The campaign for the vice presidency

Vice president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed remains in London and will issue a written response ahead of his imminent impeachment as supporters of the tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb began a campaign backing him for the position. His appointment as the new vice president appeared momentarily in doubt this week

Adeeb’s supporters have been on the streets asking people to take a photo carrying a poster with the words “I support Adeeb for VP.”

The impeachment vote has not been scheduled at the Majlis yet. But Jameel was notified of the impeachment motion on July 2 and given 14 days to respond.

Rumors had spread this week that the Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the president of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and half-brother to President Abdulla Yameen, favored another candidate.

Gayoom today denied rumors he favors specific candidate in a tweet. “It is not true that I have a preference for a particular person to become vice president,” he said.

The appointment of a deputy is the sole prerogative of the president, Gayoom added.

PPM ally, the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), also denied rumors its leader Ahmed Siyam Mohamed was interested in the position.

The parliament in late June amended the constitution to set new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment bars Gayoom, who is in his early 80s and has already served six terms, from contesting presidential elections.

The lower age cap makes Adeeb eligible. He is 33. The constitution had previously said that candidates must be above 35 years of age.

The move appears to have widened a rift between the Gayoom brothers. Gayoom’s son MP Faris Maumoon was absent from a vote on the constitutional amendment despite a three-line whip.

Faris’ absence led to a heated exchange on text messaging service Viber between the newly elected MP and Adeeb.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty. But the opposition claims Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a major surgery. The government continues to deny rumors over the president’s ill-health.

Soon after the amendment to the constitutional amendment passed, Jameel suddenly left the country. He told the New Indian Express his impeachment is a constitutional coup.

Meanwhile, President Yameen, in a meeting with PPM MPs on July 7, reportedly said he does not trust his deputy and showed them Viber messages exchanged between Jameel and opposition politicians ahead of a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

PPM MP Mohamed Musthafa in a tweet subsequently said the president had shown them evidence that Jameel had been planning a coup.

In the messages, Jameel had reportedly asked a lead organizer of the protest if the opposition will support his takeover of the presidency if protesters were able to oust Yameen on May Day.

The protest had ended with the arrest of nearly 200 protesters in violent clashes. Some 20,000 people had taken to the streets in the largest anti-government action in Maldivian history.

Jameel was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

The PPM has secured opposition backing for the impeachment motion with 61 signatures. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes will be required to vote Jameel out of office.

The parliament has amended its standing orders to fast track the vice president’s impeachment.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) backed the constitutional amendment to make Adeeb eligible for the vice presidency when the government transferred jailed opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed to house arrest.

The government and the MDP have now begun talks, raising hope of an end to a six-month long political crisis.


With Chinese grants and loans Malé-Hulhulé bridge inches closer to reality

The Chinese government has pledged to provide US$100 million as free grant aid to finance the construction of a US$300million bridge between capital Malé and airport island Hulhulé.

The Chinese and Maldivian governments today signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) related to financing the project and the construction stage.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, finance minister Abdulla Jihad said that the Chinese government will provide a US$170 million loan at an interest rate of two percent. The remaining US$30 million will be spent from the Maldivian state budget.

“This is an important step to make the bridge viable,” Jihad said.

The MoUs were signed following discussions between the cabinet’s economic council and a delegation from the Chinese government about finalising the design and other matters.

The director general of the department of foreign assistance at the Chinese commerce ministry, Wong Yong Puk, signed the MoUs on behalf of China.

Jihad said official agreements on finance will be signed within the next three months.

The economic council has previously said the six-mile bridge will have six lanes and will span from Malé’s eastern edge to the western corner of Hulhulé, where the airport is located.

According to the housing and infrastructure ministry, the bridge will be completed in two years.

Under the second MoU, the Chinese government agreed to find a contractor for the project and to help the government operate the finished bridge.

During a historic state visit in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the bridge will be called “the China-Maldives friendship bridge” and would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible.

An agreement was meanwhile penned during President Abdulla Yameen’s state visit to China last month for carrying out the ongoing feasibility survey of the Malé-Hulhulé bridge project with Chinese grant aid.

In May, a team of Chinese technicians began drilling bore holes on the ocean floor to gather information for the feasibility survey.

The feasibility study has since been completed and handed over to the Maldivian government.

In a keynote address delivered at the opening ceremony of the 10th China-South Asia Business Forum on June 12, President Abdulla Yameen declared that Sino-Maldives relations are at an “all-time high” with the establishment of a cooperative partnership between the countries last year.


New national integrity commission will ‘cure PIC toothlessness’

The government has submitted a bill to replace the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Customs Integrity Commission (PIC) with a single ‘National Integrity Commission’ (NIC) with greater powers.

The PIC, set up in 2009 investigates public complaints regarding police conduct, but cannot take punitive measures. It is only authorized to make recommendations to the home minister. The NIC, however, will have a wider mandate.

“We held extensive consultations in drafting the bill, especially with the PIC. They shared a lot of concerns, and the shortcomings in their current functioning is worrying. Although recommendations are given, there appears to be no compliance with a single recommendation,” deputy Attorney General Ismail Wisham said.

The new oversight body for the law enforcement agencies – including the Maldives Correctional Services and the immigration department – will investigate alleged violations of laws and regulations by employees, take administrative action, and forward cases for a police investigation to pursue criminal prosecution.

The commission can also recommend changes to regulations and procedures and assess the effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies.

“The NIC will cure the current toothlessness of the integrity commissions. There is really no use to a commission without powers. The new bill has provisions that will empower the commission,” Wisham said.

Fathimath Sareera, the chair of the PIC, was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

According to the PIC annual report for 2014, the commission investigated 141 complaints.

The CIC was established in January 2014. The commission investigated just one complaint in 2014, according to an annual report.

In a recommendation to reduce expenditure in December 2012, the parliament’s public accounts committee had advised merging the PIC and CIC to form a national integrity commission (NIC) with oversight over all state institutions.

Both the PIC and CIC have five members while the NIC will be comprised of five members. If the law is passed, the PIC and CIC will be dissolved and its staff will be transferred to the NIC.

The new commission will also take over pending cases. It will have the authority to form task forces, seek expert assistance from other state institutions, and summon witnesses.

The proposed law states that the five members must have experience or educational qualifications in five areas: legal affairs, governance or public administration, commerce or business administration, human resources, and the economy.

Commission members must also have a first degree and seven years of work experience and must not have parents, wife, husband, or children serving in a law enforcement agency.

The president will appoint members to the commission for a five-year term in consultation with the parliament. The draft legislation does not state that nominees must be put to a vote for parliamentary approval.

The president’s office said the bill was submitted to the parliament last week. The purpose of the new law is to strengthen the functioning of law enforcement agencies and lay out procedures and rules for investigating complaints.

Other independent institutions include the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, the Judicial Services Commission, the Anti- Corruption Commission, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Auditor General’s Office.



Third meeting of talks rescheduled for Sunday

The president’s office has rescheduled a third meeting in ongoing talks with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for Sunday, July 12.

A meeting was set for Wednesday night, but cancelled at the last minute as some government representatives are out of the country.

The government is due to propose mechanisms to release jailed opposition politicians and withdraw charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters. The long-awaited talks has raised hope of an end to a six-month long crisis triggered by the arrest and imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The opposition leader was transferred to house arrest in late June.

President Abdulla Yameen had proposed three teams of ministers to sit separately with the three allied opposition parties. The Jumhooree Party and the government held two meetings in June, but there had been no progress with the MDP or the Adhaalath Party as the government vetoed some of the proposed representatives.

The MDP had proposed Nasheed and Adhaalath had proposed Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who is in police custody awaiting trial on a terrorism charge.

With Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest, the MDP agreed to begin talks without the opposition leader. Talks are yet to begin with the Adhaalath.

At a second meeting on Sunday, the government conceded to an MDP demand to commence all-party talks at a later stage when constitutional and legal reform are on the table.

The MDP and the government are currently discussing the opposition’s six demands for political reconciliation. In addition to freeing jailed politicians and withdrawing charges against supporters, the party has also called for an independent inquiry into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali.

The MDP has also proposed that talks conclude within a two-week period.