Vendors turn Malé’s surf point into trash dump

Vendors have turned Malé’s surf point Raalhugandu into a waste dump after the biannual street market.

The two-week long market ended on June 13, but vendors left plastic, wood, cardboard boxes and pipes at Malé’s water front. The market organizer Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) has not picked up the trash two days after the market ended.

Some 500 stalls were set up for the market.

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The dumping of trash at the surf point sparked outrage on Twitter.

The MNCCI’s Vice President Ismail Asif told Raajje TV that the clean-up effort had been slowed by difficulties in transporting and offloading the garbage onto barges that would carry the trash to the dump on Thilafushi island.

The Malé City Council is cleaning up the mess now. Councilor Shamau Shareef appealed to the public to join him in the clean up with “brooms, gloves and garbage bags.”

As the sun set, only migrant workers staff were seen cleaning the area. Much of the garbage has been cleared on the outermost Bodu Thakurufaanu Magu, but adjoining Ameenee Magu is yet to be cleaned.


Mother confesses to abusing murdered three-year-old baby

A mother accused of murdering her three-year-old boy has confessed to killing the child at the first hearing of her trial today.

Afiya Mohamed Manik told the court that she repeatedly abused her son, Mohamed Ibthihaal, and said she felt anger towards the boy because he was born out of wedlock.

In addition to murder, Afiya was also charged with disobedience to order over child abuse and neglect with reference to the law on protecting children’s rights. She appeared for today’s hearing without legal representation and pleaded guilty to the latter charge, but also confessed to the murder.

Ibthihaal died “by my hands,” Afiya was quoted as saying by local media. She confessed to strangling the child and kicking his chest three times.

Judge Muhthaz Fahmy reportedly stopped Afiya and reminded her that she was to answer the disobedience to order charge. The judge and state prosecutor explained the charge to Afiya.

Afiya said she understood the charge and was confessing to abusing her son voluntarily.

The charge carries a penalty of six months in jail.

Reporters at the hearing observed that Afiya appeared calm, but her voice trembled when she spoke of abusing Ibthihaal on the day of his death. She was handcuffed throughout the hearing.

At today’s hearing, the judge offered Afiya the opportunity to appoint a lawyer at the state’s expense and explained the process of seeking a public defender. He did not announce a date for the next hearing.

If she is found guilty of murder, Afiya faces a sentence of life imprisonment. She had reportedly confessed to murder during the police interrogation and her remand hearings.

Ibthihaal’s body was found with signs of severe abuse on January 28 in the worst case of child abuse in recent years. The horrific murder on the island of Rakeedhoo in Vaavu atoll shocked the nation while reports that the authorities had been aware of Ibthihaal’s abuse sparked public outrage.

Afiya was arrested for murder two days later and has since been held in pre-trial detention.

Afiya’s stepfather, Ismail Raoof, was arrested on April 1 on suspicion of physically and sexually abusing Ibthihaal.

In April, Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh said negligence by government authorities and the island community on Vaavu Rakeedhoo was partly responsible for the toddler’s murder.

Satheeh said marks on the child’s neck indicated that he had been strangled.

Police also found swelling on the right side of his forehead, scrapes on his face, wounds on his right ear and scars all over his body. Some of his ribs were broken as well.

Satheeh said Ibthihaal’s death was caused by “major injuries” while some older scars remained unhealed.

“Mohamed Ibthihal had received physical and psychological harm from different individuals on different occasions, for a long period of time,” he said.


JP spokesperson ‘unlawfully leased’ island to ex-minister

The opposition Jumhooree Party spokesperson Ali Solih has been accused of unlawfully leasing an island to a company owned by a cabinet minister during his tenure as the minister of state for fisheries and agriculture.

The anti-corruption watchdog said Solih had leased an uninhabited island in Shaviyani Atoll to a company owned by then-minister of health Mariyam Shakeela.

The constitution bars cabinet ministers from actively engaging in a business, buying or leasing any state property or from having financial interests between the state and another party.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), in a report released today, said Solih had abused his authority in leasing the island to Shakeela’s company.

Solih was appointed to the fisheries ministry by former president Dr Mohamed Waheed in 2012.

The ACC said Solih had not consulted the fisheries ministry’s legal department in signing a contract. The department had informed Solih the transaction was illegal in a memo, but he told the ACC he was not aware that a memo had been issued.

Solih did not cancel the contract even when he found out the company belonged to the health minister, but considered transferring the contract to a new company, the ACC said.

The managing director of the new company was a shareholder in the company the island was first leased to, the ACC said. The act constituted abuse of authority to confer undue advantages and if convicted, is punishable with three years in jail, house arrest or banishment.

President Abdulla Yameen appointed Shakeela as health minister, but she lost her cabinet portfolio when pro-government MPs rejected her nomination in a cabinet shuffle in August.

It is not yet clear if the ACC will seek to prosecute Shakeela for continuing to hold shares in a company as health minister.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Solih said he was not aware whether a cabinet minister held shares in the company the island was leased to.

“It was not my responsibility to find out who owned shares in the company, but as soon as I found out that this contravened with the law, I asked the legal department to look into it,” he said.

“This is the government’s method of intimidating people who are working against their tyrannical regime,” he added.

The JP had split from the ruling coalition in January citing authoritarianism. Senior members of the party have launched an anti government campaign along with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and the Adhaalath Party.

Two senior JP officials are now facing prosecution on criminal charges. JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and JP council member Sobah Rasheed have been charged with terrorism for allegedly inciting violence during an anti-government demonstration on May Day.

The charges under the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act carry a sentence of between 10 to 15 years in prison.

The pair are abroad at present. Sobah said he is seeking political asylum.

JP leader Gasim Ibrahim has been in Bangkok since late April. The tax authority in May froze Gasim’s Villa Group’s accounts claiming the company owed the government US$90.4million in unpaid rent, fees and fines.

Gasim insists the claim is unlawful and is contesting it at the civil court.



Parliament accepts bill on expediting formation of Islamic University

The parliament today accepted for consideration a bill on expediting the establishment of the Islamic University of Maldives.

Legislation on establishing the Islamic University by upgrading the Islamic College or ‘Kulliya’ was passed and ratified in April. The law was due to come into force in August.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim proposed amendments to the law to turn the college’s council into the university’s interim council. The acting vice chancellor will also appoint acting deputy vice chancellors in consultation with the council until the president makes new appointments.

The law currently states that Kulliya’s vice rectors will serve as deputy vice chancellors until new appointments are made. The acting vice chancellor will be the head of the council.

The amendments will come into effect following ratification by the president. The amendment bill was sent to committee for further review at today’s sitting with 32 votes in favour, 16 against, and two abstentions.

During today’s debate, opposition MPs accused Waheed of proposing the changes with the intention of dismissing senior officials at the college and current rector Dr Ibrahim Zakariyya Moosa in particular.


Verdict in ‘airport protest’ delayed to August 6

The criminal court has postponed the sentencing of 15 opposition supporters accused of protesting at the main international airport to August 6.

A sentence was expected on June 14, but the court delayed the hearing after presiding judge Sujau Usman was promoted to the High Court last week.

If the sitting judge in a case leaves the court, the case is immediately referred to the Chief Judge, who then has to allocate another judge to oversee the case.

“We still don’t know if a new judge has been allocated to the case. Even then, the new judge cannot immediately issue the sentence. He has to hear the case again,” said lawyer Nazim Sattar.

Some 14 women and one man are being charged with disobedience to order, after they were arrested carrying posters of imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in March.

The 15 belong to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The Freedom of Assembly Act prohibits protests at airports and carries a MVR150 (US$10) fine, or six months in jail, house arrest or banishment.

Nazim contends the group’s actions do not constitute a protest.

“State witnesses include testimonies from the police officers who arrested the individuals. How can that be used to prove they were protesting?” Nazim questioned.

Malé City deputy mayor Shifa Mohamed and MDP women’s wing vice president Shaneez “Thanie” Saeed are among the defendants.

The criminal court had previously conditioned the group’s release from remand detention on avoiding protests. The High Court later said the court’s conditions are unconstitutional.

Shifa has previously accused the criminal court of misconduct and bias in the treatment of those arrested at protests, and said that the individuals are being punished for the same crime twice with the 60 day protest ban.

Judge Usman sat on the three-judge panel that sentenced ex-president Nasheed to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges. The trial was widely criticised for apparent lack of due process.


‘Dear President’ feedback portal launched

The president’s office has today launched an online form titled “Dear President” for citizens to share their concerns with President Abdulla Yameen.

The form is available on the president’s office website, and allows the public to send comments, concerns and thoughts on agriculture, fisheries, tourism, education, health, housing, youth, sports or other.

Members of the public are required to list their names and ages, while the email address and contact number is optional.

The public affairs coordinator at the president’s office, Aishath Leeza, said the campaign is receiving a lot of public support.

President Yameen and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim have recently held several public functions to meet with the elderly and the youth.

Late last month, the first lady visited chronically ill patients at the state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and distributed packages of rice, dates and cans to the disabled in Malé and its suburbs Hulhumalé and Vilimalé.

An eyewitness at the IGMH said he saw the first lady handing out envelopes with money to patients.

But the first lady’s secretary denied rumours that she had distributed money to the sick at the IGMH.

At the June 7 meeting with the senior citizens, President Yameen pledged to send 142 pilgrims to Hajj this year on government expenses. But president’s office spokesperson told local media two days later that the president’s remarks were misunderstood. The president had only pledged  to secure placements for 142 senior citizens through the government-owned Hajj Corporation, he said.

The first lady also met with the participants of the 30th National Quran competition last week.



Maldives raises US$162,000 for earthquake relief in Nepal

The Maldivian Red Crescent and the Maldivian Medical Association have raised a total of MVR2.5million (US$162,127) for the earthquake relief effort in Nepal.

The donations will support the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ humanitarian assistance effort. The IFRC has appealed for US$93million in assistance.

The MRC says it wants to donate the funds to build shelters.

Nearly 9,000 people died in Nepal after an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale struck on April 25. Another tremor of magnitude 7.3 struck on May 15, leading to more deaths.

Fundraising activities conducted across the country include a telethon, children’s evenings, and a football match between the Veteran’s club and MPs.

The public sector contributed MVR500,000 (US$32,425) while companies and civil society groups donated MVR700,000 (US$45,000), the MRC said.

The Maldives raised US$1.9million to help Palestinians who lost their homes in the Israeli offensive in Gaza last year.

The International Federation of Red Crescent (IFRC) has completed 100 housing units in Gaza with the US$1.9 million raised by the Maldivian media.


Ramadan hours set for restaurants and shops

Restaurants and cafés are to be open from dusk to 2am during the Islamic month of Ramadan, the economic development ministry has said.

Shops can be open throughout the day, but must close by 11:00pm at night.

The first day of Ramadan begins on June 18.

In March the economic ministry changed the closing time of shops and restaurants to 10:00pm and 12:00am, respectively, following a spike in gang violence in Malé.


JP leader backs law that would bar him from presidency

The leader of the Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim has urged MPs to back a constitutional amendment that would bar him from contesting the presidential elections in 2018.

In a message to JP MPs on Sunday, the tourism tycoon and MP, said: “I request you to vote for the proposal to set age limits on presidential and vice-presidential candidates.”

Gasim has been in Bangkok since late April.

The amendment – proposed by a ruling coalition MP – proposes setting an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency. The constitution at present only says that a candidate must be 35 years of age.

“Gasim Ibrahim called some MP’s on their phones and requested that they support the amendment. He also texted some MP’s requesting support for the amendment. However the JP parliamentary group is yet to make a decision,” the JP spokesperson Ali Solih told Minivan News today.

In 2018, Gasim will be 66.

The amendment bill was accepted with 44 votes in favour, five against, and sent to a parliamentary committee for review.

A three-quarters majority or 64 votes will be needed to amend the constitution. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and coalition partner MDA controls 48 seats in the 85-member house.

The ruling coalition will need the backing of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and JP MPs to pass the amendment. Several JP MPs voted in favour of the bill.

The bill has fueled speculation of President Abdulla Yameen planning to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who is now 33 and ineligible for the position.

JP MP Abdulla Riyaz was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

The criminal court has meanwhile said they are not aware of an arrest warrant for Gasim. Newspaper Haveeru in early May reported the court had issued an arrest warrant for Gasim on charges of funding the opposition’s May Day protest.

A second meeting between JP representatives and the government on Sunday has also been postponed.

JP MPs met with cabinet ministers on June 9, to begin talks proposed by President Abdulla Yameen, and proposed conducting talks with all the opposition parties and the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).

MPs also asked for the release of imprisoned politicians including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, judicial independence and investor protection.

President Yameen called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties, days after the tax authority froze the accounts of several tourism companies that belong to Gasim. The government claims Gasim’s Villa Group owes the state US$90.4million in rent and fines.

The opposition says the claim is politically motivated, and the Villa Group is contesting it at the civil court.

Gasim in several tweets on Friday distanced himself from the opposition’s June 12 sit-in, and urged Villa employees not to participate.

The JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed have been charged with terrorism over the May Day protest. Nearly 200 people were arrested after violent clashes broke out between the police and protesters.

The pair are abroad. Sobah has said he is seeking political asylum.

The JP split from the ruling coalition in January citing authoritarianism, and allied with the MDP in a campaign to “defend the constitution.”

Ex-president Mohamed Nasheed was arrested a week after the two parties launched daily protests. He was swiftly brought to trial over the detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges.

Since the tax authority issued the US$90.4million claim, Gasim has not been seen at opposition protests and has remained silent on the jailing of several politicians.

MPs and senior officials of the JP, however, formed a new coalition with the MDP and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party in March.

The Villa Group has struggled to pay salaries for some 5000 staff. Some have been dismissed.