MP Yameen requests police protection

Parliamentarians including Mulaku MP Abdulla Yameen have requested police protection before the protests to be held tomorrow by religious organisations and the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Police confirmed the requests but did not provide details, reports Haveeru.

Yameen was taken to the Presidential retreat of ‘Aarah’ “for his own protection” last July by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) following a protest outside his house. Yameen had been released from house arrest after facing charges of corruption.

Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh today said security forces understood that “groups” – believed to be gangs – have been issuing threats to various people including MPs. These groups are expected to partake in tomorrow’s protest, Haveeru reports.

The police and armed forces have expressed concerns over the possibility of an outbreak of violence during tomorrow’s protest.

Police yesterday said they are monitoring the situation closely and will act accordingly.


Comment: Hay and the importance of festivals and celebrations

The Hay Festival at Aarah last weekend left in me a kind of excitement – a life force that gives one the ‘WOW!’ experience.

It is not the first time I have been to festivals such as these, but the fact that it happened here in my country made the difference. It was happy, colourful and full of emotional intensity.

My experience

The Hay Festival at Aarah had every element of a growing modern and civilised society. People respected each other, people mingled, free discussion took place, and barriers were broken down. Remarkably people respected the garbage bins too.

It was an intelligent way of helping expose people to new ideas. Just doing the right thing leaves room for differences of opinion without being offended.

The purpose of such a festival is more than presentations and discussions. It is about nurturing culture, networking and creating new friendships and strengthening old ones. It is about feeling connected, and much more.

People went to the Festival for different reasons. Some went simply out of curiosity and others went for the programs. Maybe some went simply to be part of a social event. Whatever the reason, I am sure many experienced more than the reason they went for.

The Maldives is a place where foreigners and locals do not socialise, although they do interact with each other on work issues. In fact many foreigners are given the feeling that they should be careful about mingling with Maldivians. Very few Maldivians actually mingle with foreigners, and vice versa. I saw that the festival helped bring them closer.

It is great that Aarah is open to these kind of events. I felt that this helped to lessen the gap between the country’s political leadership and the people, making them more accessible. It opened up new possibilities. Hopefully there will be more events taking place. There are so many themes that can be worked on.

What impressed me were also the youth and the strong voices that rang out. I like to see them stand up and express who they are. At the end of it all, it is up to the people to fully use these kind of events to integrate into society.

My disappointments

There were a couple of things that did not work out for me personally. An expatriate speaker on the stage did use unacceptable discriminatory language, that was insensitive and harmful and generalised a whole country.

Speakers must be careful not to address a country and its people in such a forum, whatever his personal opinion may be.

The transport in the evening caused some inconveniences, forcing people to stay on until late and for those who had no option other than the late ferry, miss out on some important presentations at 7:00pm on the Saturday.

The last comment in this direction were the last minute changes in the program. There was one presentation on the Kalaafaanu manuspcripts I had planned to attend, only to find out it had taken place on Friday. This disappointed me.

Festivals are important for people

All festivities have many things in common. It had colour, gaiety, participation, prayers and rituals. Festivals arise from the need to congregate and are based on traditions and practices handed down by ancestors.

The ultimate benefit of a festival is the shared experience of those who participate. This reinforces the social bonds between the groups who celebrate the festival and shows strength and solidarity to those outside this social group.

Most festivals were connected to sacred events or celebrated independence. Most modern festivals are created to meet a social need or to show and share creativity and messages through various forms of arts.

In countries with different religions and different ethnic groups, festivals are celebrated by everyone irrespective of whatever religion is involved, because of common elements in the culture and the need to be one nation.

For example, India is a society of many religions and there are a lot of festivals. For the Hindus there is Diwali, for the Muslims there is Eid, for the Christians there is Christmas and for the Parsis it’s the New Year. Apart from all these days there are two other days that are celebrated by all Indians irrespective of cast, creed or sex: yes, the  January 26 and August 15, Republic day and Independence Day.

The endangered Maldivian festivals

The Maldivian festivals which used to be celebrated with a lot of joy and colour have been disappearing over the years.

The most notable of these festivities were Kuda Eid and Eid-ul Al’haa and the month long Ramazan which combined Maldivian culture (food, dance and music) and religious rituals.

All these celebrations in their pure non-commercialised forms were spiritual exercises and a strengthening tool of cultural identification. The Prophet Mohamed’s birthday was celebrated with people visiting each other’s houses and eating Maldivian food and visit to the mosques for the special prayers.

History shows that Maldivian island communities came together to celebrate child births, naming ceremonies, the coming of age, and marriages. The other festivals celebrated the Maldivian independence and autonomy. They are national celebrations.

The scales have changed. The festivals mentioned above have handed down the traditions and values that were part of the Maldivian cultural identity. These norms are disappearing due to different opinions and rationalisation of different interest groups in the country, coupled with intentions of religious, political and business organisations.

This trend in the Maldives is leading people to lose their connection with each other. The younger generations are being robbed of their Maldivian heritage, as are the less financially able who are losing the opportunity to participate in social life, and last but not least, a whole country is losing their cultural identity.

Back to the Hay Festival

The Hay Festival falls into the modern form of festivals that are thematically based. It gave people the opportunity to participate and fill in the gaps in knowledge of the Maldivian heritage and culture. It gave people the opportunity to contribute to important issues and understand the Maldivian contexts in Maldivian literature and play a participatory role in the evolving Maldivian story.

It took ‘Maldivian’ beyond food, music and dance and rituals. It helped people enter and explore the depths of the Maldivian heritage blending common global issues that affects Maldivians and will impact the Maldivian lives and help reflect on where we came from and where we are going. The broader participation will enrich our culture and help the nation to grow.

In conclusion, as Shobhaa De’ put it so well at the Hay Festival, if you disconnect from the society, the society will disconnect you. So I really hope to see more Maldivians taking these opportunities, and more families and more young people.

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]


Government faces “serious international pressure” over detention of Yameen, claims DQP

The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has claimed the government will face “serious international pressures” if opposition People’s Alliance leader and Mulaku MP Abdulla Yameen is not released in the next seven days.

“The Qaumee Party has undertaken important efforts in the international arena towards this end,” reads a press statement the party issued today, adding that a delegation of DQP officials, including Dr Hassan Saeed and Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, were currently in the United Kingdom.

“If President Mohamed Nasheed’s government does not release the political party leaders arrested and kidnapped in violation of the laws and constitution in the next seven days, the Maldivian government will have to face serious international pressure.”

It adds that the government and President Nasheed would have to bear “full responsibility” for any possible international restrictions.

Yameen and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim were taken into police custody after the government accused them of bribery and treason in a ‘cash-for-votes’ scandal at parliament. Several tapped phone conversations to this effect were leaked to the press shortly afterwards.

After the High Court ruled the pair would be kept under house arrest for 15 days while the case was investigated, an appeal to the Supreme Court resulted to their release early last week, on grounds of insufficient evidence.

Yesterday police complained their investigation into the allegations of parliamentary corruption were being obstructed by the judiciary, after senior police investigating the case were suspended from appearing in court.

The DQP today claimed that President Nasheed’s detention of Yameen after his repeated calls for the release of Burmese opposition leader Aung Sun Suu Ki, showed a “lack of sincerity,” and urged the government to accept international offers of mediation.

“Confused and grieving”

Meanwhile Yameen, who is currently under the ‘protection’ of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) at the Presidential retreat ‘Aarah’, spoke to Minivan News today and said his family are “confused and grieving” at his detention.

Yameen said the MNDF were treating him “very well” at Aarah, and that he had no complaints about this, however he was unable to meet with anyone and was “stranded.”

‘’I was not brought here upon my request, [the MNDF] requested I go with them, in order to cool down the situation of Male’,’’ Yameen said. “I asked them to allow me the chance to go on my own, to any island I wished. MNDF officers tried to [accommodate this], but the political appointees in the MNDF security council denied my request. When I refused to go with them, the two officers who came to take me told me that their superiors had ordered them to take me by force if I refused to come along.’’

“I do not want that protection from them, and I have told them,’’ Yameen told Minivan News, proposing that his detention was one of the actions Nasheed had recently said would be “out of the chart.”

‘’My whole family is now consumed with confusion and grief; I have a small child who is attending a pre-school,’’ he said.

President Mohamed Nasheed said in his weekend radio address that isolated political appointees would remain isolated was a reference to him, Yameen claimed.

“When I knew the MNDF planned to bring me here, I requested they bring one of my lawyers with me, to make sure that the MNDF was taking me to Aarah,’’ he said, “but they denied my request.”

Yameen said he had asked the MNDF when he would be freed, but they had replied they “did not know what to say about that.”

‘’It is unlawful and illegal to keep someone isolated, in the name of providing security, against his will,’’ Yameen alleged. “This government is a dictatorship ruling arbitrarily using the power of the fist.’’

He called on the armed forces to work within by the law and to understand that they were accountable and responsible for their actions.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has commenced a series of protests demanding the release of the opposition leader and calling the government to conclude its “unlawful acts”.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan claimed that the government was to be blamed for the recent unrest and violence in Male’.

”They caused it so they could arrest Yameen, they created the scene that Male’ was in chaos,” said Nihan.

”It was not the real Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists who were out on the streets that day, I can recognise their faces. They were boys that belong to different areas of Male’, even the police will know them.”

Nihan said DRP protests would be “a series of peaceful gatherings” in front of DRP’s head office.

”Yameen’s arrest violates the chapter on freedom in the constitution,” he added.

Press secretary for the president’s office, Mohamed Zuhair, said Yameen requested MNDF provide him security and that he was not allowed to go to any island he wished, because they felt they were best able to protect him at Aarah.

Acting outside the law

Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed said on his blog that he interpreted Nasheed’s “acting outside of the chart” as meaning “acting outside of the constitution”.

MP Nasheed, who has acknowledged asking MP Gasim for “cash” but denies allegations of corruption and misconduct, said he believed he might “also be isolated in this manner.”

“Whether [isolation] is constitutional, or can be done with the existing laws, is another question,” he said.

As a consequence, Nasheed warns, the system put in place by the constitution and its authority is undermined and “the rights and powers guaranteed by the constitution come to an end.”

“[This was a] purposeful violation of the constitution by an act, definitely deliberate and forewarned, carried out in [a presidency] was given after swearing to rule in accordance with the constitution,” he writes.

The constitution was drafted in light of “years of experience where all the powers of the state were concentrated in the presidency”, he continues, and prioritises separation of powers, checks and balances and protection of fundamental rights over “the convenience of the president”.