May 24th – 30th
The Syrian civil war hit the headlines here as the Bilad Al Sham Media media group reported that two Maldivian nationals had died in Syria while fighting pro-government forces.
Local media identified the individuals as Hassan Shifaz from Galolhu in the capital Malé, and Ali Adam from Shaviyani atoll – the latter reportedly dying in a suicide attack.
The government’s response to the reports has been muted and subsequently criticised – though the Islamic minister opined that Maldivians should not be fighting foreign wars in the name of Islam.
The government may well have been preoccupied with the predictable fracturing of its ruling coalition, with Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim’s attempt to secure the Majlis Speaker’s role enough to see its agreement with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives dissolved.
After President Abdulla Yameen warned the JP leader that his candidacy must be withdrawn, Gasim’s refusal to defer resulted in the PPM’s announcement that its 15-MP ally was no longer part of the Progressive Coalition.
The fragility of the coalition’s remaining advantage in the new Majlis was indicated by the narrow victory of the PPM’s Abdulla Maseeh – beating Gasim by just four votes. Meanwhile, the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik edged out his PPM opponent to take the deputy speaker’s chair.
At the start of the week, the MDP had set eight areas any prospective Majlis speaker would need to focus on in order to receive the backing of its 25 MPs, including judicial reform, income tax, and the empowerment of local councils.
Prior to the appointment of his successor, former Speaker Abdulla Shahid told Minivan News of his fears for the Majlis’ future as the institution’s independence and oversight functions continued to be eroded by conservative forces.
Despite the government’s now wafer-thin majority in the legislature, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed assured that the work of government would be unaffected as the clearout of JP ministers began.
The AFC Challenge Cup made up the third major theme of this week’s news, beginning with the Afghan team’s bus crash in Addu City last weekend.
While the police commissioner gave credence to conspiracy theories surrounding the crash in which ruled a number of Afghan players out of their semi-final match, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) announced it would be looking into potential wrongdoing in the sale of tickets.
Adding the sea-sickness of his players to his list of grievances, the Afghan team coach advised the Asian Football Confederation to reconsider holding further tournaments in the Maldives, while the AFC itself advised the ACC that investigations into ticketing would stray onto its turf.
The Afghan team were subsequently knocked out by eventual winners Palestine before losing the third place play-off to the Maldives – themselves exiting the tournament in a dramatic semi-final against the Philippines.
Home Minister Umar Naseer meanwhile revealed his plans for correctional reform, with the division of detainees into open prisons and work gangs, with others released after being electronically tagged.
Current inmate Hussain Humam – convicted of the murder of MP Dr Afrahseem Ali – appealed his death sentence at the High Court this week.
President Yameen journeyed to India for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration – reaffirming bilateral ties – while staff of the MMPRC went down-under to convince more Australians to holiday in the Maldives.
MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy saw his contempt of court case dismissed, while the auditor general’s preliminary investigation into the tourism minister’s alleged corruption appeared to falter as the ports authority refused assistance.
The discovery of the body of a new-born baby in Maafannu – and the subsequent arrest of its 18-year-old mother – prompted Hope for Women to suggest that social and religious stigma was damaging the sexual health of young women.
The Health Protection Agency explained how it hoped to alleviate some of these issues with the introduction of a health education programme in Hulhumalé later this year which is to include sexual health guidance for 10 – 24-year-olds.
Finally, Minivan News this week profiled the Rajjetherey Meehunge Party – an online group aiming to highlight the continuing income disparities between those from the atolls and the Malé elite.