“I only fear Allah, not the People’s Majlis,” says vice president

Vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, in the first public response to his party’s attempt to impeach him, said he only fears Allah, and not the People’s Majlis or its MPs.

The no confidence motion submitted to the parliament today by 61 MPs is a motion submitted by MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and their associates, and not by the people, Jameel said in a statement publicized on Twitter.

“It is a violation of the people’s rights when a party or an organization, at their whim, without any legal basis, removes an officer directly elected by them,” he said.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty. The ruling party is seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Jameel, who has remained silent on the charges against him, today accused PPM MPs of greed. They have arbitrarily amended the constitution for their personal interests, he said.

The parliament last week passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set new age limits of 30 – 65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously said candidates must be 35 years of age.

The opposition’s backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived to be part of a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The parliament yesterday approved changed to its standing orders to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president. The new rules states the parliament can vote to remove the vice president without an investigation by a select committee.

Below is the full translation of Jameel’s statement:

“The no confidence motion submitted to the People’s Majlis against me today is a no confidence motion submitted by the PPM parliamentary group and their associates. I say this because Article 4 of the Constitution states that all the powers of the state of the Maldives are derived from, and remain with, the citizens. The vice president is elected through a direct vote of the Maldivian public. It is a violation of the people’s rights when a party or an organization, at their whim, without any legal basis, removes an officer directly elected by them.

Those who amended the constitution, in recent days, said the amendment was brought with the best of intentions and for the good of the nation. Their intent and motivation is now clear to the Maldivian people. The constitution, by the will of the people, dictates all the legal principles and the laws by which the Maldivian state must be governed. But, it is now very clear that all these principles, and the checks on power are being changed for a particular individual or in the interests of a certain group.

The premeditated manner and the motivation behind the undermining of the powers of the people and the changes to the governing structure are now apparent, the deception is clear. Although all the powers of the state are derived from the citizens, it is now clear to the Maldivian people that an individual or an organization will use their powers to abrogate a decision made through the direct vote of the people. There is no reason to think they will not do so again.

In this holy month of Ramadan, the Maldivian people and the nation are witnessing the greed of a few. The leaders of this attempt to undermine the people’s powers must remind themselves of the powers of the almighty and omnipotent Allah. I seek strength from Him. I only fear Him, not the People’s Majlis or the Members of Parliament.

I would like to remind the Maldivian people and myself of Verse 46 of Surah Al-Baqarah: “And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah].”

The constitution states that the vice president must be given a 14-day notice and the right to answer the charges before the resolution is put to a vote.

Minivan News was unable to contact Jameel at the time of going to press.

Jameel left to Sri Lanka after President Abdulla Yameen authorized a medical leave. A senior PPM MP told Minivan News yesterday that Jameel was due to return three days ago, but instead departed for the UK without informing the president’s office.

The MP said President Abdulla Yameen has asked the vice president to return to the Maldives and answer to the party’s parliamentary group about his impeachment.

“We have tried contacting him repeatedly to ask him to meet with the parliamentary group. But he has not responded. We are trying to bring our problems to him and trying to find a mutual solution,” said the PPM MP.

Some opposition politicians claim President Abdulla Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life threatening surgery. The government has denied rumours of the president’s health.

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Four police officers promoted to assistant commissioner rank

Four police chief superintendents were promoted to the rank of assistant commissioner of police yesterday.

The four new assistant commissioners are Abdulla Nawaz, Abdul Rahman Yoosuf, Ahmed Mohamed Ismail and Mohamed Jamsheed.

Mohamed Jamsheed has also been appointed the new head of police intelligence.

The former intelligence chief, assistant commissioner Ahmed Arif, was appointed as the head of the development directorate. The post was previously held by Jamsheed.

A police media official told Minivan News that the promotions were routine and that positions are changed whenever a term expires.

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Whale shark sustains serious injuries from boat propellers

The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSR) has revealed photos of a whale shark with severe injuries caused by a boat propellor.

The organisation posted photos of a whale shark it has named Naococco with deep cuts and wounds.

“It seems Naococco is the latest shark to fall foul of a boat propeller. The images below show the extent of the injuries which are among the worst we’ve seen,” reads the Facebook post.

[bxslider id=”whale-shark-damage-propellor”]

Naococco was last seen uninjured on June 1, the MWSRP said.

Here’s what he looked like before he was hit by the boat’s propellors:

Whale Shark damage 5

Whale sharks are protected in the Maldives.

The MWSRP is a research-based conservation charity dedicated to study the whale shark and fostering community-focused conservation initiatives in the Maldives and the greater Indian Ocean.

The whale shark’s injuries “highlights the danger that vessels pose to these sharks,” the MWSRP suggested.

“We urge all users of the area to slow down below the 10kts speed limit and keep a dedicated spotter watching ahead of the path of the vessel for the duration of the time they are traveling through the S.A. MPA [the Southern Ari Atoll Marine Protected Area].

“The MWSRP and the network of guides and marine biologists will be monitoring Naococco’s progress and we hope he will defy the odds and make a full recovery.”

The southern tip of Ari atoll, a year-long whale shark aggregation site, was declared a marine protected area (MPA) in June 2009.

It is prohibited to anchor, mine for coral or sand or dump rubbish in MPAs. Fishing and any other activity which may cause damage to marine life is also forbidden.

The MWSRP was not responding to inquiries despite repeated attempts.

According to a report by a marine researcher on the economic value of whale sharks in Maldives,  the estimated direct expenditures for whale shark focused tourism in the South Ari Marine Protected Area for 2012 and 2013 accounted for US$7.6 and $9.4 million respectively.

The figures are based on an estimate of 72,000–78,000 tourists who are involved in whale shark excursions annually.

In 2010, the MWSRP warned that excessive human interaction with whale sharks in South Ari Atoll could eventually lead to the species leaving the area permanently, after receiving reports of tourists touching and even attempting to ride the sharks.

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PPM secures opposition backing to impeach vice president

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has submitted a resolution to parliament today with 61 signatures to impeach Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

“We submitted the resolution to the parliament today with 61 signatures collected from PPM, Maldives Development alliance (MDA), Jumhooree Party (JP), and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP),” said PPM Baarah MP Ibrahim Sujau.

A two-third majority or 57 votes will be needed to remove the vice-president from office. The ruling coalition controls 48 seats in parliament and has secured the opposition’s backing.

Six MDP MPs and five JP MPs have signed the resolution, Sujau said.

The MDP MPs include Mohamed Nazim, Abdul Gafoor Moosa, Ibrahim Naseer, Ali Nizar, Ahmed Marzooq and Mohamed Abdul Kareem.

The five MPs to sign from JP are Ilham Ahmed, Ahmed Mubeen, Hussein Shahudhee, Abdulla Ahmed and Ibrahim Hassan.

“A lot more opposition parliamentarians expressed their interest in signing the resolution, but they could not as a lot of them are abroad at the moment,” Sujau said.

Sujau said he believes the resolution will pass with an overwhelming majority of 78 votes from the 85-member house.

“The numbers send a clear message to the vice president that he should resign before he is impeached by the parliament,” he said.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb. Pro-government MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty.

Last week, the parliament passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus, or 78 votes in favor, to lower the age limit for the presidency from 35 to 30 years. Adeeb is now 33.

The opposition’s backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived to be part of a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

Some opposition politicians claim President Abdulla Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life threatening surgery. The government has denied rumours of the president’s health.

Jameel is yet to speak publicly about his imminent impeachment. The constitution states that the vice president must be given a 14-day notice and the right to answer the charges before the resolution is put to a vote.

Dr Jameel left to Sri Lanka last week after President Yameen authorised a medical leave. A senior PPM MP told Minivan News yesterday that Jameel was due to return three days ago, but instead departed for the UK without informing the president’s office.

The MP said President Abdulla Yameen has asked the vice president to return to the Maldives and answer to the party’s parliamentary group about his impeachment.

“We have tried contacting him repeatedly to ask him to meet with the parliamentary group. But he has not responded. We are trying to bring our problems to him and trying to find a mutual solution,” said the PPM MP.

Meanwhile, the parliament yesterday approved changes to its rules of procedure to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president.

The new rules state the parliament can vote on removing the vice president without an investigation. The rules previously stated that a committee must investigate allegations against the vice president before a vote.

The amendment to the standing orders was passed with 52 votes in favour and 14 against. One MDP MP and several JP MPs joined the ruling coalition to approve the changes.

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Schools closed over dengue outbreak

Following an outbreak of dengue fever, the government has closed schools until further notice. At least two people have died from dengue this week.

Speaking at a press conference of a high-level task force formed to control the spread of the mosquito-borne disease, education minister Dr Aishath Shiham said schools are being shut down temporarily to ensure the safety of students.

Special classes will be organised for grade 10 students to prepare for their O’ Level exams in October.

A pregnant 18-year-old woman died of dengue fever at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital on Friday night while a migrant worker died in Gaaf Alif Kooddoo last week.

A seven-month old infant who showed symptoms of dengue-fever died at Baa Atoll Eydhafushi today.

Meanwhile, some 1900 people sought treatment for a flu this week alone. The symptoms of the flu include diarrhea and vomiting.

A relatively severe outbreak of dengue in 2011 saw a record high 12 deaths.

Health minister Iruthisham Adam told the press today that the government’s efforts were geared towards preventing an outbreak of similar proportions.

Compared to the 2011 outbreak, the health minister said the spread of the disease this year has been “manageable” due to proactive preventive measures.

In addition to mosquito fogging in Malé and the atolls, Iruthisham said the government is launching a nationwide clean-up programme, and appealed for participation at the household and community levels.

Arrangements have been made to provide treatment for dengue fever at the government-run Dhamana Veshi urban primary health centre, the police ‘Noosandha’ clinic, and the Senahiya military clinic, she said.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has meanwhile launched a 24-hour ‘dengue hotline’ and urged the public to call or text 7548221 for information.

Housing minister Dr Mohamed Muiz said the ministry is scaling up its cleaning efforts to eliminate mosquito breeding sites from construction sites.

An additional tug boat will begin operations today to improve waste management services in the capital, he added.

Home minister Umar Naseer appealed for cooperation from councils, clubs and communities in islands with the government’s programmes.

Earlier this month, HPA issued an alert warning of the spread of dengue and viral fever across the country and advised precautionary measures to control mosquito breeding during the rainy season.

The agency advised the public to empty stagnant water from containers, throw trash into dustbins, and keep containers sealed to prevent water from accumulating.

The HPA also advised wearing clothes that hide the skin, using mosquito repellants, and keeping doors and windows closed during dawn and dusk.

The agency has stressed the importance of cleanliness and hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease and advised seeking medical assistance if a fever persists for more than three days.

Symptoms of dengue fever include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash.

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US ready to ‘deepen partnership’ with Maldives, seeks progress on democracy

The US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal has said that the US is ready to strengthen relations with the Maldives but seeks more progress on democracy and human rights in the Maldives.

Following a call with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to offer Ramazan greetings, Biswal tweeted that she had reiterated concerns regarding the “erosion of democratic institutions” and of “fundamental freedoms.”

Diplomatic pressure has been increasing on the Maldives over the jailing of opposition politicians, including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and crackdown on opposition protests.

During a visit to the Maldives last year, Biswal said judicial independence and politically motivated threats remain an issue in the Maldives, despite the young democracy’s accomplishments.

The assistant secretary of state’s most recent comments come two weeks after the Supreme Court passed a ruling against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), barring it from communicating independently with foreign organizations.

The court’s ruling on June 16 found a human rights assessment submitted by the watchdog to the UN unlawful, and imposed an 11-point guideline prescribing how the HRCM should operate within the law.

The US has taken an unprecedented interest in recent events in the Maldives.

Earlier this month, US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives, including Nasheed.

The two Senators, who head the Senate Armed Forces Committee, warned that the Maldives’ decisions are “having serious adverse consequences on its relationships abroad.”

The US Secretary of State John Kerry in May said that democracy is under threat in the Maldives.

“We’ve seen even now how regrettably there are troubling signs that democracy is under threat in the Maldives where the former president Nasheed has been imprisoned without due process,” Kerry told the Sri Lankan press.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon.”

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UN Human Rights Council mulls action against Maldives

The President of the UN Human Rights Council has called the imposition of 11 guidelines on the Maldives human rights watchdog by the Supreme Court as “unacceptable,” and said he stands ready to take appropriate actions within his mandate.

“National human rights institutions play a pivotal role in independently monitoring and protecting human rights. The imposition of restrictions on the HRCM [Human Rights Commission of the Maldives] for its engagement, in particular, with the Human Rights Council, and its mechanisms is unacceptable,” said Joachim Rücker in a letter to a New-Delhi based advocacy group.

The Supreme Court had found a human rights assessment submitted by the HRCM to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review unlawful, and set several guidelines prescribing how it should operate within the law.

The guideline bars the HRCM from communicating independently with foreign bodies, and orders it to protect unity, peace and order, and uphold Maldivian norms and faith.

The Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) on June 26 had urged Rücker to condemn the Supreme Court’s judgment against the HRCM, stating that “the act of reprisal” is unheard of.

If the UN human rights council fails to condemn it, it would set dangerous precedent across the world, the NGO warned.

In reply, Rücker said: “Please rest assured that I will continue to closely follow this case, continue the dialogue with the Government of the Maldives, as Member State of the Human Rights Council, and stand ready to take appropriate actions within my mandate.”

The issue had been raised at a human rights council meeting on June 26, and had been discussed at a bureau meeting with vice-presidents, he said. Concern had been raised with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon as well.

The ACHR had previously called on the UN Human Rights Council to suspend the Maldives from the council.

Suhas Chakma, the Director of the ACHR, on Wednesday called upon President Abdulla Yameen to place a new bill in the parliament to revoke the Supreme Court’s verdict against the HRCM before the end of the ongoing UN Human Rights Council.

The 29th session of the UNHRC is taking place from June 15 to July 3 in Geneva, Switzerland. The inter-governmental body is comprised of 47 member states and meets for 10 weeks every year, in March, June and September.

The Maldives was first elected to the council in 2010 and re-elected for a second term in November 2013.

The ACHR has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and provides information and complaints to national human rights institutions and the UN bodies and mechanisms.

The government had previously defended the court’s judgment, insisting that the court’s decision “clearly stresses” the commission’s independence.

The foreign ministry said the guidelines “do no stipulate, in any specific terms, any restriction or limitation on the HRCM’s ability to submit reports to the UN or any other national or international organ in the future.”

 

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Government seeks to write off fines for illegal parking

The parliament today accepted for consideration amendments to the 2009 land transport law to write off outstanding fines for illegal parking.

Earlier this month, President Abdulla Yameen pledged to write off fines accumulated for traffic violations and illegal parking.

Following a preliminary debate, the government-sponsored legislation was accepted unanimously with 67 votes in favour and sent to committee for further review.

During today’s debate, several MPs said illegal parking has become commonplace in the capital after the president’s announcement. Motorcycles are parked outside homes, mosques, and hospitals, the MPs said.

The traffic situation in Malè is out of control and extensive revisions should be made to the law to tackle the problem, MPs contended.

Opposition MP Ahmed ‘ADK’ Nashid suggested issuing ‘certificates of entitlement’ after assessing whether a vehicle owner has the parking capacity and introducing ‘pay parking’ services.

The amendments propose leaving it to the discretion of the police to impound vehicles from parking zones after a week and either destroy or auction vehicles if owners do not come forward in 15 days.

If passed, the amendments would also exempt disabled persons from paying traffic fines or annual fees for their vehicles.

The traffic police would still be authorised at their discretion to impose fines for illegal parking, impound vehicles, and dock points from driving licenses.

Speaking at a function with youth supporters on June 6, President Yameen observed that the fines for some motorcycles impounded at the tow yard has reached up to MVR80,000 (US$5,188), which most youth were unable to afford.

“We have submitted a bill to the People’s Majlis to write off debt or arrears built up like this. So from the day this bill passes, those youth will no longer be in debt,” he declared.

According to a 2011 report by the Environment Protection Agency, one in six residents of the capital own a motorcycle.

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Maldives becomes founding member of Asian infrastructure bank

The Maldives signed articles of agreement today to establish the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as one of 57 prospective founding members.

Finance minister Abdulla Jihad signed the agreement at a ceremony held this morning at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The AIIB was created in October to fund Asian energy, transport and infrastructure projects and rival the Western-dominated World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Following the signing ceremony, Maldives ambassador to China Mohamed Faisal said the bank will become “an important global financial institution.”

Arif Hilmy, an advisor to the finance minister, will reportedly represent the Maldives on the bank’s board.

Representatives from 50 of the 57 founding members also signed articles of agreement today, which determines each members’ share and contribution to capital.

The UK, France, Germany, Norway, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, and Brazil are among AIIB founding members, but Japan and the US are opposed to the bank.

The US had questioned standards at the new institution and tried to dissuade allies from joining.

The bank is due to begin operations later this year with a capital of US$100 billion. With 30.4 percent, China is the largest shareholder, followed by India (15 percent) and Russia (6.5 percent).

China also has effective veto power over the bank’s decisions with its more than 25 percent voting share.

During a recent visit to China, President Abdulla Yameen said Sino-Maldives bilateral relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year.

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