Rock Paper Scissors are ‘Mindfunck’d’

Rising stars Rock Paper Scissors have shown that through a combination of talent and hard work just about anything is possible, as they officially launched their first album ‘Mindfunck’d’ last night (Wednesday).

The album launch ceremony at Breakwater café in Male’ was attended by the band’s fans, friends and family as well as special guest dignitaries including former President Mohamed Nasheed, and Villimalé MP Ahmed Nihan – who bought a CD and gifted it to Nasheed before buying CDs for everyone else attending the album launch.

The band consists of some of the Maldives’ brightest new talent, fighting to make a name for themselves on an incipient local music scene –  Akif Rafeeq, Ismail Adil, Munavvaru Ibrahim, and Yasbiq Ismail.

Rock Paper Scissors first received recognition when they were declared winners of the 2009 Maldives Breakout Festival which led to several gigs not just on home turf but also internationally – including a showcase at the O2 Arena in London, England, and as the headline act at the Malaysia Breakout Festival 2010, spurring on the band to follow their dream of creating an album.

Many musicians struggle to get this far in a country with no recording contracts or multi-million dollar advance cheques. And it certainly hasn’t all been plain sailing for the band, which has been playing together since 2008.

They persevered to release their first album and through a combination of hard work, dedication, and the support of sponsors including Hussein Hilmy, Mohamed Waheed Deen, Ahmed Shamah Rasheed and Ali Waseem, the band has finally launched ‘Mind Funck’d’, produced by famous Maldivian guitarist Ahmed Faseeh ‘Fasy’. It follows hot on the heels of the release of their electrifying new five-minute video for the song ‘Lose Control’.

“I’d describe our sound as progressive rock” says band member Akif Rafeeq. “We all listen to different types of music and what we create is a combination of all of it coming together. ‘Lose Control’ is the one that everyone recognises us by and ‘You’ve Got It’ is the one we all love playing a lot of.

“This experience of getting the album done was a hell of a journey; the songs didn’t take too long to write but the whole process of making the album has taken us two years. We owe some special thanks to our sponsors and also to our family for supporting us,” he added.

Since the exciting video for ‘Lose Control’ was released last month it’s already been played several times on national television and has had thousands of hits on YouTube. It features cutting-edge black and white videography and psychedelic UV effects.

Band Manager, Mazin Rafeeq, said: “We really appreciate former President Mohamed Nasheed turning up to the official album launch and showing his support for the band as well as all the other dignitaries and the media. We’d like to give special thanks to Breakwater, Popjoy and our sales partner, Le Cute.”

Rock Paper Scissors is planning to perform at a concert soon after Ramazan; details are yet to be announced. Mind Funck’d is available from Le Cute.


UN advises Maldives to cooperatively seek resolution

A team from the United Nations (UN) brought in to observe the political crisis have now left the Maldives after stressing to all parties involved the need to halt further violence.

Speaking to reporters on Monday evening at the UN headquarters in Male’, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco said that he was officially concluding his brief visit to the Maldives and was satisfied that both the former and current administrations will now co-operate on solving the political crisis triggered when President Mohamed Nasheed was deposed on February 7 amidst violent scenes.

Fernandez-Taranco and the UN team were dispatched to the Maldives on February 9 in the aftermath of what the international media is now calling a “coup” and the UN team has been negotiating with all parties involved, “both publicly and privately”, to prevent further violence and end the political deadlock. The team’s work has also addressed the question of holding elections, and whether the Maldives will launch an investigation into allegations of recent human rights abuses.

“The UN has been involved throughout the whole crisis in advising how to solve some of these matters,” said Fernandez-Taranco.

“We have been engaged with President Mohamed Waheed and the former President Mohamed Nasheed and speaking to all other political leaders since very early on in the crisis,” he explained.

Fernandez-Taranco admitted that the UN was “alarmed” to hear reports of violence and allegations of human rights violations in the Maldives during the past week.

“We will be following the events and will be watching to see how the different leaders exert their opinions, in order to ensure that all differences of opinions will be demonstrated peacefully,” he said. “We condemn any acts of violence.”

However, Fernandez-Taranco stopped short of committing the UN to investigating the allegations of violence and human rights abuses, saying that his mandate on this occasion was simply to observe the situation and report back to the Secretary-General.

Instead, he advised that “There needs to be a credible and independent investigation by a national mechanism into the developments of the past week, and the events that led up to them. As I have emphasised throughout, only the people of the Maldives can find the way forward.

“We have not been given a mandate for an investigation into the traumatic recent events or to investigate alleged human rights abuses. I believe that an investigation that is credible, independent, impartial and that addresses the concerns of the Maldivians is important to the future of the country, and we can support the Maldives with whatever mechanisms it needs so that a national investigation can be formed.

“We did not come here on a fact-finding mission. I came here to inform myself as to the situation here in the Maldives, and what I have seen here I will use to inform the Secretary-General. He has been very keen to hear from us about the extent of our influence in our efforts to help provide national stability.”

Regarding former President Nasheed’s call for a prompt election, Fernandez-Taranco said that the UN respects the constitution of the Maldives and the issue should be decided by Maldivians; emphasising that all sides have assured the UN they respect the constitution of the Maldives and its directives on elections.

“The next election is scheduled for 2013,” he said. “The date of the next elections is something that the Maldives’ people must determine for themselves. We do not have any opinion as to when they should be held. The constitution of the Maldives regulates as to when and how the elections must be held. The UN has supported the Maldives previously in both local and national elections, on request, and can do so again.

“We are committed to the belief that the constitution of the Maldives needs to be respected, and that any government that is inclusive of all sides will be the best possible government for the Maldives,” he said, reinforcing the UN’s support of the Maldives in achieving this outcome. “All must work together, constructively, for the good of the nation,” he summarised.

Fernandez-Taranco stessed the need for all parties to restrain from committing violent acts and from encouraging others to do so.

“The Maldives cannot afford a descent into violence and protracted instability that would jeopardise the progress achieved by the country since 2008, and its economic future. While considerable controversy persists about the events of recent days, all actors I spoke with agreed on the importance of preserving the democratic gains that have been made. All said they were committed to the constitution, which is widely held up as a model of reform. There is also a broad consensus on the need to protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law throughout the Maldives, including the performance of the judiciary,” he added.

A divided public

The Maldivian public’s opinion on the UN’s involvement in their domestic affairs appears divided.

One man in his 40s who requested anonymity said, “The UN can come and can go, their reports and findings can be released, but they can’t actually give us a real solution to our problems unless they pass sanctions which would affect the economy.

“We don’t know if the Maldives now is going to become more fundamentalist now, and if so, these guys could do anything to our resorts, banning alcohol for example. The Maldives could turn into a very strict Islamic state, and I don’t think the UN can do anything about it.

Making reference to the suggestion that the Commonwealth expel the Maldives, he benignly said, “So what? These guys [in power] will continue to do whatever they want. They can’t really be bothered with the Commonwealth and the UN, whatever they have to say.”

A 24-year-old Maldivian woman who also requested anonymity said she hoped a UN investigation will be conducted in order to shed light on the week’s past events.

“Everyone’s so ethnocentric with their political parties right now. I hope the UN conducts an independent investigation on how the power was transferred,” she said.

A man in his twenties, who wished to only be identified as “Moon”, called for the UN to have more involvement in the political situation in the Maldives.

“All I know [of the UN] is they like to make reports, file them in boxes and give speeches on podiums using international mediums,” he said.

“As for the international community approving this taking of power, it doesn’t surprise me because it’s going to be easy for President Waheed to do a report and convince them it’s legitimate using his friends and experience through the UN. If only everyone would act independent, and not as puppets. My message to President Waheed is ‘control the politics’, to Nasheed ii is ‘play it smart this time, learn from your mistakes, and to Ban Ki-moon [UN Secretary-General], ‘please be more productive and progressive.’”

MDP has said it will continue to demonstrate until elections are held.

“Protesting and demonstrating is not for me,” said Moon. “Violence will not solve anything, just make things worse, like what happened with the MDP. That’s why I believe we should all act smart and get along with this present president’s cabinet.

“Politics is never fair anywhere in the world, and in the Maldives it’s always ‘propaganda’ as we are new to democracy. Most people are all about power in their own favour, as in human nature.”


GMR remains “politically neutral” as stock price shows short-term wobble amid political upheaval

The stock price of the Indian infrastructure giant operating Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) took a tumble on the Mumbai Stock Exchange following the ousting of former president Mohamed Nasheed last week, as images of the unfolding violence were beamed around the world.

GMR has made a US$511 million investment in the Maldives’ international airport. The price of shares in GMR Infrastructure, which was contracted to develop INIA by the previous government, dropped by almost five percent on February 7 following news that fierce clashes between security forces on the streets of capital Male’ had led to Nasheed’s resignation.

GMR’s share prices quickly recovered over the following few days, as Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik was sworn in, and rain tempered public demonstrations which on Wednesday turned violent after police attacked a march by members of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Speaking on February 11 about foreign investments in the Maldives, Dr Waheed said that foreign investors should not be concerned about the political upheaval affecting their interests in the Maldives, but hinted that some investments may come under scrutiny.

“We will not target anybody for political reasons,” he said.

“If there are any reasons for concern over investment, of course any steps that need to be taken will be taken.”

Speaking specifically about the contract with GMR, Dr Waheed said he would not approach the deal “from a political perspective”, adding, “It is not our intention to harm GMR. Our objective will be to resolve concerns of the public [regarding the company].”

GMR’s stock price continues to teeter this week.

“Short term fluctuations”

Speaking to Minivan News, one of India’s leading political economists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta observed that the political situation in the Maldives has affected GMR to a certain degree but pointed out that “GMR is also politically influenced in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.”

Thakurta said that the fluctuations in GMR’s stock prices should be seen in a wider context.

“These are short term fluctuations,” he said: “By and large, the markets of the world have been in limbo for some time. India’s stock market has been politically prone in the past year. I wouldn’t read too much into it,” he said.

The multi-million dollar deal to operate and dramatically expand the Maldives’ international air hub has been the target of controversy from the political opposition, much of it flowing from the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), a member of which – Dr Mohamed Jameel – is now the country’s Home Minister.

Nasheed’s government offered GMR, in partnership with Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), the 25-year contract in June 2010. Since that time, various opposition parties including Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Jumhooree Party (JP), and the People’s Alliance (PA) have questioned the contract’s legality while former airport employees have protested against what they have claimed is a foreign take-over of their business domain.

Opposition parties have accused MDP cabinet members of having “vested interests” in the deal. In late 2011 the DQP took their objections to press and produced a 24-page book claiming the deal would “enslave the nation”, while former DRP leader and current deputy leader of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer said last year that his party would re-nationalise the airport if it came to power.

While Dr Waheed is not a member of PPM or DRP, Naseer’s recent actions indicate shared interests. On January 31, a delegation of the December 23 Coalition, including Naseer, declared its allegiance to Dr Waheed amidst protests against Nasheed’s government and called for all military and police forces to back Dr Waheed. Naseer also recently informed the public that he was instrumental in the events and discussions leading up to Nasheed’s resignation.

Speaking to press last week, Nasheed said he had been aware that his vice president was meeting with opposition leaders at his home.

Naseer also told Minivan News in June 2010 that “If [GMR] allowed it, an Israeli flight can come and stop over after bombing Arab countries”.

Nasheed’s government was criticised last year for entertaining a deal with Israeli airline El Al. Following demonstrations in defense of Islam on December 23, in which opposition party and religious NGO leaders spoke against relations with Israel, the National Security Committee advised against the deal.

Past events have shown that GMR is sensitive to political fluctuations in the Maldives. GMR’s price on the stock market saw a 7 percent fall in December, when the Civil Court blocked GMR from deducting an Airport Development Charge of US$25 (Rf385.5) from passengers departing on international flights, according to India’s Economic Times.

Thakurta said, “If they re-open the contract, it wouldn’t hurt them [GMR]. GMR is really big, they’re the company behind Delhi’s new airport, which is India’s biggest airport.

“As in the case of what happened in Mauritius, GMR has had some issues over the charging of airport development fees for passengers, and the same story is being replicated in the Maldives,” he concluded.

GMR unphased

Declining to comment on the stock market fluctuations, GMR CEO of Maldives operations Andrew Harrison said GMR expects the existing INIA deal to be upheld, despite the change of administration in the Maldives.

Speaking to Minivan News, Harrison stressed that the Indian company is “politically neutral” and added that it respects whichever party is in control of the government of the Maldives.

“We’ve always been politically neutral in that our remit is solely about developing and operating the airport,” he said.

“We respect whichever party holds the seat of government in the Maldives. The government change is a change we respect and we remain politically neutral. We’ve got a concession agreement and we are sure that any government in power will respect that agreement. We’ve not heard anything that would make us believe otherwise.”

Several foreign staff working in Male’ as GMR contractors were temporarily relocated to India after both they and their employers expressed concerns over their safety. The political situation in Male’ remains volatile.

Harrison said, “Our only concern is for the welfare of GMR staff, so we have advised them to avoid hotspots where it appears that riots and trouble is breaking out.”

He added that tourists traveling through INIA should not be too concerned about the events in Male’, as the airport and resorts are separated from the capital city.

Harrison said, “The resorts and the airport island are geographically separated from Male’, and we’re also fortunate in the fact that the Maldivian culture is both welcoming and friendly towards foreigners. We’ve seen demonstrations of great hospitality both at the airport and at the resorts, both during and prior to this situation.

“People visiting the Maldives are being made to feel very welcome in the Maldives, despite what’s going on in Male’. The Maldivians have a very warm and nurturing culture and a willingness to welcome visitors – and this won’t be affected by the political situation,” he added.

There have been no political protests at INIA or any of the resorts to date. As such, the majority of current travel advice issued by foreign embassies recommends that tourists specifically avoid visiting the island of Male’, but they are not issuing a blanket travel warning against visiting the Maldives, apart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Ukraine which advises it citizens to avoid the country as a whole.


Seaplane crash lands at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport

A seaplane crash landed on the water runway at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport with nine passengers aboard in poor weather conditions just after midday.

The Maldivian Air Taxi (MAT) aircraft was attempting to land in heavy rain on the eastern side of the seaplane lagoon on Hulhule Island at 12.08pm when it crashed into the water.

On board were a total of nine passengers and three crew who were traveling on a 25-minute flight from Lily Beach resort. One of the passengers was Maldivian, two were British and four were Vietnamese.

MAT officials were unable to confirm the nationalities of the rest of the passengers.

Everyone on board was rescued from the aircraft within 10 minutes. There were no serious injuries to any of the passengers or crew but some of the passengers were treated for mild shock.

The MAT Twin Otter seaplane remained afloat and upright but one of the floats was damaged, leaving it leaning to one side with one wing extended into the water.

CEO of GMR, the company which runs Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Andrew Harrison, said: “Fortunately we have a very good emergency response plan.

“We were able to get the passengers rescued within ten minutes and because we knew they would probably be traumatised, we took them to the CIP ‘Koimala’ Executive Lounge for medical treatment for mild shock.

“I personally met with the passengers and told them that I wished their holiday had not ended on a sour note. All of the passengers actually said that it had not ruined their holiday and they commended the actions of the pilot and crew and congratulated them on their response to the situation.”

Work is currently underway to recover the MAT seaplane from the lagoon. The flight schedules of other seaplanes were unaffected by the incident.

Mr Harrison said: “The damage was limited to one of the floats which became detached from the aircraft, so the plane has been left on one side with one wing in the water. Every recovery is different, and as we are running out of daylight, the situation is becoming more challenging.

“Only the Civil Aviation Authority can comment on the exact cause and the nature of the crash. It’s important to note that this type of aircraft is a very durable and safe type of aircraft, and the pilots and crew operating the seaplanes have lots of experience of operating seaplanes.”

The passengers have now departed from the Maldives did not miss their connecting flights due to the incident.

The General Manager of MAT, Fredrick Groth, said: “At around noon today, one of our aircraft had an incident upon landing; one of the wings hit the water.

“We evacuated everybody and made sure there were no injuries. All of the passengers were okay and went on to their onward flights.

“We don’t wish to comment further until after the investigation has been concluded.”

The Maldives Civil Aviation Authority is now investigating the cause of the crash and interviewing witnesses. Deputy Director General, Hussain Jaleel, told Minivan News that he was unable to reveal the cause of the crash yet because the investigation is on-going.

“We cannot determine the cause of the crash yet because the investigation is not yet finished and the interviews have not been finished yet,” he said.

It had been raining heavily since the early hours of the morning and visibility was low. A seaplane pilot working at the terminal, who did not want to be named, described the weather conditions at the time of the crash as “poor” and added that the seaplane terminal had been closed several times earlier today leading up to the accident due to the bad weather.