Only one head of state to attend Maldives independence celebrations

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is the only head of state to confirm attendance at the July 26 celebrations to mark the Maldives’ golden jubilee of independence from the British.

Speaking to the press today, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said while President Sirisena had accepted President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was unable to attend “because of certain events in his country.”

An invitation for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still open, she said.

“President Yameen’s invitation to Prime Minister Modi is still open. He can come at his convenience and will be welcomed by the Maldivian government,” she said.

In March, Modi dropped the Maldives from a tour of his Indian Ocean neighbors. The cancellation came amidst daily anti-government protests and heightened political tension sparked by the arrest and prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Opposition supporters expected President Yameen to pardon Nasheed by July 26, but instead the Prosecutor General has announced he will appeal the criminal court’s verdict.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. He is under house arrest at present.

Dunya dismissed today rumours that Nasheed had been invited to the official function.

Sirisena will be the second head of state to visit the Maldives since the current administration assumed office in November 2013. Chinese president Xi Jingping visited the Maldives last year.

Other foreign dignitaries who have confirmed their attendance include, the vice chairman of the China’s lawmaking Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, foreign ministers of Nepal and Palestine, deputy foreign ministers from Japan and Bangladesh, and other ministers from India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Many diplomats are also expected to attend.

The government is planning grand celebrations to mark Independence Day, including a parade by the army and school brass bands, reopening of public parks with water fountains, an official function at the Usfasgandu area with more than 100 foreign dignitaries, official games at the national stadium, and a football tournament in the atolls.

The home ministry plans to light up all of Malé in LED lights and is rushing to complete preparations. Government offices, the Supreme Court building, the parliament building and main streets have been decked in red, green and white lights. However, power shortages in Malé may spoil plans.

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Power shortages may affect plans to light up Malé on Independence Day

Power shortages may spoil the government’s plans to light up the capital Malé City on Independence Day, the State Electric Company (STELCO) has said.

A crucial 8MW generator is down at the power plant due to an unexpected failure and may take up to two weeks to repair.

Ibrahim Rauf, the STELCO spokesperson, said the company may have to cut off power intermittently at different areas in Malé due to the generator failure. It is one of the two 8MW generators at the power plant. There are a number of smaller power generators.

“The lights alone will use around 2.5 MW of electricity from our grid. We are very concerned and saddened because the lights may also suffer due to the power cuts,” said Rauf.

The Supreme Court, the President’s Office, the smoke stacks at the power plant, the foreign ministry and numerous government buildings have been decked from the ground floor to the top in red, green and white LED lights.

Maldives is celebrating 50 years of independence from the British on July 26.

Malé uses 46MW of electricity on average, but the amount could go up to 52MW at peak hours or on dry and humid days. Rauf said he expects electricity demand to be high on Independence Day, but stressed that only some areas will suffer power cuts, meaning most of the buildings in Malé will continue to be lit-up.

“The demand for electricity depends a lot on the weather. If we have wet cold weather then people would not use air-conditioners and electricity demand will be reduced,” he said.

It has been raining on and off in Malé this weekend, but July 26 is expected to be dry, according to weather forecasts.

Power cuts will last only one hour at high demand periods, and will be spread out in different areas of Malé, Rauf said. STELCO is yet to determine the cause of the generator failure.

The government is planning grand celebrations to mark Independence Day, including a parade by the army and school brass bands, reopening of public parks with water fountains, an official function at the Usfasgandu area with more than 100 foreign dignitaries, official games at the national stadium, and a football tournament in the atolls.

The government has not yet disclosed the full program for the day.

Several areas at Male’s waterfront have meanwhile been closed off as the government rushes to complete major renovation projects including a new official jetty and a musical water fountain at the Republic Square before July 26.

Finance minister Abdulla Jihad previously told Minivan News the budget was MVR150 million (US$9.7million).

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Former presidents, Nasir and Gayoom, to be honored on Independence Day

Former presidents Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom are to receive an honorary shield on the Maldives’ golden jubilee of independence from the British on July 26.

Nasir, who served as the president of the Maldives from 1968 – 1978, is being honored for his role in securing independence for the Maldives. When the independence agreement was signed in 1965, he was prime minister of the Maldives.

Nasir died in exile in Singapore in 2008 at 82 years of age. His body was flown back to Malé where he received a state funeral.

Gayoom, who succeeded Nasir and served as the president from 1978 – 2008, is being honored for his role in maintaining the Maldives’ independence, the president’s office said today. He remains influential in Maldivian politics.

The government is planning to hold grand celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of independence, including a parade by the army and school bands, reopening public parks with water fountains, and an official function at the Usfasgandu area. More than 100 foreign dignitaries are expected to attend.

The government is yet to disclose the full program for the day. Several areas at Male’s waterfront have meanwhile been closed off as the government rushes to complete major renovation projects including a new official jetty and a musical water fountain at the Republic Square before July 26.

Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the spokesperson at the president’s office, said President Abdulla Yameen had asked for updates on preparations at a cabinet meeting today.

“The President requested his minister’s to use all the government’s resources to hold the Independence Day celebrations,” he said.

A budget of MVR150million (US$9.7million) has been allocated for Independence Day activities.

The Supreme Court, the President’s Office, the foreign ministry, the Malé power plant and other government offices have been decked in lights for July 26. Plastic palms have been set up in some areas. Malé’s streets have also been decked in flags.

Deputy minister for home affairs Ahmed ‘Maaz’ Saleem, who is in charge of the organizing the activities, told the press previously that a three-hour play will take place at the national stadium from 9pm to 12pm on the night of July 27.

The play will show different stages of Maldivian history from the Buddhist-era to the present and depict the sacrifices of national heroes to maintain the country’s independence. It will also feature video projections.

The Minivan 50 or independence 50 office has awarded a contract to a British company called The Projection Studio to manage sound, light and projection at the official celebrations.

Some 15 Maldivians have meanwhile undergone a 15-day training session in Addu City for a skydiving event on the night on June 27.

The skydivers will land at the national stadium using special parachutes manufactured with the national flag. The second part of the skydiving training is due to start in Malé today with Malaysian trainers.

Meanwhile, president’s office minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef told the press earlier this week that more than a 1,000 people will attend the official function on July 26, including all Maldivian citizens born on July 26, 1965.

Shareef also dismissed allegations of corruption in the use of the Independence Day budget. The home ministry has received special permission from the finance ministry to award some projects without a bidding process due to lack of time.

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Plastic palms placed on Malé streets in rush to prepare for independence day

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Plastic palm trees have been placed on Malé’s streets and several areas at Male’s waterfront have been closed off as the government rushes to complete major renovation projects including a new official jetty and a musical water fountain at the Republic Square before July 26.

Grand celebrations are expected on July 26 as the Maldives marks the golden jubilee of independence from the British.

The plastic palm trees will be strung with lights, says the home ministry.

Several masked men, which the opposition claims are rogue policemen, in October last year chopped down all of Malé City’s Areca palms. Jailed ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim claimed during a trial on weapons smuggling charges that he was framed after the fallout with the police and tourism minister over the cutting down of palm trees.

The government later prevented the Malé City Council from replanting the palms.

The presidential jetty on Malé’s waterfront has been dismantled, and barges with cranes have been brought in as soldiers work around the clock to finish the jetty within two weeks. The government insists the jetty will be completed, but says dignitaries for the official independence day function will be received at the T-jetty in front of the local market area, and not at the presidential jetty.

The Republic Square has meanwhile been closed off for months for renovations and a brand new water fountain.

The official celebrations will not be held at the Republic Square, but at the Usfasgandu area on Malé’s southeast corner, the president’s office has said. The Usfasgandu is traditionally used by the opposition for its activities.

Renovations began this week at the Usfasgandu area. Cranes are at work leveling the area, while workers are putting up new walls.

“All of the planned renovations will be completed by July 26,” said Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the president’s office spokesperson.

The government has not yet disclosed the program for the day. Officials have previously said that the government will hold an official function, soldiers and school students will hold a parade, and official games will be held at the national stadium.

Renovations are also underway at several parks and public monuments in the city. Malé’s streets and the smoke stacks at the power plant have been decked in green, red and white national flags.

An army spokesperson also said all renovation work is on schedule. If not, soldiers may be brought out to complete work. But there is no such indication yet, he said. The army is only in charge of the official jetty at present.

Mohamed ‘Mundu’ Hussein Shareef, the presidential affairs minister, last night dismissed allegations of corruption in the use of the independence day budget. The home ministry has received special permission from the finance ministry to award some projects without a bidding process due to lack of time.

He refused to disclose the total amount allocated for independence day, but finance minister Abdulla Jihad last week told Minivan News the budget was MVR150million (US$9.7million).

The Anti- Corruption Commission began a review last week after receiving complaints of lucrative projects being awarded to private companies without a bidding process.

The Minivan 50 office awarded a restaurant New Port with an MVR1million catering contract and a British company called The Projection Studio with a contract to manage sound, light and projection at the official celebrations.

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Corruption alleged in use of MVR150m budget for independence day

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is investigating corruption in the home ministry’s use of an MVR150million (US$9.7million) budget allotted for independence day activities. The ministry is accused of awarding lucrative projects to private companies without a bidding process.

The Maldives will mark 50 years of independence from the British on July 26.

An office set up under the home ministry has awarded a restaurant New Port with a MVR1million catering contract and a British company called The Projection Studio with a contract to manage sound, light and projection at the official celebrations.

Several monuments, public parks and the official jetty are also under renovation. A civil society group has been given a professional fee of MVR1million to make a replica of a historic boat.

President Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile bought a brand new luxury yacht worth US$4million for the independence day celebrations.

“The ACC formed a special committee to investigate the office on its own initiative after receiving complaints,” said assistant director Hassan Manik.

However, the head of the Minivan 50 (independence 50) office and deputy home minister Ahmed ‘Maaz’ Saleem denied corruption and said: “Instead of opening a public bidding process we are approaching local and foreign companies with relevant expertise and awarding the contract to the cheapest option with a special permit from the finance ministry.”

He also told Minivan News the ACC was overseeing the office’s transactions on their invitation.

Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad confirmed the provision of a special permit for the Minivan 50 office to “hand out some of the projects.”

While Saleem had refused to disclose the budget of allocated to independence day celebrations, Jihad confirmed to Minivan News that the figure amounted to MVR150 million.

Saleem insisted that the private companies were not profiting off of independence day activities, but that they were only charging a “professional fee.”

The deputy minister said the activities had been planned after a public consultation. The home ministry had called for proposals in 2014 and held a public forum this year to discuss proposals. “The celebration activities were decided by the public,” he said.

The home ministry has held a mandatory parade for all students, a swim between capital Malé and suburb Villingili and slaughtered 150 goats for the golden jubilee of independence.

 

 

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Security services to receive medals on Independence Day

The government will award a medal to all police and military officers to mark their services to the state on the occasion of 50 years of independence .

“Officers from both the military and the police will be given medals. This a common practice all around the world, as they protect the country’s independence in the front lines,” the home ministry’s Thazmeel Abdul Samad said.

In an interview with Dhi TV on Monday, commissioner of police Hussein Waheed said the medals will be worn with police uniforms.

The Maldives’ Independence Day falls on July 26.

President Abdulla Yameen officially launched the “Minivan 50” or “Independence 50” celebrations on March 12 with a music show.

Since then, the government has slaughtered 150 goats, brought out tens of thousands of students for a parade, organized football competitions, a sky-diving event and a swim between capital Malé and suburb Villimalé.

The government plans to unveil new currency notes and has commissioned a replica of an ancient Maldivian village and a legendary boat used by three Maldivian brothers in the sixteenth century in the guerrilla war against the Portuguese occupation.

The home ministry is expected to announce more events in the coming weeks.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags.

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.

The opposition has also criticised the government for holding independence celebrations soon after jailing opposition leaders including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The opposition had held daily protests and two mass demonstrations on February 27 and May 1. Nearly 200 people were arrested from the May Day protest.

The local government authority has meanwhile suspended two councillors three councillors of the Alif Alif atoll council over a resolution declaring they will not participate in activities organised by the government to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

Photo from Commissioner of Police’s official Facebook Page

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Government appeals for cooperation with Independence Day celebrations

The government has appealed for public cooperation for planned events to celebrate the upcoming 50th Independence Day on July 26.

“The celebration of Independence Day should involve everyone. I call on every Maldivian to cooperate with the celebrations,” President’s Office Minister Abdulla Ameen said last week.

A special office was launched on Thursday (March 19) to oversee events planned by the government to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

“The Independence Day celebrations are supervised by the president. The celebrations are carried out with the president’s opinion and advice,” Ameen said at a ceremony after opening the office.

Scheduled events include sky diving, a swimming competition, a bicycle race and a water fountain laser show.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile accused the government of using the celebrations as a cover to “rob civil liberty” and “empower gangs.”

“From every event we see the government-backed gangs getting more powerful. There is absolutely no freedom whatsoever for the opposition or its supporters. The government with their minority and the so-called peaceful youths are terrorising every other citizen,” MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz told Minivan News.

While the Maldives gained independence working alongside development partners and friendly nations, Shifaz contended that the Maldives was now isolated in the international area.

“We got independence by working together with the rest of the world. But 50 years later with President Yameen’s foreign policy Maldives has been isolated from the rest of the world now,” he said.

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