Sino-Maldives relations at ‘an all-time high,’ says President Yameen

Sin-Maldives bilateral relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year, President Abdulla Yameen has said.

President Xi Jinping in his historic state visit in September invited the Maldives to “journey with China on the high-speed bullet train to progress and prosperity,” President Yameen said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 10th China-South Asia Business Forum yesterday.

“This was an invitation that my people accepted wholeheartedly. We needed no second invitation,” he said.

“With our first class tickets, we have taken our seats in the Maldives’ cabin. We are belted up and awaiting the station master’s signal.”

A ‘Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation’ was established following the leadership visits in 2014, Yameen noted, and many agreements were signed on tourism, maritime cooperation, defence, and “a number of ambitious infrastructure development programmes.”

Yameen said China’s role in the Maldives’ economic development is “unmistakable” with Chinese visitors accounting for a third of annual tourism arrivals.

“It is also among the highest value and fastest growing markets, with a staggering 92 percent of visitors coming to our serene shores for the first time,” he added.

The Maldives has also become one of the first partners in the Chinese ‘Maritime Silk Route’ initiative and a founding member of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Yameen continued.

“I have always believed that economics and not politics present us with the pragmatic solutions needed to overcome our current development challenges,” he said.

Yameen said he was elected with a “clear mandate to transform the country’s economic fortunes” by creating jobs for youth, restoring macroeconomic stability, and inspiring investor confidence.

China has meanwhile presented to the Maldives and other South Asian countries a “golden opportunity of infrastructure development” through the Silk Road initiative, the AIIB, and joint economic commissions, he said.

The 21st century is the “Century of Asia,” Yameen said, and no Asian country showcases the industry and potential of Asians more than China.

“Transcending from the outdated geopolitics of suspicion and imperialism, China has presented to the world a clear vision of ‘win-win’ cooperation, based on trust, sincerity and support,” he suggested.

“The initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road, embracing the trend toward a multipolar world, economic globalisation, cultural diversity and greater IT application, is designed to uphold the global free trade regime and the open world economy in the spirit of regional cooperation.”

The Maldives and other South Asian countries can be beneficiaries of the the initiative and “can look forward to all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and the realisation of diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development.”

Development projects

Many of the government’s planned ‘mega projects’ are benefiting from Chinese support and assistance, Yameen said, adding that civil works on the construction of a bridge connecting Malé and its suburb Hulhumalé – to be called the “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” – will begin at the end of the year.

He added that “a major portion of the airport development will also bear the hallmark of Chinese cooperation.”

During his ongoing visit, President Yameen met Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao on Thursday and signed an agreement on carrying out the feasibility survey for the bridge project with Chinese grant aid.

Other development projects, such as a link road in Laamu atoll and a social housing programme, are also being carried out by “Chinese contractors with Chinese funding.”

“The outlook is bright for the Maldives. Investor confidence in the country is today at an unprecedented and previously unattained level,” he said.

“We are implementing a number of strategic measures to entice major investors to the Maldives, including some of China’s largest overseas contractors and investors. We have recently passed a Special Economic Zones Act, which gives new incentives for large-scale investment projects.”

An investor forum is due to take place later this year in Beijing, Yameen noted, and the government hopes to promote its future development projects “while tapping into the vast trade and investment potential offered to South Asia by the Chinese government.”

“Furthermore, the ongoing dialogue to establish a Free Trade Area with China and expanding the trade benefits that we enjoy with India through the SAFTA mechanism of SAARC will further enhance the investment potential of the Maldives, especially in the trading and shipping sectors,” he said.


MP Mahloof among nine arrested in peaceful protest

Minivan News brings live coverage of an opposition sit-in on Malé’s thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu. This is the third mass anti-government protest this year. Organisers had notified the police that the sit-in may last for three days

3:50am: Minivan News ends live coverage.

3:40am: At least nine people have been arrested. The police have now dispersed protesters. The protest remained peaceful throughout.

MP Mahloof was arrested on charges of disobedience to order, the police have said.

3:20am: Several eyewitnesses have said they saw police arresting MP Ahmed Mahloof. Another young man, Ahmed Naeem, has also been arrested.

Minivan News journalists also saw some eight young men, who appear to be pro-government supporters, quarrel with protesters. They left on motorcycles shortly afterwards.

3:10am: Police have chased a man carrying a megaphone into the narrow lane where ex-president Nasheed’s paternal home is located. Police officers in regular blue uniforms are urging protesters to leave the area. Dozens of police officers in one lorry and two jeeps are patrolling the area.

Musthafa Luthfy, Shifaz and Mahloof spoke to the crowd previously, and urged supporters to continue to exercise their right to assemble peacefully. Speakers stop speaking the moment police arrive, but resume when police leave.

2:40am: Hundreds remain on the street. MP Ahmed Mahloof is reiterating the opposition’s demands to free jailed politicians, protect businesses and to end fear and intimidation on a megaphone.

2:20am: Some 200 protesters and leadership figures remain on Majeedhee Magu near the Malé City Hall. Dozens of police officers in two lorries and two jeeps are driving back and forth in the area. Musthafa Luthfy, ex-president Nasheed’s running mate in the 2013 presidential polls, says the leadership has not decided to end the protest and will continue as long as supporters are willing to remain on the street.

2:00am: MP Ahmed Mahloof says the protest is not over, and has called on protesters to regroup. The location is unclear at the moment.

1:50am: Minivan News journalists observed police approach the opposition leaders, and said the protest was unlawful and asked them to leave the area. The MPs posed some questions to the police, but showed no real resistance when police escorted them behind barricades.

1:40am: Opposition leaders appear to have ended the sit-in.

1:30am: Opposition leaders have stood up on police request, but were then escorted out of the Malé City’s central junction to a side street.

1:25am: Police have escorted MP Ali Azim out of the sit-in area and pushed him behind the barricades after he stood up to give an interview to Raajje TV. He said: “We want to see progress on talks with the government I believe we must continue our protest as long as members of the public continue their protests.”

1:00am: MP Ibu says the leadership is attempting to establish a connection with the protesters, while former environment minister Mohamed Aslam said he will remain on the street until he urinates on himself. SO officers are dispersing the remaining pockets of protesters in side streets.

12:55am: The speaker system on Ma. Maadheli, at the junction of Majeedhee Magu and Chaandhanee Magu has been switched off. The police have searched a security guard at the building. On May Day, the police entered the building and confiscated the speaker system there.

12:45am: A young man, Nazaal Shiyam, has been arrested for taking photos without a media pass. The police have restricted media to the pavements.

12:35am: The sitting opposition leaders include MPs Ali Azim, Eva Abdulla, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Imthiyaz Fahmy, Mohamed ‘Bigey’ Rasheed, Abdul Bari Abdulla, Abdul Ghafoor Moosa, and Ali Hussein, and former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam.

12:25am: Leadership remain huddled together, sitting on the ground at the junction of Majeedhee Magu and Chaandhanee Magu. Police have chased most of the protesters down side streets. Protesters have reported two arrests.

12:15am: Police are using pepper spray to disperse protesters. Opposition leaders are continuing the sit-in. But protesters have been pushed east on Majeedhee Magu by a block.

12:10am: Police clad in riot gear are using shields to push back opposition leaders, who are sitting peacefully on the ground at the front lines.

12:00am: Police have issued a last warning. “Disperse now or we will use force. We will not take responsibility for any injuries caused.”

last warning police June 12

11:45pm: Opposition leaders are continuing to address the crowd using hidden sound systems on residential buildings in the area.

11:36pm: The police have warned they will break up the sit-in if protesters continue to use sound systems and disrupt traffic. Opposition leaders, however, are continuing to appeal to the crowd to remain on the street. Former MDP MP Ahmed Abdulla has denounced police actions and is continuing a chant for Nasheed, Imran and Nazim’s release.

11:23pm: The SO officers used pepper spray against some protesters and took away the three carts with the loudspeakers.


11:20pm: Specialist Operations (SO) walked into the crowd from two directions and have confiscated the sound systems.

11:15pm: Riot police approached the podium twice after 11:00pm and asked the leadership to stop using loudspeakers or sound systems. But the police did not attempt to confiscate the sound system and opposition politicians are continuing their speeches.


11:00pm: Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon in a tweet urged the protesters to end the sit-in by midnight, while home minister Umar Naseer said the low turnout was an indication that “people prefer peace and stability.”

10:50pm: Opposition leaders are addressing some 2,000 supporters. In their speeches, MP Ahmed Mahloof, MDP MP Abdulla Shahid and former minister of Islamic affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, appealed to supporters to remain steadfast and called on the government to c.

Traffic is flowing in side-streets.

JP leader Qasim Ibrahim, in several tweets, distanced himself from the MDP protest, and appealed to his employees to stay away from the sit in.

In the first tweet he said: “The rumor that I called on [the public] to join the ongoing MDP protest is a lie.”

In the second tweet he said: “JP did not join the ongoing protest by MDP, and will not do so in the future.”

In the third, he said: “It is Gasim’s appeal that no Villa employees join the MDP protest.”

10:38pm: Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussain is speaking now.

Adhaalath Party council member Shidhartha Shareef addressed the crowd after Shifaz’s speech. She repeated the demands for an end to the government’s “tyranny” and urged the public to join the sit-in.

Volunteers are distributing juice and water among the crowd.

10:14pm: Ibu has called on the government to release imprisoned opposition politicians, drop terrorism charges against Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran and JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim, stop targeting opposition-aligned businesses, and ensure job security for opposition supporters.

The opposition protests will continue serially until the demands are met, Ibu announced to cheers from the crowd.

MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz is now speaking.


10:10pm: Ibu’s speech was briefly interrupted after riot police officers approached the MDP parliamentary group leader. The police officers have since left and Ibu has resumed his speech. A “dark autocratic cloud” is growing over the Maldives and “rule by law” prevails instead of rule of law, he said.


10:03pm: A podium has been set up at the Chandhanee Magu-Majeedhee Magu junction and protesters have sat down following announcements. MDP MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’ is addressing the crowd.




9:55pm: The protest march has turned into Chandhanee Magu and the front line has stopped near the Asrafee bookshop. There are no police barricades blocking the path, but some police officers are on the road and appear to be diverting traffic.

9:42pm: The front line has moved past the former city council office and the tail end is near the national stadium. More people are joining the march. The crowd is festive and chanting for the release of “political prisoners.” National songs are blaring from the sound systems.

9:33pm: The protest march has reached the national stadium with the tail end near the prosecutor general’s office. Protesters are calling for the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Minivan News estimates the size of the crowd is approximately 1,500. The protesters are divided into groups with a cart carrying a sound system and water for each group. Each group is led by a designated leader.

A police van is moving ahead of the front line and had stopped at the Sosun Magu-Majeedhee Magu junction, halting the march for about 20 minutes. The police van is now moving forward slowly.


9:15pm: Protesters have started marching west on Majeedhee Magu, streaming out of the artificial beach. MDP leaders are at the front line with former MP Ali Azim bearing a national flag. Many protester are carrying national flags. The atmosphere is calm.


Before heading out, former MDP vice presidential candidate Dr Musthafa Luthfy said protesters will march in rows of seven or ten and sit down in a location at Majeedhee Magu. If the police crack down and disperse the crowd, he urged protesters to regroup on the main road.

8:55pm: MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz said: “We are ready for a calm, peaceful sit-in.” Adam Azim, the brother of ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, has called on the security forces to show restraint and denounced “insincere calls for talks by President Yameen.”

Some 500 people have now gathered at the Artificial Beach area.

8:45pm: The youth wing of the opposition coalition, Heylaa, is collecting donations to pay over US$7000 in fines levied by the Elections Commission. The commission said the MDP and Adhaalath Party had violated political party laws during the May Day protest, after violent clashes broke out between protesters and police at dusk.

3 June 12

8:35pm: Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, in a tweet, said she hoped the opposition will be responsible.

The sit-in is taking place in a more conciliatory political environment than May 1.

The allied opposition parties have welcomed President Yameen’s call for talks. The Jumhooree Party, the first to meet with government representatives last week, asked the government to facilitate joint talks between all parties. They have also requested the government to free opposition politicians in jail or facing criminal prosecution, ensure judicial independence and protect investors.

Opposition MPs have also ended a three-month long protest in the People’s Majlis.

8:30pm: Some 250 people have now gathered at the opposition haruge at the Artificial Beach. The atmosphere is festive. National songs are blaring on speakers. The makeshift masks for tear gas and pepper spray seen at the May Day protest are absent. Most supporters are in casual wear.

8:15pm: Dozens have started gathering at the Artificial Beach area for the opposition’s third mass anti-government protest this year. Organizers say they plan to hold a prolonged sit-in at Malé’s thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu.

The police have asked the main organizer, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), to end the sit-in by midnight, and have banned the use of speaker systems beyond 11pm.

Hugo Swire, the UK minister of state for foreign and commonwealth office, in a tweet urged restraint, and said he has spoken to Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon on the issue.

The Maldivians Against Tyranny coalition is protesting over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim in trials widely criticized for lack of due process.

A third concern is the government’s sanctions on businesses belonging to Jumhooree Party leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim. The tax authority has frozen some of his Villa Group accounts over a controversial US$90.4million fine.

Nasheed’s wife, Laila Ali, will join tonight’s sit-in.

President Abdulla Yameen is in China and is set to return on June 16.

The MDP has said the rally will be peaceful and notified the police that the protest may last for three days.

Chief Superintendent of police Abdulla Nawaz warned the police will “stop any criminal activities that may happen in the protest.”

“The police, under no circumstances, have said protesting is banned. Police will not say that you cannot protest for three, four or five days. But we will take the necessary steps to ensure safety from any issues that arise,” he told the press at a press conference this evening.

He pledged police cooperation if the protest remains peaceful.


Opposition ‘prepared for prolonged sit-in’

The opposition has asked supporters to prepare for a prolonged sit-in on Malé’s thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu tomorrow (June 12), and have notified the police that the protest may last for three days.

“We will continue to protest as long as we can peacefully continue,” said Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, MP of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The Maldivians Against Tyranny coalition – which consists of the MDP, the Adhaalath Party, members of the Jumhooree Party (JP) and family members of jailed politicians – is protesting over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, and the targeting of opposition businesses.

Supporters have been told to wear comfortable clothes and gather at the opposition’s campaign office near at the Artificial Beach area at 8:30pm.

Organizers stressed that the sit-in will be peaceful, but declined to reveal further details of plans for the protest.

The sit-in is the third mass protest called by the opposition. Some 10,000 protesters marched on February 27, while some 20,000 protested on May Day.

President Abdulla Yameen is in China, and due back on June 16.


MDP has set a hash tag for the sit-in, #BaaraHayeh15, reflecting the date of the protest. Supporters are also using #OccupyMajeedheeMagu and have set up a blog with news of the event.

Mohamed Shifaz, the MDP vice-president, said some 5,000 supporters from the Maldives’ remote atolls will converge on Malé for the protest. Some 2,000 have already arrived, he said.

“The largest groups are coming from the southern Addu atolls, central Laamu and Alif Atolls and northern Noonu and Haa Alif atolls,” Shifaz said.

He also assured supporters that the leadership will remain with protesters throughout the protest.

Key opposition figures are in prison or abroad. The JP’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed left the Maldives shortly before the Prosecutor General’s office pressed terrorism charges on a claim of inciting violence at the May Day protest.

Sobah has since said he is seeking political asylum abroad.

Adhaalath President Sheikh Imran Abdulla is in police custody, awaiting the conclusion of a terrorism trial, also on charges of inciting violence.

The MDP chairperson Ali Waheed, who was arrested on May 1 along with Imran and Ameen, is abroad in an unspecified country for medical treatment.


MP Ibu has denounced what he called the government’s attempts to disrupt the protest.

The biannual street market in Malé was due to end on June 8, but extended until June 13. The organizers said the extension was necessary due to heavy rain last week.

Ibu also said the government had pushed back a sermon by Islamic Scholar Mufti Menk from June 11 to the night of June 12. The coalition had chosen June 12 because the government had initially set the sermon for Thursday, he said.

The Elections Commission has meanwhile fined the MDP and the Adhaalath Party for “unlawful acts” during the May Day demonstration. The MDP is fined with MVR 53,000 (US$ 3,437) and the Adhaalath Party was handed a fine of MVR 69,000 (US$4,475).


The demonstration is taking place in a more conciliatory political environment than May 1.

President Abdulla Yameen called for separate talks with the allied opposition parties. He has, however, ruled out negotiations on Nasheed and Nazim’s release.

A police spokesperson said officers will cooperate with the protesters if the sit-in remains peaceful. While the opposition has criticized the police for requiring a notice before the protest, the police official said the notice did not amount to seeking permission, but only to allow police to make arrangements for public safety.

The police, however, have also announced that the military has guaranteed support for the June 12 protest.

JP representatives met with cabinet ministers yesterday, and asked the government to facilitate joint talks between all parties, freeing opposition politicians in jail or facing criminal prosecution, ensuring judicial independence and protecting investors.

JP leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim has been in Bangkok since late April. According to local media, the criminal court has issued an arrest warrant for Gasim on charges of financing the May Day protest.

Nearly 200 people were arrested on May Day.

Opposition MPs, meanwhile, are no longer protesting in the People’s Majlis.


New high court judges raise concern as jailed ex-president alleges executive influence

The promotion of two criminal court judges who presided over the widely criticised sentencing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail has raised concerns of corruption and executive influence over the judiciary.

Judges Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman were appointed to the High Court on Monday, just ten days after the Supreme Court overturned a High Court ruling, which had noted several flaws in the new regulation on selecting judges to the appellate court.

The High Court took issue with the awarding of points on educational qualification and work experience, and with the final secret vote among Judicial Services Commission members to decide appointees.

Minivan News’ attempts to clarify the educational qualifications of Judges Didi and Usman, or the outcome of the evaluation of candidates were unsuccessful.

The High Court said it had not yet received information of the two judges, while Latheefa Gasim, the only JSC member who responded to calls, said the ten-member commission will have to make a decision on the issue.

Minivan News understands that Didi and Usman hold degrees in Islamic Shari’ah and law, a two-year accelerated degree course established at the College of Islamic Studies specifically for judges without higher education.

Usman, who had previously served as a magistrate judge in Gaaf Alif Villingili had been accused of corruption in 2010 for reportedly pocketing MVR 56,600 ($3670) for travel expenses he had not made. The criminal court in the same year dismissed charges.

President Nasheed’s lawyers in a statement yesterday said Didi and Usman’s transfer is a “blatant attempt to strengthen President Abdulla Yameen’s grip over the judiciary.”

Foreign governments and international bodies, including the UN, have noted the criminal court did not give Nasheed adequate time to prepare a defence, barred him from calling defence witnesses, and at times, denied him legal representation.

The pair’s transfer comes at a time when the government has insisted Nasheed must appeal his 13-year jail sentence at the High Court. But lawyers maintain the government has blocked them from filing an appeal.

Didi, Usman and Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf also sentenced ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges. The retired colonel has filed an appeal, the high court has said the pair will not oversee the appeal.

Hassan Fiyaz, a lawyer who contested the JSC regulation to appoint high court judges said: “I am concerned over the regulation as well as the selection of the judges. I believe there are qualified lawyers or judges in Maldives. But there are no chances for them here to work in judiciary.”

Other candidates who had filed for the two vacant positions are: civil court Judge Mariyam Nihayath, who holds a masters in law from a U.S. university; Aishath Rizna, the UNDP’s assistant representative who also holds a masters degree from a U.K university; Hussain Mazeed, who holds a degree from a Malaysian University; and Aishath Sujoon, a former civil court judge who holds a masters degree from an Australian university. Sujoon withdrew her name later.

A prominent lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, also objected to the JSC drawing up new regulations for new appointments.

“This time they’ve favored people with experience more. They also drew up a new regulation, which for me, raises the possibility the JSC wanted specific people to elected,” they said.

The JSC’s new regulation awarded block 30 points to candidates with ten years of experience as a judge.

Some critics said the criteria does not differentiate between judges who have more experience. Others said the criteria does not do justice to the relatively young, but highly qualified people in the legal sector.

Another lawyer, who represents clients at the high court, said: “We need highly qualified people who can do complex research for cases. We can’t do research in Dhivehi. So a judge, especially a High Court judge should be fluent in at least English or Arabic. I believe Didi and Usman do not have that basic qualification.”

The High Court said the criteria appeared to grade candidates on the title of their degrees. For instance, a candidate who had a combined degree in Islamic Shariah and Law received 25 points, while candidates who had done a degree in law would receive 20 points, even though the latter may have studied the same number of modules in Islamic Shar’ah as the former.

The High Court also noted an individual who had done a degree in common law or Islamic Shariah, and held a masters, would receive 25 points, the same as an individual who had just done a degree in Islamic Shariah and common law.

Photo by Vnews. Published with permission.


Bangladeshi worker found dead with face smashed in

An undocumented Bangladeshi national has been discovered dead with severe head injuries at an uninhabited house in Laamu Atoll Gan Island today.

Ishag Yoosuf, the 65-year-old caretaker of the house, said he discovered the farmworker’s body at 7:00am. He is known as Bassan.

“I went to pick up some tools to paint my house. Bassan was lying face up on the veranda. His face was covered with a pillow. The pillow was all bloodied. The right side of his face was smashed in. Blood was splattered all over the walls up to 8 feet,” he said.

Bassan, a tall dark man in his late twenties, has worked in the Maldives for ten years, Ishag said.

The caretaker had last spoken to Bassan on Tuesday, but said he had not reported any problems.

“He told me he had asked the owner who is living in Malé if he could sleep in the house. There is no toilet there. Only the veranda he could sleep in. He said he was eating fine. Apparently he had paid a company to get food,” Ishag said.

The owner of the house, Thoha Waheed, denied Bassan had asked for permission to sleep at the vacant house.

“I don’t know how he came to live there. I know the man, but he never asked me to let him stay at the house,” he said.

The police said the murder occurred 24 hours before the body was discovered. The serious and organized crime department is investigating the case.

Bassan’s death is the third apparent murder of Bangladeshi workers this year. In March 22, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi named Shaheen Mia was stabbed to death in a Malé café.

Two days later, the naked body of a young man named Kazi Bilal was found with a piece of cloth around his neck in Alif Alif Atoll Thoddoo.

The vice president of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), Ahmed Tholal expressed concern over the Maldives’ failure to protect migrant workers.

“We have been and still are unable to provide protection for expatriates,” he said.

Some 124,000 immigrant workers live in Maldives, the immigration department has said. Some 30,000 are not documented.

The former Bangladeshi High Commissioner for Maldives Selina Mohsin has described the situation of Bangladeshi workers in the country as “bizarre and horrifying.”

In 2014, the police rescued a Bangladeshi held captive in an accommodation block for migrant workers.

In April two migrant workers were kidnapped, robbed and beaten in a recruitment and employment agency in the capital Male’ City.

Another Bangladeshi was discovered in chains in 2009.


Chinese investment in Maldives tourism ‘expected to rise’

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has said he expects an increase in Chinese investment in Maldives tourism following the lease of a second island for resort development to Chinese companies.

The joint venture -between China’s Guandong Beta Ocean and a Maldivian company – were awarded Vaavu Atoll Kunaavashi this week to develop a five-star luxury resort with some 142 rooms.

“More Chinese investors will follow. There is a lot of interest, from Sri Lankan and Singapore companies as well,” Adeeb told Minivan News today.

The tourism ministry in May also signed an MOU with the state-owned China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to develop Thaa Atoll Kalhufahalafushi as a resort.

Chinese tourists accounted for nearly one third of arrivals in 2014 with a total of 363,626 arrivals. China now represents the single biggest source market for tourists in the Maldives with a 30 percent market share.

On Monday, Adeeb said China’s Ambassador to the Maldives, Wang Fukang, had pledged to increase Chinese arrivals to one million. The venture would require extensive infrastructure developments, such as airport developments and building new resorts to increase the total bed capacity of the country, he said.

Mifzal Ahmed, the director of strategy and business development at privately owned airline Mega Maldives, said he hoped “this is the start of a full wave of such investment in the country, and the Government should be congratulated for the role they have played in making these investments happen.”

Mega Maldives pioneered direct flights from Maldives to China in 2009. It operates four to five flights a week from Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

“We have long argued that the demands from the Chinese tourists to the Maldives are at times a little different from the European traveller. Therefore, getting investors who understand the mentality of these tourists is a very good thing,” he added.

Mauroof Zaki, the secretary general of the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM), noted the importance of equipping Maldivian staff with the skills to cater to an influx of Chinese tourists.

“We need more language classes on Mandarin or training on food and beverage services to Chinese tourists,” he said.

However, he said he was concerned that Chinese tourists may not be as conscientious as European tourists on labor rights, human rights and the environment.

“When ethical tourists come to the Maldives, it improves the work environment for Maldivian staff, for example, tourists pushed for the equitable distribution of service charge to staff,” he said.

A resort owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said Chinese developers must take care to develop international resorts. “Does the Chinese traveler want to be on an island by themselves? From what I’ve seen, they want to be among others, and do not like to be segregated.”

The Maldives Association of Tourism Industries (MATI) was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

The Maldives reached the one million tourist arrival mark in 2013. In 2014, the Maldives welcomed 1.2million arrivals, and the government hopes to see 1.4million arrivals in 2014.

The tourism ministry last week launched the “Visit Maldives Year 2016” campaign. The US$10million will see festivals and trade events, and award free holidays throughout the year. The Maldives has also been designated as the partner host country for the ITB fair in Berlin in 2016.

According to Forbes, Chinese investment in the global hospitality industry has seen a surge in the last two years. The trend started when Chinese Dalian Wanda group announced plans of investing a US$ 1.09 billion luxury hotel in London.

Since then, Chinese companies has announced a US$ 900 million skyscraper in Chicago, a US$ 1.95 billion acquisition of New York’s Waldorf Astoria, and a US$ 399 million hotel in Sydney.

Maldives has become a main attraction for Chinese travelers, with South China Morning Post saying, the country has topped travel lists for Chinese travelers, with the country being promoted in China’s media as an “approved destination” by the Communist Party government.


Jailed ex-president’s visitation rights restricted

The government has restricted visitation rights for imprisoned ex-President Mohamed Nasheed to his wife, children and parents, the former president’s office has revealed.

The opposition leader’s siblings and members of his extended family were previously allowed to visit him at the high-security Maafushi jail.

“Today’s arbitrary change was announced suddenly and does not seem to be a reflection of any established procedures or regulations governing the Maldives Correctional Service,” the former president’s office said in a statement.

It added that an official from the Maafushi informed the family of the restrictions in a phone call to a non-family member.

“These changes come at a time where President Nasheed’s lawyers were denied their weekly visit – without rationale – on Wednesday, and while it has been over a month since he has been denied a MRI scan recommended by doctors at Maafushi health centre and the military clinic in Malé,” the statement continued.

“The MRI can only be done in Malé and the authorities denied him the scan even though they brought him to Malé on 22 May.”

The home ministry’s media coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad and prisons officials were unavailable for comment.

The former president was found guilty of terrorism in March over the detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The 19-day rushed trial was widely criticised over its apparent lack of due process.

The home ministry has previously said prisoners are only allowed a visit once a month.

Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef told Minivan News today that the legal team was previously allowed daily visits, but the home minister later restricted the visits to once a week.

After visiting the former president every Wednesday for three weeks, Latheef said the lawyers were informed via a phone call yesterday that the weekly visit has been cancelled.

Authorising visits from the lawyers now appears to be at the discretion of prison officials, Latheef said.

Last month, home minister Umar Naseer complained of Nasheed’s lawyers “having fun, laughing and joking, and entertaining him” during visits to the jail.

Latheef at the time expressed concern with the home minister’s knowledge of confidential meetings between lawyers and a client.

“We fear that the meeting areas may be bugged,” he said.

In his reply to the home minister, Latheef noted that were also communicating with the former president’s international legal team and providing documentation for a petition at the UN working group of arbitrary detention.

Former first lady Laila Ali lodged the petition in April requesting a judgment declaring Nasheed’s detention arbitrary and illegal.

The opposition is planning to hold a third mass protest tomorrow (June 12).

The family of Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s family have accused the government of attempting to weaken him physically and psychologically, while under police custody.

The criminal court last week ordered police to hold Imran in pre-trial detention until the conclusion of his terrorism trial.

Imran, who has diabetes, was brought to the AMDC clinic in Malé on Wednesday. He was also taken to see a doctor on Tuesday and on the night of June 7 as well.

The home ministry has not yet responded to queries regarding Imran’s health.


China to fund Malé-Hulhulé bridge, says minister

An agreement was penned today during President Abdulla Yameen’s visit to China for carrying out the ongoing feasibility survey of the Malé-Hulhulé bridge project with Chinese grant aid.

The “agreement on the economic and technical cooperation of grant” was signed after a meeting between President Yameen and Chinese vice president Li Yuanchao, according to the president’s office.

Speaking to reporters prior to departing to China last night, president’s office minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef said “a large portion” of the bridge project will be financed through Chinese free aid and the rest through concessional and commercial loans.

Along with the feasibility report, Shareef said the Chinese government will present options for building the bridge as well as the estimated cost for each option.

The government has previously said the project will cost between US$100 million and US$150 million.

China has previously said it would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible. The economic council has said the six-mile bridge will have six lanes and will span from Malé’s eastern edge to the western corner of Hulhule, where the airport is located.

Last month, a team of Chinese technicians began drilling bore holes on the ocean floor to gather information for the feasibility survey.

Shareef said last night that in his meeting with the Chinese vice president, President Yameen will discuss financing for the bridge project, projects in the Maldives under the Chinese maritime ‘Silk Route’ initiative and expediting a US$40 million loan from the Chinese EXIM bank for developing the international airport.

The government has previously said a total of US$600million is needed for the project. Although the economic council first said they will borrow the funds from China and Japan, the fisheries minister in March said Saudi Arabia had assured loan assistance at a low interest rate for airport development.

Shareef is accompanying President Yameen during his visit to China along with economic development minister Mohamed Saeed and representatives from Maldivian businesses. The president departed on Wednesday morning to attend the 3rd China-South Asia Exposition, and the 23rd Kunming Import and Export Commodities Fair.

The president is due to deliver a keynote address at the joint opening of the fairs. The fairs will take place from June 12-16.

According to state broadcaster Television Maldives, a symposium was held at the Grand Park Hotel in Kunming today to share information with Chinese investors.

More than 80 companies from the Yunnan province participated in the ‘Invest Maldives Symposium,’ said economic development minister Saeed.

An ‘Invest Maldives’ page was launched on Chinese social media network Weibo during the symposium as part of “promotional efforts” for an investment forum to be held in Beijing, Saeed said.

Businesses in the Yunnan province expressed interest in carrying out renewable energy projects in the Maldives, he added.

Shareef meanwhile said the Chinese government will cover almost all of the expenses for organising the investment forum in October. While sponsors funded the first investment forum held in Singapore last year, Shareef said the government covered some costs.

Following an official state visit to China in August last year, President Yameen said the likelihood of the bridge project being awarded to a Chinese company was “99 percent” and that “a large portion” of the project would be financed through free or concessional aid from China.

In a historic visit the following month, Chinese President Xi Jinpeng said he hoped the government would call the bridge “the China-Maldives friendship bridge”.


President Yameen ‘lied’ to senior citizens

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has slammed President Abdulla Yameen for “lying” to senior citizens about sponsoring 142 Maldivians to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.

In a meeting with senior citizens on Sunday night, the president pledged to send 142 pilgrims to Hajj this year on government expenses. But president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told local media two days later that the president’s remarks were misunderstood.

Muaz said the president had not pledged to cover the expenses for 142 pilgrims but to secure placements for 142 senior citizens through the government-owned Hajj Corporation.

“The main essence of the president’s remarks is that the government will give the necessary attention and care fully for senior citizens going to Hajj,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

But President Yameen had said that the government would “facilitate the opportunity for 142 people to go to Hajj under free government aid”. The number could increase manifold if the economy improves and stability prevails, he said.

He noted that many senior citizens could not afford to perform the pilgrimage.

The MDP meanwhile said in a statement yesterday that the party is “extremely concerned that the president gathered senior citizens and told a big lie in front of them regarding the holy Hajj worship”.

“We are equally concerned about [Muaz] saying that it was senior citizens who were confused after President Yameen told such a big lie,” he said.

The MDP appealed to the president not to “diminish the dignity and respect” of senior citizens.

President Yameen also said Saudi Arabia had increased the Hajj quota for the Maldives from 1,000 to 2,000 this year and that the government is working to sponsor more Maldivians to perform the pilgrimage.

Last year, the Hajj Corporation reached the limit of its quota of 370 slots while hundreds were in line to register. Police later assisted in dispersing the crowds of would-be pilgrims in the queue.

Each pilgrim needs to pay MVR 69,965 (US$4,537) to the Hajj Corporation. Those who have previously performed the Hajj pilgrimage are not eligible to apply via the state corporation.