Three councilors suspended for boycott of independence day activities

Three councillors of the Alif Alif atoll council have been suspended over a resolution declaring the council will not participate in activities organised by the government to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

The Local Government Authority (LGA) on Sunday suspended councilmen Hassan Shiyan, Moomin Rasheed Ahmed and Ali Sameer for one month without pay.

All six members of the atoll council belong to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The resolution passed on April 30 by three of the six councillors, and signed by the council president, said they do not believe Maldivians are independent and free as long as the first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed and other politicians remain in jail.

“[A]n environment conducive to celebrating Independence Day does not exist in this country at the moment. It will be very difficult to gain the support of the public for independence day activities. This council has decided not to participate in any activities organised by the government, until it grants all the powers enshrined in the Decentralisation Act to local councils and stops harassment of dissidents,” the resolution read.

The three suspended councillors are out of the country.

The council’s vice-president Moosa Naeem told Minivan News the council office is not functioning because of the suspension of half of its members.

The council’s president Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed may also face suspension, he said.

Naeem said he was not present at the emergency meeting called over the resolution, but explained the decision: “We had decided we are not going to participate in the ‘Independent 50’ activities, because the situation in the country, political leaders being imprisoned and many are being brutalised. The decision passed with a majority of three members out of the four that attended.”

The LGA, headed by home minister Umar Naseer, has also penalised several councillors for participating in mass protests organised by the opposition.

A total of seven councillors were suspended for two months without pay for participating in the May 1 protest. Nearly 20,000 people took to the streets of Malé on May Day demanding the release of Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The Thulhaadhoo island council has meanwhile defied orders from the LGA to withhold the monthly salary of a councillor suspended for attending the protest.

The council informed the LGA last week that the authority’s order was contrary to relevant laws and regulations. Unless a court of law rules otherwise, the Thulhaadhoo council said it would be following an “unconstitutional order” if it enforced the decision.

Earlier this month, MDP island and atoll councillors in Noonu atoll decided to chip in to pay the salary of suspended Holhudhoo councillor Hussain Habeeb.

The MDP said some 300 of its 450 island and atoll councillors had taken part in the May Day protest. A third mass protest is set for June 12.

MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz condemned the LGA’s decision: “The LGA is only there to monitor the system. Suspending councilmen is not even on their mandate. An unelected body cannot suspend councillors elected by the people.”

He urged the parliament to take action against state bodies that overstep their mandate.

“This is Naseer’s political schemes, the problem here is the parliament controlled by the ruling party never takes action against committees that go out of their mandate,” he said.


PPM constituencies will be prioritised for development, says president

Constituencies represented by ruling coalition MPs will be prioritised for development projects in the state budget for 2016, President Abdulla Yameen has said.

During a visit to Meemu Atoll Dhiggaru to campaign for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate, Yameen yesterday urged Dhiggaru constituents to vote for Ahmed Faris Maumoon to ensure development.

“If you do this, no doubt when the budget comes, under the principle where constituencies with our members are prioritised now, this constituency will be noted very early on,” he said.

The by-election is scheduled for Saturday, June 6.

The PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) controls a comfortable majority of the 85-house.

The rhetoric of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is unimportant for Dhiggaru constituents, Yameen said.

The MDP, the Adhaalath Party and members of the Jumhooree Party have been protesting for three months over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

Yameen said Dhiggaru constituents wanted a seawall, new classrooms, and a school hall.

“[A] 140 kilowatt generator to ease the electricity problem in this island before Ramadan will be important for the people of this island,” he said.

The generator will arrive before Ramadan, and projects to establish water and sewerage systems in Dhiggaru will begin early next year.

An outer wall for the Dhiggaru football field will also be built in two months and a futsal pitch will be built during the year, he pledged.

President Yameen’s pledges follow PPM MPs assuring development of the five islands in the Dhiggaru constituency if Faris wins the by-election, prompting allegations of undue influence and bribery.

The PPM was previously accused of bribery over the delivery of an x-ray machine to Muli last month.

The government has also signed an agreement with the state-owned Maldives Transport and Construction Company to build a harbour in Dhiggaru.

The ruling party was also accused of vote buying after handing over air-conditioners to a school in Raa Atoll Alifushi, shortly before an island council by-election.

The government’s efforts to develop the Dhiggaru constituency will speed up and be made easier if Faris is elected, Yameen continued, as he would have the president’s ear and be able to share the concerns of his constituents.

In contrast, Yameen said, MDP MPs voted against the 2015 budget and had “hijacked” parliament since March to “obstruct” proceedings.

He also accused opposition-dominated island councils of refusing to allocate land to develop futsal pitches, stressing the importance of electing PPM councillors and lawmakers for cooperation with the government.

Faris is the president’s nephew and eldest son of PPM leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. He will be facing MDP candidate Ahmed Razee and independent candidate Moosa Naseer Ahmed in the June 6 poll.

Dhiggaru is a PPM stronghold and a support base of the former president.

The by-election was triggered by the jailing of former MP Ahmed Nazim, also a PPM member. He was convicted of defrauding the former atolls ministry and imprisoned for life.

Yameen said Nazim had “sincerely served” the party and the PPM wished to keep hold of the seat.


IGMH introduces text message, mobile, and internet appointment service

The government-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) has introduced new services for making appointments through text messages, an Android application, and from the hospital’s website.

Deputy director of operations Mohamed Rishwan told the press today that the new services are intended to ease the burden for customers who have to wait in long queues.

Customers will also be able to check which token number is being served. Rishwan said there will be separate queues for emergency, X-rays, OPD, and laboratory services.

IGMH is the only tertiary hospital in the Maldives and caters to patients travelling from across the country.


Victim of Maradhoo accident dies

A 30-year-old man died in Addu City in the early hours of Sunday while undergoing treatment for injuries sustained in an accident.

Local media has identified the deceased as Ali Nizar, from Alibohareege in Hithadhoo.

The accident occurred around 12:20am in the Maradhoo ward of Addu City. Nizar’s motorbike reportedly collided with a parked pickup.

According to the police, Nizar sustained injuries to his face and various parts of the body. His motorbike was damaged beyond use.

Several fatal accidents occur each year in the interlinked islands of the southernmost atoll.

Three young men died after road accidents on March 30 and April 10.

In November, a 33-year-old man died following a motorcycle accident whilst two men died in September after their motorcycle collided with a pickup.


Man caught with 13 bullets of drugs in anal cavity

A 19-year-old man was arrested at the airport with 13 bullets of drugs concealed in his anal cavity.

The police stopped him at the Ibrahim Nasir International Aiprort (INIA) on an intelligence tip-off. The bullets were noticed after doing an x-ray. The man has been remanded for 15 days.

Meanwhile, the criminal court has today sentenced a 27-year-old man to ten years in prison for drug trafficking. Hussein Nahulaan Abdul Gayoom was caught with 0.5grams of illegal drugs in June 2014.

He was also handed a MVR50,000 (US$3,225) fine.


Five arrested for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl

Five men have been arrested in southern Addu City on a charge of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl.

The police said the five men arrested were aged, 81, 77, 56, 32 and 18 years.

Some were family members of the victim.

A court has remanded the five for 15 days.

A magistrate court in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Gahdhoo has meanwhile sentenced a 25-year-old man to ten years in jail for sexually abusing another 14-year-old girl in 2010.



MTCC to build docking terminal in Thilafushi

The state-owned Maldives Transport and Construction Company (MTCC) is planning to invest MVR52 million (US$3.3 million) to build a docking terminal on the industrial island of Thilafushi near Malé.

MTCC chairman Hussain Salim reportedly said at the company’s annual general meeting last night that the dock yard can be completed in three years.

The company could earn a profit of MVR100 million (US$6.4 million) in a short period due to high demand for the service, he added.

The company will also introduce steel construction this year, Salim said, which is cheaper and faster than concrete structures.

MTCC also plans to invest MVR700 million (US$45 million) during the next five years to improve the capability of the local construction industry. The investment includes buying a dredger for land reclamation projects, Salim said.

The company made a record profit of MVR81.64 million (US$5.2 million) in 2014.


Funds for political parties delayed

The Elections Commission has delayed disbursing funds allocated for political parties in the 2015 state budget due to a delay in verifying the exact number of members in each political party.

A former MP for the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, has alleged the commission is delaying funds to obstruct political party activities.

The MDP, the Adhaalath Party and members of the Jumhooree Party have launched an antigovernment campaign over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Some MVR19million (US$1.2million) has been allocated for political parties in the 2015 budget.

The 2013 Political Party Act states the state must allocate 0.1 – 0.2 percent of the budget for political parties. Funds must be disbursed within the first three months of the year according to the number of members in each party.

The parties must submit an annual report and an audit report before funds can be disbursed.

A spokesperson for the Elections Commission denied Thasmeen’s allegations and said the deadline for disbursing funds and the deadline for submitting the required documents to the commission fall on the same date.

“There was a delay in the verification of members of political parties as per the numbers stated in their annual reports. But we are now in the process of handing out the funds,” media officer, Fazla Ahmed said.

Commission member Ahmed Akram told CNM: “We are supposed to complete these two procedures within the first three months. So we need some time to check the reports. The commission doesn’t want to withhold the funds.”

There are 15 parties registered in the Maldives. Many are dysfunctional.

The commission in March fined the MDP and the opposition Adhaalath Party by MVR47,000 and MVR33,000 respectively on the charge of inciting violence in their then-daily protests.

The two parties have refused to pay the fines and asked the commission to review its decision. Fazla said today it has not made a decision on the appeal yet. The commission is authorized to deduct the sums from the annual payouts.

The commission has ruled a second mass protest by the opposition on May Day unlawful.


Government to replicate legendary boat

The government is planning to replicate a boat used to liberate the Maldives from Portuguese rule in the sixteenth century, as part of the ongoing celebrations to mark fifty years of independence from the British.

Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his brothers from the northern island of Utheemu reportedly sailed the legendary Kalhuohffummi by night, infiltrated islands, killed sleeping Portuguese soldiers and sailed away by day break.

British author Roysten Ellis said the Kalhuohffummi was crucial in the eight-year long guerrilla war against the Portuguese, with the three brothers using the boat’s superior speed and maneuverability to outsmart Portuguese warships.

The home ministry today signed an agreement with the Maritime and Underwater Heritage Society to replicate the Kalhuoffummi for a professional fee of MVR 1.6 million (US$105,000).

Deputy Home Minister Ahmed Saleem unveiled the boat’s design today and said it was finalized after two months of research.

The heritage society’s Mohamed Haleem said the design is based on books by Hussein Salahudeen and Burahad Mohamed Fulhu.

“Our research shows the vessel is 51 foot and 4 inches. We are trying to construct the boat using traditional techniques used at the time to remain true to the original vessel,” he said.

The boat will be built on Baa Atoll Maalhos, transported to Malé and put on display at the Sultan Park.

“We will be able to finish the boat by August. We are currently trying to find the best timber for the boat. It has to be very specific coconut timber,” said deputy minister Saleem.

The Maldives’ independence day falls on July 26, and is celebrated to mark independence from British rule.

The Maldives celebrates Mohamed Thakurufaanu’s struggle every year on National Day, which falls on the first of Rabee-ul-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Thakurufaanu ruled for 16 years.

Other events planned by the home ministry to mark the golden jubilee of independence from the British include skydiving, a swimming competition, a sea sports festival, a world record attempt, float parades, an international football tournament, a police tournament, several music shows and the unveiling of the new currency design.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags and sacrificed 150 goats in a public ceremony in April.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget. However, the ‘Independence 50′ office under the home ministry has said that most of the work is done by volunteers.