Singapore’s Crescendas Group claim Maldives is still secure for foreign investment

Maldives is still a safe and secure environment for foreign investors, Singapore’s Crescendas Group has claimed today.

The comments were made in local media days after the Maldives government annulled a contract with Indian infrastructure giant GMR to redevelop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) near to Male’. GMR was just two years into a 25-year contract to develop and manage the country’s main airport.

Prior to the annulment, an anti-GMR campaign organised by coalition-aligned parties was formed to increase public support to “reclaim” the airport.

Despite this week’s developments, Crescendas Group Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Leo today claimed to have “strong confidence” in the Maldives, expressing the company’s interest in looking to invest in country for “the long term”.

“There is huge investment potential here. We have met many from both the private sector and government; we have received great support from everyone. Most important thing to be noted is everyone we met gave very positive responses. This shows that Maldives is one of the best places to invest,” he told Haveeru.

“We are also thinking to invest here for the long term because we have strong confidence, otherwise we wouldn’t have brought our funds to invest it here,” Leo added.

Crescendas group is currently developing a resort in Addu Atoll Hankede.


Immigration halts work permits to GMR, aviation authority to revoke aerodrome certificate

Additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed.

The Department of Immigration has declared that it will cease renewing the visas of foreign employees working under GMR Male International Airport Limited (GMIAL), the Indian infrastructure giant’s side of the deal to manage and operate Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) signed with the former government.

“We have stopped issuing visas to GMR for the time being. This was decided since the cabinet has terminated the contract, and GMR has been given a seven day ultimatum to leave. If we went on processing visa requests, it would just be pointless work,” Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Immigration, Mohamed Khalid told Minivan News.

“We are just going along with the decisions made from the top, the President’s Office,” he said.

The Maldivian cabinet declared the agreement with GMR void on Tuesday evening, and gave the company a seven day ultimatum to leave the country.

“The government has given a seven day notice to GMR to leave the airport. The agreement states that GMR should be given a 30 day notice but the government believes that since the contract is void, it need not be followed,” said Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor at the time.

Deputy Controller of Immigration Hamid Fathuhullah told Minivan News that immigration had not yet made any decisions on how to proceed on dealing with the visas and permits obtained by GMR that were still active after the government’s seven day ultimatum.

However, Fathuhulla added that they would be making provisions in accordance with existing regulations to allow ample time for the employees to make arrangements to leave.

“Right now, we are not going to provide visas, quotas or work permits to any company associated with GMR. This is in line with the Immigration Act 1/2007 and International Law,” Fathuhulla stated.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad declined to comment on the matter.

“It is not part of our mandate to cancel visas, deport or arrest people. The President’s Office will do no such thing. The immigration department will decide this issue,” Imad said.

CEO of GMIAL, Andrew Harrison, said the company had received no communication or memo from the immigration department, as stated in several media reports, and had contacted the immigration to try and clarify the matter.

Of the company’s total 1760 staff, 140 are foreign employees on work permits, Harrison said.  He stressed 17 of there work permits were due to be renewed before the end of December.

“Our people are committed. They will stay and work until otherwise notified,” Harrison said.

He said it would be “premature” to discuss the implications of the Immigration Department’s announcement, given that GMR disputes the legality of the government’s termination of its contract, and that there was “still work to be done before statements are made”.

However, he said it was surprising that the notice was issued to the media before any discussion with the company.

“I don’t know why they are doing it this way,” Harrison said. “People are asking us about this, but we have no information apart from the conflicting reports in the media.”

“One report says the visas are being cancelled, another says they have not been cancelled, just the renewals,” said Harrison.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz stated Thursday that the foreign employees of GMR would be “given protection” until they could arrange to leave the country.

Fayaz said that the ministry had extended an invitation to the management of GMR for a meeting following the termination of the contract.

Accepting the invitation, Harrison and Managing Director P Sripathi had met with the ministry representatives, he said.

“At the meeting, we requested that in these seven days, they proceed in a manner which would not disrupt any of the services being provided at the airport. We also assured them that they would remain safe and secure during their time in the country,” Fayaz said.

“We also told them that should they require it, we can provide security services through the police force,” he added.

The government-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) has meanwhile issued a circular “opening opportunities for GMIAL staff who are keen to join the MACL team.”

In a statement, the company said it provided “assurance to employees that their present basic salary, allowances and other benefits, and training and development opportunities will be maintained under MACL management. MACL also guarantees that the employees currently sponsored by GMIAL will have the same opportunity to continue and complete their courses.”

CAA withdrawing aerodrome certificate

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has meanwhile sent GMIAL a letter informing the company its aerodrome certificate will be withdrawn at 11:59 pm on December 7.

“That is the regulatory authority that permits us to operate an airport,” explained Harrison, “We cannot operate an airport without the certificate.”

Harrison emphasised that the withdrawal of the certificate did not mean the end of the company’s effort to seek legal redress.


The government’s decision to declare GMR’s concession agreement void and evict the developer from the Maldives comes after a tough year for tourism, the sector indirectly responsible for up to 70 percent of the country’s economy. According to the 2013 budget presented to parliament on November 27 – the same day as cabinet announced GMR’s eviction – tourism growth in the Maldives has fallen from 15.8 percent in 2010 and 9.1 percent in 2011, to an expected 0.7 percent in 2012.

In a statement today, former President Mohamed Nasheed, under whose administration the GMR contract was signed, said the government’s “reckless decision to terminate GMR’s contract will scare off investors”, with “serious ramifications for the economy, at a time when we can ill-afford to see it falter.”

“Right across the board we are witnessing positive trends being dangerously reversed. Growth in tourism – the bedrock of our economy – has flat-lined; our GDP, which was 7 per cent last year, is projected to be just 3.4 per cent this year; and our deficit, which we had brought under control at the start of the year, is now ballooning at an alarming rate,” Nasheed said.

“If this continues, we risk setting back every aspect of our development. It is not those in government but the Maldivian people who stand to lose most from President Waheed’s economic mismanagement.”


Supreme Court overrules Parliament’s decision to invalidate Hulhumale Magistrate Court

The Supreme Court has issued an order invalidating the decision of Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee to not recognise the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed is currently facing charges in the Hulhumale Court for the detention of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed during the final days of his administration.

The oversight committee this week declared the court illegitimate, claiming it lacked “constitutional and legal grounds” to support its legitimacy.

In an order, (No. 2012/SC-SJ/05) issued on November 28, the Supreme Court declared that no institution should meddle with the business of the courts, claiming that it held parental authority over “constitutional and legal affairs” and would not allow such “interference” to take place.

“Any action or a decision taken by an institution of the state that may impact the outcome of a matter that is being heard in a court of law, and prior to a decision by the courts on that matter, shall be deemed invalid, and [the Supreme Court] hereby orders that these acts must not be carried out,” the order read.

Though the order did not specifically mention the decision by the parliamentary oversight committee, it was issued shortly after the committee’s decision regarding the Hulhumale’ court.

Last Tuesday, the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee,following an issue presented by three sitting MPs, declared there were no “legal grounds” to accept the setting up and functioning of Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court based on the powers vested to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) under article 159 of the constitution and article 21 of the Judicial Service Commission Act, and based on the articles 53 and 63 of Judicature Act.

The members of the committee claimed there was a lack of any legal reasoning to recommence the works of the concerned court after its work had been suspended for five months after the Judicature Act came to force.

Article 63 of the Judicature Act states: “A Magistrate Court shall be established in all inhabited islands with the exception of Male’ where there are the four superior courts created in accordance with Article 53(b) of this Act and in an island where 4 divisions of these four superior courts are established in accordance with Article 53 (c) of this Act.”

However, the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee in its explanation of the decision stated that the exception of Male’ in the stated article included Hulhumale’, which for administrative purposes is considered a ward of the capital.  The committee argued Hulhumale’ could not be deemed as a separate island to establish a magistrate court.

No one should meddle with the courts: Supreme Court

In quashing the parliamentary committee’s decision, the Supreme Court stated that while the Maldivian constitutional system broadly entertained the principle of separation of powers, no one power of the state can go beyond the limits set out in the constitution.

“According to articles 5, 6 and 7 of the constitution that came to force on 7 August 2008, the Maldivian constitutional system has explicitly set out that the executive power, legislative power and the judicial power is independent from one another and the boundaries of each power being clearly set out, it is unconstitutional for one power of the state to go beyond its constitutional boundaries as stated in article 8 of the constitution,” read the order.

The Supreme Court also in its order maintained that as per the constitution, the judicial power of the state was the sole constitutional authority in settling legal disputes between the institutions of the state or private parties.

“The judiciary established under the constitution is an independent and impartial institution and that all public institutions shall protect and uphold this independence and impartiality and therefore no institution shall interfere or influence the functioning of the courts,” it added.

Not meddling with business of courts – Deputy Chair of Independent Institutions Oversight Committee

Speaking to Minivan News, Deputy Chair of Independent Institutions Oversight Committee MP Ahmed Sameer said the committee was not meddling with the business of the courts, but addressing a constitutional violation carried out by the JSC in establishing an illegitimate court.

Sameer – who is also the deputy leader of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group – stated that it was a responsibility of the parliament to hold independent institutions and other bodies of the state accountable, and that his committee was mandated with the scrutiny of actions of independent institutions.

“Initially, when we summoned the JSC to the committee, they refused to talk to us or provide any information to the committee. However, from the documents that the committee received later, we found out that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was formed by the JSC which is a violation of the constitution and the laws,” he said.

Sameer argued that the constitution explicitly states that courts can only be formed by legislation and not “through a vote in the JSC”.

“The committee’s decision was made based on the findings of the inquiry. We have all the documents including the agendas of the meeting and the meeting minutes. It is clear that the JSC had formed and an act that is beyond the powers vested to the commission in the constitution and the JSC Act,” he added.

Sameer claimed that the decision by the committee was binding and no authority can overrule the decision.

“With the committee’s decision, we do not plan to give the budget to the court and works are underway to in drafting an amendment that would specifically state the courts that would be formed under the law,” he said.

Sameer added that the parliament will not tolerate any decision that undermines its constitutional powers and responsibilities.

Arrest of Judge Abdulla

The issue concerning Hulhumale Magistrate Court’s legitimacy came to limelight following the Prosecutor General (PG) filing criminal charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed for the detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January  2012.

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) on the evening of Monday, January 16, in compliance with a police request.

The judge’s whereabouts were not revealed until January 18, and the MNDF acknowledged receipt but did not reply to Supreme Court orders to release the judge.

Then Home Minister Hassan Afeef subsequently accused the judge of “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist”, listing 14 cases of obstruction of police duty including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.

Afeef accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, barring media from corruption trials, ordering the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintaining “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.

The judge also released a murder suspect “in the name of holding ministers accountable”, who went on to kill another victim.

Nasheed’s government subsequently requested assistance from the international community to reform the judiciary. Observing that judicial reform “really should come from the JSC”, Foreign Minister at the time, Ahmed Naseemm said that the JSC’s shortcomings “are now an issue of national security.”

The judicial crisis triggered 22 days of continuous protests led by senior opposition figures and those loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom, which eventually led to the controversial toppling of Nasheed’s administration on February 7.

The PG’s Office filed charges based on the investigations by Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) on the arrest, which concluded that Nasheed was the “highest authority liable” for the military-led detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Along with Nasheed, the report concluded that the former president’s Defence Minister, Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, was a second key figure responsible with others including Chief of Defence Force Moosa Ali Jaleel, Brigadier Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.

Charges were also filed against all of those which the HRCM investigation report identified as responsible for the arrest in Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Hulhumale Magistrate Court and legitimacy

During the first hearing of the trial, ex-president Nasheed’s lawyers took procedural points challenging the legitimacy of the court, but were rejected without justification. Nasheed’s legal team’s appeal challenging the legitimacy was initially rejected by the High Court claiming that it cannot look into a matter that was already being heard in Supreme Court.

However, the High Court later granted Nasheed an injunction temporarily suspending the trial of the former president at the contested Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.  The injunction is pending a ruling on procedural points raised by the former President’s legal team.

Following the injunction, Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has announced that it had suspended all ongoing cases.

In its announcement, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court said it has suspended proceedings on cases involving marriage, divorce, guardianship, family matters, property lawsuits, civil cases, criminal cases involving extension of detention periods as well as other matters that could be affected by the questions raised over its legal status.

Following the High Court’s injunction granted to Nasheed, the JSC filed a case in Supreme Court asking it to look into the legitimacy of the court. The Supreme Court then instructed the High Court to halt its hearings on the appeal.

Supreme Court had previously ordered the Civil Court to send over all files and documents on a case submitted by a lawyer, Ismail Visham, over a year ago challenging the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

The Supreme Court on November 19, held the first hearing of the case concerning the legitimacy of Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court and Ismail Visham was decided as the respondent of the case.

Nasheed’s legal team also intervened in the court case. Nasheed’s lawyers stated that the case involved the interests of the former president as his case regarding the detention of the Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed is heard by Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Meanwhile, several prominent figures have raised doubts over the legitimacy of Hulhumale Magistrate Court.

Former Chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee of the Special Majlis, Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail, in an article in his personal blog stated – “The [Hulhumale’ court] was created by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) without authority derived from law. Therefore the validity of any order or judgement issued by this court is questionable, and the constitution says no one has to obey any unlawful orders, i.e, orders which are not derived from law. Therefore, President Nasheed’s decision to ignore the summons has more than reasonable legal grounds.”

Ismail further writes that no court has the power, under any law, to issue a travel ban on a person without ever summoning them to court.

He also stated that there was ample to room to believe that the courts were acting with a bias against Nasheed, owing to a number of other politicians and business tycoons who were repeatedly defying court orders and summons.

Prominent lawyer and Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed – who is also the chair of Parliament’s Independent Oversight Committee – in his personal blog also echoed similar remarks explaining that a magistrate court could not legally be established at Hulhumale’.

However following the Supreme Court’s order, Nasheed told Minivan News said that he “wished to give a considered view soon” but refused to reveal a specific date by which he would respond.


Export revenue increase “very likely” after obtaining MSC certification: Minister of State for Fisheries and Agriculture

Minister of State for Fisheries and Agriculture Hussain Rasheed Hassan has revealed export prices for tuna are “very likely” to increase following the decision to award Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification to the Maldives’ pole-and-line skipjack fishery.

The certification was awarded on Monday (November 26), making it the first Indian Ocean tuna fishery to receive the certification.

The MSC ‘eco-label’ is said to provide consumers with the assurance that a product is traceable back to a certified and sustainable source.

According to Rasheed, many European supermarkets have committed to buying tuna caught in the Maldives until 2014, leading to hopes that the certification will bring further positive effects to the industry.

“There is a much better opportunity to sell abroad now, and despite our tuna already selling at a premium rate, I believe this certification will mean it is very likely that the prices will increase further.

“Consumers now have the assurance that our tuna has been caught using sustainable practice, and this has granted us unconditional access to European and American markets,” Rasheed added.

Tuna products are either canned or put into pouches for export, mainly to Europe where many retail and food service sector companies have made strong commitments to source sustainable seafood choices.

The pole and line method of fishing is widely regarded as a highly selective and low impact form of fishing, as the fish are caught individually as opposed to being caught in a net.

Approximately 25 per cent of skipjack tuna stocks caught in the Indian Ocean are done using the pole-and-line method, with the majority of these catches coming from the Maldives.

“Maldivians take pride in their skipjack pole-and-line fishery – a sustainable fishery that has thrived for over a millennium by catching tuna one by one,” Rasheed added.

The fishing industry is the country’s largest employer and the country’s second largest industry after tourism. The method of pole-and-line fishing attracts buyers from premium supermarkets in the UK and Europe.

Fishing and other related activities employ around 30 per cent of the country’s workforce, contributing over 15 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. In recent years, skipjack catches in the Maldives made up approximately 90,000 tonnes of their pole-and-line fishery.

Recently, the Finance Ministry forecast the GDP of the fisheries sector to decline by 1.3 percent in 2013, despite the industry’s productivity expected to rise by 9.7 percent in 2012.

The volume of fish catch has been steadily declining for the past seven years. While approximately 185,000 tonnes of fish were caught in 2006, the number dropped to about 70,000 tonnes in 2011.

During the past five years, the value of the nation’s fisheries industry declined from MVR 489 million (US$31.7 million) to MVR 321 million (US$20.8 million) with a corresponding fall of 3.3 percent of the economy to 1.1 percent in 2012.

In July 2011, the Maldives became a member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), a body responsible for the regional management of tuna in the Indian Ocean. Later that year there was growing concern over falling fish stocks following the mass harvesting of fish by foreign fishing vessels just outside the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

It was claimed that French and Spanish fishermen were using a method of fishing known as purse seining, whereby a vessel deploys a large net to encircle and capture entire schools of fish at once. Despite the method being very cost effective, there is also a tendency for it to pick up other species of marine life.

It was further claimed that foreign fishermen were using Fish Aggregation Devices (FADS). Fish such as tuna are said to be naturally attracted to the floating object, such as a buoy, that is typically fitted with a sonar device capable of determining the quantity of fish below, and a satellite uplink that communicates this to the nearby fishing vessel.

The vessel’s net does not discriminate between the predators and scavengers attracted by the target fish population around the FAD.

Despite the concern raised last year, Rasheed highlighted that the situation has since improved, adding that the fish stocks are not currently threatened in the Indian Ocean.

Rasheed did however highlight the need for an efficient management system to ensure sustainable fishing methods are practiced across the region.

“If vessels are catching too much tuna outside of the EEZ, it means there will be less for Maldivian fishermen to catch,” he added.

The Maldives pole and line skipjack fishery has been certified with eight conditions that must be met within the next five years to ensure the fishery is continuing to function at a sustainable level.


DhiTV board members summoned to Parliament

DhiTV board members have been summoned by the Parliament General Committee to “clarify some information”.

Last week Editor and News Head of DhiTV Midhath Adam was heavily criticised at the Parliament’s Privileges Committee following accusations of defamation.

Midhath today (November 29) said that the directors’ board has since been asked to be present at parliament at 9:30am on Monday. According to Midhath, the board had not decided on a course of action over the matter.

Parliament has asked DhiTV to provide the names of two board members who will be present before next Sunday.

Midhath was previously summoned to the parliament on two separate occasions to clarify information regarding DhiTV content.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson and Hulhu-Henveiru MP Reeko Moosa Manik, accused DhiTV of defaming his business and family, whilst Jabir further accused DhiTV of broadcasting stories that were shaped to attack him personally.


Deputy Minister paid salary with no record of attendance, Tourism Ministry audit report reveals

A Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture was paid salary and allowances from April 2011 to January 2012 with no official records of attendance, the ministry’s audit report for 2011 has revealed.

The audit report (Dhivehi) made public on Tuesday stated that a total of MVR 343,351 (US$22,267) was paid to the senior official for 10 months while there was no documentation to show that he “ever attended either the ministry or any office functioning under the ministry.”

The Auditor General recommended recovering the funds and taking action against the responsible staff at the ministry.

While there was no specific regulation governing attendance of political appointees at the time, the Auditor General contended that paying salaries without attendance records was against “the spirit of the public finance regulations.”

In addition, the audit discovered that the ministry gave a temporary license or authorisation to a private company to operate a tourist hotel at the Laamu atoll Kadhdhoo airport in violation of the Tourism Act.

The audit found that the permission was given despite an inspection report finding that the facility did not meet the criteria for a tourist guesthouse in terms of quality of service.

A tourist hotel is ranked higher than a guesthouse, the audit report noted.

Under articles 4, 18 and 19 of the tourism law, the report explained, a tourist hotel could not be operated on the plot at the regional airport.

The hotel was however operated from May 24, 2011 to December 25, 2011 before official permission or a permanent license was sought, the audit report noted.

Local media reported yesterday (November 28) that the guesthouse or hotel was operated by Heavy Load Maldives, a family business of MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, chairperson of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The Auditor General recommended submitting the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for further investigation.

Minivan News is seeking comment from former Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa.

The audit report also noted that temporary authorisation or licenses for operating guesthouses were renewed “some times for over a year” while the facilities did not meet the requisite criteria.

Moreover, registration and licenses were provided to some dive centres and guesthouses without collecting registration and licensing fees.

In other cases highlighted in the report, the audit noted that documentation was not properly maintained for equipment such as camera and mobile phones purchased in 2010.

As a result, equipment provided for use by staff was not recovered when the employees left the office.

In addition, the Tourism Ministry did not maintain a detailed income registry with reference numbers and dates as required by the public finance regulations. The regulations require that the registry must be routinely shared with the Finance Ministry.

“However, inquiries for the Ministry of Tourism’s 2011 audit revealed that such a record [of income] was not prepared and maintained,” the audit report stated. “As a result, we note that it could not be confirmed whether the incomes due to the ministry was received in full.”

Offices and departments under the Tourism Ministry

The audit report noted that the Tourism Ministry’s audit for 2011 was conducted without any documentations or financial records from the Department of Information (DOI) operating under the ministry.

Repeated requests for documents from the department went unheeded, the report stated, adding that the financial statement of the DOI was not provided for the 2010 audit either.

On Monday (November 26), the President’s Office announced that the DOI has been abolished as new institutions formed by the 2008 constitutions carries out the functions previously performed by the department.

“Following this change, registration of media; formulating policies and facilitating the development of local media; creating the official Maldives’ calendar; maintaining the registry of journalists and writers; and, representing the Maldives internationally in the press field will be carried out by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. Information to international media on local events will be given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the President’s Office stated.

Meanwhile, concerning the other offices operating under the ministry, the audit found that employees of the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) were paid overtime salaries in violation of the civil service regulations for calculating overtime.

The audit also noted that clothing allowance was paid to all employees in January 2011 in anticipation of overseas trips to attend tourism fairs. However, the allowance was not recovered from two staff at MTPB who did not travel abroad during the year.

An audit of the National Centre for the Arts (NCA) meanwhile revealed that MVR 24,735 (US$1,604) was spent out of the budget on tickets for a lecturer and his family for a “one-day creative writing workshop” on November 19, 2011.

However, an official agreement was not signed between the lecturer and the NCA and there was no documentation at the centre regarding the workshop.

The NCA also spent MVR 33,000 (US$2,140) during a ten-day period on food for 20 staff working on a “Male’ Art Festival” in excess of the approved rate in the public finance regulations. Catering was also arranged without a public announcement after seeking quotations from only two parties, the audit found.

A total of MVR 19,750 (US$1,280) was spent on catering for seven events organised by the NCA in 2010 without seeking quotations from more than one party.

The catering contract was awarded to a particular party at a rate of MVR 50 per person while the public finance regulations specify a rate of MVR 40 per person.

Aside from a note from NCA and catering bills, the audit report noted that no other documentation for the transactions could be found at the NCA.


Jumhoory Party MPs Jabir and Alhan to vote against President in no-confidence motion

MPs Abdulla Jabir and Alhan Fahmy of the Jumhoory Party (JP) – part of the current coalition government – today publicly announced that they will vote against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan in an upcoming no-confidence motion.

During a press conference, held at the People’s Majlis along with opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Ibrahim Rasheed and Imthiyaz Fahmy, Jabir and Alhan told local press that they did not have confidence in the current president.  The two MPs claimed they were ready to stand against him, even if the vote was to be taken tomorrow.

Jabir was among a number of MPs and senior MDP figures arrested earlier this month on suspicion of the possession of drugs and alcohol following a raid by police on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll.

Jabir, his wife Dhiyana Saeed – the former Minister for Gender and Human Rights under the current government – and the MDP have all alleged the arrests were politically motivated.  The charges have been vehemently denied by the President’s Office, which has told media that it had no knowledge of the operation until it had been carried out by police officers.

The arrests have nonetheless been labelled as “very worrying” by a delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which late last week claimed it was “difficult” to believe the police raid had not been politically motivated.

Speaking at today’s press conference, MP Alhan alleged that Dr Waheed was threatening MPs because his attempts to make MPs act as his puppets had not worked. He said Waheed had also threatened MPs during public speeches he had given of late.

Local newspapers meanwhile quoted MP Jabir as saying that Dr Waheed should not be kept in his position, reiterating that he did not come to power through an election.

Jabir also revealed plans to forward a no-confidence motion against Home Minister Dr Ahmed Jameel and said that he had already signed the motion.

Earlier in October MDP, filed a no-confidence motion against Home Minister but was withdrawn on November 12 without mentioning a clear reason.

At the same time, a no-confidence motion against Dr Waheed was also submitted to the parliament.

The MDP claimed that the no-confidence motion was submitted to the parliament in response to what it alleged were orders from President Waheed to attack citizens and MDP MPs, and to carry out acts of “inhumanity” on February 8.

The MDP also accused President Waheed of trying to “destroy” the sensitive economy of the nation, claiming that his handling of the economy had destroyed foreign investor confidence in the Maldives.

The motion was filed with the signatures of 26 MPs of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on October 10.

According to article 100 (e) of the constitution, a no confidence vote against the President can be passed with votes from two-thirds of the total numbers of MPs in parliament, which amounts to 52 votes.


Department of Information abolished by President

Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has taken over the role of the Department of Information, after the latter was abolished by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

The department was dissolved after some of new the institutions – formed by law under the new constitution – were found to perform the same functions previously carried out by Department of Information.

Following the change, the registration of media; formulating policies and facilitating the development of local media; creating the official Maldives’ calendar; maintaining the registry of journalists and writers; and, representing the Maldives internationally in the press field will be carried out by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide information to the international media on local events.


Government “cynically used xenophobia, nationalism and religious extremism” to attack foreign investor: former President

Additional reporting by Neil Merrett and Mohamed Naahii

The Waheed government’s decision to void the GMR contract and issue the developer a seven day ultimatum will “put off potential investors for decades,” former President Mohamed Nasheed has said.

“Waheed’s government has cynically used xenophobia, nationalism and religious extremism to attack GMR, the country’s largest foreign investor. Waheed is leading the Maldives down the path to economic ruin,” Nasheed said, following Attorney General Azima Shukoor’s issuing of the ultimatum on Tuesday (November 27) evening.  The ultimatum was made while arbitration proceedings are pending in the Singapore courts.

The government’s party to the 25 year concession agreement – the 100 percent state-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) – issued a statement on Wednesday declaring that the company was “now working with stakeholders to take over the operations of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on or before the expiry of the seven days period provided to [GMR] to handover possession of the INIA pursuant to the notice issued by the government of the Maldives and MACL.”

GMR meanwhile yesterday denounced the move as “unilateral and completely irrational”.

“We have no plans to go. We have 23 more years here,” GMR’s Head of Corporate Communications Arun Bhaghat told Minivan News.

CEO of INIA, Andrew Harrison, told Minivan News that the airport’s 1700 staff were “quite concerned” and “not exactly jumping for joy”.

The company had held several meetings with staff following the announcement and called on them to ensure continued smooth operation of the airport while the legal team was working to resolve the issue.

“People who have seen their businesses improve since GMR took over have been calling me up expressing support,” Harrison noted.

The company had received no communication from the government apart from the notice issued yesterday, he added.

The Indian government was quick to back GMR yesterday following the announcement by its Maldivian counterpart, noting that the company was awarded the deal “through a global tender conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank.”

“The IFC has stated that it has complied with Maldivian laws and regulations and followed international best practices at each step of the bidding process to ensure the highest degree of competitiveness, transparency and credibility of the process,” said the Ministry of External Affairs.

The Indian government added that it was prepared to take “all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of its interests and its nationals in the Maldives.”

Surprisingly, GMR’s stock showed an upward trend following the government’s announcement.

Traders on one broker’s website predicted that stock was reacting positively due to the Indian government’s quick defence of the company and the prospect of significant compensation for the infrastructure developer following arbitration proceedings.

“Stock will definitely react in a positive manner as it has now become a matter of national prestige,” predicted one trader on Indian finance portal, Moneycontrol.

The Maldives’ decision was widely derided in the Indian media. Forbes India suggested that “the decision to send the Indian consortium packing has brought into focus the risk of doing business in emerging markets with rapidly changing political landscapes.”

“India Inc has had its share of relatively minor `law and order’ problems in its journey into Africa and a few brushes with shifting goalposts in places like Indonesia and Russia. But being thrown out after signing a 25-year, supposedly iron-clad international contract, is a first,” Forbes observed.

Locally, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) of 30 year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom praised the government’s move as “important for protecting the rights of Maldivian citizens”.

“It is PPM’s hope that the government’s decision to terminate the agreement with GMR will not affect the historic friendship between the governments and people of the Maldives and India,” the PPM said in statement.

The largest party in the ruling coalition, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), was more reserved.

“The government should act responsibly and according to the legal contract,” said DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom. “The consequences of government decisions should not adversely affect the lives of the Maldivians.”

The 2191-member Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), which during the Nasheed administration filed the Civil Court case outlawing the airport development charge (ADC) stipulated in GMR’s concession agreement which deprived MACL of airport revenues and cost the government several million dollars, praised President Waheed as a national hero.

“[The] decision will be noteworthy in the history of this country,” DQP Leader and President Waheed’s Special Advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed, was reported as saying in local media.

“No one would expect such a decision to be made by a country that heavily relies on India. But Waheed has decided what is best for his country,” said Saeed. “President Waheed will be remembered in the years to come.”

Saeed earlier wrote to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to terminate the Maldives’ airport development contract with GMR, warning of rising fundamentalism and anti-Indian sentiment should he fail to do so.

“I want to warn you now that there is a real danger that the current situation could create the opportunity for these extremist politicians to be elected to prominent positions, including the Presidency and Parliament on an anti-GMR and anti-India platform,” Saeed informed Singh.

“That would not be in the interests of either the Maldives or India. You are well aware of the growing religious extremism in our country,” Saeed warned the PM.

Seven day stand-off

GMR has shown no interest in complying with cabinet’s direction and has expressed confidence in the professionalism of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and its assignment to protect the airport, raising speculation as to how far the government would be willing to go to enforce its decision to void the concession agreement and reclaim INIA.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News on Wednesday that the government’s role had “solely been to advise MACL to take control of the site.”

“We are not engineering any handover [of the airport],” he said. “What we have done is just given our opinion after being advised that [terminating the contract] was the proper thing to do.”

GMR has responded that it did not recognise a legal basis for the government’s decision while the arbitration is still ongoing in the Singaporean courts, stating that it would continue to manage and oversee development at the airport for the remaining 23 years of its tender agreement.

Masood claimed that any decision to retake the airport would be “the responsibility” of MACL.

“Well I suppose if MACL decide to terminate the agreement and the company hasn’t moved, procedures are in place for the MACL to address these issues,” he said, forwarding further inquiries to MACL Managing Director Mohamed Ibrahim.

Ibrahim however told Minivan News he was “not willing to disclose anything at this moment.”