World’s largest floating book fair docks in Malé

Additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

The Logos Hope – dubbed the “world’s largest floating book fair” – operated by the German Christian charitable organization GBA Ships is currently visiting the Maldives as part of the vessel’s tour around the world.

According to the Logos Hope website, the original Logos had visited the country forty years ago – in 1973.

“Many in the Maldives still remember stepping on board Logos as children in 1973 or the visit of Doulos in 1998,” read a statement released on the group’s website.

“It is very special that we can return after many years with a bigger ship,” Logos Hope Director Lloyd Nicholas was quoted as saying.

“It’s a newer ship but still with the same purpose, same good books and with a desire to serve in the countries Logos Hope visits.” He added.

Beginning life as a car ferry in 1973, the vessel spent its first 30 operating ferry services around northern Europe and Scandinvia, before being bought and refurbished by GBA Ships in 2003 .

After the completion of renovations in 2009, the Logos Hope has travelled the globe – taking in the Caribbean, the Middle East and South East Asia – promoting GBA’s goal of spreading education and quality literature.

GBA – Gute Bücher für Alle or ‘Good Books for All’ – claims to have welcomed over 42 million people in 150 countries aboard its numerous vessels since 1970, making 1400 ports of call, and offering training to around 10,000 young people.

An official reception was held yesterday to open the book fair which was attended by Minister of Youth & Sports, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, as well as other senior government officials

A large number of Maldivians were seen boarding the ship and buying books as well as enjoying the cheap coffee available at the ship’s International Cafe’ – staffed by the Logos Hope’s all-volunteer crew.

Minivan News observed that all purchases made from the ship were checked by customs official present, before being taken out of the ship. According to an official on the Vessel, all purchases above MVR6,000 (US$389.10) were subject to custom duties.

Some book shelves on board had been sealed off, making their content unavailable to Maldivian visitors. GBA normally makes Christian literature available to shoppers, however, materials deemed “offensive to Islam” are prohibited in the Maldives.

According to the organisation’s website, Logos Hopes book fair will be open to the public until the evening of Friday, December 20. The ship is docked in Malé’s commercial harbour area.


Opposition MP files four misconduct cases against Judge Abdulla Mohamed

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has filed four cases of judicial-misconduct against the former Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The MDP in a statement (dhivehi) published on its official website claimed that the four cases filed against the judge had been based upon his misconduct during Hamid’s recent criminal trial.

Last October, Judge Abdulla Mohamed handed Hamid a six-month imprisonment sentence for his failure to comply with court summons in a case in which he faced charges of refusing to cooperate with the police.

However, Hamid’s conviction was quashed on appeal by the High Court, which held that the Criminal Court had not followed the established procedures in attempting to summon the MP to the court.

The High Court, in overturning the case, also reiterated that the Parliamentary Privileges Act at the time of Criminal Court’s issuance of the guilty verdict did not allow an MP to be summoned to court while parliament was in session.

In late November, the Supreme Court annulled several articles of the Privileges Act, including the clause that required all MPs – regardless of criminal conviction – to be present during votes. The Supreme Court’s move had prompted Hamid’s relocation from house arrest to Maafushi jail.

In the misconduct cases filed at the JSC – the state’s judicial watchdog responsible for disciplining judges – the Henveiru-South constituency MP accused Abdulla Mohamed of displaying outright rudeness towards him, stereotyping him as a criminal, publicly defaming him, and attempting to “politically” destroy him.

The MDP’s statement meanwhile added that Hamid intends to file more cases concerning the judges alleged misdemeanors,  including the fact that he had refused to provide a copy of the arrest warrant issued against Hamid.

Ghafoor was quoted in the statement claiming that he had only been able to receive the arrest warrant three day after the expiry of the warrant.

He also accused of the Judge of assisting the police to publicly broadcast his photograph in the media and implying him as a hard-lined criminal on the loose.

Controversies surrounding Judge Abdulla Mohamed

Shortly after the case, the JSC announced the transfer of Judge Abdulla from his position as Chief Judge of Criminal Court to the Chief Judge of the Drug Court as part of the commission’s shuffling of nine superior court judges.

In January 2012 Judge Abdulla was taken into military detention during the final days of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration after then-Home Minister Hassan Afeef had accused him of “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist”.

Nasheed’s administration listed 14 cases of judicial misconduct concerning the judge that included obstruction of police duty – including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations, disregarding precedents set forth by higher courts, deliberately holding up cases involving then-opposition figures, and barring media from corruption trials.

He was also accused by the Nasheed government of releasing of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing” and maintaining “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.

The controversial judge was also thrust into the media limelight after he released a murder suspect “in the name of holding the health minister accountable”. The suspect later went on to kill a witness to the case.

The JSC earlier in November 2011 found Judge Abdulla guilty of violating the Judges Code of Ethics by making a politically biased statement in an interview he gave to private broadcaster DhiTV.

However, the JSC’s attempt to take action against him ended in vain after the Civil Court overruled the decision – later supported by the High Court.

Minivan News was unable to get a confirmation from the JSC regarding Hamid’s case – Secretary General Abu Bakuru was not responding to calls at time of press.


Parliamentary constituencies increase from 77 to 85

With additional reporting by Ahmed Rilwan

The Elections Commission, in its ‘Final Report on Electoral Constituencies of 2014 Parliamentary Elections’ (Dhivehi), have formally announced the creation of eight new parliamentary constituencies for the upcoming 2014 parliamentary elections.

The change means the number of MPs elected to the country’s eighteenth parliament will consist of 85 elected members of parliament.

The Maldives’ current unicameral parliament consists of 77 MPs who were elected in May 2009, replacing the previous 50 member parliament following the ratification of the new constitution in August 2008.

According to the new report, an additional constituency has been created in Addu City, Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Noonu Atoll, Alif Dhaalu Atoll, Thaa Atoll and Gaaf Dhaalu Atoll while two new constituencies have been created in Capital Male’ City.

New Constituencies

According to the report, two administrative wards of Male’ City, Villimale and Hulhumale – which are geographically separate islands from Male Island – have now been declared as two separate constituencies.

From Haa Dhaalu Atoll, a new ‘Makunudhoo Constituency’ is formed to include the islands of Makunudhoo, Kumundhoo and Neykurendhoo.  From Noonu Atoll, a new ‘Holhudhoo Constituency’ is formed to include the islands of Miladhoo, Holhudhoo and Magoodhoo.

From Alif Dhaalu Atoll, a new ‘Dhan’gethi Constituency’ is formed to include the islands of Dhidhoo, Mandhoo, Dhigurah, Dhan’gethi and Omadhoo.

From Thaa Atoll, a new constituency ‘Thaa Guraidhoo Constituency’ is formed to include islands of Guraidhoo, Gaadhiffushi and Dhiyamigili.

From Gaaf Dhaalu Atoll, the existing Thinadhoo Constituency is split into two new constituencies the ‘Thinadhoo North Constituency and the Thinadhoo South Constituency – following an increment of the island’s population within the past five years.

From Addu City, the existing Hulhu-Meedhoo Constituency was split into two new constituencies, the new ‘Hulhudhoo Constituency’ for the ward of Hulhudhoo and ‘Addu Meedhoo Constituency’ for the wards of Meedhoo and Maradhoo-Feydhoo of Addu City.

Naming of constituencies

Furthermore, several islands which constitutes to current constituencies in parliament have been switched to other constituencies to balance the population representation of each of the constituencies.

According to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2009, two parliamentary seats must be allotted for the first 5,000 people who are permanently registered in every single registered-population – that may or may not include more than one island to form the figure – and one additional parliamentary seat for every additional 5,000 people.

The law also requires the electoral constituencies to be formed based on the twenty-one administrative regions including Male’ as the primary registered-populations.

Elections Commission furthermore states that each constituency have been named after the island in the constituency that has the largest population.

However due to two islands in different atolls having the same name, the similarly named constituencies have now been named including the atoll of which the constituency belongs to.

For example, the report claimed, two constituencies, one in Kaafu Atoll and the other in Thaa Atoll, have a constituency named ‘Guraidhoo Constituency’.

To avoid any confusions, the constituencies have now been renamed to include the first Dhivehi letter of the atoll which the constituency belongs, thereby the Guraidhoo Constituency in Thaa Atoll is renamed “Thaa Guraidhoo Constituency” and the one in Kaafu Atoll is renamed as “Kaafu Guraidhoo Constituency”, the report stated.

Increased expenditure on MP’s pay

Following a salary revision after the parliamentary elections 2009 that saw the base salary of an MP raised to MVR 62,500 (US$ 4,053) and a further inclusion of an additional MVR 20,000 (US$ 1,297) as committee allowance, a Maldivian MP currently earns a total of MVR 82,500 (US$ 5,350) – a sum which is far more than many of the other developed countries.

The parliament therefore spends approximately MVR 6,352,500 (US$ 411,964.98) per month on remunerations of MPs meaning approximately MVR 76.23 million (US$ 4.94 million) is spent on wages per year.

The new increment on number of MPs could mean that approximately MVR 7,012,500 (US$ 454,766.54) would be spent per month as salaries for 85 MPs – an increment of MVR 660,000 (US$ 42,801) spent on MP’s wages.

This means MVR 84.15 million (US$ 5.45 million) would be spent per year – an increment of MVR 7.92 million (US$ 513,612) per year.

Previously, MPs’ decision to increase their own remunerations – including a back pay of committee allowances –  were met by harsh criticism from both the public and local NGO’s leading to public protests.

Aiman Rasheed of local NGO, Transparency Maldives – one of the key local NGO’s who expressed concerns over the pay hike – told Minivan News at the time that the pay rise was symptomatic of “inherent problems in the entire system.”

“With such a high budget deficit and high inflation, we do not accept that the hike [in remuneration] is at all responsible,” he said at the time.

The matter resulted in a Civil Court case which was later dismissed.

In order to tackle the increased expenditure due to expansion of the parliamentary composition, government aligned Maldivian Development Alliance MP Ahmed ‘Aims’ Amir proposed a constitutional amendment that would prevent any further increase of parliament’s size.

However, the bill still remains pending in parliament.


Committee investigating supreme court judge’s sex-tape requests suspension

The sub-committee formed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to investigate the alleged sex-tape scandal of Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed has again requested for the suspension of the judge after his refusal to cooperate with the investigation.

“We have sent the request to the JSC to suspend Ali Hameed after the members of the committee found the need to suspend him. We don’t know whether commission would do it or not,” a member of the committee was quoted saying in the local media.

Speaking to Minivan News, a JSC member confirmed that a request had been received to the commission but had not yet made a formal decision regarding the request.

Local newspaper Haveeru has reported that the committee’s request for suspension of the judge was also due to challenges facing the commission – from both the JSC and the Supreme Court – due to Hameed remaining as sitting judge.

Furthermore, local media claimed that Judge Hameed had turned down requests made by the commission to come in for questioning.

Previous call for suspension

Last July, a similar call by the same committee to suspend the disgraced judge was disregarded by the full commission, who questioned the committee’s basis for such a request.

Judge Hameed was able to survive the committee’s attempt to suspend him after four JSC members voted against the recommendation.

The four members included President Mohamed Waheed’s Attorney General Azima Shukoor and his representee Latheefa Gasim – a member of the committee who supported the suspension in committee before later changing her mind.

The other dissenting members were then-parliament’s representative to the commission, resort tycoon and MP Gasim Ibrahim – who later lost his seat at the JSC following his decision to contest the 2013 presidential elections and then-Chair of the Civil Service Commission, Mohamed Fahmy Hassan. Fahmy had been dismissed by parliament in a late 2012 no-confidence motion over allegations of sexual harassment, before being reinstated by the Supreme Court in March 2013.

All four members defending Hameed said that there was “lack of sufficient evidence” to suspend him.

Police Investigation

Earlier this December, local media reported that police had sent a letter to the JSC in which it claimed the sex-tape probe had been stalled due to Criminal Court’s failure to provide key search warrants central to ascertaining Judge Hameed’s depiction in the videos.

The police had allegedly sought two warrants, one being an authorisation from the court allowing police to take a facial photograph of Judge Hameed for comparative analysis, and the second being a search warrant of Hameed’s residence.

Neither the police nor the JSC have confirmed the existence of this letter, though the police have publicly noted similar difficulties in its investigation without mentioning warrant requests.

Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz told media earlier this month that the police had been awaiting some key information from abroad regarding the case.

“We believe once we get this information [from abroad], more doors will be opened and more clues to the case will be revealed, to enhance our investigations,” Nawaz said at the time.

In sum, Nawaz admitted that efforts had not been fruitful in determining the participants, let alone whether it was Hameed seen fornicating with multiple foreign women inside the hotel room.

The sex-tape

Spy-cam footage allegedly depicting the Supreme Court Judge indulging in different sexual acts with multiple foreign women surfaced on local media last July.

In one such video, time-stamped January 24 2013, showed the judge fraternising with a topless woman with an eastern European accent. At one point the figure alleged to be the judge – who was only wearing a white underwear –  leans into the camera, making his face clearly visible.

Afterwards, the woman repeatedly encourages the man to drink wine from a mini-bar. “If I drink that I will be caught. I don’t want to be caught,” the man insists, refusing.

The case rose to prominence once more after the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the first round of the presidential elections in October.

Images and symbols depicting scenes from the sex-tape formed a prominent part of protests against the court’s repeated interference in the election.

The videos appeared shortly after a film – also involving Judge Hameed – began circulating on social media in which the Supreme Court Judge appeared to be discussing political influence in the judiciary with a local businessman.

The appearance of the videos also coincided with the arrest and release of Ahmed Faiz – a council member of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party and the then-project advisor at the Housing Ministry – while he was allegedly trying to sell a sex-tape of the judge.

As of yet, despite public circulation of the videos and widespread media coverage on the scandal, Judge Ali Hameed still continues to sit in the Supreme Court.

He had been one of the four judges who formed the majority ruling in the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the initial first round of the 2013 presidential election as well as the ruling that unseated two opposition MPs over a controversial case of undecreed debt.


Criminal Procedure Code Bill to include strong measures against hard-line offenders

The Chair of Parliament’s National Security Committee, MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has said that the Criminal Procedure Code bill currently being drafted in parliament will include strong measures to protect witnesses and ensure successful prosecutions.

The Hulhu-Henveiru constituency MP told local media that the parliament’s National Security Committee – charged with reviewing the bill – had decided to restrict the rights of those accused of major crimes as well as introducing strict procedures during criminal investigations.

Among the measures to be made part of the legislation include setting a limit for the maximum detention period of such suspect, reducing the right to remain silent and the right to obtain legal counsel while in custody.

Furthermore, Moosa said that the bill, once ratified, would make it mandatory for a suspect to consent to urine tests and DNA tests, as well as submitting fingerprint and handwriting samples.

Moosa said that the National Security Committee members have also agreed that 135 days ought to be the maximum period a person can be detained by police for criminal investigations.

Under the new provisions included in the bill, explained Moosa, police would be expected to conclude investigations and file for prosecution within a 60 day period, while the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office must press charges within a 15-day period.

“The bill also allows suspects of major criminal offences to be placed under custody during police investigation and up until the trial is over,” Moosa told local media.

Mandatory tests and restrictions on right to remain silent

The Criminal Procedure Code bill was originally proposed during the 16th parliament session under former ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, before being re-submitted by President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration during the next session.

The bill has been pending in parliament for the past five years, with the legislature coming under heavy fire from NGO’s and the public over the delay, particularly during the record high number of murder cases in the past three years that included the murder of former MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

The Criminal Procedure Code bill identifies terrorism, murder and manslaughter, causing grievous bodily harm, offenses against minors, drug trafficking, money laundering and other similar acts as major criminal offences.

Those accused of less serious offences may be kept in detention for a period of 70 days – which includes 30 days for criminal investigations, 10 days for prosecution, and an additional 30 days to conclude the trial.

Moosa argued that, although the right to remain silent is enshrined in the constitution, no criminal suspect should have the liberty to refuse to undergo urine and DNA testing, which he argued would prove to be central for prosecutions.

“We believe the right to remain silent and consenting to taking urine and body samples are two different things.  This is the practice in all developed countries,” Moosa claimed.

Earlier this year opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor was sentenced to six-months in jail after he refused to cooperate with the courts investigation into an alleged refusal to provide a urine sample. The High Court, however, quashed his conviction on the grounds that the Criminal Court had not followed due process when deeming him guilty.

Witness protection

In order to safeguard possible witnesses to a crime, the committee members have also agreed to bar those accused of major crimes from privately meeting attorneys and family for a period of 36 hours from the time of arrest – a decision supported by both the police and the judiciary.

Both High Court Judge Abbas Shareef and Criminal Court Judge Muhuthaaz Muhsin have spoken in favor of such a provision during the committee’s discussions, which have also seen contributions from the PG’s Office, Human Rights Commission (HRCM), and the police.

“In 80 percent of the murder cases, witnesses were tempered through threatening and intimidation, after the accused meets with his lawyers and family members. This is something that is being talked about and this is how it is done,” Judge Muhsin told the committee.

Meanwhile High Court Judge Shareef told the committee that in some jurisdictions a suspect of a major criminal offence is denied of the right to obtain legal counsel or to meet their family and relatives for a period of three days, while in others family and relatives are not even informed of the suspect’s location.

“In some US States, [such a suspect] is not even at all allowed to meet family or obtain legal counsel. There are countries which have laws that allow a suspect’s location of detention be made confidential for a period of 72 hours,” Shareef explained.

HRCM member Jeehan Mahmood objected to the provisions, however, citing violations of fundamental human rights.


JSC to disregard chief justice’s objection to transferring judges

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) – the state watch-dog of the judiciary – has today (December 12) decided to disregard the letter sent to the commission by the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain objecting to its decision to transfer judges between Superior Courts.

The letter, sent by Chief Justice Faiz on Tuesday to JSC Chair and fellow Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed, stated that the commission’s decision to shuffle superior court judges was not valid as the commission did not have the necessary legal authority.

JSC member MP Ahmed Hamza – the parliament’s representative to the commission – told local media today that the commission members had discussed the letter sent by the chief justice, but the majority held the view that the objections towards the decision lacked any legal grounds.

“Even under the constitution and the JSC Act, the commission is vested with the power to transfer the judges,” Hamza told local newspaper Haveeru.

Speaking to Minivan News, JSC Member Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman confirmed that such the decision.

However, the Secretary General of JSC Abu Bakuru told Minivan News that “although the matter had been discussed by the commission members, the JSC has not yet formally made the decision”.

Chief Justice Faiz in his letter to JSC claimed that, although Article 159(a) gives the JSC the authority to appoint, promote or transfer judges other than those from the Supreme Court, it “must not be interpreted as an absolute right”.

Faiz also contended that the Judges’ Act mandated that any transfer of a judge from his appointed court can only be carried out following deliberation with the Judicial Council – the seven-member bench of the Supreme Court .

List of Transferees

The JSC had earlier decided to shuffle nine judges from the superior courts based in the capital Male’, including the Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed who was to be transferred to the Drug Court.

Judge Abdulla Mohamed has previously been under investigation from the JSC, for allegations of ethical misconduct and obstruction of corruption investigations among others.

Apart from Judge Abdulla Mohamed, the JSC had also planned to transfer Criminal Court Judge Muhuthaaz Fahmy and the Acting Chief Judge of Juvenile Court Mohamed Naeem to the Drug Court.

Meanwhile, Drug Court Judges Mohamed Easa Fulhu and Zubair Mohamed and the Family Court Judge Ibrahim Ali were to be transferred to the Criminal Court.

The JSC also decided to transfer Family Court Judge Hassan Shafeeu to the Civil Court and Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baaree Yoosuf – currently serving an indefinite suspension by the JSC following a case of sexually assaulting a female state prosecutor – was set to be transferred to the Juvenile Court.

Article 159(a) of the Maldives Constitution states that, “The Judicial Services Commission is entrusted with the responsibility and power to appoint, promote and transfer Judges other the Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court, and to make recommendations to the President on the appointment of the Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court”.

Meanwhile Section 49 of the Judges’ Act 2010 refers to temporary transfer of judges from one court to another and states, “Temporary appointment of a Judge to preside over cases in a court will be decided upon by the Judicial Services Commission under the advice of the Judicial Council”.


Finance Ministry’s MVR 300 million budget-support loan “illegal”

A report by the by the Auditor General has revealed that President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration violated finance laws in securing a domestic loan worth MVR300 million (US$ 19.45 million) from the Bank of Maldives (BML) as part of its budget-support program.

The report (dhivehi) – based on the audit published at the Auditor General’s (AG) website last Sunday – claimed then Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad had not obtained the required approval from the president and the parliament.

Jihad has hit back, claiming that the loan was taken to avoid financial disaster. He also suggested that the mandated processes for approving government loans had only been introduced to thwart the MDP government in 2010.

The audit was conducted following a request from the parliament’s Public Finance Committee, after opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer filed the matter at the committee in July 2012.

Section 5 of the Public Finance Act 2006 (as amended in 2010) states that any loan or credit facility which either the government or a government-owned corporation wishes to obtain, can be taken only after presidential and parliamentary approval.

The audit report stated that despite the legal requirement, Jihad – recently reappointed to the same position by the recently elected President Abdulla Yameen – had signed the letter of sanction on May 28, 2012, one day before the request for approval of the loan was sent to President Waheed.

According to the report, Jihad signed the final loan agreement with BML a day later on May 29, 2012.

A measure taken to prevent a financial disaster

In his defense, the Finance Minister has told local media that the loan was taken out of necessity, to prevent the state from financial disaster.

Jihad claimed that during May 2012, the government faced enormous difficulties following a decline in cash flow. By the end of the month in question, the government had almost exhausted its finances, said Jihad.

Furthermore, the minister claimed that he had consulted with President Waheed and decided to take the loan, but that the parliament had gone to recess.

“At that critical time, we had no other option. That was a measure that had to be taken in order to keep the state running. Hadn’t we done that, the state employees would not have been paid the month’s wages. We ought to consider the situation at the time. At that time we weren’t even able to obtain a loan from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA),” Jihad told Haveeru.

Blasting the current requirement of parliamentary approval before taking loans, Jihad claimed that no other modern democratic states followed such a practice. Because of the requirement, the government had lost several loans and had become a disgrace in front of most of the international financial organisations, Jihad added.

He also admitted that the amendment brought to the Public Finance Act in 2010 during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed was intended to disrupt the government’s functioning.

President Nasheed at the time had no choice but to ratify the amendment as his party was outnumbered when the vote was taken in parliament. The then-opposition now comprises most of the current governing coalition.

Jihad also criticized the AG’s report itself: “I am the Minister. But when the report was compiled, [Auditor General] had asked nothing from me. Of what had happened? So how can this report be accurate?”


The report also revealed that although the government had formally sought parliamentary approval of the loan on June 13, 2012, by this date the Finance Ministry had already withdrawn the first tranche – MVR200 million (US$ 12.97 million) out of the MVR300 million.

The government withdrew the remainder on June 20, 2012, the report stated.

Furthermore, the report claimed that in the letter sent to the president by Jihad, approval was sought for the loan with a request that it be made part of the US$65 million (MVR 1 billion) overseas loan that gained parliamentary approval as part of the 2012 national budget.

The report claimed that the conditions for the domestic loan from BML, and that of the proposed US$65 million overseas loan differed significantly.

Among the significant differences highlighted in the report, parliament had approved the US$65 million overseas loan with an interest rate of 2 percent while the BML loan had an interest rate of 9 percent subject to annual reviews.

Furthermore, repayment of the US$65 million loan was to commence within 10 years, while the BML loan required the repayment within just two years.

“Therefore, the loan of MVR300 million taken from the Bank of Maldives in the year 2012 had been taken without the approval of the parliament and the president, disregarding the decisions made by the legislature and the Public Finance Act,” concluded the report.

The Auditor General furthermore requested the authorities to take action against those found responsible for the misconduct.

The current government meanwhile has sought for the approval of a US$29 million (MVR 447 million) budget-support loan that is to be taken from the Bank of Ceylon, for the 2014 state budget.


Government reopens 2006 ‘Namoona Dhoni’ case, filing criminal charges against two activists

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has filed criminal charges against both the former Defense Minister Ameen Faisal and former President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, over their involvement in the 2006 ‘Namoona Dhoni’ incident.

A Criminal Court Media Official was quoted in local media as stating that the court had received the charges from the PG’s Office seven days ago.

The infamous incident involved the expedition of pro-democracy activists from the country’s southernmost atoll in an attempt to join a national demonstration organised by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) during the final years of the Maumoon Abdul Gayoom regime.

Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives returned to power last month after his half-brother Abdulla Yameen defeated MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed in the presidential election.

According to local media, both Ameen Faisal and Abbas Adil Riza are facing the charge of disobeying a lawful order under section 88 of the penal code.

The state has also charged Ameen Faisal with obstructing a state employee from executing his duty under section 86 of the penal code.

Apart from Faisal and Riza, the state has also charged Ali Abdulla, Ibrahim Sabree, Mohamed Azmy, Abdulla Asrar, Ahmed Mohamed, Ahmed Didi – the Captain of Namoona Dhoni – and Shahuruzman Wafir – the owner of Namoona Dhoni – who had all been part of expedition.

Both Abbas Adil Riza and Ameen Faisal – who were pro-reform activists of then-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) at the time – were part the group which set off from Addu Atoll Maradhoo Island on November 6, 2006, to join the opposition-led demonstrations in Male’.

Faisal was president of the MDP’s Malé branch at the time of the incident.

The activists had planned to use the demonstrations to pressure then-government of Maldives thirty-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to speed up the drafting of the constitution.

The state prosecutors in the case claimed that on November 6, 2006, local authorities –  having come to learn of the expedition and the intention to join the anti-government demonstration, had sent a letter to Shahuruzman Wafir – the owner of Namoona Dhoni – ordering him not to embark on the journey.

The letter, according to the prosecution, had stated that “the government had come to learn” of the plot by the activists to set off to Male with the intention to “unlawfully sow discord among the public and to disrupt the public order and therefore orders Shahuruzman Wafir to not let his Dhoni to embark on the journey”.

Despite the letter ordering Shahuruzman Wafir to not allow anyone other that the regular fishermen that regularly used the vessel for fishing, the prosecutors claimed that Wafir had confessed to having accepted and cashed a cheque of MVR 10,000 given by the MDP’s Addu Atoll Office.

The famous ‘Namoona Dhoni’ incident

Despite the orders by the Maradhoo Island Office, the crew of Namoona Dhoni chose to depart to Male with the MDP activists.

The trip to Male was part of the MDP’s Addu wing’s collaboration with a previous resolution passed by the MDP’s National Council calling upon members from across the nation to gather in Male’ for the demonstrations.

Half-way through the journey, approximately three nautical miles away from Gaaf Alif Atoll Kolamaafushi Island, the Coast Guard intercepted the vessel and informed the crew to change its course to any island other than the capital.

Following the Coast Guard’s interception, the prosecution claimed that the Captain of Namoona Dhoni Ahmed Didi had demanded Ameen Faisal agree to an additional payment of MVR 150,000, should the journey be continued as according to the plan of activists.

Faisal finally agreed to pay the demanded sum when the vessel had entered the outer seas of Thaa Atoll near the Kimbidhoo Island, claimed the prosecution. Furthermore, the prosecutors also claimed that  Abbas and other activists had pressured the captain to continue the journey regardless of the orders given by the Coast Guard.

After some confrontations between the activists and Coast Guard officials, the Namoona Dhoni was brought under Coast Guard custody in the morning of November 8, 2006.

The incident was widely reported by then opposition-aligned newspapers as a ‘brutal seizure by the Coast Guard’  though the allegations were denied by the officials.

Prosecutors also alleged that Abbas, at the time of Coast Guard interception, had given false alarms and reports about the seizure of the vessel.

According to local media reports at the time, 44 people were aboard the vessel during the time of incident, including three women.

Charges were pressed against Faisal, Abbas, and others even in 2007, but were later dropped by the PG.

Whilst Faisal is still an active MDP member, Abbas has since defected from the party, becoming a vocal critic of the post-2008 MDP government.

Abbas went onto serve as President’s Office Spokesman for Nasheed’s successor Dr Mohamed Waheed before sparking a diplomatic incident with criticism of Indian High Commissioner D.M. Mulay in 2012, after which he moved into a position with the Finance Ministry.

Correction: The previous version of this article described Ameen Faisal as having headed the activist group – an unsubstantiated claim which Faisal himself denies. Minivan News regrets the error.


Depiction of Supreme Court Judge in sex-tape remains an uncertainty, says police

The Maldives Police Service has said that it still cannot ascertain that the sex-tapes allegedly depicting Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed are genuine.

Despite the claims made by police regarding the haziness of the characters seen in the videos, both social media networks and local media have pointed the finger at Judge Hameed when reporting on the videos.

The accusations towards Hameed were supported by an earlier film – apparently taken in the same hotel room as that of the sex videos – in which he was seen discussing the ‘politicization of the Maldivian judiciary’ with a local businessman whom the media identified as Mohamed ‘Golden Lane’ Saeed.

During a press conference held by the police yesterday (December 4) evening, Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz told the press that the police have put huge efforts in identifying the characters seen in the video by utilizing on several forensic tests.

However Nawaz admitted that efforts had not been fruitful in determining the participants, let alone whether it was Hameed seen fornicating with multiple foreign women inside the hotel room.

“Nevertheless, some work regarding the investigation of this case is still proceeding. Also, we would like to inform that work will be done in the future to ensure the investigation leads to success,” Nawaz told the press.

The Superintendent also said that the police had sought “assistance from a country” – that had some relevance to the case – in the investigation process and that it was awaiting reception of some key information regarding the videos that would prove central to their investigations.

“We believe once we get this information [from abroad], more doors will be opened and more clues to the case will be revealed, to enhance our investigations,” Nawaz said.

Although Nawaz did not mention the name of the country, nor what part of the investigation in which assistance had been sought, it has been reported that the video-footage showed a hotel room in Cinnamon Grand Hotel located in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Given the large number of Maldivians traveling to Sri Lanka, it has been widely speculated that many get involved in prostitution and gambling.

Police determined to prosecute

Last August, a photograph leaked on social media showed the former Deputy Minister of Transport Ibrahim Nazim inside a casino playing roulette. The photograph clearly showed a television screen behind Nazim displaying the words “welcome to Bellagio”, suggesting the location to have been one of the Bellagio franchise casinos in Colombo.

Meanwhile, Nawaz said that the case primarily involved two criminal offences. The first offence was fornication – which under the Maldivian penal law is punishable by 100 lashes and banishment. The second was the use of video for blackmail.

Last June police arrested Ahmed Faiz – a council member of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP) and the then-Project Advisor at the Housing Ministry – on  blackmail charges while he was allegedly trying to sell a sex-tape of the judge.

Yesterday, local newspaper Haveeru reported that police had been unable to proceed with the investigations, due to Criminal Court’s failure to provide two key court warrants requested three months ago.

Quoting an official from the Judicial Service Commission – constitutionally mandated to oversee the judiciary – the paper claimed police had sent a letter to the commission informing it of the Criminal Court’s failure to provide the required warrants. Neither the police nor the Criminal Court confirmed the claim.

However, Nawaz implicitly denied Haveeru’s account, telling the press yesterday that police had not come across major barriers in proceeding with the investigations. He maintained that in an investigative perspective the enhancement and analysis of video and audio never was an easy thing to do.

He also reiterated that the police were committed and determined to ensuring the investigation still succeeds, and that they wished to successfully prosecute all those involved in the videos as soon as possible.

Although fornication and adultery remains a criminal offence under the Maldivian law, a successful conviction only arises from either a confession or evidence given by four male eyewitnesses, as prescribed under Islamic Sharia’.

Videos and photographs will only amount to circumstantial evidence and would not suffice a conviction.

Subsequently, regardless of the public circulation of the videos, all parties seen in the video will remain ‘innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt’, as per the article 51(h) of the constitution.