MDP would consider halting protests for “substantial” high-level talks

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it will not rule out halting ongoing protests to facilitate fresh “high-level talks” with its political rivals, but would only do so should it see  “substantial” commitments from government-aligned parties.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government meanwhile stated it will not consider reconvening talks between senior politicians and former President Mohamed Nasheed until he ceases the alleged “harassment” and “threats of violence” against its ministers.

Proposed “Roadmap” talks were launched in February with the stated aim of overcoming the political deadlock resulting from the controversial transfer of power that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan into office. Former President Nasheed and his party  continue to allege that Waheed came to power in  a “coup d’etat” – and that the government is illegitimate.

Convenor of the roadmap talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, on July 12 announced that a series of “high-level” discussions will be held between President Waheed and the leaders of the country’s man political parties after 16 previous attempts had resulted in “no breakthrough.”

The last round of the UN-mediated talks, held at Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort and Spa in early June, collapsed after parties aligned with the government presented the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with a list of 30 demands.

The list included calls that the MDP “stop practising black magic and sorcery”, “stop the use of sexual and erotic tools”, and “not walk in groups of more than 10”.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today that while the party’s protests that it maintains are “largely peaceful” were “totally within” the law, it would not be a “big deal” to stop the street demonstrations if it would help secure meaningful talks.

However, Ghafoor claimed that the party was ultimately sceptical over the commitment of government-aligned parties to ensure “substantial” and “worthwhile” dialogue.

“We have always maintained dialogue is the best way to proceed in the current situation,” he claimed. “What we have seen in the last party talks has just been ridiculous demands such as the issues about keeping crows and using black magic. We found out as a party that we are not dealing with serious people.”

According to documents said to have been provided to the international community by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former President Nasheed has over the last week offered to stop ongoing street demonstrations to facilitate high level talks – but only if certain conditions are met by his political rivals.

The conditions stated in the document include addressing possible outcomes of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) presently investigating the events during and leading up to February’s transfer of power.  The CNI has been given a deadline of the end of August to concludes its report.

The MDP is also said to have requested allowing only the participation of parties with an elected parliamentary representative to attend the talks.  Such a condition would effectively rule out the participation of President Waheed.

Speaking to Minivan News today, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza claimed that the government had been attempting since February 16 this year to hold high-level talks with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to facilitate talks on resolving the current political situation.

However, he denied that the government had called for an end to the MDP’s ongoing protests, claiming instead that it was more concerned by the alleged “unlawful” behaviour of opposition supporters such as in the “harassment” of government officials during demonstrations in recent weeks.

“There has been harassment on several occasions of late by the MDP,” he claimed. “The government will not yield to threats of violence.”

Abbas claimed that in negotiating over continuing potential talks, the government had also refused to negotiate regarding addressing any potential outcomes of the CNI.

“Nasheed has continued to insist on doing this,” he claimed. “But we have said that we refuse to interfere with the country’s judiciary.   We have been clear that we will not negotiate on the CNI or do anything that may compromise its work.”

In a statement released last week, the government called for Nasheed and his supporters to stop “violent activities” in order to ensure any high-level  talks could conclude “fruitfully”.

“Former President Nasheed’s supporters have been agitating and protesting on the streets at times with violent incidences for the past two weeks,” the statement read. “He and his supporters have been harassing government officials for the past five months indulging in violent attacks including the burning of the gender minister’s car, a police motorcycle and a newly constructed police building.”

Foreign Ministry view

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing, discussions took place last Thursday, (July 26) between Ahmed Mujuthaba, President Waheed and UN Resident Coordinator Andrew Cox to convey a message that Nasheed would conditionally agree to end the MDP protests.

According to the document, the conditions set by the MDP required high level talks to resume at the “highest Level”, with the discussions taking into account the outcomes of the CNI’s findings on top of the existing six-point agenda set for the all-party talks.

The government was said to have responded the following day with five conditions that included:

  • All talks are held in the Maldives
  • The nine parties previously involved in the talks should continue to take part
  • Participants must be at the level of party deputy leaders or higher
  • The previous six-point agenda remained in place without adding the CNI to the discussion or anything that might “influence” its conclusions
  • The MDP agree in writing not to continue street protests for a “period of time” before talks resume

The briefing document claimed the MDP responded by calling on the government to only allow political parties with a parliamentary representation in the discussions. The opposition party said it would then put a stop to ongoing protests that have taken place over the last few weeks once talks continued.

The opposition party also said to have called for any agreed agenda to include the outcomes of the CNI.

By Sunday (July 29), the government was claimed to have responded that talks between the MDP and coalition parties be conducted on the basis of a “two-track” system based around political discussions and parliament.  The government also called for all parties including the MDP to refrain from holding protests.

The proposal was also said to have called for the agenda on the previous all party talks to remain unchanged, with the MDP addressing any issues regarding the CNI through parliament.


Court fines Shafeeg for defaming Gayoom by publishing book on torture during his rule

Local historian Ahmed Shafeeg has been ordered to pay up to MVR 5000 (US$324) in compensation after the Civil Court on Tuesday found him guilty of defaming former President Mamoon Abdul Gayoom.

Gayoom sued Shafeeg for politically-motivated slander over a book he released in 2010,  in which he claimed that 111 Maldivian citizens were held in custody and tortured under Gayoom’s administration.

The judge ruled in favor of Gayoom in the absence of Shafeeg, noting that the defendant had failed to present himself or a representative to the hearings despite the multiple court summons and attempts by the police to bring him to he court.

Shafeeg has to pay up to MVR 5000 withing one month from the date of the ruling, as a compensation for the damages caused to Gayoom’s character, according to the court.

Chronicles of torture

Shafeeg, now 83, was held in solitary confinement for 83 days in 1995 together with three other writers, including Hassan Ahmed Maniku, Ali Moosa Didi and Mohamed Latheef.

Shafeeg contends that 50 of his diaries containing evidence relating to the deaths of the 111 Maldivians were confiscated during a raid by 15 armed men. He was ultimately released by Gayoom with without charge, and was told by the investigating officer to write a letter of appreciation to the then-President for the pardon.

During the launch of Shafeeg’s book, titled “A Day in the Life of Ahmed Shafeeg”, then-President Mohamed Nasheed observed that he knew the events chronicled by Shafeeg very well.

“Back then, from 1989 and 1990 onward, I spent a very long time – three years in total – in jail. Of that I spent 18 months in solitary confinement, and nine of those months in the tin cell,” he said.

All Maldivian rulers had employed fear to govern, Nasheed said, and he had always believed that Gayoom had him arrested and tortured to serve as a cautionary tale as the former president and his senior officials were already aware of the intent of “a whole generation” to topple his government since the early 80s.

“So the decision to put me through every imaginable torture in the world from the very beginning as an example to all those people was made, in my view, not because of any animosity President Maumoon had towards me personally,” Nasheed said.

He added that Gayoom alone could not be blamed for all the human rights abuses that occurred under his watch.

Nasheed meanwhile also described Gayoom’s decision to take legal action against the historian Shafeeg, who has lasting physical and mental damage from his ordeal, as “going beyond the limits.”

Nasheed said: “I ask President Maumoon very sincerely and respectfully, don’t do this,” Nasheed said. “Go to Shafeeg. Go and ask for his forgiveness. This is not the time to come out and say ‘I’m going to sue Shafeeg.’ If you want to sue Shafeeg now, you will have to sue me. That is because I will repeat what Shafeeg is saying fourfold.”

Together with allegations of corruption in Gayoom’s administration, such as those flagged in audit reports, allegations of torture remain one of the most politically divisive topics in the Maldives.

Since Nasheed took office after beating Gayoom’s 30 year-old autocratic rule in 2008, public opinions – very strongly held – oscillated between a desire for prosecuting Gayoom and his close allies for the torture and corruption and a desire to move on and reconciliation. Nasheed openly supported the latter option to be magnanimous.

However, after his controversial resignation on February 7, which he insisted was forced by an opposition backed military-police coup, Nasheed told Time Magazine that allowing former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to live in peace following the 2008 election was a wrong decision.

“The lesson is we didn’t deal with Gayoom. That’s the obvious lesson. And my romantic ideas of how to deal with a dictator were wrong. I will agree with that,” Nasheed told Time, in a striking reversal of his magnanimity in 2008.

The court decision in favor of Gayoom also comes less than a week after the UNHRC called for the government to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate “all human rights violations, including torture that took place in the State party prior to 2008 and provide compensation to the victims.”


Parliament sittings canceled indefinitely by Speaker

Speaker Abdulla Shahid has announced that parliament sittings will be cancelled indefinitely as “a peaceful atmosphere could not be assured” for sittings to proceed amidst rising political tension.

In a press statement today, Speaker Shahid said that MPs of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) confronted the Speaker in his private chambers after MDP MP Mohamed Rasheed ‘Kubey’ was forcibly removed at the beginning of today’s sitting.

“Moreover, confrontations occurred between MPs in the chamber to the point of becoming dangerous,” the statement read, adding that “an atmosphere of calm necessary to conduct sittings could not be assured” as all recent sittings had to be cancelled due to disorder.

Shahid explained that he decided to invoke the Speaker’s authority under section 213(e) of the rules of procedure to cancel sittings indefinitely as he believed a political solution had to be sought through dialogue among parliamentary group leaders.

Section 213(e) states that the Speaker has the discretion to not conduct sittings for a period “as a precautionary measure if there is fear of a certain type of danger facing the Majlis.”

Both today and yesterday’s sitting were cancelled after MDP MPs vociferously raised points of order to protest the arrest of MPs during the party’s ongoing street demonstrations and the government’s decision to alter the ‘Aasandha’ health insurance scheme to charge patients from private hospitals and clinics.

MDP MPs led by MP Ali Waheed also disrupted today’s meeting of the Finance Committee alleging that the committee had failed to investigate the government “illegally borrowing” MVR 300 million from the Bank of Maldives.


Speaking at a press conference yesterday, MDP MP Ali Waheed argued that parliament has been “paralysed” since the transfer of power on February 7 and that “nothing productive” had been done in the past six months.

MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ‘Ibu’, parliamentary group leader of the MDP, contended that the government was violating the Public Finance Act by borrowing large sums of money without parliamentary approval.

Ibu claimed that the Finance Minister had written to parliament’s Finance Committee seeking MVR9 billion (US$583 million) for the budget as well as MVR 3 billion (US$194 million) in additional expenditure.

MP Ali Waheed meanwhile noted that MPs last month overwhelmingly rejected a Finance Committee recommendation to make changes to the Aasandha health insurance scheme.

Speaking to press after today’s sitting, MDP Chairperson and Hulhu-Henveiru MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said the party would not allow parliament to resume while the current government was altering the MDP’s flagship free universal health insurance scheme.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla claimed that the government was facing a shortfall in budgeted funds for the health insurance scheme due to increasing expenditure on the police and army.

“What we’re seeing is the result of a group of people assuming power without making any pledges to the public,” she said. “That is, they do not have to be accountable to the people. They do not have to let the people know what is going on.”


Samah confesses to murdering policeman after drinking cologne

Mohamed Samah of Kaashidhoo today confessed in the Criminal Court to attacking Lance Corporal Adam Haleem, stating that he was under the influence of alcohol after drinking cologne.

According to local media, Samah told the court that he attacked Haleem with the intention of frightening him but not to kill him, he told the court that he wanted to repent and apologise to Haleem’s family.

Local newspaper Sun quoted Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed as saying that the court will summon the inheritors of Lance Corporal Adam Haleem to the court to see if they have any objections to passing a death sentence against Samah if he was found guilty of killing the police officer.

Local media reported Samah as admitting today that he had sniffed Dunlop glue and drunk cologne to get high.

On July 23 Lance Corporal Adam Haleem was stabbed to death on Kaashidhoo island in Kaafu Atoll.

In a statement issued earlier, police said the suspect in the case had confessed to attacking Haleem with a knife, and had told the police how the incident occurred.

The statement said that Haleem was attacked that night while he was on his way to the Kaashidhoo Police Station to report to duty.

While he was on the way to the police station he saw Mohamed Samah on the road, who was supposed to be under house arrest. Haleem followed Samah to his house and asked him to get himself ready to come with him to the police station.

Samah refused to go to the police station and became angry. He entered his house and took an eight inch knife from the kitchen, which he used to stab Haleem in the left side of his chest, according to the statement.

Before Haleem was attacked, he called the police station and informed officers on duty about Samah, and asked them to attend the scene. However by the time the other police officers attended the area Samah had stabbed Haleem and his body was lying on the ground.


Gayoom expresses “frustration” over “foreign influence” in inquiry commission

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said that he will not accept that the toppling of former President Nasheed’s government on February 7 was a coup d’état, even if the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI)’s report  came to such a conclusion.

After giving a statement to the CNI, Gayoom in a press conference held at the office of his Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), stated that he had seen the recording of the video in which ousted President Nasheed publicly resigned, and said that it was not made “under duress” and that therefore it was very clear that it “was not a coup”

“Even though I was in Malaysia, I saw the video recording of how he resigned and what he said – such as that he is now resigning, and that if he continued to remain as the president the country may face further grief and pain,” Gayoom said.

“Also, it was he himself who wrote the letter of resignation and it is he who sent the letter to the parliament,” Gayoom claimed added.

Gayoom said that there was no point in Nasheed claiming that it is “a coup” after he had resigned in accordance with the constitution.

“I told this to the members of the CNI, and I think they seem to believe it too. I also said that Mohamed Nasheed after [his resignation] went home to sleep, he slept that afternoon, that night, the following morning and then he changed his mind [after waking up], then in the evening said he did not resign, or that his resignation was not permanent but a coup d’état. Then who is going to believe that?” Gayoom questioned.

“Something must have happened after 24 hours, some people must have talked to him and ‘got into his head’ to make him change his statement. Before that he was under the belief that he resigned,” the former president contended.


In the press conference, Gayoom stated that during the session with the CNI, he also highlighted two things that “frustrated” him about the commission.

One reason for the frustrations was, he explained, the inclusion o a representative of ousted President Nasheed in the commission, following “foreign” influence.

“The reason that frustrates me is that if this commission has a representative of Nasheed there should be a representative of mine too. That is because on many previous occasions Nasheed has repeatedly made false accusations towards me, both in the Maldives and outside, that the change [of power] was a revolution that I brought in,” Gayoom said.

“Where is justice when there is someone in this commission who supports Nasheed’s claims?” the ex-president questioned.

Gayoom claimed that it would only be fair that he have his “own representative if Nasheed gets to have one”.

His second cause of frustration, Gayoom said, was that the CNI was mandated to look into the events that took place from January 14 to February 8.

He stated that the “change” that took place on February 7 was the result of Nasheed’s “unlawful” and “un-Islamic” actions carried out, that had “angered a lot of citizens”, and contended that this would be clear if the CNI looked into what Nasheed had done after assuming presidency in 2008.

Gayoom during the press conference also shared some of the questions that the CNI posed to him during the session, and the responses he offered.

He said that the CNI questioned as to whether he had provided any financial benefit to the key actors of the change in February 7, to which he replied saying that he “did not spend a single cent on them”.

“Nasheed told the commission that when he entered the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) headquarters, I had told someone that now the ‘fish has gone into the net’ and to better to hold it there,” he explained. “I said that was an outright lie.”’

Gayoom maintained his earlier stand that he had no part to play in the transfer of power, and that “now even Nasheed should believe it because he said that he would believe it if I went to the CNI and told them that I did not play a part in the ‘coup’.”

Ending political instablity

When the CNI had asked him what he thought would bring an end to the ongoing political instability in the country, Gayoom said told the commission the solution was for Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to stop their “extremist” actions and pave the way for negotiations.

Despite Gayoom expressing his openness to negotiate, last month in a rally held by the PPM in Addu City he vigorously condemned his successor, claiming that Nasheed had a habit of defaming him to both the local and international community.

Gayoom at the time said that he “humbly refused” a request from United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Patricia Butenis, to take part in the All Party Talks along with Nasheed.

He dismissed Nasheed’s claims that the controversial transfer of power was a coup d’état, and commended the acts of the mutinying police and military officials.

Following the remarks, the opposition MDP expressed its disappointment to see Gayyoom refusing to take part in the All Party Talks.

“With the country fallen into this grave state, it is saddening to see Gayoom refusing to take part in the All Party Talks, a negotiation that is highly related to the public interest of the country,” MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said, and called on the former President to prioritise the country before his own personal interest.

Fahmy said the MDP was ready to come to the negotiation table, a sentiment matched by former MP and MDP Legal affairs committee member Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail.

“I was once the President of the MDP. Nasheed was the Chairperson then. We both were harassed and tortured during Gayoom’s regime because we were opposed to his rule,” Ibra said. “But even then we were both prepared to talk to Gayoom and his government on issues that concerned the national interest,” he recalled.

Gayoom showing “symptoms of dementia”

Speaking to Minivan News, Ibra described Gayoom’s comments as “desperate” and in “self-denial”, knowing that CNI report would unveil the “dirty truth” behind the toppling of the country’s first democratically elected government.

He further suggested that the recent remarks that Gayoom had been making in the local media exhibited symptoms of dementia, a loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person beyond what might be expected from normal aging.

“Perhaps a person may make contrasting statements rarely. But we are speaking of several and repeated statements, which may suggest that [Gayoom] maybe exhibiting symptoms of dementia. People of that age face dementia, due to old age,” he alleged.

In response to Gayoom’s frustrations on the CNI, Ibra questioned why Gayoom should have his own representation when allegations were levied against several others, and stated that it was impossible to include the representatives to CNI.

“Allegations were levied against the current Commissioner of Police, Defence Minister, the President and several politicians. Can we include each of their representatives in the commission?” he questioned.

Ibra stated that the focus and the mandate of the CNI was to find out whether Nasheed resigned under duress or not, and added that it was not the CNI’s mandate to see how Nasheed ran the country, or reflect on frustrations expressed by Gayoom.

Ibra further alleged that Gayoom was trying to discredit the members of CNI, knowing that the CNI report would not come out in his favor.

“I think he clearly knows from what the CNI knows and the evidences they collected, and from the facts surrounding the event, that it is highly unlikely the report will not come out in his favour. So he has already begun his work to discredit the CNI stating that it is not impartial and lacks credibility,” Ibra claimed.

Concern and condemnation

Following Gayoom’s remarks, in a media statement the opposition MDP expressed concerns and condemned the remarks, citing that it reflected Gayoom’s lack of concern on the interests of the country.

“When a lot of people are alleging that the transfer of power that took place on February 7 was a coup d’etat, and while many question the events that unfolded on that day as well as the legitimacy of the current government, it is very concerning to see former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom publicly stating that he would not believe that former government of the Maldives was toppled by a coup, even if the CNI established to look into the issue decides so,” read the statement.

The MDP in the statement said that the democratic achievements the people of the country had achieved in the last three years were diminishing, and claimed that police brutality and human rights abuses had become abundant following the coup.

“The grave situation that the Maldives lies today is that the economic growth of the country has severely slowed down, efforts of social protection of the people are at a halt, unemployment rates are rapidly rising and people’s income has come down significantly,” read the statement.

The MDP in the statement alleged that despite the country being in such a grave situation, Gayoom’s remarks reflect his insincerity and lack of concern towards the general well being of the country and its people.


President Waheed extends CNI deadline, provides personal account of transfer of power

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has  extended the deadline by which the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) must conclude its report into February’s transfer of power to August 30, 2012.

The deadline to submit the report of the CNI – which was established, and later reconstituted to investigate events during and leading up to the controversial transfer of power on February 7 – had been initially been set for July 31.

However, the President’s Office confirmed yesterday that Dr Waheed had issued a decree approving the extension of the report’s deadline.  Once complete, the findings are to be submitted to President Waheed, Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid and the prosecutor general and attorney general.

Earlier this month, CNI Co-Chair – retired Singaporean Judge G P Selvam – said a deadline extension was required in order to conclude the report due to the hundreds of people wishing to provide information.

The extension was granted the same day that President Waheed gave further information to the CNI regarding his own views on what transpired during the transfer of power, according to local media. The president had previously given information to the CNI before it began conducting its investigation under a new composition.


BML posts MVR 40 million profit in half year results

The Bank of Maldives (BML) has posted a MVR 40 million (US$2.6 million) net profit in its half year results to June 2012.

“This is after allocating MVR 224 million (US$14.5 million) to loan loss provisions during the first five months of the year,” the bank stated.

“At the half year operating profit reached MVR 263 million (US$17 million), an increase of 15 percent over the same period last year. Net interest income increased from MVR 223 million (US$14.5 million) in June 2011 to MVR 247 million (US$16 million) in the six months to June 2012, an 11 percent increase compared to the same period last year.”

BML stated that the results “reflected the strength of the bank and its success in dealing with non-performing loans.”

“I am very pleased to inform all our shareholders that we have returned to profit and that our Non Performing Net Assets (NPNA) provisioning is at a very comfortable level. I have for some time been very encouraged by our strong growth at an operating profit level, which has come about as a result of diversified income streams and strong cost control. We are now seeing all of these factors manifest in retained profits for the business,” said BML CEO Peter Horton.


Ahmadinejad sends independence day congratulations to President Waheed

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has congratulated President Mohamed Waheed of the Maldives for the occasion of the country’s Independence Day, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

“President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday congratulated anniversary of Maldives Independence Day to his Maldivian Counterpart President Huhammad Hassan Vahid,” IRNA reported.

Ahmadinejad expressed hoped “that the relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Maldives would expand comprehensively more than ever before,” the agency added.

“The IRI president meanwhile in his message hoped for the establishment of peace and security throughout the world, and prayed to God for good health and evermore success of President Muhammad Hassan Vahid, as well as prosperity and wellbeing of the Muslim Maldivian government and nation.”


Paradise Island Resort to host 2012 GMR Maldives Travel Awards

Paradise Island Resort and Spa is set to host the 2012 GMR Maldives Travel Awards ceremony on September 28, organisers have said.

The North Male’ Atoll-based resort will be hosting the event, which has been launched by the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO).

GMR, presently contracted to manage and develop a new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), will serve as the awards’ main sponsor.

Local group High Rise Pvt Ltd has said it will be organising and managing the ceremony over the next three years.