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.


Two men drown in Fiyori, one boat sinks in bad weather

Two men drowned in southern Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Fiyori in bad weather and a boat with a cargo of timber has sunk in Malé atoll today.

The metreology department predicts heavy rains, strong winds up to 45 miles per hour and rough seas across the Maldives for the next 24 hours.

A yellow alert, indicating tidal swells, severe thunderstorms, and winds between 30 and 40 miles per hour, has been issued for the central and southern atolls.

Hassan Shihab, 53, and Abdulla Daood, 60, drowned in the lagoon of Fiyori Island while fishing this morning. The two men had waded 450 meters away from the shoreline.

Both were strong swimmers, but the currents were too strong, the island council said.

A man on the shore got on a speedboat and went to pick the two up when he saw Shihab and Daood going under. By the time he reached the two, Daood was already dead. He could detect a faint pulse in Shihab’s body. But doctors pronounced both men dead at the island’s health post.

A 70-foot boat carrying timber and five crew members sank in northern Malé Atoll at about 2:00pm today.

The coastguard found the two Maldivians and three expatriate workers in a dinghy and have now brought the crew to Malé.

Another boat nearly sank near Baa Atoll Goedhoo island to the north east of Malé this morning. The 65-foot boat started taking on water at 8:30am causing its engine to stall.

The coastguard towed the boat to shore at noon.

The Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) has warned seafarers to be cautious, and urged boats not to take on excessive weight.

Heavy rain has caused flooding in four southern islands, and damaged crops in Gaaf Dhaal Vaadhoo.

MNDF officers are pumping out flood waters in Hoadhedhoo, Madaveli and Thinadhoo islands in Gaaf Dhaal atoll and in Fuvahmulah Island.


More than 124,000 migrant workers in the Maldives

The migrant worker population of the Maldives exceeds 124,000, the department of immigration has revealed. The figure includes 94,492 registered expatriates and more than 30,000 undocumented workers.

Controller of immigration Mohamed Anwar told the press on Monday that the department’s main focus at present is strengthening the labour migration system.

The department signed Memoranda of Understanding with four companies this week for deporting undocumented workers.

Under the “shared responsibility” programme, Amin Construction, Ensis Fisheries, Hotels and Resorts Construction, and the China Machinery Engineering Corporation agreed to hire undocumented workers for projects, after which they would be deported.

A government report in 2011 revealed human trafficking to be the Maldives second most lucrative industry after tourism – worth an estimated US$123 million a year.

The US state department said foreign workers in the Maldives experience forced labor, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, and debt bondage.

The government last month launched a five year strategic action plan to prevent human trafficking in Maldives, but the ministry of economic development did not disclose details of the plan.

The immigration department has deported more than 2,000 foreign workers so far this year, including 1,401 under a voluntary departure programme and 101 workers deported due to criminal offences.

Some 427 undocumented workers were deported after their arrest in various operations while 56 expatriates unfit for working due to poor heath were denied entry.

The majority of migrant workers in the country work in the construction industry.

Anwar said the Maldives needed foreign labour as the country lacked a large workforce. The department’s task was “managing” the influx of migrant workers, he added.

Last month, the immigration department instructed local businesses to send back migrant workers hired as photographers and cashiers before June 7 and apply for cancellation of employment approvals. The department warned that employers who do not comply will be penalised.

Deputy controller of immigration Abdulla Algeen said at Monday’s press conference that 95 percent of migrant workers enter the Maldives legally, but became “irregular” due to the fault of both sponsors and the employees themselves, who often “flee.”

A performance audit of the immigration department released last month noted that the absence of effective enforcement measures prior to 2014, after which the department “started conducting frequent investigations and they have strengthened their enforcement measures such as levying a fine on employers violating the regulations.”

The 2014 census recorded only 58,683 expatriates were residing in the Maldives. The department of national planning had said the figure was much lower than numbers recorded by the immigration department.

NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) estimates there are 200,000 migrant workers in the Maldives – two-thirds of the country’s 341,256 local population.



Opposition councilors barred from Dhiggaru office over PPM lunch

Two opposition councillors in Meemu atoll Dhiggaru say they were barred from the council office today because of a lunch set for the ruling party’s campaign team.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his son and ruling party candidate for the Dhiggaru by-election Ahmed Faris Maumoon, and senior party officials are on the island ahead of Saturday’s polls.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) councillor Ahmed Nishan said they were unable to work today as lunch had been set for the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) campaign team in their offices.

“When I came to the office I found out that a lunch was set up in the office where the councillors usually work. The lunch was for Faris Maumoon’s campaign team,” Nishan said.

Dhiggaru lunch

The five-member council consists of three PPM councillors and two MDP councillors.

Dhiggaru council president Imran Ismail denied that lunch had been set at the council office.

“I am not aware that any councillors are facing difficulties as of yet,” he added.

The council’s vice president, also a PPM member, declined to comment on the matter, while a staff at the council office hung up the phone when asked about the lunch.

Nishan said he believed the lunch was bought on PPM’s funds, as all council members must be informed of expenditure from public funds.

Former President Maumoon reportedly arrived at the council office in the island health centre’s ambulance.

Faris will contest against the MDP’s Ahmed Razee and independent candidate Moosa Naseer Ahmed in the June 6 poll.

The opposition has accused the PPM of vote-buying and bribery after PPM donated x-ray machines and air conditioning units to the constituency.

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

“If you do this, no doubt when the budget comes, under the principle where constituencies with our members are prioritised now, this constituency will be noted very early on,” he said.

The generator will arrive before Ramadan, and projects to establish water and sewerage systems in Dhiggaru will begin early next year.

An outer wall for the Dhiggaru football field will also be built in two months and a futsal pitch will be built during the year, he pledged.

The government has also signed an agreement with the state-owned Maldives Transport and Construction Company to build a harbour in Dhiggaru.

The by-election was triggered by the jailing of former MP Ahmed Nazim, also a PPM member. He was convicted of defrauding the former atolls ministry and imprisoned for life.

Dhiggaru is a PPM stronghold and a support base of the former president.

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


Education ministry locks up Mandhu College

The ministry of education locked up the Mandhu College in Malé last night after a 24-hour eviction notice expired yesterday, sparking an outcry on social media outcry.

Education ministry officials entered the building around 1:00am with police officers, padlocked the gate, and put up a notice that read, “these premises are now under the ministry of education.”

The notice stated that entering the grounds without a special permit from the ministry is illegal, and advised contacting the ministry to make arrangements for removing private property.

“Nobody and nothing is safe,” Mandhu College chairman Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail tweeted last night.

The civil court reportedly granted a stay order halting the eviction, before holding a separate hearing to annul the stay order.

“Going into court in 15 mins to try and save 1500 students’ future. Many of them too poor to come to Male’ to study. Pray for them,” Ibra tweeted yesterday after the education ministry gave a notice to to clear the premises by 3:00pm.

Mandhu college launched a virtual campus in August last year and offers online courses to students residing in islands across the country.

The education ministry said in a statement on Monday that the old Malé English School building was leased in December 2008 for development of an international school

The owner of the international school transferred the agreement to Malé High Pvt Ltd, which operates Mandhu College, and registered the international school under the company.

Operating a college in the premises was contrary to the purpose of the agreement, the ministry said, noting that public schools in the capital faced problems due to lack of capacity.

The education ministry previously ordered Mandhu to vacate the premises in January, but extended the deadline to May 30. The first semester at the college ended last week.

The ministry said the college had not responded to requests for discussions to formulate a timeline for vacating the building,


In a Facebook post today, Mandhu College urged students to remain calm and patient while the college sets up “alternative facilities for next semester.”

“It is with deep sadness that the college has to inform its students that the police have forcibly and unlawfully entered the college premises at around midnight tonight and evicted all staff and taken over all property of the college,” the college said.

One student expressed support for the college in a comment: “Our loyalty cannot be shaken by any such intimidation. We are with you Mr. Ibrahim Ismail and team.”

The forcible eviction has sparked outrage on social media, with one opposition MP suggesting that shutting down higher education institutions was a higher priority for police than investigating murders and other serious crimes.


“Slide to dictatorship now complete”: opposition reacts to new terror charges

New terrorism charges against three opposition leaders have prompted concern over prolonged instability in the Maldives and raised fears that the government is out to silence the opposition.

The Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and its council member Sobah Rasheed’s terrorism trials on charges of inciting fear are set to begin tonight.

If convicted, they face between ten and 15 years in jail. Imran was arrested from his home last night. Ameen and Sobah are out of the country at present.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the charges in a statement today: “The government’s use of terrorism charges against opposition leaders at a time when the opposition have expressed their ongoing willingness to engage in talks to end the political crisis is worrying.”

But the president’s office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali today blamed lack of progress in talks on the opposition parties.

“The problem here is the main opposition party MDP and Adhaalath Party are not sincere. The government has set the rules. No prisoner or a person will legal or administrative barrier can participate in the talks,” he said.

The Adhaalath Party and the JP had proposed Imran and Ameen as representatives with the government in separate talks. The new charges mean the government will not accept the pair as representatives.

The ongoing crisis was triggered by the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. The government has ruled out discussions over the pair’s release.

The MDP’s spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said: “The Maldives’ slide to dictatorship is now complete. There isn’t an opposition leader in the country who isn’t either in jail or facing charges.”

The Adhaalath Party said the charges against the oppositions leaders are “cowardly” and “proof the government is unfaithful to the people and lack the ability to fulfil pledges.”

The JP was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Imran and Ameen were arrested after a 20,000-strong protest on May 1 and accused of encouraging violence in their speeches, which police contends led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

The May Day protest was the largest anti-government demonstration in Maldivian history.

Sobah was arrested from an opposition street protest on May 3.

The MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested on May 1, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.

The charges against the opposition leaders have sparked outrage on social media.

The former Attorney General Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed said she is “in shock.”

Others questioned the government’s sincerity in resolving the political crisis.

Many members of the public Minivan News spoke to previously have also said they are skeptical of a positive outcome from the talks with the government having ruled out Nasheed and Nazim’s release.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said: “The Maldivian state has all the characteristics of a criminal organisation.”

JP MP Ali Hussein said the government will not enact the new penal code until it has jailed all the opposition leaders.

The new penal code, which would repeal the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, was set to come into force in April. But ruling MPs delayed its enactment until July.

Meanwhile, the government has drafted a new Terrorism Act. MP Hussein in a separate tweet said: “Under the terrorism law even a tweet of mine could be an act of terrorism.”

The only MP of the Adhaalath Party, Anara Naeem, said she does not want “a culture where criticism of the government leads to jail sentences.”

Referring to Imran’s arrest, former MP Visam Ali asked: “How long will the police carry out atrocities like this?”

Before his arrest, Sheikh Imran tweeted: “It is not a crime not to follow unlawful orders even if the orders come from the police.”

Other opposition politicians remained defiant. Former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof said: “Do what you can do now. God willing, tyrants will be answerable before the law and will face justice soon enough.”

The opposition has called for a third mass protest on June 12. The mayor of southern Addu City on Sunday said he will be in Malé for the protest.


Government to replicate legendary boat

The government is planning to replicate a boat used to liberate the Maldives from Portuguese rule in the sixteenth century, as part of the ongoing celebrations to mark fifty years of independence from the British.

Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his brothers from the northern island of Utheemu reportedly sailed the legendary Kalhuohffummi by night, infiltrated islands, killed sleeping Portuguese soldiers and sailed away by day break.

British author Roysten Ellis said the Kalhuohffummi was crucial in the eight-year long guerrilla war against the Portuguese, with the three brothers using the boat’s superior speed and maneuverability to outsmart Portuguese warships.

The home ministry today signed an agreement with the Maritime and Underwater Heritage Society to replicate the Kalhuoffummi for a professional fee of MVR 1.6 million (US$105,000).

Deputy Home Minister Ahmed Saleem unveiled the boat’s design today and said it was finalized after two months of research.

The heritage society’s Mohamed Haleem said the design is based on books by Hussein Salahudeen and Burahad Mohamed Fulhu.

“Our research shows the vessel is 51 foot and 4 inches. We are trying to construct the boat using traditional techniques used at the time to remain true to the original vessel,” he said.

The boat will be built on Baa Atoll Maalhos, transported to Malé and put on display at the Sultan Park.

“We will be able to finish the boat by August. We are currently trying to find the best timber for the boat. It has to be very specific coconut timber,” said deputy minister Saleem.

The Maldives’ independence day falls on July 26, and is celebrated to mark independence from British rule.

The Maldives celebrates Mohamed Thakurufaanu’s struggle every year on National Day, which falls on the first of Rabee-ul-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Thakurufaanu ruled for 16 years.

Other events planned by the home ministry to mark the golden jubilee of independence from the British include skydiving, a swimming competition, a sea sports festival, a world record attempt, float parades, an international football tournament, a police tournament, several music shows and the unveiling of the new currency design.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags and sacrificed 150 goats in a public ceremony in April.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget. However, the ‘Independence 50′ office under the home ministry has said that most of the work is done by volunteers.


Home minister claims 100,000 participated in independence parade

Home minister Umar Naseer has claimed that more than 100,000 students and teachers participated in a parade held yesterday to celebrate the upcoming golden jubilee of independence.

Naseer’s claim was met with skepticism on social media as the number of students in government, community and private schools in the Maldives is 86,799, according to official figures.

Thousands of students, teachers and parents across the country joined the parade on Saturday in what the home ministry said was the “biggest event” held so far with the participation of students.

Students from the atolls marched on the main street of their island while the parade took place on Majeedhee Magu and Ameenee Magu in Malé.

“We can say with a lot of certainty that over 100,000 students participated in the event,” said home ministry’s media coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad.

Social media users have questioned the accuracy of the figure, with one user calling the claim a “joke.”

The parade in the capital started from the Maafannu stadium, went through the city’s main thoroughfare, and ended back at the stadium.

Home minister Naseer, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, education minister Dr Aishath Shiham, and other high-ranking officials took part in the parade, wearing national colours.

The parade concluded with a skydiving event at the Maafanu stadium with the four foreign skydivers signing autographs and taking photos with participants.

The skydivers are due to conduct a training exercise for 15 locals for a skydiving event planned as part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of independence on July 26.

Other events planned by the home ministry to mark the golden jubilee include a swimming competition, a sea sports festival, a world record attempt, float parades, an international football tournament, a police tournament, several music shows and the unveiling of the new currency design.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags and sacrificed 150 goats in a public ceremony in April.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget. However, the ‘Independence 50′ office under the home ministry has said that most of the work is done by volunteers.


Crisis in Maldives: Can talks succeed?

After months of daily protests and hundreds of arrests, the Maldivian government has called for separate talks with the allied opposition parties. But Maldivians are skeptical of a solution with the government unwilling to discuss the triggers for political unrest – the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) insists Nasheed must represent it at the talks, but President Abdulla Yameen has rejected the former-president’s nomination on the grounds he is serving a 13-year jail-term on a terrorism conviction.

The president’s agenda consist of political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary, and political party participation in economic and social development.

Ahmed Faraz, a 21-year-old law student at the Maldives National University, said he has no hope: “The president is unwilling to compromise at all. He has already decided the agenda and rejected the MDP’s main demand, which is to release Nasheed. So I don’t see a solution unless one party decides to give in.”

The belief the government wants to keep Nasheed in jail at all cost is widespread.

Aishath Sana, a mother of two, said: “One thing is clear to me. Yameen wants Nasheed to remain in jail and the MDP doesn’t want that. If the government sincerely wants a fruitful end to the discussions they would have at least agreed to discuss Nasheed’s release.”

The government insists Nasheed and Nazim must exhaust all domestic appeal processes, while President Yameen says he has no constitutional authority to release the pair.

A ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) activist from Fuvahmulah said he, too, does not expect a meaningful outcome from the talks.

“The government has not released Nasheed and Nazim despite repeated calls from the international community to release the pair. So why would they listen to demands from domestic political parties?” Basil Thuthu, 22-years, questioned.

Why does the government want to keep Nasheed in jail?

“If the government decides to release Nasheed, which I don’t think will happen, he would again fight for the presidency and the government would want to shut him up again. So hope for a politically stable country is a much too ambitious goal,” Basim Abdulla, a young professional designer said.

“With Ramadan just a few weeks away, I think political activity will slow down. But I do not see lasting stability,” he said.

Some see MDP’s call for Nasheed’s release as stubborn. A lawyer who wished to remain anonymous said the government, for the first time, is willing to discuss judicial reform. The MDP must use the opportunity to reform the judiciary, a step that will lead to Nasheed’s release, he said.

“We all know the justice system is corrupt and weak. This is the reason why Nasheed is behind bars right now. So why not stop all the work and work on reforming the justice system? The government with all its might is saying they won’t release Nasheed. I think it’s time for MDP to compromise,” he said.

But others say if the MDP compromises and gives in, it will lose public support.

“The government is not backing up even a bit. So if MDP gives in now, and stay quiet, they will face a big defeat in the next election,” Mohamed Ismail Umar, 46, from northern Kulhuduhfushi Island said.

One PPM activist, however, said he expected a solution soon.

“The president wants to involve everyone in the discussions. I think it is impossible for Nasheed to participate in the talks and it doesn’t make any sense as he serving a sentence right now. So eventually, if the political parties want a solution, which I think is what everyone wants right now a positive outcome will come,” Ahmed Abu Bakuru, a coordinator at the youth ministry, said.

The invitation for talks was extended on May 14, but there has not been any substantial progress yet.

The opposition is now planning a third mass protest for June 12. Many opposition supporters say they have no choice but to keep on protesting.

The MDP youth wing’s president Mohamed Azmeel said he is encouraged by the increasing support for the opposition. The numbers at protests are growing, he said.

Over 10,000 attended a mass protest on February 27, while over 20,000 attended the May 1 protests, he said.

“The call for talks is just a game. The government only wants to appear reconciliatory when, in fact, they are not. I do not see any hope at this moment. But this will eventually end in the citizens’ favour. The longer this stalemate continues, more and more people will get fed-up, and the government will be eventually forced to back down,” he said.

For others, the government’s intransigence in the talks signals a slide into authoritarianism.

“I think the future is quite clear. The country will be stable but we won’t be practicing democracy. We might get a glimpse of development here and there but people won’t be free. We are heading towards a long dictatorial regime,” Ibrahim Lirar, a 27-year-old resort worker said.

Photo by Dhahau Naseem