been side-lined.”

While noting that human developed requires a strong democracy, the report concluded by suggesting a reappraisal of the state’s “extraordinarily high costs”.

“For a small country like the Maldives, with mounting pressures, fiscal crisis and high debt distress, it is time that political parties, institutions, civil society and the public engage in debate; and agree to right-size the governance system, to make it more sustainable and to maximize the democratic dividend and enhance the freedoms and choices for the people.”


JP open to negotiations with PPM, says Gasim

The Jumhooree Party (JP) is open to discussions with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) as the party does not believe the coalition agreement has been terminated, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim has said.

Speaking at a press conference at the JP headquarters in Malé yesterday (June 17), Gasim said he was pleased that President Abdulla Yameen had said that the parties could discuss problems with the coalition agreement, adding that the JP was ready to join discussions at a time and place of the PPM’s choosing.

“We are ready to go forward in the best interest’s of the nation’s peace and stability,” the business tycoon said.

Unlike other political arrangements, Gasim stressed that the coalition agreement between the parties was signed in the presence of witnesses with the signatories swearing by God to uphold the agreement.

“How can it be said that such an agreement has been dissolved without any just reason? I am certainly frightened that they decided that such an agreement has been dissolved,” the MP for Maamigili said, adding that he feared the “wrath of God” as a result of the PPM’s actions, which would affect “innocent people” as well.

He noted that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had signed the agreement on behalf of the PPM in his capacity as the party’s leader.

Gasim said that the JP has yet to be officially notified in writing of the termination of the coalition agreement.

The PPM had announced in a press statement that the party’s council decided unanimously on May 26 that the agreement “has been brought to an end by the Jumhooree Party as of today” after Gasim contested for the post of Majlis speaker.

Holding up the agreement and reading out clauses at the press conference, Gasim said that the PPM had so far not been able to explain which part of the agreement that the JP breached.

Gasim also contended that the PPM had violated the agreement by failing to either consult the coalition partner before nominating individuals to independent institutions – such as President Yameen’s nephew Maumoon Hameed for prosecutor general – or provide 33 percent of political posts in the executive as stipulated in the agreement.

Campaign trail

After initially announcing that the party would remain neutral, the JP’s council decided to endorse Yameen three days before the second round of the presidential polls on November 16 after JP candidate Gasim finished in third place in the first round with 23.37 percent of the vote.

Gasim claimed yesterday that he had spent MVR20 million on Yameen’s campaign ahead of the run-off polls on November 16 as the coalition agreement stated that the parties should support each other.

Gasim said he gave part of the money at the request of Yameen and his running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed while the rest was spent for JP members to visit islands on campaign trips.

Moreover, Gasim claimed to have spent a further MVR20 million for the PPM during the parliamentary election campaign.

“I sent an amount no less than MVR20 million to President Maumoon and President Yameen,” he said.

Of the coalition candidates to whom Gasim provided financial assistance, the JP leader said former MP for Kinbidhoo, Moosa Zameer, was the only PPM candidate to have lost.

Gasim went on to criticise the two JP MPs  – Milandhoo MP Hassan Mufeed Abdul Gadhir and Nolhivaram MP Hussain Afeef – who signed for the ruling party this week, noting that the pair had signed an agreement under oath to remain in the JP until the end of their five-year terms.

He noted that members of coalition partners switching parties was a violation of the agreement.

Gasim said he had heard that the pair were given MVR10 million each to switch allegiances as well as suggesting that the MPs had told him the government had threatened to cease development projects in their constituencies.

Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed had also told the JP leader that they decided to sign for PPM as they could not continue their work without doing so, Gasim said.

JP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed meanwhile argued that the ministers should have resigned from the cabinet before signing for the ruling party as the pair had been appointed to JP slots.


MDP asks police to investigate threats of violence made via Twitter

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has asked the Maldives Police Services to investigate threats of violence made via Twitter against former President Mohamed Nasheed and MDP members.

The party issued a statement today claiming an individual called Ali Ahsan (@dhiislamAhsan) had threatened to attack Nasheed and MDP members via a Tweet on June 17.

“The MDP calls on the Maldives Police Services and relevant authorities to conduct a thorough criminal investigation and take immediate action,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the police have said they are investigating an alleged attempt to murder Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim.

Speaking at a Majlis committee on Sunday, Gasim said the Maldivian National Defense Forces (MNDF) had failed to provide security despite death threats against him.

Threats of violence have become a norm in Maldivian cyberspace. Politicians, journalists, bloggers and social media users have reported being threatened for a range of reasons, from their support of a particular political party to advocacy of freedom of religion.

The police told Minivan News cyber crimes are difficult to investigate due to challenges in tracing those who issue threats, and have called for a law on cyber crimes to facilitate investigations.

Victims of attempted murder, including blogger Hilath Rasheed and Raajje TV journalist Asward Ibrahim Waheed, have urged the public to take cyber threats seriously.

Minivan News has learned threats of violence were issued online before a series of abductions in early June. The abductions were carried out as part of an effort to identify cyber activists professing atheism and advocating secularism in the Maldives.

“With the recent kidnappings of some Maldivians by an Islamist vigilant mob of about 40, on the pretext their victims are ‘laadheenee’ or ‘impious’, I will advise everyone to really be careful about any kinds of threats because now I believe they can turn real all too easily,” Hilath told Minivan News.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has also called on victims to report threats made via Facebook, Twitter, or comments on blog posts to the police.

Referring to the abductions, HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal said, “In light of recent events, at a time of high levels of intolerance, and increase in gang related violence, do not treat any form of cyber threat as an idle threat.”


Jumhooree Party cabinet member and two more MPs join President Yameen’s PPM

The minister of economic development and two MPs have left the Jumhooree Party (JP) to join  the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Cabinet member Mohamed Saeed was joined by Milandhoo MP Hassan Mufeed Abdul Qadir and Nolhivaram MP Hussain Areef.

The three members confirmed the switch at a function held at Muleeaage in the presence of President Abdulla Yameen, PPM leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and the party’s deputy leader Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

“I don’t think anyone would want to be stuck in a political dispute for five years of their lives, no citizen would want that, and i can see that President Yameen’s government developing the Maldives,” Saeed said.

After signing for the party, Saeed said he had joined the PPM to make use of the opportunity to develop the nation in the coming five years through Yameen’s government, assuring that he was not pressured by the government to sign.

He added that he has also not received any pressure from the JP to stay with them.

The election coalition between the PPM and JP crumbled late last month after both parties decided to field candidates for the position of the Majlis speaker.

President Yameen subsequently moved against political appointees representing the JP in the government, while the parties continue to dispute the alleged breach of the initial coalition agreement.

Earlier this month, Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim also transferred from the JP to the PPM. The only remaining JP minister in the cabinet is Home Minister Umar Naseer, currently the subject of disobedience to order charges in the Criminal Court.

MP Mufeed last night said he joined PPM upon requests from many of his constituents.

“The message [constituents] are giving to me right now, through phone calls and other means is; ‘we want your service in your term to be carried out in collaboration with the ruling party’. So, since i was elected by their votes, in response to their requests I also wanted to join the ruling party’,” Mufeed explained his decision to switch parties.

Nolhivaram MP Areef said that he had switched parties because he was confident that joining the ruling party would speed up development and assistance for his constituency.

Speaking at yesterday’s ceremony, however, President Abdulla Yameen affirmed that his government would continue to provide services for everyone regardless of their MP’s affiliation, though he noted that development would slow without a Majlis majority.

“In obtaining loans to acquire funds for the state, regardless of how low the [interest] rates are, we have to go to the Majlis [for approval],” said the president.

“So when we have a clear majority in the People’s Majlis, when we have such conveniences to serve the people,we can pass [the loans] from the Majlis Finance Committee, and also it would be easier to pass motions on the Majlis floor as well.”

With this latest transfer of MPs,  the PPM has 40 representatives in the 85 member People’s Majlis. Earlier four of the five independently elected MPs, as well as opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa, also switched to the president’s party.

With these developments, the current parliament composition consists of 25 MDP seats, 40 PPM seats, 5 seats for the Maldives Development Alliance, one for the Adhaalath Party, and 13 seats held by the JP.

Madaveli MP Muaz Mohamed Rasheed remains the only independent member of the Majlis.

This gives the ruling Progressive Coalition a clear majority of forty five with coalition member MDA’s five seats. Adhaalath Party which was excluded from the coalition’s seat allocation plan for the parliamentary elections also considers itself to be part of the coalition, but PPM has confirmed that no coalition agreement has ever existed between the two parties.


Majlis sitting called off amid opposition protest over committee composition

Today’s sitting of parliament has been called off by Speaker Abdulla Maseeh after opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs raised consecutive points of order objecting to the composition of the Majlis’ 13 standing committees.

Adjourning the sitting amid disorder in the chamber, Speaker Maseeh announced that he would “discuss the issue of the standing committees with political party leaders.”

Government-aligned MPs accused the opposition of obstructing proceedings to thwart its legislative agenda.

The standing committees were constituted yesterday by a select committee with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner (MDA) securing a majority on government oversight committees.

The five-member select committee – comprised of a representative from the five political parties in parliament – approved the composition of committees after MDP MP Ibrahim Shareef walked out of yesterday’s committee meeting in protest, contending that the seat allocation was unfair.

The committee’s decision will be put to a vote on the Majlis floor on Monday (June 23).

At the beginning of today’s sitting, Speaker Maseeh gave the floor to MP Rozaina Adam to present legislation on medical negligence ahead of a preliminary debate.

The MDP MP for Addu Meedhoo however declared that she was withdrawing the proposed legislation as there were “no committees in the Majlis to review this bill.”

“And we don’t know when [the standing committees] are going to be formed. So our People’s Majlis is in a state today where we cannot even envisage when the committee is going to be formed and when it would be able to consult relevant authorities and work on the bill,” she said.

Rozaina said she wished to make changes to the bill after consulting the Medical Association of Maldives, after which it be resubmitted as soon as standing committees are constituted.

Speaker Maseeh, however, insisted repeatedly that parliamentary rules allow for the formation of ad hoc or select committees to review legislation.

The report forwarded by the select committee formed to constitute standing committees will be tabled in the agenda for Monday’s sitting, he added.

Standing committees

MP Ibrahim Shareef – who represented the opposition party in the select committee that approved the standing committee composition – contended that the legislative process could not begin in the absence of standing committees.

While the MDP had been willing to compromise on the committee composition, Shareef said the PPM did not want the opposition party to have a voice in parliament or be able to exercise oversight.

The ruling party had begun efforts to “create an autocratic one-party state like we had 30 years ago,” he said.

In the wake of the select committee decision yesterday, Shareef told reporters that the opposition party would be forced to resort to direct action if its MPs were not afforded the opportunity to hold the government accountable through parliament.

Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ilham Ahmed accused the speaker of stalling as the government had not finished “hunting” for new MPs.

Two JP MPs signed for the PPM yesterday, joining a number of political appointees who have switched to the ruling party in the wake of the termination of the agreement between the former coalition partners.

MPs who leave their party should be “ashamed” of themselves, the JP deputy leader said.

“We will not allow a brutal and autocratic rule. You should believe, we saw two or three MDP working alone courageously,” he said, referring to the MDP MPs’ efforts in the Special Majlis or constitutional assembly convened to revise the constitution.

“We will see that here again. So I don’t believe the Majlis can carry on before committees are formed,” he said.


Pro-government MPs meanwhile accused opposition MPs of attempting to stall parliamentary proceedings and obstruct the government.

PPM MP Saud Hussain accused opposition MPs of scheming to disrupt parliament with points of order and prevent debate on government-sponsored legislation.

PPM MP Riyaz Rasheed – chair of the select committee that determined composition of standing committees – urged the Majlisopposition party to resolve disputes peacefully through dialogue.

“There’s nothing you can make us do by yelling. We should do things peacefully,” he said.

PPM MP Ali Arif argued that the opposition party had no grounds to complain as the party had been granted 39 seats on the standing committees, which reflected the party’s numbers in parliament.

Moreover, he added, the absence of standing committees was not a problem at the moment as preliminary debate had not been completed for any piece of legislation so far.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed meanwhile stated on social media that standing committees should be formed in accordance with “the spirit of the constitution” to allow parliament to hold the executive answerable.

“MDP is the party that represents the whole Maldives. Thanks to MDP MPs,” the opposition leader tweeted.


Dismissed Brigadier General Nilam files case with Human Rights Commission

Former Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam has filed a case with the Human Rights Commission (HRCM) relating to his suspension and eventual dismissal from service.

A ten-month suspension followed statements made by Nilam to the Majlis government oversight committee in January last year during which he claimed the February 2012 change of government had “all the characteristics of a coup”.

Nilam told Minivan News today that his case – submitted after unsuccessful attempt to take the issue through the courts – was important for both the MNDF and for democracy.

“I strongly believe that if I stay quiet, the upholding of democracy will not be there and subordinate soldiers will continue to get unfair punishments” the 26-year veteran explained.

He maintains that his career was ended in relation to his comments to the oversight committee – constitutionally protected under parliamentary privilege – which were later publicised by committee MPs.

Saying at the time of of Nilam’s dismissal in November that he had been relieved of duty for “violating MNDF duties and disciplinary norms, repeating acts that should not be seen from an MNDF officer, revealing secret information against military regulations, diminishing the honor of the MNDF, and sowing discord in the military”, the MNDF had no further comment to make on the matter today.

Nilam – formerly head of military intelligence – explained that around a dozen other soldiers were dismissed immediately after the February transfer of power, suggesting all of these cases breached the rights enshrined in the 2008 constitution.

“I love democracy – I want this country to be a democratic Islamic country and we are evading from it during the last two years,” he said.

Depending on the outcome of the commission’s report, Nilam pledged to take his case to the the relevant international bodies.

After effects

The fallout from the chaotic events of February 2012 continue more that two years on, with former President Mohamed Nasheed claiming earlier this week that the events had set a precedent that would have lasting effects.

“The legitimate means of changing regimes has been demonstrated in 2012. The Supreme Court has demonstrated how to interpret the constitution. With that legitimacy, both ourselves and those in power, we should not rule out the possibility that another group may overthrow the government,” he told Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters in Malé.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla has also called this week for Attorney General Mohamed Anil to appear before the Majlis in order to explain how his government is addressing the recommendations of the Commonwealth-backed national inquiry.

While dismissing the claims of mutiny among security forces and duress in Nasheed’s resignation, the CoNI report did recommend reform of the judiciary and security services, as well as prosecution of those security personnel found guilty of acts of brutality.

The CoNI was subsequently criticised by legal experts as being “selective”, “flawed”, and having exceeded its mandate, prompting a further parliamentary probe into the presidential transition.

Following its own investigations into the events of leading to Nasheed’s resignation, and the brutal police crackdown on his supporters the following day, the HRCM last December accused institutions of failing to implement the majority of its recommendations.

HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal told Minivan News today that the commission was due to release a further report into the extent to which stakeholders have complied with its advice in the coming weeks.

The commission was unable to discuss ongoing cases such as General Nilam’s, he explained.


Home Minister refuses to cooperate with disobedience trial

Home Minister Umar Naseer has refused to cooperate with a Criminal Court trial on charges of disobedience to order.

The Prosecutor General’s Office charged Naseer with violating Article 8 (a) of the 1968 General Laws for his public call in January 2012 to storm the military headquarters. The clause prohibits speech or writing contravening Islamic tenets.

In a previous hearing, Naseer asked Judge Abdulla Didi to annul Article 8 (a), claiming the clause contradicted the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution.

Didi ruled Naseer’s claim does not classify as a point of procedure and has ordered the trial continue.

Naseer’s lawyer Adam Asif has refused to proceed with the trial until Didi’s decision on the procedural matter is issued in writing. Asif has said that Naseer intends to appeal the decision.

Didi today declined despite these repeated requests and adjourned the hearing.

On Thursday (June12), Didi had issued an arrest warrant ordering the police to present Naseer at court today after he missed three consecutive hearings. The home minister had been out of the country on official visits during all three hearings.

The police made no move to arrest the minister on his return to the Maldives yesterday, with Naseer travelling to the court this morning with a bodyguard escort.

Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen has urged his ministers not to leave the country on court dates.

“I’ve told all ministers. But I have not had an opportunity to tell Umar Naseer. With recent events, I’ve said even if you have an official visit, cancel it if you have to attend court. And even on private visits, if it’s a family medical emergency, get permission from the court to leave,” he said.

Disobedience to order

Rejecting Naseer’s point of procedure, Didi said the General Laws stand until the People’s Majlis decides to annul the law.

The Criminal Court would interpret the law if needed, Didi said and ordered the state and Naseer to proceed with the trial and to present witnesses.

Asif asked for the decision in writing, stating that Naseer would like to appeal the court’s decision. The constitution guarantees right of appeal to all individuals, Asif argued, stating that Naseer will only proceed with the trial after appealing Didi’s decision.

Didi said he took Naseer’s refusal to proceed with the trial as a refusal to speak in his own defense.

He adjourned the hearing after allowing the state to present video evidence of Naseer’s speech, and said he would hold one more hearing for concluding statements and issue a verdict in a separate hearing.

If convicted under Article 88 of the penal code, Naseer faces imprisonment, banishment or house arrest not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding MVR150 (US$10).

Attorney General Mohamed Anil last week asked the parliament to annul several clauses of the General Laws. Asif claims Article 8 (a) is among the clauses up for annulment.

Arrest warrant

The heated trial comes in the aftermath of the dissolution of a coalition agreement between Naseer’s Jumhooree Party (JP) and the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).

Four ministers were appointed to the cabinet on JP slots, but following recent defections and dismissals, Naseer remains as the only JP minister.

The JP’s backing had been crucial in Yameen winning November’s presidential polls, although the JP’s agreement with the PPM fell apart in May following JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s decision to stand for the Majlis speakers position.

Naseer had joined the JP in 2013 after losing to Yameen in the PPM’s presidential primaries.

Following this defeat, he held a rally in which he alleged widespread vote rigging and accused Yameen of illicit connections with gangs and the illegal drug trade.

Naseer also implicated Yameen in MP Dr Afrasheem Ali’s death, claiming he had witnessed a meeting between Yameen and an individual who was under investigation for Afrasheem’s brutal death.

The PPM expelled Naseer after he refused to apologise for his comments.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla has asked the Majlis to summon Naseer on his comments on Afrasheem’s death and progress on the investigation.