Week in review: January 18 – 24

The biggest headline of the week was captured by Home Minister Umar Naseer after he ordered correctional authorities to make preparations for the implementation of the death penalty – currently under a sixty year moratorium.

Speaking with the media upon his return from Sri Lanka – President Abdulla Yameen said that the home minister’s decision had not been discussed with the cabinet.

During his state visit Yameen was reported to be considering access through Maldivian waters for passing Sri Lankan fishing vessels. He is also said to have revealed his decision to reject the proposed status of forces agreement (SOFA) with the United States.

Opinions on the president’s fisheries policy – as well as the policies of Malé city council – were expressed this week as Minivan News visited the capital’s famous fish market to talk about the state of the industry.

The government’s plans to expand the tourism industry were discussed this week as Minivan News interviewed cabinet minister Ahmed Adeeb, while the Home Ministry’s focus on the illegal drugs trade continued as police seized MVR300,000 worth of drugs – along with an endangered primate – from a house in Malé.

The president’s foreign policy also took shape – with a clear emphasis on economic self-sufficiency to facilitate independence and protect sovereignty.

Whilst bilateral ties between India and the Maldives were celebrated with the launch of the Dosti-Ekuverikan week, opposition spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Indian media that the country had “failed” Maldivian democracy during recent political turmoils.

Local elections

The week began with the local council elections, and finished with the final results of the 1,100 contests still not yet known. What was clear was that turnout was low on the day – a report from Transparency Maldives suggested the system was failing up to one third of voters who live and work away from their registered island of residence.

The Elections Commission (EC) introduced the public displaying of ID card photographs to help prevent voter fraud, though the decision quickly brought complaints from religious leaders regarding the exposure of women who have since started wearing the veil.

November’s second-placed presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed subsequently suggested that the clear existence of voters without photographs in the presidential poll registry indicated “serious fraud in the presidential election”.

The Maldivian Democratic Party figurehead went on to suggest that victory for his party in March’s parliamentary elections would see impeachment proceedings initiated against President Yameen.

Minivan News’ series of MP interviews continued this week, with Rozaina Adam, Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed, and Ahmed Abdulla all taking their turns.

Despite his Progressive Party of Maldives expressing confidence that they would win the majority of council seats, Yameen noted that party members standing as independent candidates had cost seats.

Supreme Court

Never far from the headlines, the Supreme Court’s role in the recent presidential elections continued to make news. The EC suggested that the Police Integrity Commission had shied away from examining key evidence used to annul the first round for fear of casting doubt on the court’s verdict.

Criticism of the verdict broadcast on Raajje TV resulted in this week’s decision by the broadcasting commission to order an apology from the station. Villa TV was similarly ordered to offer apologies for comments said to have defamed MDP candidate Nasheed.

Former Attorney General Husnu Suood was suspended from all courts pending the police’s investigation into his alleged contempt of court during the annulment trial. Suood suggested the decision may be linked to his role in the investigation of Justice Ali Hameed’s role in a sex tape scandal.

The Judicial Services Commission – charged with investigating the Hameed case – revealed its new regulations which will involve the periodic review of judge’s performance.

Meanwhile, the deputy prosecutor general appealed to the Supreme Court after the Criminal Court failed to resume normal activities – having previously halted proceeding pending the confirmation of a new PG.


Elsewhere in the Maldives this week, the auditor general revealed that the Defence Ministry had illegally purchased nearly MVR7 million of goods during 2011. This week also saw the first case of unfair dismissal filed in relation to the nine senior military officers removed amid internal murmurings during the controversial presidential race.

Finally, the Maldives was selected for a US$6million concessionary loan from Abu Dhabi for assistance with clean energy projects.


Week in review: December 8 – 14

This week saw the repeatedly delayed budget introduced to the People’s Majlis. Coming in at MVR17.5billion rufiya, the budget – purportedly revised to incorporate President Yameen’s austerity measures – eclipses all previous spending programmes.

A report from the World Bank made clear the tough task the new government faces in nursing the economy towards good health. The report stated that the Maldives continues to spend “beyond its means”.

Noted areas of excess include a high civil service wage bill, with the World Bank suggesting that the government’s short term financing measures risked further damaging the economy.

The exploitation of the country’s persistent shortage of dollars by criminal elements was exposed this week as police reported the activity of thieves masquerading as legitimate exchangers of currency.

When accused of illegally obtaining a budget support loan, recently reappointed Finance Minister pleaded desperation. Abdulla Jihad argued that he had sidestepped the onerous approval procedure to avoid a financial catastrophe in May 2012.

Yameen took fitful steps towards fulfilling his campaign’s austerity pledges this week, ordering the reduction of salary for two grades of state minister – though the cut was only around 12.5 percent instead of the 30-50 mooted before the election.

Similarly, the new government appeared to have reneged on its pledge to provide cash-handouts to old-age pensioners – opting for an insurance scheme instead.

Government performance

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, however, appeared pleased with his half-brother’s performance thus far, praising his handling of Indo-Maldivian relations while the Defence Minister discussed enhanced military cooperation with Indian counterparts.

The indistinct ‘National Movement’ this week suggested ulterior motives in the bureaucratic thwarting of its plan to celebrate the eviction of Indian infrastructure giant GMR, whose deal to develop the international airport was prematurely terminated twelve months ago.

Elsewhere, the coalition member Adhaalath Party, quashed rumours that it had parted ways with Yameen’s government this week, despite previous reports that it intended to campaign independently in the upcoming local and parliamentary elections.

The ‘roadmaps’ for the first one hundred days of the government continued to be drawn this week, with comprehensive lists now produced in the areas of  transport, health, and immigration.

Whilst the Transport Ministry has promised finished plans for the redevelopment of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the health minister talked of significant changes to the IGMH public hospital.

The police service also joined in the policy pledging, with its own promises to improve its service and to build public trust in the institution. The Police Integrity Commission this week suggested that the prosecutor general assist in this task by prosecuting two officers it had found to have been negligent during the arson attack which destroyed Raajje TV in October.

The vacancy at the head of the PG’s Office did not stop the filing of charges in the 8 year old ‘Namoona Dhoni’ case. Pro-democracy activists – prevented from reaching Malé for a national demonstration – now face fresh charges of disobeying lawful orders.

Trust between the Supreme Court and the judicial watchdog appeared scant this week as the Chief Justice baulked at the JSC’s re-shuffling of a number of senior judges. Members of the JSC were later reported to have rejected Chief Justice Faiz’s legal objections.

Corruption and human rights

Confidence in the transparency of the public in public institutions also appeared to be on the wane this week, as Transparency Maldives’ Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) survey revealed that 83 percent of its sample felt corruption to have increased or stayed the same over the past two years.

Despite only appearing mid-table in the list of organisations perceived as being corrupt, the MNDF reacted disproportionately to the local media’s reporting of the survey, labelling CNM’s article on the survey “highly irresponsible journalism”.

The Anti Corruption Commission announced the discovery of graft in the capital’s largest housing programme. The highest number of bribes reported in the GCB was in the area of land services.

International human rights day was observed by the government and civil society in the same week the president ratified the country’s first anti-human trafficking bill. Whilst welcoming the new law, both the Human Rights Commission and the immigration department suggested that institutional strengthening would need to accompany a successful anti-trafficking policy.

Finally, this week saw the release of a United Nations Population Fund report, calling on the state to review existing practices related to sexual behaviour within the judicial process, law enforcement, education and health sectors.

The report stated reproductive health services ought to be expanded to non-married couples as evidence makes clear that the assumption sex does not, or should not, occur outside of marriage is increasingly out of step with social realities.