Week in review: April 6 – 12

In a varied week of news, protests, primates, and possessed plants all featured in the headlines.

The top story of the week, however, involved the tragic death of two port workers in Malé, killed by faulty equipment in an accident the union suggested could have been avoided.

Beloved public health figure Dr Ahmed Razee also passed away this week after more than three decades of public service.

Meanwhile, tests run following the death of a Malé resident the week before revealed high levels of opium and benzodiazepine in the blood of the youth – released from rehab just 24 hours earlier.

Statistics from the Drug Court this week revealed that 101 individuals have completed the mandatory rehab programmes that had been prescribed since the court’s introduction in August 2012.

The case of a Russian woman accused of smuggling drugs into the country was sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office, while the passport of the doctor who signed the form allowing a convicted drug dealer to leave the country was held by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The ACC were also occupied with investigating alleged wrongdoing in the Ramazan night market contract, with the commission telling the new city council that the deal had been terminated last year – to the bemusement of Go Media, the company currently organising this year’s event.

Police were also kept busy with the recent rush of child abuse cases, with commentators unsure as to whether the recent spate of incidents represented a rise in offending or a greater willingness to report such crimes.

One crime not reported to police this week was the apparent offence committed by a Jinn tree upon the residents of Haa Alif Thakandhoo, who took matters into their own hands, breaking into the school compound to hack down the accused.

Campaigners in neighbouring Haa Dhaalu atoll continued to gain support for their calls to bring resort development to the atoll, with the government assuring that the tourism industry’s ever-growing spoils would be equally distributed.

Teachers campaigning against pay discrepancies wore black to work this week, while civil servants seeking equal pay discussed a potential strike later in the month.

The Bar Association suggested that the government had failed to adequately consult the legal profession regarding new regulations to practice, as well as calling for the suspension of Chief Justice Ali Hameed after his alleged involvement in a sex-tape scandal.

The government’s plans to raise revenue continued this week, with MIRA expecting to receive an additional MVR110 million per year through the taxation of telecoms – revenue that will be essential should the soon-to-be concluded GMR arbitration case go against the state.

The Home Ministry was chastised for its failure to adhere to the schedule of the recently-implemented Anti-Torture Act, while the Environment Ministry revealed that euthanasia may be the only option left for the slow loris confiscated by police earlier this year.

The alcohol possession trial of departing MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor was postponed when the former was unable to attend after suffering health problems while in jail.

Legal challenges to March’s elections results continued to rise, casting doubt on the identities of a number of future MPs, scheduled to be sworn in on May 28.


Week in review: March 30 – April 5

This week saw continued reverberations from the Majlis elections, with further switches to the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) swelling the Progressive Coalition’s number of seats to 57.

With the defection of Thimarafushi MP-elect Mohamed Musthafa, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) numbers dropped to 25, whilst three of the five successful independent candidates have now moved to the PPM.

The MDP this week accused the coalition parties of bribery and corruption during the Majlis polls, urging further investigations by relevant stakeholders.

The changes promised by the opposition party in the wake of their disappointing performance began with the resignation of party Chair ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

At the conclusion of the party’s national council meeting – during which former President Mohamed Nasheed became acting party president – Reeko urged fellow party leaders to follow his lead.

After seeing the official confirmation of its electoral success, the government announced the details of its fisherman’s allowance – beginning last Tuesday (April 1) – with up to MVR10,000 pledged for lean months.

President Yameen’s largesse was also felt by 169 convicted prisoners granted clemency, as well as prospective foreign investors who were promised they would be made to feel at home.

“We are going to open up the Maldives in a huge way to foreign investors. Our thirst cannot be quenched. The opportunity to foreign investors is going to be enormous,” he told those present at the launch of a new housing project in the proposed “youth village” of Hulhumalé.

The government’s inherited plans for the mandatory enrollment of foreigners on the pension scheme were delayed this week, however, after an amendment was introduced in the Majlis to make involvement voluntary.

A shortage of government funds was cited this week as reason for the closure of the Maldives’ High Commission in Bangladesh, while plans to reduce state expenditure also resulted in proposals to disband local Women’s Development Committees.

The State Trading Organisation’s plans to tap into the tourism market in order to secure a steady stream of dollars look set to come to fruition early next year with the completion of their Hulhumalé hotel.

The outgoing members of parliament appeared intent on finishing the session productively, passing legislation on anti-money laundering as well as extending the General Regulations Act.

After having rejected a near-identical penal code draft in December, a more amenable quorum this week passed a replacement for the current 1960s version – more than four years after it was first introduced to the legislature.

In the committee room, approval was given for the new governor of the monetary authority and member of the police watchdog, though consent for the long-awaited new prosecutor general was withheld.

The PG’s Office meanwhile revealed that the Criminal Court – with whom it has quarreled over the Majlis failure to approve the new nominee – had used numerous excuses to turn away 30 percent of cases forwarded to it in the past three months.

The offices workload looks set to be added to by the Anti Corruption Commission’s recommendation that charges be filed against former Malé City councilors in relation to the contract for last year’s night market.

The Civil Court this week received a case from local businessmen seeking money owed by the State Bank of India, while the Juvenile Court received reluctant members of the Human Rights Commission as their dispute over an allegedly misleading report continued.

Eighteen months after the murder of PPM MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, the Criminal Court heard revealing testimony in the trial of Ali Shan – accused alongside the already-sentenced Hussain Humam.

The activities of police – under-resourced, according to the commissioner – in the confiscation of a record 24kg of heroin were revealed this week, while President Yameen took advantage of the force’s 81st anniversary to warn officers to use the current calm to prepare for future challenges.

Finally, Minivan News this week heard from local environmental NGOs about the plight of local turtle species as well as the difficulty in raising awareness of climate-change among the country’s young people.


Week in review: March 22 – 29

The week began with 302 candidates and 189,000 voters taking part in the Maldives’ second multiparty Majlis elections.

After polling proceeded without notable incident, preliminary results quickly showed that the governing Progressive Coalition had secured a clear victory – later confirmed as a 53 seat majority in the 85 seat legislature.

President Abdulla Yameen – whose Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) took 33 seats – interpreted the result as a ‘yes’ to peace and stability and a chance to pick up where his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s ‘golden 30 years’ had left off.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – daughter of former President Gayoom – saw the result as a rejection of “foreign interference” and a show of support for her father and uncle’s leadership.

Coalition ally the Maldives Development Alliance noted that the result – in which it took five seats – as a sign of public confidence in the relatively young party. Despite being upbeat about his party’s 15-seat haul, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim accused his coalition allies of fielding independent candidates in violation of pre-election agreements.

While Yameen acknowledged that vote splitting may have detracted from the size of the coalition win, the immediate effects appeared to have benefited his party, with two of the five successful ‘independent’ candidates switching to the PPM before the official results had been announced.

A further source of discord within the coalition loomed large after Gasim threw his hat into the ring for the Majlis speaker’s position this week. Though Gasim told local media he had the coalition’s full backing, the PPM subsequently announced its intention to field its own candidate.

The impact of the defeat on the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – who won just 26 of the 85 seats for which it fielded candidates – looks likely to be a period of restructuring, with former President Mohamed Nasheed calling for new leaders to step forward.

All observers of the elections – partisans and neutrals alike – expressed concern at the ‘money politics’ involved, with both the MDP and Adhaalath parties blaming such practices for their own poor performances.

Despite the foreign minister’s prior comments, both the EU and the Commonwealth observer missions focused on the negative impact the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Elections Commissioners had upon the electoral environment.

Government business

Amendments to the Decentralisation Act, which would resurrect previous previously thwarted plans for streamlined local governance, were this week introduced on behalf of the government.

The resuscitation of the Nasheed administration’s attempts to transform the country’s energy sector also continued with the outlining of the Accelerating Sustainable Private Investments in Renewable Energy (ASPIRE) programme.

The government’s transformation of the island of Meedhoo appeared not have gone to plan, however, after a recently initiated reclamation project was halted due to its potential environmental and health impacts.

The Immigration Department revealed the success of a recent repatriation programme for illegal migrant workers, while employees on the Vilu Reef resort were also given their marching orders after having taken part in strikes.

In the courts, the decision to uphold a prior ruling saw the return of a five-month-old child to it’s German mother, while the Criminal Court heard the final disturbing details in the 2010 murder of Mariyam Sheereen.

The Tiny Hearts of Maldives NGO this week held their annual camp in Malé’s IGMH, providing expert care for children with congenital heart defects. Meanwhile, in Addu, investigations have begun in the events that led to a death during childbirth at Hithadhoo Regional Hospital.


Week in review: March 9 – 14

This week’s headlines were largely dedicated to the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the senior leadership of the Elections Commission (EC) on charges of contempt of court and disobedience to order.

The decision – which also included a six month sentence for EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek – brought international condemnation as well as universal praise for the work of the commission.

The EU observer mission, currently in the country for the scheduled March 22 poll, quickly pointed out the considerable “time pressure” on a timely and credible election.

Domestically, both the Maldivian Democratic Party’s Mohamed Nasheed and the People’s Majlis declared the decision unconstitutional.

The Majlis Secretariat relayed this message in writing to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and senior government figures, while a Majlis committee stated that it still considered the dismissed members to be elections commissioners.

Alternatively, government supporters quickly backed the decision, with President Yameen saying that the government would abide by the ruling. Yameen also criticised the opposition’s discussion – conducted without a resolution – of boycotting the polls.

The President’s Office rounded on the court’s international naysayers while the chief justice said that the international statements included “falsified claims, and undermine the respect and authority of the Maldivian judiciary”.

Fears that the EC would not be able to conduct the election without its quorum were soon assuaged, however, as Ismail Habeeb – nominated to the commission after the resignation of the fifth EC member last October – was approved by the Majlis.

The PPM has called for the final two places on the commission to be filled before the elections, though Speaker Shahid has prorogued parliament until after the vote.

Other news…

Elsewhere this week, police seized 24kg of what was suspected to be heroin in their biggest haul to date, while repeated confiscation of unusual pets during drugs raids – as well as a python on the streets of Malé – prompted customs to tighten security in order to prevent the import of illegal animals.

The export of legal animals – in the form of Halal certified fish – is a policy the Islamic Ministry this week claimed was generating great enthusiasm.

Leaders at the Chamber of Commerce rounded on the EU’s trade policies with regards to Maldivian fish, suggesting a fisherman’s protest could be on its way.

One protest did arrive this week, at the international airport, as staff demonstrated against bad bonuses and worse food.

The Human Rights Commission was summoned to the Juvenile Court after repeated attempts to discuss a report the court claimed misled the public about the handling of the infamous 15 year old flogging trial.

Maldivian Development Alliance leader Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam was presented to the Criminal Court this after failing to attend previous hearings regarding his alleged attempts to smuggle alcohol into the country in 2012.

Already in custody, Maldivian Democratic Party MP Abdulla Jabir learned this week that he would remain during his appeal case for his recent conviction.

Finally, local NGO Advocating for the Rights of Children (ARC) launched an anti-bullying campaign in Malé as well as a new network to support the rights of disabled children.

Meanwhile, the Maafushi jail inmate – left in a coma with critical head injuries after being attacked by cellmates last month – was flown to Sri Lanka for further treatment.


Week in review: March 1– 8

This week saw tensions between the Elections Commission (EC) and the Supreme Court rising as the commissioners were hauled before the court once again.

After telling a Majlis committee that the court’s election guidelines were undermining the commission’s work, EC Chair Thowfeek was grilled by the bench before a travel ban was placed on himself and his colleagues.

As well as having their travel restricted, EC members also raised concern that the commission’s budget – in addition to being given piecemeal by the Finance Ministry – was insufficient to conduct the March 22 Majlis poll.

With voter re-registration completed this week, the EC noted that one in four voters intended to vote in places other than their permanent residence.

After the US State Department’s human rights report joined the chorus of those critical of the Maldives judiciary, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon asked the international community to support rather than undermine the country’s courts.

After receiving criticism from the political opposition for failing to mention the judiciary’s issues in his first address, President Yameen stated that he had complete trust in the institution.

This comment prompted the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) Mohamed Nasheed to suggest that this faith stemmed from the Progressive Party of Maldives’ strong influence over the courts.

Speaking on the campaign trail, Nasheed pledged that an MDP majority in the Majlis would seek to reform both the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission.

Two fellow MDP MPs seeking to return to the campaign trail were the recently jailed Abdulla Jabir and the recently stabbed Alhan Fahmy.

While Jabir’s legal team pleaded with the court to allow the Kaashidhoo MP the opportunity to campaign during his incarceration, Alhan was told that the Civil Court could not invalidate the candidacy of the disputed Feydhoo by-election winner.

Government agenda

As well as listing the government’s recent achievements during his address at the Majlis opening this week, President Yameen explained that a legislative agenda had been formulated. This agenda was subsequently revealed by the Attorney General to include 98 new bills and 109 amendments to existing laws.

The government’s pledge to increase the pension to MVR5000 was delivered – after some confusion while the Home Ministry’s drive against drugs continued with plans made to reintroduce sniffer dogs to the Maldives.

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz received a royal welcome from the government this week, releasing a joint statement with Yameen reiterating the countries’ mutual commitment to moderate Islam and strengthened bilateral ties.

As the fallout from the IGMH HIV scandal continued, hospital officials revealed that a member of staff had been taken into police custody after admitting culpability for the error which led to the transfusion of infected blood.

Health Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela explained that the expenses of the victim’s children would now be borne by the state, though local NGO Voice of Women expressed concern that the family may still face discrimination due to “societal myths and misinformation” about the illness.

Shakeela told the Majlis government oversight committee that her resignation was not the solution to the health sector’s problems.

The same committee was also informed that a Maafushi Jail inmate – left in a coma after being attacked by his cellmates in February – had requested to be taken out of his quarters more than an hour before the attack.

The government’s attempts to keep Raajje TV away from President’s Office press conferences were dropped by the AG this week, while the broadcasting commission asked DhiTV to respond to allegations that it had irresponsibly criticised the Anti Corruption Commission.


Week in review: February 22– 28

A tragic incident at the country’s main public hospital – IGMH – caused outrage this week as it was revealed that HIV infected blood had been given to a patient.

Profuse apologies from the Home Minister were not enough for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who accused the government of hiding the news for eight days in order to complete the celebrations of its first 100 days in power.

Earlier in the week, Minivan News was informed that certain operations at the hospital had been suspended owing to the lack of the necessary staff safety equipment. The week had begun with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid pledging US$10 million for the renovation of the Indian-built facility.

The introduction of unlimited health insurance had already been announced earlier in the week. The ambitious pledge is soon to be followed by larger pensions, both of which are set to be sustained through the issuance of government debt.

Promises for completion of the long-awaited Malé-Hulhulé bridge within two years were also given, though development of the central atolls appeared to be coming at the expense of the Addu – the country’s second-city.

High priority is being given to the housing situation of police officers, while the fisheries minister launched a training scheme for long-line fishing, arguing that deviation from the country’s traditional pole-and-line approach was important to utilise all fishing grounds.

The Supreme Court’s decision to prosecute the Elections Commission (EC) on contempt of court charges prompted alarm this week from both representatives of the EU and Maldivian civil society, who demanded the court “earn the respect of the people”.

The EU called upon the government to ensure the EC’s independence in the run up to the March 22 parliamentary elections. Despite the government’s financial restrictions on EC spending, the commission has assured that polls will be unaffected.

While on the campaign trail, the MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed warned that the people of the country would not tolerate further electoral interference, labelling the ongoing court case “unjust”.

While Nasheed assured that his party does not intend to obstruct the government should it win a majority, President Yameen remained unconvinced, assuring voters that the MDP would attempt to remove him.

Yameen also rounded on the current members of the country’s legislature, arguing that the public had lost confidence in the institution. The recently jailed MP Abdulla Jabir was this week cleared of further cannabis possession charges – his lawyers have suggested his earlier conviction violated his constitutional rights.

The Criminal Court’s running feud with the Prosecutor General’s Office continued this week, with the PG’s Office accusing the court of overstepping its authority when introducing new time limits for the forwarding of cases.

In the Civil Court, a dispute over an oil trade agreement between the State Trading Organisation and Villufushi constituency MP Riyaz Rasheed was thrown out after the former’s legal team failed to show up.

Further agreements on oil trade could be on their way, however, as the the national oil company announced it was searching for outside assistance for further exploration projects.

Though well-qualified to discuss oil, Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz was reported to be visiting the Maldives in order to talk about potential investments in tourism, transport, and Islamic affairs, as well the provision of a soft loans to the Maldives.

One avenue of Saudi investment into the country was confirmed this week, with a prominent investment firm from the kingdom making plans for a US$100 million resort in Laamu atoll.

Maldivians seeking to travel in the other way may have to delay their plans, however, after both the Civil Court and the Anti Corruption Commission ordered the Islamic Ministry to halt the awarding of contracts for Hajj trips pending investigations into the bidding process.

Elsewhere this week, the second case of forced child prostitution in the country’s southern atolls, while an inmate at Maafushi jail suffered severe head injuries during a fight with other inmates.


Week in review: February 16 – 21

The Maldives’ judiciary continued to dominate headlines this week, in particular the Supreme Court’s decision to use privileged Majlis testimony in its case against the Elections Commission.

Citing the establishment of justice as a fundamental tenet of Islam, the court declared the evidence admissible in its ongoing contempt of court case.

Speaking at a campaign event for the Majlis elections, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader Mohamed Nasheed suggested the Supreme Court was fearful of an MDP majority in the parliament, pledging judicial reform should this happen.

On the lower benches, televised claims of bribery within the judiciary by Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon prompted both the Anti Corruption and the Judicial Services Commissions to launch separate investigations.

The JSC’s investigations into Shujoon’s claims will take place without the Majlis’ representative MP Ahmed Hamza, however, who has been removed as a result of his standing for re-election.

The Human Rights Commission this week called upon the Majlis to expedite the appointment of a new Prosecutor General (PG), before the Criminal Court finally agreed to accept new cases from the Deputy PG.

The court was immediately presented with 20 new cases, although the PG’s Office has said the backlog will take a month to clear. This may hamper new court regulations which requires the office to file criminal charges within 45 days of arrests being made.

The court did find time this week to sentence MDP MP Abdulla Jabir to one year’s imprisonment for failure to provide a urine sample to police in late 2012.

Three more cases are likely to land on the PG’s desk in the next six weeks after police arrested two Bangladeshi men and one woman in Malé for pre-marital sexual relations. For those recently married foreigners, however, the Maldives continues to be the number one holiday destination, an online poll revealed.

Fears were raised by the Tourism Employees Association that the amount of service charge disbursed to resort workers was being reduced as the government plans to raise taxes on the industry. An IMF delegation in the country noted its surprise at the resilience of the economy, suggesting that taxes on the industry were still relatively low.

The new nominee for the governor’s position at the central banking authority suggested that increasing local productivity and reducing reliance on imports – on which 75 percent of the country’s dollars are spent – was vital.

During the SAARC Council of Ministers’ Meeting – hosted on Bandos resort – President Abdulla Yameen stated his belief that trade and commerce were the “magic wand” for achieving the regional association’s goals.

Earlier in the week, while campaigning for the Progressive Party of Maldives, Yameen had labelled the Nasheed government’s transport policy corrupt, vowing to reclaim land given to private companies for ferry services.

He also said that the government would not be seeking to expedite Nasheed’s trial, though he did suggest that the former president must be sentenced for the arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012 if the rule of law is to be upheld.

The police’s campaign to reach out to the nation’s youth continued this week with the third ‘Blues for Youth’ camp. Home Minister Umar Naseer told participants that there was “no task too menial or lowly for a Maldivian”.

Meanwhile, Naseer signed an order shutting down Malé’s Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu mosque after an unauthorised congregation had prayed for the government’s destruction.

As Yameen’s administration approaches the one hundred days’ milestone intact, the policy to provide greater access to healthcare was introduced in Villinigili – albeit on a more modest scale than initially promised.

In nearby Gulhi island, a pioneering desalination project was launched by the UK’s Aquiva Foundation. The project – a joint venture with STELCO – will produce drinking water using the excess heat from electricity generators.

Further north, Alifushi island council has complained that emergency drinking water supplied to the island arrived contaminated with dust and bacteria.

Finally, the Olympic Committee this week announced plans to increase female participation in sports, setting a target of 33 percent of contingents sent to major international games to be women.


Week in review: February 9 – 15

The Supreme Court’s running battle with the Elections Commission resurfaced this week, with a trial for contempt of court – including the dissolving of political parties – being sprung on commission members.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) slammed the case as an attempt at intimidation prior to the Majlis elections, with Mohamed Nasheed suggesting that an election boycott would do less harm to democracy than participating in a fraudulent poll.

As campaigning for the March elections began in earnest, the MDP criticised the current government’s development plans, while the ruling coalition questioned the opposition’s commitment to separated branches of government.

Estranged coalition member the Adhaalath Party, meanwhile, continued its plan to field candidates in direct competition with its supposed allies, much to the chagrin of Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim.

As the government approached 100 days in charge, ambitious plans to double the current pension pot through “innovative” investments were announced, while plans to enhance the role of Islam in society took further shape.

Plans to increase Islamic education are likely to hindered slightly, however, after the Teacher Association revealed its plan for strike action should the government not heed requests for reform. Elsewhere, court employees refusing unpaid overtime were suspended.

The development of Kulhudhuffushi airport appeared a step closer this week, with environmental regulations altered in order to allow dredging of the island’s mangrove.

Local NGO Ecocare continues to view the project as unconstitutional and economically unviable.

The cabinet’s promised discussion on the implementation of the death penalty took place this week, with ministers urging President Abdulla Yameen to establish regulation for execution procedures.

The confession of the country’s most recent recipient of the sentence, Hussein Humam was used as key evidence in the continuing Criminal Court case against his alleged accomplice in the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali.

The recent recipient of an 18 year sentence for drug trafficking, Ibrahim Shafaz ‘Shafa’ Abdul Razzaq, this week appealed his sentence from Sri Lanka after being allowed to leave the country on medical grounds last week.

Questions regarding the Criminal Court’s own actions were also asked this week as it continued to refuse new cases sent by the the Prosecutor General’s Office, despite requests from the Supreme Court. The new PG will now start the job with a backlog of over 500 cases.

Members of the Majlis national security committee were informed by the Asia Pacific Group of the country’s obligation to enact anti-laundering legislation, while the parliamentary privileges group summoned police to give information on the investigation into the Alhan Fahmy stabbing.

Former Police Integrity Commission Chair Shahindha Ismail this week accused both the Majlis and the police watchdog of “intentional negligence” in investigating the chaos that followed the controversial transfer of presidential power two years ago.

Rising numbers of tourists in Malé led the council to issue a suggestion to all local hoteliers that visitors be made aware of appropriate dress codes in inhabited areas.

The latest figures from the Maldives Monetary Authority revealed that tourist arrivals has risen by 17 percent in 2013, though this was not sufficient to prevent Air Asia X suspending its Maldives services.

Finally, the Maldives slipped further down RSF’s Press Freedom Index, dropping to 107th in the list. Elsewhere in the media, DhiTV and it’s sister station DhiFM Plus were asked to stop broadcasting upside down pictures of Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek.


Week in review: February 1 – 8

The last week’s headlines were dominated by the stabbing of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Alhan Fahmy in a Malé cafe.

After flying to Sri Lanka for prolonged surgery to repair spinal damage, the Feydhoo constituency MP’s family revealed he will face a hard struggle if he is to regain the full use of his right leg.

The attack was swiftly condemned both internationally and domestically, with fellow MP’s pointing the finger at local gangs and their political paymasters.

Despite his attack, Fahmy remained determined to contest in the Majlis primaries, despite the MDP refusing to hold a re-vote in the Feydhoo party primary. After losing the poll, Alhan had questioned the fairness of proceedings and will now contest as an independent.

Controversy also accompanied a number of other MDP primaries, with  Kendhoo constituency candidate Mauroof Zakir considering a legal response to what he considered to have been irregularities stemming from the party’s abandoned polls in late January.

Kaashidhoo incumbent Abdulla Jabir, meanwhile, retained his place on the party ticket after the MDP’s disciplinary committee found party regulations did not permit his removal, despite his repeated defiance of the whip.

The MDP’s talismanic leader, Mohamed Nasheed, this week told Minivan News he was confident in the transparency of the polls. Discussing the two years since his removal from the presidency, he noted that the current governing coalition would struggle to provide political stability.

Following the completion of its primary races, Nasheed revealed that his party’s legislative agenda for the 18th Majlis would include strengthening local government, reforming the judiciary, and eliminating barriers to development.

Nasheed’s doubts over the unity of the current coalition appeared well-founded this week as the religious Adhaalath Party announced it would be openly competing with the Jumhooree Party (JP) in five parliamentary constituencies, while talks with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) continue.

The PPM’s selection of candidates for the poll continued, after party members in Maavah constituency, Laamu Atoll, demonstrated against the apparent award of the ticket to the current member without a primary.

After assigning 13 of its 49 places on the ticket without contests, the PPM is holding primary polls for an additional 27 seats today (Saturday 8), with the method of allocation for the remaining 9 yet to be decided.

Progressive coalition partner the JP meanwhile concluded selections for its 28 allocated constituencies, which includes eight incumbent MPs and new member Abdulla Riyaz – former commissioner of police.

One person who is unlikely to be standing in the March 22 polls is Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom. As Minivan News’ series of interviews with MPs continued, Mausoom described the occupation as no longer “savvy”.

Legal interpretations

The Majlis continued to hold special sessions this week to help the government raise revenue to meet its 2014 budget commitments, including the reintroduction of tourist bed tax and the raising of T-GST in November. Changes to current import duties were also passed.

Following the Criminal Court’s continued recalcitrance after the Majlis’s failure to approve a new prosecutor general, the Chief Justice this week suggested that parliament take some time during the current emergency sessions to resolve the issue.

PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof also suggested that he would submit a motion to the house, calling for a public referendum on the death penalty to be held alongside the parliamentary elections.

Asked about the practice of female circumcision this week, Figh Academy Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef endorsed the practice, citing several hadiths which he felt made clear the obligatory nature of this procedure.

Elsewhere, local heritage group REVIVE announced it would be considering legal action after a centuries old mosque in Malé was demolished to make way for a modern replacement.

Finally, as crime figures in the country revealed a huge spike in cases of theft and robbery, a local drug lord appeared to have evaded punishment, leaving for Sri Lanka part-way through an 18 year sentence.