MDP Parliamentary Group call for Gasim’s removal from JSC

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have called for the removal of opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) leader and MP ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) – the commission mandated to appoint and investigate complaints against judges.

Gasim is a well-known business tycoon, media owner and leader of the opposition-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP). He was in 2010 accused by the government of treason and bribery after phone calls of his conversations with People’s Alliance MP and the former President’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen were leaked to the media.

Gasim replaced opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Afrashim Ali on the JSC, after Afrashim was dismissed by parliament 38-34 in favour amid claims of misconduct and corruption. Gasim was then narrowly appointed to the judicial watchdog after 38 members of of the 77 member parliament voted in his favour, to 36 against.

Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, observed at the time that Gasim “is a man of wealth, and every seat he has ever sat on has benefited him. We can expect the same from the JSC. I don’t think anyone is under any other impression. The people’s representatives have sold out to the devil, and this is a very sad day.”

DRP Deputy Leader Ibrahim Shareef also expressed reservations at the time, suggesting the Gasim’s extensive business interests could prove a potential conflict of interest when overseeing the Maldivian justice system: “That is a real possibility. I think the judiciary must be totally free from political influence. We have to see how this unfolds – this is a small country and it is hard to have complete impartiality.”

“What is required is sincerity. We need to build a judiciary that is competent, efficient and capable of delivering justice,” Shareef told Minivan News in June 2011.

Speaking at an MDP rally today, several MDP MPs and senior figures accused Gasim and Speaker of the Parliament Abdulla Shahid – both of whom are members of the JSC representing parliament – of not fulfilling their legal duties on the committee.

The MDP called on Gasim and Shahid to carry out the responsibilities at the JSC and conclude cases presented against Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, to end the current political tensions in Male’. The JSC’s investigation of the judge stalled after the Civil Court issued an injunction to its own watchdog body, which the JSC obeyed.

The MDP Parliamentary Group expressed concern that the judicial watchdog was defunct while the situation of the country was deteriorating, accusing the JSC of taking no action against the judge which had allowed him “to destroy the entire judiciary.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Spokesperson for MDP Parliamentary Group’s Mohamed Shifaz said that they had not officially decided to remove Gasim.

”What we want most is a professional JSC. If removing unprofessional persons to professionalise the JSC is the only way then we will do it,” Shifaz said. ”It is possible that the MDP Parliamentary Group will make such a decision.”

He said that JSC members attending protests and trying to defend a particular judge was not very professional.

”I believe that JSC members protesting is an ethical issue,” he said, in reference to Gasim who has been a key opposition figure throughout last week’s rallies in Male’.

Speaking at the MDP rally last night, MDP Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said that the citizens of the Maldives handed the administration to President Mohamed Nasheed to establish justice.

Gasim did not respond to calls and text messages at time of press.


Loans and guarantees pass as opposition walks out

Parliament today approved the government’s borrowing summary totaling Rf5.5 billion (US$358 million) proposed by the government for 2012 amidst political disturbances within the Majlis.

Minivan staff observed opposition party members leaving the Majlis as ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members remained inside to approve the supplement to the 2012 State Budget.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam said the party walked out “because we believe PPM [Progressive Party of Maldives] sold out the vote to MDP.”

According to Adam, suspicions were raised when the chair of the Public Accounts Committee attempted to vote with the opposition. She said eight PPM members created a disturbance when the vote was presented, and were forcefully removed by the military.

She suspected the scuffle had been planned.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor confirmed that damage was done to the Majlis chamber, and noted that MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik’s seat name tag was “crushed”.

Ghafoor also believes that the display was calculated.

“Why would some people walk out and accept the decision, while others make a show of it?” he asked, noting that the Majlis has a precedent of requesting the removal of those who disturb proceedings.

However, Ghafoor believed the episode was understandable “in the context of a transitional democracy, in which the previous regime is allowed to be politically active.”

According to law, the Majlis must approve all foreign loans separately from the budget, which was approved earlier this week with 70 votes in favor, two against and one abstention.

The Rf14.6 billion (US$946.8 million) budget was passed with Rf3.5 million (US$226,977) added through amendments proposed by opposition MPs.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) proposed shifting Rf300 million (US$19 million) from other items to local councils, increasing funds for political parties from Rf11 million (US$713,000) to Rf14.5 million (US$940,337) and raising state benefits to the elderly from Rf2,000 (US$130) to Rf2,300 (US$148) to adjust for inflation.

Foreign loans will be allocated for budget support, construction of Addu Hospital and support for middle-income businesses, fishing and agriculture.

The highest loan is valued at US$150 million, to be borrowed from China’s Exim Bank.

Although the Finance Committee approved the borrowing summary it nevertheless highlighted important missing information. According to MP Adam, committee members today found discrepancies between the document approved yesterday and the version submitted to Parliament today.

When asked about the discrepancies Ghafoor identified them as “speculative–conspiracy oriented” and asserted that “all possible details were submitted, but the opposition said it did not confine to the strict guidelines of the law. Of course there are some points and details which can only come after the it is approved.”

“It’s a foregone conclusion, the budget was passed and you assume that to cover the deficit, you have to take loans,” he said.

Parliament is now in recess until March.


Protests leave government and coalition awaiting next move

In the wake of the December 23 protests, coalition members who defended Islam and ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members who called for a continuation of the nation’s moderate tradition await each others’ next move while attempting to articulate the differentiate between religious and political motives.

At an MDP rally held on Saturday night, party Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik claimed that he would not let President Mohamed Nasheed listen to the any of the demands without party approval.

“If you note down the demands and submit it to MDP, we will look into it and forward any demands we see worthwhile to send to the President,” Moosa noted.

He claimed that MDP is well aware of the Islamic history and government will not be forced into doing anything whenever a person says something or protest.

On Friday night, Moosa led an enervated crowd at Haruge in a protest against the demands and those calling for them.

The demands have not been formally presented to the government, President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair confirmed. He added that Moosa’s demand for a party review was in keeping with standard protocol.

Meanwhile, Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson and former State Islamic Minister Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed hopes the President “will accept the people’s voices.”

Furthermore, religious coalition spokesperson Abdullah Mohamed said no deadline has been set for the government to meet the protestor’s demand, however the coalition will meet this week to discuss the government’s reaction and next steps.

“We will observe very closely how much the government is doing to meet our demands. We will try to peacefully resolve the issues by discussing with the government,” he said, warning of another mass protest should the talks fail.

Meanwhile, no party has said it will formally submit the demands as requested.

The coalition of opposition parties and religious groups made five key demands of the government at Friday’s protest: to formally condemn UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay for her comments on Shari’ah law; to deny El Al and other Israeli airlines service to the Maldives; to remove the SAARC monuments in Addu; to reverse the decision on declaring areas of inhabited islands uninhabited in order to permit alcohol sales; and to close Male’ brothels.

In a significant shift from the Maldives’ tradition of moderate Islam protestors also called for the full implementation of Shari’ah law, including hand cutting and stoning. These requests have not been officially endorsed by any party.

While all demands stem from Islamic principles, Zuhair believes they have been made “for political gain and recognition by political leaders, not by religious scholars and for religious purposes.”

“This is actually deceit on a grand scale. We are all Muslims, and as such share that part of our identity. But each and every political party can compete politically under separate identities.

“Then, the opposition takes a side and calls on all Muslims to come over. It’s political trickery, and the people will be aware of it.”

Zuhair suggested that financial advantage was also part of the mix, pointing out that the religious scholars who accused former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of not being a Muslim during the 2008 Presidential campaign were the “same people now speaking on the same platform as the former president.”

He claimed that the end goal was political and financial profit.

“The sheiks have been brought to the public as a people who say one thing for political gain during one period, and then change during another. Everyone has an agenda. The mullahs are taking the businessmen for a ride, Gayoom is taking the mullahs for a ride, it’s a win-win situation,” Zuhair said.

The loss, Zuhair suggested, could come on the international platform.

“In today’s interconnected world, information is disseminated by foreigner partners and concerns are raised beyond the government’s reach,” he said.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem noted that few foreign reporters were sent to cover the protest due to its collision with the holiday season, but that foreign media outlets had picked up the event. “All governments are concerned,” he said. “I don’t believe this was good publicity for the country.”

However, the peaceful execution of both protests had reassured many, he concluded.

Minivan News asked DRP leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen whether the protest was religious or political.

“It was organised by religious and civil society groups for issues concerning them, it was not a political event,” he said. He added that the protest would have no bearing on the 2013 presidential election, but said that the demands made must be discussed by political parties.

The purpose of the protest, according to Thasmeen, was to point out that the government’s habit of pursuing policies which “undermine religion” have created a “growing fear among the Maldivian people.”

Minivan News asked whether a distinction could be made between religion and politics. “The protest was organised by a variety of groups,” he responded, “and has achieved its goal of showing that the Maldivian people are deeply concerned.”

Minivan News inquired of Thasmeen, a resort owner, whether the demand to recall the resolution over selling alcohol on uninhabited islands would damage the tourism industry.

If approved, Thasmeen said the demand “would only impact tourism in a few locations. We are requesting that the government stop using technical loop holes to sell alcohol on these islands.”

Meanwhile, MDP party members spoke out against Thasmeen and Gassim at an impromptu party rally late Friday evening, calling for their arrest as well as the execution of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Thasmeen today accused the government of labeling the protest as “radical–which is not a label that fits in with the people who attended.”

Officials agree on one thing: the December 23 protests brought significant issues to the table, which both sides will be hard-pressed to ignore.


NSC to summon protest organisers

The National Security Committee will summon organisers of the December 23 protest to ‘defend Islam’ for questioning along with security personnel.

The individuals will be summoned on either Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

The committee decided to summon Abdulla Mohamed, President of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla, members of the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) activist association organising the counter protest, Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh and Chief of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel.

According to Haveeru, protest organisers will be questioned on their planning process and purposes while security personnel will be asked to describe preparations for the protest and to assess whether the protest can actually be held.

The committee intends to clarify and calm the situation, however today’s meeting was heated, reports Haveeru.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Galolhu-South MP Ahmed Mahloof described the intended protest as a peaceful gathering with no intentions for unrest.

Hulhu-Henveyru MP and transitory chairman of MDP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) “will be unstoppable” in its protest against claims that it is irreligious.

Some members observed that a dual protest would disrupt the public order, and asked both sides to cancel their demonstrations.


Moosa calls for investigation of protesters who called for religious tolerance

MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has called for an investigation of the “silent protest” for religious tolerance, held last weekend at the Artificial Beach.

The religious Adhaalath Party and NGO Jamiyyathu Salaf have also asked the police to investigate the participants.

The group, who dubbed themselves ‘Silent Solidarity’, issued a press release following the event stating that the cause of the gathering was “to make the Maldives and the international community aware of the rising religious intolerance in the Maldives, and to condemn the constitutionally-endorsed suppression of religious freedom. It is also intended to denounce the increasing use being made of Islam as a tool of political power.”

The actual protest, held on International Human Rights Day, turned into a bloody affair when controversial blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed was struck on the head with a stone. The other 15-30 protestors were also attacked.

Moosa has said that the protests should be treated in the same way that slogans calling for the murder of non-Muslims, published “by accident” yesterday on the Maldivian website, are being investigated by police.

The website is currently organising a protest to “defend Islam” on December 23. The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) recently announced its intention to hold a counter-rally on the same date.

According to Haveeru, Moosa said the rising number of religious activities are the “first in a series of events conspired to create chaos in the Maldives”. He insisted that the protest threatens national security, and admitted that MDP’s decision to protest against the religious rally would create further problems.

Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair today said that those organising the public demonstrations to protect Islam had a “hidden agenda”, and had “increased the scale of danger to public order”.

According to a statement published on the President’s Office website, Zuhair claimed religious scholars Sheikh Adam Shameem bin Ibrahim and President of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdullah had publicly associated their names and images with the website. He believed that their reputations as respectable scholars were at risk over the affair.

Although the violent slogans were removed and said to be the result of hacker activity – at one staged blamed on intelligence officials – Zuhair called the removal “meaningless, because newspapers and internet websites are usually published as daily editions.”

The publishers have not refuted their violent objectives by simply removing the slogans published on their inaugural edition, he added.

Head of the National Security Committee and Thodoo MP Ali Waheed noted that the cases were of national interest and would be put on the agenda soon.

Moosa further claimed that the religious agitation was a reaction to the country’s successful tourism industry. “The Maldives’ tourism industry’s growth has attracted the foreign eye”, and foreigners are joining hands with locals to create national instability, he claimed.

Secretary General of Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim said the recent political and religious activity has not affected foreign investment or tourism.

“By and large, the Maldives is peaceful and a good place to invest,” he said.

He said MATI is not taking a stand on the issue.

“All people have the right to express themselves according to their constitutional rights. All we are saying is that you have to present a balanced picture of what’s going on. There is enough written about the Maldives for people to decide for themselves” if and how to invest, he said.

Foreign travelers and investors are not concerned about the politics on Male’ and other islands, Sim explained.

“The question for them is, how safe are their investments and how safe are they on resorts,” which Sim said “exist by themselves.” He added that an investor’s chief concern is whether the Maldives’ legal system enables or protects his/her business.

“The Maldives’ system still makes it very difficult for foreigners who want to invest,” Sim observed. Under the current system, investors wade through “layers and layers of bureaucracy” involving multiple ministries and councils.

“You would assume that foreign investment could be handled by the Ministry of Economic Development, or that a Foreign Investment Services bureau would allow someone to do everything in one go,” Sim suggested. “But often, people are referred to a website for information. Now, it takes time for paperwork to be processed, and too many people are needed to make a decision. It’s very discouraging to an investor,” he said.

Formerly, foreign investment was handled under Invest Maldives. Since the company drifted into an inoperative stasis following the successful GMR bid, Sim said no other government group has actively promoted foreign investment in the Maldives.

“MMPRC [Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation] is in charge but it is hard to see them carrying the Maldives’ banner and selling the various products Maldives offers,” he claimed.

“Environment is the main selling point for the Maldives, and you don’t need to do much to sell that. But someone needs to build confidence and value among investors.”


ICC membership expected to reform Maldivian judicial system

The Maldives has become the 118th country to adopt the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world’s first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression, genocide and war crimes.

The Maldives is the third state in South Asia to become an ICC member, following Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It is the ninth in the south asian region alongside Cambodia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste; plans to ratify the statute are advancing in Malaysia and Nepal.

Asia has been slower than other regions in adopting the ICC regulations, allegedly because they maintain the death penalty which is prohibited by the ICC. William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, said the Maldives’ decision to accede to the Rome Statue was a significant step for the region.

“It is vital that the momentum towards increasing respect for the rule of law and accountability for those responsible for the most serious crimes is seized by other states in the Asia-Pacific region, many of whom are close to joining the ICC,” Pace said in a press release. “Joining the Court represents a strong deterrent effect that will contribute toward the prevention of gross human rights violations in the Asia-Pacific region and to the global fight against impunity.”

Acceding to ICC regulations as defined by the Rome Statute has been a long process for the Maldivian government. In 2003, the Maldives took steps to reject its judicial authority.

Wikileaks cables published on 1 September 2011 cite the Maldivian government’s intent to “never turn over a US national to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Maldivian government would not sign the ICC treaty and would not respect its claim to universal jurisdiction.” Other cables indicate that then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was seeking approval for a visit with then US President George W. Bush, allegedly to improve his chances of re-election.

Speaking to Minivan News today, the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said ratification of the ICC statute highlighted the different values of the current administration.

“For us, it’s transparency that is at the top of our priorities. So right now, our highest priority is to improve the judicial system of this country.”

The ICC covers major crimes which are widespread, systemic and of concern to the international community. The ICC does not deal with small cases, even if the victims may be in the hundreds.

Among the criteria for the ICC to take on a case in the Maldives is doubtful willingness and capacity of the country’s own judiciary to handle the case in question.

Zuhair said it was important for Maldivians to have access to an international judicial system. “Individuals who feel they have a complaint, even against a leader, could refer the complaint to the Maldivian judicial system or to the ICC. This is a big step for a country whose previous leaders have been accused of human rights violations. I believe their cases would be fairly addressed in the ICC,” he said.

Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Asia-Pacific Coordinator for the ICC’s advocacy NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) told Minivan News that ratification would support domestic legal reform, and that heads of state would face new levels of accountability.

“The ICC only deals with the big fish. In the past only the small fish may have been sacrificed to show a semblance of justice – but the ICC targets the highest level of responsibility: the head of state, generals, kings,” she said previously.

The Debate

In October 2010, the debate to join the ICC created sparks in Parliament.

MDP MPs condemned the “unlawful and authoritarian” practices of the previous government. Group Leader “Reeko” Moosa Manik referred to 2009 legislation protecting former presidents who he considered “the worst torturers in the country’s history,” and said the purpose of the international criminal court was to “arrest torturers like Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom], people like Ilyas Ibrahim [brother-in-law of the former president] who stole state property and funds, and Attorney Generals like Hassan Saeed who tried to hide it.”

MPs from opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA) said MDP MPs were overlooking the fact that Gayoom had never been reprimanded in a court of law, and accused the current administration of disregarding rules of law. MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom accused the MDP government of formulating policies only to “benefit certain people”, which he argued could be “considered a crime in international courts.”

The question of religion was also inflammatory. DRP MP Dr Afrashim Ali said convention should not be signed if it could lead to “the construction of temples here under the name of religious freedom.” Other MPs pointed out that several Muslim countries had not joined the ICC, and the MPs were concerned that ratification would “shatter Islamic principles” and encourage gay rights.

Shari’a experts in ICC signatories and Muslim countries Afghanistan, Jordan and Malaysia have not found conflict between the Rome Statute and Sharia.

On 14 June this year, Parliament voted almost unanimously to sign the Rome Statute of the ICC.

The Effects

Speaking to Minivan News today, Balais-Serrano pointed out that ratification of the Rome Statute was well-timed.

“As a chair of the SAARC summit, Maldives will have quite an influence on south asian countries attending this year’s event,” she said. “It will certainly be constructive in reviewing human rights, a key point we plan to address at the summit.”

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit is scheduled for Addu City in mid-November this year.

Balais-Serrano also pointed out that by ratifying the Rome Statute, governments are committing to adapt current domestic legislation to meet international standards. She said ICC members could receive “training of local judges and prosecutors and other officials responsible for lawmaking and implementation”, and hoped the Maldives would forward with judicial reform.

“The judicial system in Maldives can benefit from the rules and procedures by which the ICC operates, for example, in the nomination and election of judges, in the protection of witnesses and victims and in ensuring due process,” said Balais-Serrano.

She said that ICC membership would expand Maldivian court procedures. “One of the motivations of joining the ICC is to let go of a commitment to include the domestic judicial system alone. Now, Maldivians can also refer to the ICC provisions and regulations. This is a timely event for the Maldives to review domestic law while making the ICC a reference point.”

As an ICC member, the Maldives will be able to send judges and lawyers abroad for internships and exchange programs in member countries. Balais-Serrano said that all member countries are obliged to send employees to the ICC to learn and assist with proceedings.

International liability

ICC membership could affect international relations. The Maldives recently made news headlines by supporting the Sri Lankan government, which is facing war crimes allegations by international human rights groups. A report from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has raised the likelihood of an investigation by the Human Rights Commission.

A Relationship Agreement between the ICC and the United Nations calls the UN “potentially the most important partner of the ICC on various levels,” and suggests that investigations by the UN are based on the same human rights standards put forth by the ICC.

“The Maldives cannot do anything if the ICC decides to investigate and put into trial the perpetrators of crimes in Sri Lanka,” said Balais-Serrano. “If suspected criminals from Sri Lanka seek refuge in the territory of the Maldives, as a state party to the ICC, the government is obliged to cooperate to the Court by arresting  the criminals.”


GMR challenges Heavy Load for airport turf

GMR has challenged Heavy Load Maldives over land designated for a new terminal at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Haveeru reports.

GADL International Limited, a subsidiary company of GMR, had allegedly been assigned to reclaim the land and build the new terminal.

However, reports state that Heavy Load was awarded the first phase of the reclamation project at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, which includes 50 percent of the reclamation.

GMR has said that Heavy Load would not be given the project to construct the breakwater.

Heavy Load was recently asked to stop work at the Enboodhoo Lagoon by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). The company had been awarded the project by Thilafushi Corporation Limited on September 30, 2010. Heavy Load re-submitted its proposal in August 2011, after the bidding was re-opened.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) interim Chairperson, ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, holds shares in Heavy Load.


“Moosa is a big liability”: MDP MP ‘Colonel’ Nasheed

MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) representing Upper North constituencies boycotted a rally last night dubbed “Big Picture for Bodu Thiladhunmathi [Haa Alif, Haa Dhaal, Shaviyani and Noonu Atolls]” in protest of acting Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik allegedly using party resources for “self-promotion.”

MDP MP for Nolhivaram ‘Colonel’ Mohamed Nasheed explained that the MPs decided not to attend the rally as “the purpose was not made clear and there was no discussion with us before it was organised.”

“The second reason is because we believe the party mechanism is being abused to promote a certain person,” Colonel said, referring to former parliamentary group leader Moosa Manik.

Colonel speculated that Moosa was preparing to launch a bid for the MDP ticket for the 2013 presidential campaign.

“We have advised President [Mohamed] Nasheed repeatedly that we should not be making enemies,” he said. “But what we’re seeing from Moosa every day are calls for someone to be killed or arrested.”

Moosa had become “a big liability” for the government and ruling party because of his tendency to “make enemies” and put personal interest before the party, Colonel said.

“Major successes of the party are rolled back because of one word from Moosa,” he continued. “MPs [from other parties or non-aligned] that we bring to the party after a lot of hard work is lost because of Moosa’s personal issues.”

He added that the ruling party suffered as a result of Moosa “making enemies of politicians, businessmen, the judiciary and certain media.”

“There is no one in this country who isn’t an enemy of Moosa Manik now,” he said.

Moosa has been engaged in a long-running feud with private broadcaster DhiTV, which routinely carries allegations of corruption against the MDP Chairperson, notably in the awarding of a US$21 million reclamation project to Moosa’s company Heavy Load.

Moosa meanwhile alleges that 168 bottles of alcohol found in his car while he was in Singapore was an attempt to frame him by the owner of DhiTV, Champa Mohamed Moosa.

“A media channel in this country has used my photo, my car, my family, my children and my name to do business and I want to sue for compensation,” Moosa told Minivan News at the time, referring to DhiTV’s continuous coverage of the incident.

Colonel noted that the allegations in the media were harmful to the ruling party: “I’m not saying the accusations are true, but Moosa has not been able to prove his innocence,” he said.

He urged the party’s acting chairperson to be “more focused” and “make friends instead of enemies.”

Speaking to Minivan News today, Moosa Manik however claimed that he was “not aware that anyone boycotted last night’s rally.”

Moosa also dismissed Colonel Nasheed’s criticism: “Colonel wouldn’t seriously say that about me,” he insisted. “He must have been trying to fool somebody. It must have been a joke.”

Haa Alif Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed told Minivan News that last night’s rally was announced “suddenly without any discussion” while MPs were busy preparing for a ceremony tomorrow night to unveil the government’s economic reform agenda.

While MPs Hamid Abdul Gafoor, Ilyas Labeeb and Hussein Waheed were only MPs who attended the rally, Rasheed claimed that all three left when they “understood what was happening.”

Rasheed speculated that the “hidden agenda” behind the rally was Moosa’s campaign for the MDP presidential ticket.

“I am certain of [Moosa’s plan to run for presidency],” he said. “Otherwise he wouldn’t be trying to damage and undermine the dignity and integrity of the government.”

President Nasheed met MPs recently to discuss the economic reform package, said Rasheed, and “asked us not to act like children in parliament and argue and scream at each other all the time.”

“[But] Moosa’s nuisance is now worse for us than nuisance from the opposition,” he said, claiming that “every time there is an important vote Moosa angers all the opposition MPs and businessmen in Majlis.”

He added that Moosa’s habit of “making enemies” resulted in MDP losing support of opposition and Independent MPs.

“There is a very important vote tomorrow where we are going to need the support of two opposition MPs,” he explained, referring to a vote on the agenda for Monday’s sitting to approve the president’s nominees for Fisheries Minister and Defence Minister.


Kuredhu quad-bike unregistered and unauthorised for use, MDP MPs claim

A quad-bike that crashed into a tree in Kuredhu Resort killing two British tourists last week was neither registered nor authorised for use, MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed during debate on a motion without notice today.

The emergency motion proposed by MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik noted that the King Quad 700 model bike was not legally registered at the Maldives Transport Authority while its driver Filip Eugen Petre – a Swedish national and son of a resort shareholder – did not have a license to operate the vehicle.

“Two kinds of vehicles are commonly used in Maldivian resorts,” Moosa said in his opening remarks of the debate. “That is vehicles used for lifting goods and golf carts or buggies for transporting guests.”

Moosa alleged in parliament that attempts were made to “to hide the boy [Petre] and put the blame [for the accident] on a Maldivian employee in the resort.”

The former MDP parliamentary group leader called on the government to investigate the accident “even if it involves bringing officials from the British government to uncover how this really happened.”

Other MDP MPs expressed concern about the impact of such incidents on the tourism industry and repeated calls for a thorough investigation.

“I don’t know for what reason such a vehicle used in big mountains or at high speeds should be used in resorts,” observed MP Ahmed Sameer, deputy parliamentary group leader of the ruling party.

Several opposition MPs however strongly objected to the motion, arguing that it should not have been tabled in the agenda as it represented “a personal attack” by Moosa.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Azim claimed that Moosa was motivated to submit the motion by DhiTV’s continuing coverage of alcohol bottles found in his car – a network owned by Champa ‘Uchoo’ Mohamed Moosa, who also owns the Kuredhu resort.

The motion was however approved for debate in a 29-7 vote.

“Some people who have resorts in this country are using private media to defame others and hide their crimes,” Moosa said, referring to DhiTV.

“It is noteworthy that some media connected to this resort has not covered any news of [the Kuredu accident].”

Moosa also strongly criticised resort owners for “mortgaging state property” and propping up an autocratic regime to enrich themselves.

MP Riyaz Rasheed of minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) meanwhile accused the MDP chairperson of corruption – in a US$21 million deal to reclaim land in Thilafushi – and suggested that Moosa should be evaluated to “see if he is even fasting today.”

Independent MP Ahmed Amir cautioned against speculation regarding the accident as foreign media could report “MPs implying in parliament that this was done by Maldivians.”

In his turn, Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ibrahim Muttalib alleged that police destroyed or hid evidence in some criminal cases “probably on orders from the government.”

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali meanwhile contended that the incident should not be debated at parliament as a police investigation was ongoing.