All parties, except PPM, required to re-register members

The Elections Commission has ordered all political parties, except the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), to re-register any member who may have submitted membership forms without fingerprints.

The commission in a statement on Thursday said the 2013 Political Parties Act requires all political parties to submit fingerprints of members to register, and ordered all parties to submit membership forms with fingerprints by December 31.

The PPM, formed in 2011, is not required to re-register members as all of its membership forms held fingerprints. The EC had first established the requirement for fingerprints in 2010, and it was enshrined by law in 2013.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the first party to register in the Maldives in 2005, has claimed the move is designed to reduce its members.

With 46,608 members, MDP is the largest political party in the Maldives.

MDP spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said the commission could not apply the law retroactively. “The MDP was formed before the new act. Back then, a fingerprint was not required, so the membership forms are valid,” he said.

He argued that article 8 (a) of the Political Party Act accepts any party with more than 3000 members before the law came into force as a registered political party. The requirement for fingerprints only applied to new membership forms.

“This is a clear obstruction of the people’s constitutional right to join political parties. It creates an unfair burden on political parties and is designed to reduce our numbers,” he added.

EC members were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

Ahmed Akram, an EC member, told newspaper Sun that any members who did not submit forms with fingerprints will be removed from the political party registry.

The PPM has 36,232 members. The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), from which the PPM emerged as a splinter faction, has 14,750 members. The Jumhooree Party has 13,990 members.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has 9009 members.

Political parties receive funds from the state budget every year. The amount depends on the size of the party membership.

The EC has previously said it receives complaints from the public about being registered to political parties without their knowledge or consent.

The commission has set up mechanisms to check party registration either through text messages or on the official website.

A text message sent to 1414 with PPR space followed by the national ID card number would show if the person is registered to a political party. Alternately, the EC website has an online database to check party registration by entering the ID card number.

The EC in 2014 fined the PPM, MDP, JP, Adhaalath Party and DRP for submitting fraudulent membership forms.

The commission in September 2014 fined the Jumhooree Party for a ninth time after it discovered repeated fingerprints by 36 people on some 258 new membership forms.

The PPM was also fined in March 2014, after it emerged that the ruling party had submitted forms on behalf of a dead man.

The Anti Corruption Commission in 2012 interviewed 100 members of then-President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaadh Party (GIP) and alleged 85 percent of those polled had no knowledge of ever joining the party.



MDP and Sangu TV in row over live broadcast of rallies

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) suspended its rally on Thursday night after privately-owned Sangu TV broadcast the event live without permission.

MP Ahmed Mahloof told Minivan News an opposition supporter had removed Sangu TV’s microphone from the podium at the opposition’s campaign office or Haruge, resulting in a confrontation between “gangsters” who supported the TV channel and opposition supporters.

Sangu TV however said the group were its staff.

The rally was suspended for 40 minutes and restarted at 11:45pm.

“This is very disappointing coming from a party that supposedly works for press freedom,” Miuvan Mohamed, head of news at Sangu TV, said.

The nightly rallies are part of the opposition’s campaign against tyranny to free ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defense minister Mohamed Nazim, who were respectively sentenced to 13 years and 11 years in jail in trials criticized for lack of due process.

In a letter to Sangu TV on June 30, MDP said privately-owned Raajje TV owned exclusive rights to broadcast rallies at the Haruge. Sangu TV should respect the decision and come to an agreement with Raajje TV on broadcasting Haruge events, the party said.

“They cannot live broadcast from a private location after somebody else has been given exclusive right. It’s similar to how specific channels are given rights to live broadcasts to a football match,” Mahloof said.

That same night, the front doors at the MDP’s headquarters were vandalized. The party said it is uncertain if the two events were related, while the station denies any connection.

Miuvan said he believed Haruge activities are public events and said the recently launched channel was trying to “bring all sides of the story in a balanced manner without taking sides.”

Sangu TV was launched on April 30 with several former staff at Raajje TV.

The station is owned by MP Abdulla Yameen, who defected from the MDP to the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) this year.

Miuvan said opposition supporters may be calling the station’s staff gangsters because some of them had long hair. “All of them would have had Sangu TV’s press card with them.”

Translation: “The scales have tipped to one side. We hope the MDP will not bar other media from its activities.”

MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said all media are welcome to report on events at the Haruge. “The MDP-Raajje TV agreement does not mean other media cannot record the events and report on it. But if they want to live broadcast it they have to get prior permission from Raajje TV.”

Raajje TV said it has invited advertisers to sponsor coverage of the Haruge events. “Some TV stations’ attempts to forcefully provide live coverage of the Haruge activities is aimed at damaging Raajje TV.”

Some opposition supporters have called for a boycott of Sangu TV after the row.

Sangu is the Dhivehi word for the conch shell. It was the name of a dissident magazine produced in the early 90s by former president Nasheed.


Hundreds mobilized in campaign against dengue

Hundreds of volunteers and staff at state owned companies and government offices began walking door-to-door in the capital Malé this morning with a checklist of activities to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites. At least four people have died this year from dengue fever,a mosquito-borne disease.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is advising the public to empty stagnant water from containers, throw trash into dustbins, and keep containers sealed to prevent water from accumulating.

“We would like to appeal to the public to take up dengue control as an individual responsibility. We are taking measures to eliminate mosquito breeding sites in public spaces, but we do not have access to households,” said Asma Ibrahim, director at the HPA.

Of the 475 cases reported this year, some 180 cases were reported in Malé. Schools have been closed indefinitely to control the spread of dengue. Deaths include a pregnant woman and a migrant worker.

Dengue is now endemic in the Maldives. Prevention and control of the illness solely depends on effective mosquito control measures. Symptoms include high fever, headache, muscle and joint pain.

The HPA has 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

An outbreak typically lasts six weeks, Asma said.

The virus is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito. It’s peak biting periods are early in the morning and in the evening before dusk.

The Housing Ministry is fogging public areas with insecticides and has requested construction companies to eliminate mosquito breeding sites from construction sites.

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

A severe outbreak of dengue in 2011 saw a record high of 12 deaths. There were 2909 reported cases of dengue that year. In 2006, 10 people died of dengue.

There are four known types of the dengue virus, and the strains responsible for the illness wax and wane cyclically. In regions where dengue is common, one or two strains tend to dominate for two to three years at a time.

People in the region appear to acquire immunity for those strains and the number of cases will dip for a few years before another strain takes over and infections flare up again.

Dengue fever cases worldwide have climbed dramatically since the 1960s, with some 50 million people infected annually.


Maldives secures US$50m loan for water and waste projects

The Maldives has obtained a US$50million loan from the OPEC Fund for Development to provide access to water and solid waste management on 49 islands.

Finance minister Abdulla Jihad signed the agreement in Vienna on Thursday. The loan is to be repaid within 18 years, including a grace period of four years.

The interest rate on the loan is 4.6percent.

Under the “Provision of water supply, sanitation and solid waste management project,” sewerage systems will be established on southern Addu Atoll’s Maradhoo, Maradhoofeydhoo, Feydhoo, Hulhudhoo and Meedhoo islands.

Water supply networks will be established in ten islands and water supply systems with desalination and storage facilities will be established in 14 islands.