Week in review: January 11 – 17

The approach of local council elections – scheduled for tomorrow (January 18) – brought a feeling of deja vu to the Maldives this week as the Progressive Party of Maldives declared its refusal to sign a number of voter lists.

After similar delays during its eventually successful presidential campaign, the PPM was subsequently accused by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of again attempting to obstruct the democratic process.

Second placed presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed – campaigning for the MDP – warned of collusion between the PPM and the Supreme Court.

A copy of the Commonwealth Observer Group report obtained by Minivan News this week revealed recommendations that the People’s Majlis review the 16-point guidelines given to the Elections Commission (EC) by the Supreme Court mid-way through presidential polls.

The guidelines’ insistence that all lists be signed by candidates was described as “impossible” by the the EC this week, which pledged to go ahead with polls despite signatures being completed for less than a fifth of the total ballot boxes.

Ahead of the election date, the PPM saw a number of high profile political figures sign up the party many at the MDP’s expense.

The unity of the pro-government Progressive Coalition appeared in doubt, however, this week as the religious Adhaalath Party announced its intention to field separate candidates in Saturday’s vote. Discussions between the wary allies regarding March’s parliamentary polls were said to have begun.

In preparation for the Majlis elections, Minivan News continued its series of interviews with incumbent MPs, with MDP MPs Eva Abdulla, Abdul Ghafoor Moosa, Mohamed ‘Shippe’ Shifaz, and Ahmed Easa being joined by the PPM’s Ahmed Nihan.

These members were called to an extraordinary session of the house this week as the government sought push through revenue raising measures vital to the 2014 budget.

Criticising the tax hike on tourists – as well as the perceived attempts to hinder local elections – the MDP raised continuous points of order before Speaker Adbulla Shahid was forced to postpone the session.

Further along the legislative process, President Abdulla Yameen ratified the Right to Information Act but refused to approve the Sexual Offences Act, citing elements contrary to Islamic principles.

Yameen’s trip to India was again praised this week by Indian High Commissioner Rajeev Shahare as he announced a week of cultural events to celebrate the “time tested” ties between his country and the Maldives. Shahare noted that Yameen’s meetings with the Indian business community were beginning to have a positive effect.

Yameen himself this week welcomed a return for spurned airport-developer GMR, though he noted that further involvement in the development of the international airport was out of the question.

The cancelled GMR concessionary agreement – still the subject of arbitration in Singapore – was also the subject of investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission, which recommended prosecution of the former finance minister Ahmed Inaz as well as the previous management of the Maldives Airport Company.

Tourists arriving at the airport on their way to the One & Only Reethi Rah resort were in for an unpleasant surprise this week as over ninety percent of Maldivian staff went on strike, following the management’s failure to address accusations of discriminatory practices in favour of foreign employees.

Finally, whilst police arrested a suspect alleged to be part of a national drug-dealing network, the trial of the man accused of the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali concluded, with Hussein Human receiving the death sentence at the behest of the slain MP’s kin.