Twelve deaths from road traffic accidents in 2013

In the year 2013 twelve people were killed in road traffic accidents, the Ministry of Transport and Communication has revealed.

Speaking to media, Minister Ameen Ibrahim said that action was taken against 25,000 people for various traffic violations. He said that this is an indication that the number of people breaking traffic rules are increasing.

The minister went on to announce that the ministry would begin a one-year awareness campaign tomorrow.

The campaign will focus on identifying and implementing immediate steps that can be taken to improve road safety.

According to Maldives Police Service 189 cases of traffic accidents were reported in January 2014.


Comment: The man behind the sneer

One thing that has always struck me about Abdulla Yameen is that he never smiles. I can hardly remember him ever smiling. I think he smiled once, after being acquitted in some court case, but that was the only time. Sure, on his official campaign posters he sports a fake smile – a sort of upside-down scowl. But he never looks happy.

His eyes betray an angry glint, a contemptuousness of the ordinary man. If he has a trademark look, it is surely that sneer, which he seems to wear at almost every interaction with the general public.

If his second round campaign could be summed up in a facial expression, it too would be a sneer, or perhaps a snarl. Since last Saturday, Yameen has launched a vicious and full scale attack against Nasheed, accusing him of being irreligious and a threat to national sovereignty. Apart from trying to bribe the police and military with free housing and healthcare, Yameen hasn’t had a single positive word to say about what he would do if elected president.

Is Nasheed really that bad? Or is Yameen trying to draw everyone’s attention to Anni because he doesn’t want people focusing too closely on himself? Because when you dig a little into Yameen’s past, and the nature of his character, you tend to end up in a very dark place.

Some of the most shocking revelations come from the people Yameen is now desperately trying to woo onto his side: the Jumhoree Party.

According to JP official Ahmed “Maaz” Saleem, such was the rampant corruption that existed under Yameen’s watch when Trade Minister that major foreign investors quit the country, including Shell Oil and German investors who wanted to build ‘Maldives Media City’.

Gasim’s running mate, Hassan Saeed, said if he came to power he would put Yameen on trial over his involvement in the alleged theft of $800 million dollars worth of oil, money that should have gone into building schools, hospitals and harbours.

The scale of this alleged theft is staggering: the entire annual government budget is only US $1 billion. Yameen is accused of stealing 80 percent of it!

Nasheed’s government hired international experts Grant Thornton to investigate the chares and recover the money. What they uncovered is shocking.

When he was head of STO, responsible for the country’s oil shipments, Yameen allegedly set up a shell company in Singapore called Mocom Trading. Shady characters were involved, such as the former head of Malaysian military intelligence. Mocom would buy oil using STO’s money but instead of bringing it to Maldives, they sold it to the military junta in Burma, which was then under international sanctions because of its human rights abuses.

The huge profits generated from this illegal trade were stashed in secret bank accounts in Singapore. According to revelations published in the Indian media, Yameen was the “kingpin” of this vast criminal operation.

Most concerning, the oil was sold to people in Burma who were involved in the heroin trade. One such person was Tun Myint Naing, otherwise known as Steven Law. The United States calls Law’s father, Lo Hsing Han, the “Golden Triangle Heroin Baron”. Both Law and his dad are banned from traveling to America because of their links to drug dealing.

Yameen’s STO oil racket happened in the mid 1990s – the exact time when Maldives was flooded with ‘brown sugar’ heroin. This raises the question: did Yameen sell the Maldives’ oil to Steven Law for dollars, or did the son of the “Golden Triangle Heroin Baron” give something else in exchange for the oil? And was that something else shipped to Maldives, sold on Male’s streets, and did it end up harming so many of our young people?

Certainly, Yameen’s rival in the PPM primary race, Umar Naseer, seems to think so. Umar – who claims Yameen rigged the contest to become PPM’s presidential candidate – says Yameen “is involved in drug trafficking and commissioning gangs to cut down political opponents.”

The alleged links to Male’s violent street gangs hangs around Yameen like a bad and persistent smell. Along with the allegations of corruption and drug dealing, they point to a dark and sinister man: more of a mafiosi than a politician; a don rather than a democrat.

And then we have Yameen’s role in the abuse of the Sheikhs. Religious conservatives were brutally suppressed under Gayoom’s rule. Many were jailed, beaten and tortured. Gayoom’s security forces would forcibly shave off people’s beards and rub chili powder into their faces. Yameen served in his brother’s cabinet for years. But he never once lifted a finger to stop the abuse or utter a single word of condemnation. His current attack on Nasheed’s Islamic credentials has the distinct ring of hypocrisy.

Perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps all these rumours and allegations are just that: rumours. Perhaps Yameen is as gentle as a doting grandpa. On 28 September, the people will give their verdict. We will find out if we are willing to place our families’ future in the hands of the man behind the sneer.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


President’s Office declares September 8 public holiday

The government has declared Sunday (September 8) will be a public holiday. The decision was made at the request of the Elections Commission (EC) in order to take into account the presidential polls being held across the country on September 7, the President’s Office has said.


Elections Commission confident of resolving all voter registry issues

The Maldives Elections Commission (EC) has said it remains confident it will have resolved all 2,279 complaints raised by the public over the recently published list of eligible voters, in line with today’s deadline (June 14).

EC President Fuad Thaufeeq told Minivan News that the commission’s work amending the voter registry had so far gone “better than expected”, with all submissions received from the public amended. However, he conceded that challenges still remained in notifying all the complainants about the changes made to the list, as required by regulations.

“The challenge we have experienced so far is delivering the message to all the people who made these complaints that the requested changes have been made,” he said. “It is proving a bit difficult, though our staff are working very hard, in some cases up until 10:00pm at night to get hold of them.”

Transparency Maldives has meanwhile said that it has received only one significant complaint at present regarding outdated voter registry information, adding that all other complaints raised were small and sporadic in scale. However, the NGO said it continued to advocate a simplification of the present law on making further changes to the voter registry.

Thaufeeq said the corrected voter registry will then be published on either June 15 or June 16 in the government gazette and on the EC’s own website.

“What happens next?”

According to Transparency Maldives, anyone who has registered complaints with the EC regarding data on the voter registry will have five days to file a complaint with the High Court should they wish to appeal any decision made by the commission.

Under law, the High Court is then required to rule on any such appeal within 15 days.

Upon publication by the EC of the amended voter registry, any Maldives national over 18 will then be given a further 10 days to lodge any complaints concerning changes made to the list, the NGO added.

Transparency Maldives said the final process would be voter re-registration, where members of the public will be required to confirm or change their present permanent residence either in the country or abroad to confirm where they wish to vote.

The NGO emphasised that this stage will be critically important, as a person from an outer atoll presently living in Male’ will be required to return to their home island unless they re-register their new location with the EC.

A date for voter re-registration to begin has yet to be decided by the EC.


Transparency Maldives Project Director Aiman Rasheed said the NGO had so far received only one significant compliant about the registry, which was made by members of Fuvahmulah council concerning the amount of outdated details of islanders on the list.

“The last time we spoke to the EC we raised this issue and they had a rational explanation for what had occurred. It seemed that people who moved house on the island or left for Male’ had not been updated,” he said.

Aiman said the EC had dealt with the issues where possible, with other corrections expected to be made during the re-registration process that will be announced at a later date.

“Apart from this, there have been no major complaints beyond some small, sporadic issues,” he added.

Aiman said that with an estimated 25 percent of the population living away from their registered address in the Maldives, re-registraton was expected to be a much larger issue towards ensuring the vote to everyone in the country eligible to do so.

He argued that the NGO still believed the voter registration could be simplified by requesting the public to check their permanent address at the same time as other details on the registry.

“The argument against this has been from the section of the population employed as fishermen, as they do not know where they will be later on in the year. It was therefore easier for them to wait nearer to the election,” Aiman said. “There is a challenge there, but we still feel [voter registration] should be simplified. This is of course not the EC’s fault though, this relates to the law.”


February tourist arrivals to the Maldives increase by 25 percent on 2012

Tourist arrivals for February have increased by over 25 percent compared to the same month in 2012.

Figures from the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture reveal that an increase of 21,493 tourists visited the Maldives last month compared to February last year.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told local media in February that he was confident the Maldives would reach one million tourist arrivals in 2012.

Despite the Ministry’s aim, January saw a 7.6 percent drop compared to the same month in 2012 – the first time the Maldives had seen a decrease in January arrivals in three years.

The Asian market – which holds a 43.7 percent share of the overall tourist market – increased by 106.8 percent in February compared to the same month last year.

China, which has the largest share of the market for a single country, saw an increase from just 12,237 tourist arrivals in February 2012 to a total of 33,592 in 2013.

The 174.5 percent increase from Chinese tourists could be attributed to Chinese New Year, which was held in February this year as opposed to January in 2012.

Despite the continuing rise in the Asian market, Europe – which holds the largest share of the tourism market at 51.6 percent – fell by 6.2 percent in February 2013.

Arrivals from the United Kingdom also continued to fall last month from 9,006 in February 2012 to 7,745 in 2013 – a 14 percent decrease.

Tourists from Italy, which has the second largest share of the European market after the UK at 7.5 percent, fell by 12 percent in February compared to the same month in 2012.

Whilst arrivals from southern, western and northern Europe continued to fall, the eastern and central European market grew by 22.9 percent from 9,376 in 2012 to 11,519 in 2013.

Political turmoil

Despite the sharp rise in tourist arrivals last month, February 2012 saw unusually low tourist arrivals following the political instability that took place on February 7, 2012, when former President Mohamed Nasheed was removed from power.

Following widespread media coverage of the country’s political unrest, Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) released a statement claiming that resorts had registered 500 cancellations in the first week following the change of government.

One Shanghai-based travel agent, Sun Yi, told Minivan News she was faced with many cancellations just two days after the events of February 7.

”It has seriously affected our business. Many guests cancelled the Maldivian holiday package which used to be very popular,” she explained, adding that her company had suspended plans to hold a commercial event at a Maldives resort this spring.

“Quite a lot of Chinese customers are very concerned of this situation. Some of them are hesitant to make reservations now,” said Emy Zheng, a Chinese national working at Villuxa Holidays.

‘Cup noodle’ scandal

Meanwhile, calls for a tourism boycott to the Maldives exploded across Chinese social media networks earlier this month, after allegations of discrimination against guests from China at one resort became widely circulated.

On March 1, dismissed Chinese employees of the Beach House Iruveli resort – formerly Waldorf Astoria – posted allegations on the Chinese forum Tianya that guests from the country were receiving inferior treatment to Europeans, despite paying the same prices.

The staff alleged that this discrimination extended to removing kettles from the rooms of Chinese guests, to prevent them making instant noodles in their rooms and thereby forcing them into the resort’s restaurants.

By Sunday, the employees’ post had been forward over 91,000 times across the Chinese blogosphere, according to one report from the International Herald Tribune, and sparked calls for a Chinese tourism boycott of the Maldives in Chinese media.

One Bejing-based travel agent specialising in the Maldives told the South China Morning Post that many Chinese tourists had started cancelling their plans to visit the country.

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb said no formal complaints had been received by Maldivian authorities over alleged discrimination at the country’s resorts.

However, Adheeb asked that in future, any tourists who had such complaints about their treatment file such concerns with the tourism ministry and other relevant authorities rather than through the press and social media.


Cameroonian player owed over US$13,000 by Maldives football club from 2009

A second foreign footballer has come forward regarding his mistreatment by Club Valencia in the Maldives, claiming that he is still owed US$13,610 by the club since 2009.

Cameroonian national Nkemi A Rim Marcelin was signed to the Maldivian football team from 2007 to 2009, but left after he was allegedly unpaid for a total of five months.

Marcelin’s pay dispute mirrors that of another African player, Wright Charles Gaye, who was signed to Club Valencia in 2012.

On Sunday (March 10), Minivan News reported that Charles had been forced to stay in Male’ for six months whilst waiting for Club Valencia to pay him his remaining US$2,600 salary and a promised one-way ticket home to Liberia.

Unlike Charles, Marcelin was able to leave the Maldives despite being owed over US$13,000, after his new club Becamex Binh Duong Football Club in Vietnam paid for his flight out of the country.

“I feel very, very sad for the club [Valencia], I had helped to win cups in the Maldives, but they are still saying they cannot pay me my money,” Marcelin told Minivan News.

“The club’s management said they would send me all of the money in Vietnam, but I have not received anything yet,” he added.

According to Marcelin, he is still owed US$10,210 from January 2009 to May 2009, as well as a one-way ticket home worth US$1,500.

A number of emails obtained by Minivan News detailing contact between Marcelin and Club Valencia officials from 2010, show the Cameroonian striker pleading with team management and Football Association of Maldives to rectify the problem.

In a message addressed to both the former general secretary of Club Valencia Mohamed Ahmed and the club’s former Chairman Ahmed Saleem, Marcelin claims they had promised to send the money to him 10 months ago.

“I’m not good [at] this moment because my father is sick in Cameroon [and] I don’t have [the] money to give for a hospital,” reads the message, dated March 2010.

A single response sent on March 2010 from Club Valencia’s former Chairman, Saleem, reads: “Thank you for your mail. Sorry for being able to answer your call. I will try to settle your outstanding [payment] ASAP.”

Despite later pleas for the club to pay half of his owed salary for his father’s treatment and a complaint to Football Association of Maldives (FAM) – the most recent dated from February 2013 – Marcelin has received no response.

Club Valencia’s current Chairman Ibrahim Raai Rasheed was not responding to calls or text messages from Minivan News at time of press.

Football Association of Maldives

In regard to Marcelin’s complaint, FAM General Secretary Mohamed Hanim stated that the issue should have been addressed by the former FAM administration.

“We are a new administration that came in on January 26 this year. As soon as I receive a complaint on my table, I will address that problem accordingly.

“FAM will always stand for the rights of players and the clubs. If there is a player [who has a complaint] they should follow procedures for it to be addressed,” Hanim told Minivan News.

When asked if there was any concern from FAM regarding rumours that certain clubs were taking away the passports of foreign players, Hanim said: “We will not taken action on speculations and rumours, instead we take action on matters documented by players or the club itself.

In regard to the rights of players, the FAM Secretary said that the topic will be on the agenda for next Executive Committee meeting.

“The next meeting will involve discussing in more detail what actions we can be taken in regard to mistreatment of players.

“The meeting will highlight the rights of both foreign and local players and that they should be dealt with in a manner that could be regarded as inhumane. This goes for every club,” Hanim said.

Had to survive off handouts: Wright Charles Gaye

Former Club Valencia striker Wright Charles Gaye was finally able to return home on Sunday (March 10) after six months of living in poverty in Male’.

Charles, who resigned from Club Valencia in September 2012 due to a lack of salary, was left stranded in Male’ as he waited for two month’s worth of salary from the club and a promised one-way-ticket home.

Speaking to Minivan News the Liberian national said that he had been forced to live in accommodation with no water or electricity and had survived on just MVR 500 (US$32.49) a week.

Club Valencia’s management stated that the reason behind the delay in Charles’ payments, was because there had been a delay in securing financial assistance from both the sports ministry and from the club’s sponsorship.

Media coverage of Charles’ situation resulted in Club Valencia paying him US$2,600, a one-way ticket home and an extra month’s salary.


MVR 3000 fine for man who hit police officer

A man who attacked a policeman during the Usfasgandu take over in 2012 has been fined MVR 3000 (US$194.81), local media reported.

The Criminal Court ruled that Hussain Faheem of Thaa Madifushi Faransaage hit the policeman in the chest whilst he was on active duty on May 29, 2012.

Faheem has been ordered to pay the fine within one month to the court.


Cabinet takes measures to manage 2013 budget to avoid “enormous challenges” later in the year

The Cabinet is to take austerity measures to manage the MVR 15.3 billion (US$992 million) budget passed in parliament for 2013.

According to the President’s Office website, the cabinet noted that should measures not be put in place to control the budget, the country would face “enormous challenges”.

The cabinet took the decision after discussing a paper submitted by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury. The Ministry of Finance intends to inform government offices of the austerity measures.


Floating island development to “definitely” start this year: Dutch Docklands CEO

A series of man-made floating islands in the Maldives are to begin development this year, Dutch Docklands International CEO Paul van de Camp has confirmed.

The project, which proposes the creation of five man-made islands to support leisure activities in the Maldives, will see the development of a 19-hole golf course begin by the end of 2013.

Set to combine underwater club houses, subterranean tunnels and private submarines, the course is expected to cost an estimated £320million (MVR 7.6 billion), UK media reported last year.

Speaking to Minivan News (January 15) van de Camp said more information regarding the finalised designs will be made available to the public later this year.

“We will definitely start [the development] in 2013. Our final selection of designs will be revealed in the next two to three months,” he added.

The project was first approved back in 2010 under the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed as a means to try and diversify tourism in the country.

An agreement with the former government to develop floating properties on five lagoons within Kaafu Atoll included a convention centre and an 18-hole golf course as part of a joint venture agreement.

Back in August last year, UK-based Daily Mail Newspaper reported that Dutch Docklands had unveiled designs for a floating golf course to be based “five minutes” away from Male’ by speed boat.

“The islands will also be designed for swimmers, divers and even private submarines to enter from below, and the Dutch firm designing the scheme has said visitors will be able to rent private submarines that can surface right in the middle of their living rooms,” the newspaper reported.

According to the Dutch Docklands website, the company is a shareholder in U-Boat Worx – a Dutch company that builds the “world’s most advanced” submarines.

Australian media recently reported more designs from the European developer, one of which being of a star-shaped floating convention hotel entitled “green star”.

“The Green Star will blend-in naturally with the existing surrounding islands. The green covered star-shape building symbolises Maldivians innovative route to conquer climate change,” a Dutch Docklands spokesperson told Herald Sun.

“This will become the number one location for conventions about climate change, water management and sustainability.”

Speaking to the Daily Mail last year, van de Camp said he had told the Maldives’ President “we can transform you from climate refugees to climate innovators.”

“The first part of the project to be built will be the golf course. This will be the first and only floating golf course in the world – and it comes complete with spectacular ocean views on every hole.

“And then there’s the clubhouse. You get in an elevator and go underwater to get to it. It’s like being Captain Nemo down there,” he was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

Koen Olthuis, who is working on the project through his Netherlands-based firm, WaterStudio, told the paper that the islands would be constructed outside of the country – potentially in India or the Middle East – a decision he claimed would ensure “no environmental cost to the Maldives”.

“When it comes to the golf course, the islands will be floated into position first and then the grass will be seeded and the trees planted afterwards,” he said.

The Daily Mail added that designers were aiming for the project to be run on renewable energy technology such as solar power, while claiming the construction would be carbon neutral.

According to an Australian news site, Dutch Docklands is currently selling waterfront villas situated overwater and designed in the shape of a ‘typical’ Maldivian flower at a starting price of $950,000.