Senior TVM staff found guilty of sexual harassment, let off with warning

The state broadcasting company, Public Service Media (PSM), has let off a senior technical officer found guilty of sexual harassment with a warning.

PSM spokesperson Abdulla Rameez refused to confirm the decision made by an internal committee following an inquiry, saying: “We do not give out information that would harm our staff’s dignity.”

But a copy of the committee’s decision obtained by Minivan News states the accused was warned in writing “after considering the seriousness of the case.”

The PSM said in a statement yesterday that “a just decision” was made in accordance with the law and that the offender has been punished.

According to 2014 sexual harassment law, government offices must set up internal committees to investigate complaints of workplace harassment within 60 days. The committee is authorised to warn, suspend or dismiss the perpetrator.

The PSM operates the Television Maldives (TVM) channel and a radio station.

A senior PSM staff who wished to remain anonymous told Minivan News that the technical officer had “groped a woman’s breasts.”

Other PSM employees who spoke to Minivan News alleged that “many girls were subjected to sexual harassment from the technical officer.”

“They never looked into the case when there have been numerous cases where he assaulted women. This time they had no other choice but to investigate the matter after it was exposed in the local media,” an employee said.

Another staff member criticised the company’s attitude towards sexual offences after “the technical officer’s matter was handled lightly. He was allowed to work while still the case being investigated. He is here as if nothing had happened.”

CNM reported yesterday that the accused senior official was “forgiven” by the committee.

The PSM, however, denied the media reports in its press statement, noting that the complainant has the right to appeal the committee’s decision but had not done so.

The state broadcaster said it regretted the misleading media reports that has brought PSM into disrepute and threatened to sue media outlets for damages.

According to CNM, the incident occurred three weeks ago at the PSM recording library. Sources told the online news outlet that the technical officer grabbed the woman from behind and groped her breasts.

The committee decided to pardon the offender because he has worked at the state broadcaster for 22 years, the sources claimed. The technical officer had reportedly confessed to the committee.

Last month, a manager at the state-owned Hulhumalé Development Corporation (HDC) was also let off with a warning after he was found guilty of sexually harassing a female employee.

The HDC’s human resources manager Mirshan Ahmed was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to an employee who had joined the company in March.

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Disgraced former CSC chair appointed as high commissioner

The parliament today approved the disgraced former chairperson of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Mohamed Fahmy Hassan as the new high commissioner to Malaysia.

Fahmy’s nomination was approved with 41 votes in favour, 13 against, and one abstention.

The parliament had removed Fahmy from the CSC in 2012 after he was found to have sexually harassed a female staff member, but the Supreme Court blocked the dismissal as “unconstitutional.”

Upon assuming office in November 2013, President Yameen appointed Fahmy as the deputy high commissioner to Malaysia.

In late May, the foreign ministry recalled former high commissioner Mohamed Fayaz from Malaysia saying he had failed to “adequately promote Maldives’ foreign policy interests in Malaysia.”

The Supreme Court overruling parliament’s dismissal of Fahmy had meanwhile led to both Fahmy and his replacement Fathimath Reeni Abdul Sattar arriving for work.

The CSC eventually blocked Fahmy from accessing its offices in September 2013. A source said Fahmy’s fingerprint access was rescinded after the former commissioner continued to come to the office for a few minutes every day.

Fahmy was alleged to have called a female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”it won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

According to local media, the woman told her family about the incident, who then called Fahmy. Fahmy then sent her a text message apologising for the incident, reportedly stating, ”I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations, Fahmy told Minivan News previously that the female staff member had made up the allegation after she learned she had not won a scholarship to Singapore offered by the CSC.

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Disgraced ex CSC chair to be appointed high commissioner to Malaysia

President Abdulla Yameen has nominated the disgraced former chairperson of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) as the new high commissioner to Malaysia.

Mohamed Fahmy Hassan was removed from the CSC by parliament in 2012 after he was found to have sexually harassed a female staff member, but the Supreme Court had blocked the dismissal as “unconstitutional.”

Upon assuming office in November 2013, President Yameen appointed Fahmy as the deputy high commissioner to Malaysia.

In late May, the foreign ministry recalled former high commissioner Mohamed Fayaz from Malaysia saying he had failed to “adequately promote Maldives’ foreign policy interests in Malaysia.”

Fahmy was nominated for parliamentary approval today. The parliament will vote on the appointment following evaluation of the nominee by the national security committee.

The Supreme Court overruling parliament’s dismissal of Fahmy had meanwhile led to both Fahmy and his replacement Fathimath Reeni Abdul Sattar arriving for work.

The CSC eventually blocked Fahmy from accessing its offices in September 2013. A source said Fahmy’s fingerprint access was rescinded after the former commissioner continued to come to the office for a few minutes every day.

Fahmy was alleged to have called a female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”it won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

According to local media, the woman told her family about the incident, who then called Fahmy. Fahmy then sent her a text message apologising for the incident, reportedly stating, ”I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations, Fahmy told Minivan News previously that the female staff member had made up the allegation after she learned she had not won a scholarship to Singapore offered by the CSC.

Correction: this article previously said that President Yameen had appointed Fahmy as high commissioner to Malaysia. This is incorrect. The president had only nominated Fahmy’s name.

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Manager found guilty of sexual harassment let off with warning

A manager at the state-owned Hulhumalé Development Corporation (HDC) has been found guilty of sexually harassing a female employee, but has been spared with a warning.

The HDC’s human resources manager Mirshan Ahmed was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to an employee who had joined the company in March.

He had suggested she was hired for her looks and told her he would penalize her when she did not respond to his messages.

According to newspaper Haveeru, Mirshan admitted to sending the inappropriate texts at a review committee.

The HDC deputy managing director Mohamed Shahid told Minivan News today that Mirshan has been warned, and said the HDC has decided to renew the female employee’s contract.

Speaking to Minivan News previously, the employee said HDC had declined to renew her contract when she raised the allegations of sexual harassment.

She said she then sent an email to all HDC staff with proof of Mirshan’s inappropriate remarks. The HDC subsequently fired the assistant director of marketing and suspended an IT officer for a “security breach.”

Shahid today said the HDC has reinstated the marketing staff and cancelled the suspension of the IT staff.

According to a law passed in May 2014, government offices must set up internal committees to investigate complaints of workplace harassment within 60 days. The committee is authorized to warn, suspend or dismiss the perpetrator.

The HDC employee who had filed sexual harassment charges told Minivan News that Ahmed regularly commented on her clothes and her hair.

“He once messaged me saying I should thank him for this job. He said he saw my picture on my application form and hired me because I looked so pretty,” she said.

“Maybe because I am a single mother, he once told me that I am a ‘buy-one-get-one free’ deal.”

When she first complained to her colleagues about the harassment, she was advised to stay silent and warned that she may lose her job.

However, she lodged a complaint with the senior management after other female employees shared similar experiences of harassment from Mirshan.

Minivan News was unable to reach the employee for comment at the time of going to press.

Aerial photo of Hulhumalé by Nattu Adnan

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‘Hired for my looks': HDC employee alleges sexual harassment

This article is by Farah Ahmed

A former employee at the state-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has said she was subjected to sexual harassment by a senior staff who once allegedly told her she had been hired for her looks.

The employee, who had started work at the HDC’s legal department in March, said the company’s human resource manager Mirshan Ahmed had sent her inappropriate text messages and regularly commented on her clothes and her hair.

The harassment began the first week she started work.

“He once messaged me saying I should thank him for this job. He said he saw my picture on my application form and hired me because I looked so pretty.”

When she did not respond to his text messages, he allegedly threatened to muddy her work record.

“One of his messages said: “from now on I’ll only be there for you’. And when I didn’t respond, he sent a message saying ‘I’ll be bad to you only. I’ll put this on your profile’,” she told Minivan News.

“Maybe because I am a single mother, he once told me that I am a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ deal.”

HDC deputy managing director Mohamed Shahid said the issue is under investigation and declined to comment further.

Newspapers Haveeru and Vaguthu have meanwhile said the Economic and Youth Council at the president’s office has tabled the issue and discussed penalties.

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

Inappropriate texts

When the female employee, who wished to remain anonymous, first complained to her colleagues about the harassment, she was advised to stay silent and warned she may lose her job.

However, other female employees soon began sharing their own experiences of harassment by Mirshan.

Some told her several had been fired before for raising the issue.

“Once, at a meeting with office staff, he told a woman who was about to sit, that she couldn’t fit in to the couch with her friend because her butt was too big – so it wasn’t just me who was being harassed. This has clearly been an on-going thing.”

She lodged a complaint with the senior management and an internal committee was set up to review her claim. But when her three-month probation expired on June 4, she was dismissed.

“I was told to go home. There were no formal letters at first. They told me my probation period was over and that I was just a replacement for someone who had to be moved to a different department – they didn’t tell me this when they employed me. Despite the harassment, I liked my job – I even told them I’d work for free.”

The committee has since decided to reinstate her job. But the HDC managing director Mohamed Simon has ignored the order, she alleged.

“When I finally got my termination letter, it said that they did not have the budget to keep an extra employee in my department and that’s why they were letting me go. I felt that I was being dismissed for personal reasons just because I actually spoke out about this,” she said.

She then sent an email from her work email account to all HDC employees with copes of her termination letter and chat-logs demonstrating Mirshan’s inappropriate comments.

HDC fired the assistant director of marketing and suspended an IT officer for “a security breach.”

Minivan News was not able to contact Simon at the time of going to press.

The parliament in May passed a law against sexual harassment, which mandates government offices to investigate complaints of workplace harassment within 60 days.

The review committee can warn, suspend or dismiss the perpetrator.

This article previously said an HDC assistant director of marketing was suspended for an alleged security breach. This is incorrect, he was dismissed.

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Police investigating a case of sexual harassment against a student

Police have started investigating a case of sexual harassment perpetrated by a teacher of Naavaidhoo school against a student.

Haa Dhaal Atoll Naavaidhoo Island Council have informed local media that the case was lodged at the police on Tuesday night (August 26).

The victim is reported to be a 12-year-old girl studying in the sixth grade at Naavaidhoo school.

School Principal Ali Shareef Mohamed told local media that no action has yet been taken against the accused teacher by school authorities.

While police confirmed that they are currently investigating the case, they declined to provide further details based on the nature of the case.

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Two arrested from Hulhumalé youth show

Police arrested two men aged 19 and 20 at a music show dubbed “Youth for the Nation” held at Hulhumalé last night, reports Sun Online.

While one was arrested on suspicion of drug use, police said the second suspect was arrested for allegedly harassing a girl at the show.

The show was also held in Malé. It was reportedly organised by a group of youth with the aim of airing and addressing concerns and grievances of young people

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Suspected Facebook harasser hands himself in after manhunt

A man alleged to have posted nude pictures of women on his Facebook profile has handed himself to the police after a manhunt was declared.

Mohamed Ibrahim, 25 years, of Haa Dhaal atoll Kulhudhuffushi Island is also accused of posting profane comments and defaming government offices on his Facebook profile.

The police publicized Ibrahim’s details after he refused to cooperate with an investigation. When the police called him on the telephone, Ibrahim refused to give his current address.

The police then sought an arrest warrant from the Kulhudhuffushi Magistrate Court and declared a manhunt.

Ibrahim handed himself to the police last night.

The police declined to reveal details of how many women were affected and which government bodies had been defamed.

“We take these type of cases very seriously,” a police media official told Minivan News.

Speaking to Minivan News on Wednesday, the police said they lacked resources in tracking those behind cyber harassment, but said they would take action if there were any credible evidence of the identities of those involved.

In 2011, the police arrested 14 individuals including a minor for alleged involvement in blackmailing people after acquiring nude pictures and videos of them through Facebook.

Police discovered “hundreds of nude pictures and videos of Maldivians” in the laptops and external hard drives of those arrested.

“While some of the pictures were taken of people while drunk, other pictures were taken without the consent of the persons,” the police said.

In 2012, the Maldives Police Services set up a cyber crime department, but have called for a law to facilitate investigations of cyber crimes.

Cyber harassment and threats of violence has become common in the Maldives. Individuals who have received cyber threats of violence have been physically attacked.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has urged the public to report online harassment or threats of violence.

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Parliament passes sexual harassment and sexual offences bills

Parliament passed the sexual harassment bill and sexual offences bill yesterday (April 27).

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Rozaina Adam – chair of the committee that evaluated the sexual harassment bill – told Minivan News that while the passage of the legislation was a positive step, there was still a lot of work to be done on combating the internalised effects of sexual harassment.

The sexual harassment bill was submitted in January 2013 by Rozaina, and aims to ensure gender discrimination is made illegal at workplaces, educational institutes, and other service providers such as hospitals.

“Previously there was no law or any regulation from which they could seek help. I think now the women have a place to go,” she explained.

If ratified by the president, the new law would mandate the creation of a committee to investigate sexual harassment complaints at all workplaces with more than 30 employees.

The committees shall be chaired the by the head of the respective offices and must include at least one female members.

If the committee finds an employee guilty of sexual harassment at the workplace following an inquiry, it will be empowered to advise the offender verbally or in writing, suspend him, demote him, or dismiss him based on the severity of the offence.

Rozaina however suggested that women would “still not be complaining” despite the introduction of an internal mechanism to address complaints.

“People have come to accept that this is just something that just happens,” she said.

She however said that the legislation would “create awareness,” contending that not enough was done in implementation of similar laws such as the anti-domestic violence law.

“Police are not taking domestic violence seriously enough,” she argued.

Rozaina recalled the story of one woman – whose experiences reflect the reality for many – as she attempted speak out about the sexual abuses inflicted against her.

“She was waiting outside for me,” recounted Rozaina, “she told me she complained to police about ex-husband beating her, and raping her. When I went to case, they hadn’t even done anything about it.”

“They are not giving enough importance to these cases, we need to create more awareness.”

Cooperation from police seems to be “declining”, she added, “they don’t feel it’s an important issue.”

“I just hope that everyone cooperates and more women report these cases in domestic violence. The main issue is talking and reporting, so very few people report.”

Sexual offences

The two bills – which support both men and women who are victims of sexual abuse – were submitted independently of each other.

The sexual offences bill – which called for recognition of marital rape as a crime – was first submitted in October 2012 and was vetoed by President Abdulla Yameen in January 2014.

“The bill contained some provisions that are contrary to Islamic Shariah and Islamic principles was among the reasons considered for returning the bill,” the President’s Office stated at the time.

The contentious bill was drafted and submitted in October 2012 by now-Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed wrote in the draft legislation that it was not intended to replace Shariah, explaining that it did not preclude application of a Shariah penalty for an offence specified in the bill.

Previous reports of police apathy

Minivan News has previously spoken with foreign women from diverse nationalities working in Maldives who came forward and reported various attacks, ranging from verbal abuse to physical and sometimes sexual assaults.

Katie*, a 34-year-old American who has worked in Male’ for almost a year, was subject to a horrific incident last month when a local man sexually assaulted her while she was unlocking the door of her apartment.

Neighbours who heard her screams called the police, and around five to six officers arrived on the scene with a forensic team.

However, according to Katie, the police did not take her statement until three weeks later and then got the details of the attack completely wrong.

“The police had stated my necklace was stolen. It broke off during the attack, I still have it. The attacker must have known the necklace I was wearing was not gold because it was made of multi-colored beads,” Katie pointed out.

She added that she had later found out from CCTV camera owners nearby her house that the police had not requested the footage or interviewed neighbours for clues. Frustrated over the lack of police assistance, she called the US embassy.

“I don’t think they would have even taken the statement if the American Embassy had not called them,” Katie claimed.

The Police department was not issuing statements to Minivan News at the time of publishing.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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