Senior TVM staff found guilty of sexual harassment, let off with warning

The state broadcasting company, Public Service Media (PSM), has let off a senior technical officer found guilty of sexual harassment with a warning.

PSM spokesperson Abdulla Rameez refused to confirm the decision made by an internal committee following an inquiry, saying: “We do not give out information that would harm our staff’s dignity.”

But a copy of the committee’s decision obtained by Minivan News states the accused was warned in writing “after considering the seriousness of the case.”

The PSM said in a statement yesterday that “a just decision” was made in accordance with the law and that the offender has been punished.

According to 2014 sexual harassment law, government offices must set up internal committees to investigate complaints of workplace harassment within 60 days. The committee is authorised to warn, suspend or dismiss the perpetrator.

The PSM operates the Television Maldives (TVM) channel and a radio station.

A senior PSM staff who wished to remain anonymous told Minivan News that the technical officer had “groped a woman’s breasts.”

Other PSM employees who spoke to Minivan News alleged that “many girls were subjected to sexual harassment from the technical officer.”

“They never looked into the case when there have been numerous cases where he assaulted women. This time they had no other choice but to investigate the matter after it was exposed in the local media,” an employee said.

Another staff member criticised the company’s attitude towards sexual offences after “the technical officer’s matter was handled lightly. He was allowed to work while still the case being investigated. He is here as if nothing had happened.”

CNM reported yesterday that the accused senior official was “forgiven” by the committee.

The PSM, however, denied the media reports in its press statement, noting that the complainant has the right to appeal the committee’s decision but had not done so.

The state broadcaster said it regretted the misleading media reports that has brought PSM into disrepute and threatened to sue media outlets for damages.

According to CNM, the incident occurred three weeks ago at the PSM recording library. Sources told the online news outlet that the technical officer grabbed the woman from behind and groped her breasts.

The committee decided to pardon the offender because he has worked at the state broadcaster for 22 years, the sources claimed. The technical officer had reportedly confessed to the committee.

Last month, a manager at the state-owned Hulhumalé Development Corporation (HDC) was also let off with a warning after he was found guilty of sexually harassing a female employee.

The HDC’s human resources manager Mirshan Ahmed was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to an employee who had joined the company in March.


Plastic palms placed on Malé streets in rush to prepare for independence day

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Plastic palm trees have been placed on Malé’s streets and several areas at Male’s waterfront have been closed off as the government rushes to complete major renovation projects including a new official jetty and a musical water fountain at the Republic Square before July 26.

Grand celebrations are expected on July 26 as the Maldives marks the golden jubilee of independence from the British.

The plastic palm trees will be strung with lights, says the home ministry.

Several masked men, which the opposition claims are rogue policemen, in October last year chopped down all of Malé City’s Areca palms. Jailed ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim claimed during a trial on weapons smuggling charges that he was framed after the fallout with the police and tourism minister over the cutting down of palm trees.

The government later prevented the Malé City Council from replanting the palms.

The presidential jetty on Malé’s waterfront has been dismantled, and barges with cranes have been brought in as soldiers work around the clock to finish the jetty within two weeks. The government insists the jetty will be completed, but says dignitaries for the official independence day function will be received at the T-jetty in front of the local market area, and not at the presidential jetty.

The Republic Square has meanwhile been closed off for months for renovations and a brand new water fountain.

The official celebrations will not be held at the Republic Square, but at the Usfasgandu area on Malé’s southeast corner, the president’s office has said. The Usfasgandu is traditionally used by the opposition for its activities.

Renovations began this week at the Usfasgandu area. Cranes are at work leveling the area, while workers are putting up new walls.

“All of the planned renovations will be completed by July 26,” said Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the president’s office spokesperson.

The government has not yet disclosed the program for the day. Officials have previously said that the government will hold an official function, soldiers and school students will hold a parade, and official games will be held at the national stadium.

Renovations are also underway at several parks and public monuments in the city. Malé’s streets and the smoke stacks at the power plant have been decked in green, red and white national flags.

An army spokesperson also said all renovation work is on schedule. If not, soldiers may be brought out to complete work. But there is no such indication yet, he said. The army is only in charge of the official jetty at present.

Mohamed ‘Mundu’ Hussein Shareef, the presidential affairs minister, last night dismissed allegations of corruption in the use of the independence day budget. The home ministry has received special permission from the finance ministry to award some projects without a bidding process due to lack of time.

He refused to disclose the total amount allocated for independence day, but finance minister Abdulla Jihad last week told Minivan News the budget was MVR150million (US$9.7million).

The Anti- Corruption Commission began a review last week after receiving complaints of lucrative projects being awarded to private companies without a bidding process.

The Minivan 50 office awarded a restaurant New Port with an MVR1million catering contract and a British company called The Projection Studio with a contract to manage sound, light and projection at the official celebrations.


Former Islamic minister appointed Islamic university’s vice chancellor

President Abdulla Yameen has appointed former Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as the vice chancellor of the newly formed Maldives Islamic University (MIU).

Shaheem, a senior member of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), resigned from the cabinet on May 5. Following his resignation, Shaheem said he was considering retiring from politics to focus on social work.

President Yameen also appointed former education minister Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussain as MIU chancellor yesterday. He was previously the chancellor of the Maldives National University (MNU).

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali revealed today that the president has also appointed five members to the MIU governing council.

The five members are deputy minister for Islamic affairs Mohamed Musthafa Ibrahim, the president’s representative on the Judicial Service Commission Mohamed Faisal, Dr Mohamed Haneef, Shuhad Rizwan, and Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim.

The president has also appointed five members to the Maldives National University’s (MNU) governing council, including information commissioner Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur.

The other members are Dr Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq, Dr Hussain Faiz, Mohamed Iuveiz, and Ismail Visham.

The appointments follow ratification of amendments to the Maldives National University Act last week, which authorised the president to appoint nine members to the 13-member governing council, including the chancellor and the vice chancellor.

The president could previously only appoint the chancellor.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had warned that the changes will compromise the MNU’s independence and politicise the institution.


President’s office minister Abdulla Ameen resigns

President’s office minister Abdulla Ameen has resigned from the government.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said Ameen submitted his letter of resignation yesterday.

The former minister “did not state a particular reason for the resignation in the letter,” Muaz said in a tweet today.

Ameen is a close ally of Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who is facing impeachment by the parliament.

Ameen is also facing corruption charges after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) forwarded a case against the minister to the prosecutor general’s office. Ameen is accused of writing off a fine to a company over delays in the Thimarafushi regional airport project.

The company had failed to complete the airport within the agreed upon period.

Corruption charges have not been filed at court yet.

Vice president Jameel’s cousin, former youth minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was also sacked from the cabinet last month.

A 14-day notice for Jameel to answer charges expires today. The impeachment process is expected to begin next week and the vice president has said he intends to respond to parliament in writing.

MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have secured 61 signatures for the impeachment motion. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house is required to remove the president or the vice president

Jameel had previously labelled his imminent impeachment as a “constitutional coup” and urged the international community to intervene.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence and are seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Adeeb has accused Jameel of planning a coup d’etat with the opposition.

“A lot of people are accusing him of leaving with a lot of money and a lot of things. He is even now accused of dereliction of duty and fleeing the country. He has left the country because the coup he had planned has failed,” he said.

The parliament last month passed an amendment with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set the new age limits of 30-65 years for presidency and vice-presidency.

Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously stated that candidates must be 35 years of age.

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

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are currently engaged in talks to resolve a six-month long political crisis.


Sri Lanka and Maldives stock exchanges sign deal for cooperation

The Sri Lanka and Maldives stock exchanges have signed a memorandum of understanding for co-operation in marketing, creating a framework for cross-listings and dual listing of securities, and cross-border regulation of companies.

Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) Chief Executive Rajeeva Bandaranaike said in a statement that the CSE has shared “cordial and close relations” with its Maldivian counterpart since its inception in 2002.

Maldives Stock Exchange (MSE) Chief Executive Hassan Manik said the MoU “will help both our exchanges to learn from each other’s experiences,”

“In comparison to the CSE the MSE is a very small Exchange, therefore there are many areas in which the CSE can help the MSE to grow and develop,” he was quoted as saying by the Sri Lanka-based EconomyNext financial news service.



Elderly man found in Malé lagoon “died of natural causes”

A 71-year-old man was found dead floating in the lagoon in Malé’s northern waterfront last night. The body was found around 12:30am near the official jetty in front of the Republic Square.

The police have identified the deceased as Mohamed Jaleel, from the Hemlock house in the Galolhu ward of the capital.

He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital and is believed to have died of natural causes, the police said in a statement. There were no visible signs of injuries of the body, the police noted. The serious and organised crime department is investigating the case.

In April 2007, the discovery of a dead body in Malé’s southwest lagoon sparked protests amid allegations of continuing custodial abuse.

Hussain Solah, 27, was found dead five days after his arrest from Hithadhoo in the southernmost Addu atoll.

The police claimed he was released on April 13, but he did not contact family or friends, and was found dead in the harbour outside the detention centre on the morning of April 15.

But a seven-month investigation by the human rights watchdog found that there was “not enough evidence to say for certain that Solah was [ever] released from custody.”

A police corporal was charged with assaulting Solah based on the Human Rights Commission of Maldives’ investigation.

However, in November 2009, the criminal court found corporal Ahmed Shah not guilty on the grounds that the witness statements were not sufficient evidence for a conviction.

As Corporal Shah was in charge of the jail at the time, the court said witnesses were likely to be prejudiced against the senior officer.

In August 2012, the High Court upheld the lower court’s verdict.


Three more suspects arrested in Fuvahmulah child prostitution case

Three more suspects have been arrested in connection with a child prostitution ring uncovered in Fuvahmulah last week.

The police said in a statement today that the suspects taken into custody last night included two men aged 24 and 25 as well as a 21-year-old woman.

The Fuvahmulah magistrate court has ordered the men to be held in remand detention for 15 days and the woman for 10 days.

The 24-year-old suspect has a criminal record for theft and damaging property, the police said. He had previously been arrested twice and questioned 18 times.

Two cases involving the 25-year-old have meanwhile been sent for prosecution. He has been arrested twice previously on charges of rape and theft.

On Friday, ten men were arrested in Fuvahmulah on suspicion of drugging, blackmailing, and forcing children into prostitution. An additional suspect was arrested yesterday.

The girls were reportedly tricked into using drugs and filmed naked by the suspects, who then threatened to leak the videos and blackmailed the minors.


Former President Gayoom departs to Oman as president’s special envoy

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom departed for Oman today as a special envoy of President Abdulla Yameen.

“During his visit, former President Maumoon will meet officials from Oman, and discuss ways to further boost the existing bilateral ties between the Maldives and Oman,” the president’s office said.

Gayoom -leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and half-brother to the president – is reportedly unhappy with the imminent impeachment of the vice president and had opposed a constitutional amendment that set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and vice presidency.

Last week, Gayoom denied rumours that he favoured a person other than tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

Despite the rumours of a rift between the Gayoom brothers, the former president said in a tweet last week that the appointment of a deputy is the sole prerogative of the president.


Schools to re-open on August 2

The education ministry has announced that public schools will re-open on August 2 after being closed this month following an outbreak of dengue fever.

Schools were temporarily closed on July 1 based on advice from a task force formed to control the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. But special classes continued for grade 10 students ahead of the O’ Level examinations in October.

Four people have died from dengue fever while more than 600 cases have been reported this year. A total of 775 cases were reported in 2014.

Two people died from dengue last year. A relatively severe outbreak of dengue in 2011 saw a record high 12 deaths.

Last month, the government launched nation-wide efforts to prevent mosquito breeding, including mosquito fogging in Malé and the atolls and clean-up programmes.