PPM supports nation-wide alcohol ban “if the government has the courage”

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP and Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf has said that “if the government has the courage to ban alcohol and pork across the country, PPM will support it.”

However, speaking at a press conference yesterday he claimed that protesters never called to ban alcohol in the resorts.

PPM’s statement follows the government’s announcement that it is closing all spas and massage parlors and is considering banning pork and alcohol nation-wide in response to the thousands of protestors who attended the religious rally on December 23 to defend Islam.

Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol and pork. Protest leaders including Jumhoree Party Leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yamin, all resort owners or share-holders who profit from such sales, asserted that there was no moderate, higher or lower Islam but rather “only Islam, which is above all religions.”

Thasmeen later reiterated to Minivan News that the protest was religious only, and intended to show that the people are “deeply concerned” about the dischord between the government’s policies and Islam.

Protestors interviewed by Minivan News expressed a desire for “100 percent Islam”, and claimed that President Mohamed Nasheed was against “flogging, stoning and hand amputation…That means he’s not following Islam. He wants music, he wants adultery and alcoholism to takeover us.”

Although no official statistics have been released, the opposition has claimed that its goal of 100,000 participants nation-wide was reached. Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson and former State Islamic Minister Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed subsequently called on the President to “accept the people’s voices.”

The government has subsequently taken steps to address the coalition’s five official demands.

This week the parliamentary National Security Committee forwarded a resolution prohibiting Israeli airline El Al to operate in the Maldives. If approved by Parliament, the resolution would address the coalition’s request that Israeli flights not be allowed to operate in the country.

The coalition has also requested the government to “close the spas and massage parlors and such places where prostitution is conducted”.

Today, the Tourism Ministry issued a circular ordering resorts to shut down spa and massage parlor operations.

Gassim’s Royal Island Resort this week sued the government when it ordered spas in five of his resorts to close on allegations of prostitution.

In response to the request to remove the SAARC monuments on allegations that they are “un-Islamic”, the government has said the decision falls under the remit of the Addu City Council.

Addu City Council earlier told Minivan News it is considering removing them to a secure, interior location as only three of the original seven monuments have not been damaged or stolen.

Regarding the policy on selling alcohol on uninhabited islands, the government recently noted that only 200 people live in some less populous islands, but 400-500 citizens live in the tourist resorts, therefore the government is considering banning alcohol nation-wide.

However in a joint press conference held today by the coalition, religious party Adhaalath’s President Sheikh Imran Abdullah alleged that the government is attempting to aggravate them by “misinterpreting the demands” and instead “making excuses”.

Claiming that “the time for excuses is over”, Imran warned that the government has until January 5 to complete the demands, or otherwise the coalition would take action again.

Directly following the protest the coalition announced that there was no deadline, but indicated that they would be monitoring the government’s reaction to the demands.

“If the government continues to make excuses without fulfilling the demands made by the large number of people [at the December 23 rally], the government will have to pay the price,” Imran said.

Spokesperson for the NGO coalition Abdullah Mohamed further alleged that the government is targeting the protestors and announced a sixth demand, calling the government to “stop causing harm to anyone who participates in the religious movement”.

Meanwhile, opposition DRP Deputy Leader Mavota Mohamed Shareef said the party would do everything it could to make the government enforce the demands.

Spokespersons from Adhaalath Party, PPM, JP, and NGO Salaf had not responded to repeated phone calls at time of press.


Fantasy fines official, health head remains at post, says Mayor

Male’ City Council’s Trade Section has fined Fantasy Bakers Rf 6500 (US$420) for selling goods produced with expired products, City Mayor Ali Manik has confirmed.

Earlier today, local media Haveeru reported that Council Health Section Manager Hassan ‘Jambu’ Afeef had ‘unofficially’ issued the Rf 6,500 fine, and was consequently stripped of his duties.

However Manik told Minivan News today that Afeef had not been removed from his duties.

“They are trying to damage my reputation,” Afeef claimed. “Currently I am on vacation and I will not respect any decision to suspend me.”

“Hassan is still with us, of course, he has not left his duties,” said the Mayor, who was puzzled by the question. “The Rf 6,500 fine was approved by the Council, so of course it is official.”

The Mayor said an additional Rf100,000 (US$6500) fine from the City Council may be “issued after the court case”, for which police are currently conducting an investigation of Bakers Fantasy on the Prosecutor General’s order.

The Mayor could not say if the court would also issue a fine to the company.

Speaking today to Minivan News, Afeef said media reports were “incorrectly based on false information provided by certain council members.”

“The council decided to fine Fantasy for Rf100,000. Officials from the Trade Section subsequently went to Fantasy and reduced the fine to Rf 6,500,” he said. “It was not me, and it should be noted that some of the council’s members are not very responsible and are not even not cooperating with responsible members of the council.”

He said the decision to reduce the fine to Rf ,500 was made by him, and that some council members are “generally uninformed of council activities.”

“I was told that I am attempting to damage a business and that it would give a bad name to the Fantasy stores when I brought the issue to the council,”’ he said. “I said ‘I’m working for the people,’ and that it was the citizens who eat the products and it is my responsibility to stop it.’”

Afeef said media had been informed of the council’s statements on the Fantasy issue and that council members responsible had since apologised to him.

“They called me and said I was right about the Fantasy issue and the next day they wanted to erase the minutes of that meeting, but I did not allow this,” he said. “I am an MDP councilor. If they taking a salary from the citizens’ money, they should be sincere to the citizens. This a setup to damage my reputation and good name,” Afeef claimed.

Afeef reiterated that he remains fully employed as head of the Council’s Health Section, which he said the President and First Lady regarded “as an important social institution.”

Bakers Fantasy was closed on October 28 by Male’ City Council. The council subsequently inspected three storehouses and Aioli Restaurant, which is owned by Fantasy Pvt. Ltd. Expired products were found in two of three storehouses, however Aioli was found clean.

Fantasy Store was closed by police for two days on November 7 while police searched for expired goods, but was re-opened in order to protect business operations. Police intervened after the store had ignored an order from Community Health Services, which has legal authority to order temporary closures.

Fantasy shops are known for imported products and quality produce, and are popular among locals and expatriates.


Police alleged to have used tear gas in Masodige raid

The mother of a man who was arrested in a police raid on Galolhu Masodige on Friday night has claimed that officers threw a two tear gas canisters into a house containing a three month old child and a five year old girl.

Fahmeedha Shakeeb alleged police entered the building without a court warrant to arrest her son, Ihusaanudheen Rasheed, for alleged assault of a 23 year old man.

”The police force arrived at Masodige to arrest my son and broke into the house,” she claimed. “My son asked them whether they had a court warrant to enter the house, but they said they did not so my son asked them to leave the house if they did not have a warrant.”

Shakeeb claimed police officers then threw a tear gas canister into the building despite her protestations that there were women and small children in the building.

“My son came downstairs and surrendered himself to the police. [During the fighting afterwards] the officers attacked him and his friends who were inside the house, using batons and pepper spray inside the house,” she said. “After he was taken outside the house along with his friends who were also arrested, an officer threw another tear gas canister into the house which affected my three month old grandchild, a five year old girl and their mother.”

She claimed the baby was already in a critical medical condition after being born prematurely, and had to be taken to the hospital after the incident.

”The five year-old also had breathing difficulties, she vomited that night and the police actions had caused her to suffer distress, imagine what it would be like to a child to see a police force armed with batons,” she said.

Shakeeb alleged that police had a “personal grudge” against Ihusan after he resigned from the police force.

Police have previously raided the property in relation to stabbing incidents in Male’, and in June last year knocked down the exterior wall after allegedly discovering a cache of weapons.

”We have been raided police for more than once, but what can we do, because we are poor people nobody cares, the police do whatever they want to do,” Shakeeb claimed. “I did not say anything to the police, but all I said was that they cannot enter the house if they did not have a court warrant.”

Shakeeb claimed that last time police arrived at the house to arrest her son she tried to clarify what happened and when she questioned a police officer she was pushed to the ground.

”After that I don’t go near police officers who come to raid our house, they will do whatever they want and we cannot do anything,” she claimed.

She also alleged that the police officers used foul language in front of the children, and that one of the officers referred to her as ”Nagoobalha” .

A witness to the raid also told Minivan News that police threw tear gas canisters into the house while the children were inside.

”A Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Councillor carried the baby to his house, and a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer passing by also stopped by and told the police that they should not do that, he was in MNDF official uniform,” the witness said.

”That happened near my house and I was there too, I saw injured people being dragged out of Masodige and thrown into a police vehicle,” he said.

Another person familiar with the matter told Minivan News that a police officer who was a close friend of Masodi gang phoned him while Ihusan was taken to Dhoonidhoo on a police speed boat, and alleged that police were about to give Ihusan an electric shock “to control him”.

”The police officer later told me that he fainted on the boat after the electric shock and was taken to hospital,” the person alleged.

A police source told Minivan News that the use of electricity to subdue Ihusan was “definitely not true” as there were no such electrical devices available to officers.

The source said that officers were called to the scene to “rescue” a 23-year-old man who was being attacked, allegedly by members of the Masodi gang. The three officers were attacked on arrival, and called for reinforcements. The reinforcements were also attacked, and resorted to using tear gas.

The police source could not confirm that tear gas had been used.

In addition, the source said that it was not necessary to have a court order to enter a property in such a situation, “as police are well within their right to use force when attacked.”

The source said no reports of a woman or child being affected by the raid had been received, but if there were any involved who wished to file a complaint could approach a number of services, including the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

Twelve individuals were arrested during in the raid, including three minors. The source said the minors might have been associated with the Masodi gang.

The source also told Minivan News that three police officers were injured in the raid, and that one officer was subsequently sent abroad for medical treatment.

Head of the Police Integrity Commission Shahindha Ismail told Minivan News that the commission had received no complaints regarding the raid. The family affected said they had no intention to make a complaint.