“No animosity” toward JP after voting in favour of secret votes: President’s Office

The government has no animosity towards Jumhoree Party (JP) despite its members voting in favour of taking secret votes, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza has said.

Although JP members voted in line with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the government perceived it as JP’s policy, Abbas said.

Both MDP and JP party members voted in favour of taking secret votes on the no confidence motion against President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and cabinet members in parliament.

“As you know during the time of special parliament Gasim supported to take a secret ballot to elect a parliament speaker. That was in 2004. That is his view on the matter.

“The president says that the government has no animosity toward the way the leader of JP voted or MP’s voted,” Abbas said.

Abbas stressed that the transport minister’s portfolio is still reserved for JP, as the party is still part of the coalition government.

JP Vice President Ameen Ibrahim has been nominated for the post after Dr Ahmed Shamheed was dismissed from his transport minister position.

Human Rights Minister Dhiyana Saeed was also dismissed from her post yesterday.


Government threatens legal action against parliament

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza has threatened legal action “using all the powers of the government” against the People’s Majlis to “bring parliament back to the right path” in an appearance on government-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV on October 25.

Referring to parliament’s General Affairs Committee approving an amendment to the rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence motions through secret ballot, Riza said that the government could not “turn a blind eye” to what he contended was a move that violated the constitution.

“The constitution and parliamentary rules of procedure clearly state which votes are to be conducted through secret ballot. The rest of the votes should be open,” he claimed.

Riza went on to heavily criticise the committee decision, insisting that it violated the parliamentary rules on conducting committees meetings and votes.

The formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has submitted no-confidence motions against both Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

While the motion against Home Minister Jameel has been tabled in the agenda for November 14, the impeachment motion has yet to be tabled.

The MDP-dominated General Affairs Committee approved the amendment for a secret ballot last week with four votes in favour and none against, committee chair and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP for mid-Henveiru Ali Azim told local media. Only five MPs reportedly attended the committee meeting last week.

The amendment to parliament’s standing orders or rules of procedure would have to be approved in a vote at the Majlis floor to become official.

While a minister can be removed from his post through a simple majority of the 77 MPs in parliament, a two-thirds majority or 52 votes would be needed to impeach a sitting president.

Meanwhile, responding to Riza today, MDP Spokesperson and Henveiru South MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor told Minivan News that the party believed the remarks constituted a threat to violate separation of powers.

“It is simply second nature for the 7/2 police and military-backed coup-invoked dictatorship to use force to stay afloat,” the MP said.

Hamid had earlier tweeted that Abbas’s remarks were “open threats of use of force to stop secret ballot.”


Waheed’s lack of solid policies led to increase in state expenditure: MP Jabir

Amid rising concerns about state expenditure, debt and the economic stability of the country, some political actors who are part of the unity government coalition have started expressing concern about the government’s actions publicly.

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) earlier this month expressed concern over Waheed’s handling of the coalition’s dispute with the GMR contract to develop the airport, while one of the party’s MPs called for his resignation should he be unable to settle the matter.

More recently, Jumhoree Party Deputy Leader and MP Abdulla Jabir on Sunday criticised President Waheed’s commitment to bring down state expenditure.

“Spending money he does not have”

MP Jabir said Sunday that President Waheed was acting with no consideration for the extremely high levels of state expenditure.

Jabir claimed that while the norm elsewhere in similar circumstances was that the president would work to cut down on spending, Waheed was continuing to appoint people to new political posts and campaign with “money he does not have”.

“He picks people off the streets and gives them posts,” Jabir said. “Why hold on to such a pointless formula?”

Jabir asked Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad if Waheed had discussed his pledges with him prior to making them public, speaking at the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Sunday. Jihad responded that he had no documents detailing Waheed’s presidential pledges and only become aware of them as they were reported in local media.

Jihad also stated that Waheed mostly consulted the leaders of the coalition parties when appointing people to head the state companies, although he said he had been consulted about a few appointments.

The Finance Minister on Monday revealed that the country’s budget deficit for 2012 was set to reach MVR 6 billion, (US$390 million), MVR 3 billion (US$195 million) over estimates.

In addition to Jabir, DRP MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed also expressed his disapprovement of government actions.

“The government does not seem to be serious in its efforts to bring down expenditure,” Maseeh said. “Some ministers just make bold statements without even considering the budget. These statements lead to fancy headlines. This needs to be stopped.”

Interference in parliamentary duties

Meanwhile President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, himself a member of Jumhoree Party, denied the allegations. He is reported in local media as saying Jabir was disappointed regarding ongoing issues with the government concerning the lease of his personal restaurant business, West Park. Riza claimed this is the reason why Jabir was critical of the government.

“We are seeing members of the government coalition criticising the government because some personal interests cannot be gained. This itself shows that the government will not be involved in any unconstitutional actions,” Riza has been quoted as saying.

“Jabir has expressed disappointment over the West Park issue many times, but this government will not make any decisions which are not aligned with the values of equality and justice,” he said.

In response to the government’s statement, Jabir spoke to Minivan News today.

“Of course I am disappointed over the West Park issue. It is part of my personal business. But I am questioning the state and its ministers in my capacity as a member of parliament, in the best interests of the country. My personal disappointment does not cloud my seeing Waheed constantly making trips to islands and making pledges. Even the Finance Minister has said he has seen these on media,” he said.

“I am saddened that such an incompetent man is using the resources of the President’s Office to make such unfounded claims,” Jabir said. “I am not sure that man was in his right senses when he said that.”

Jabir stated that according to the regulations of the parliament, no one could raise questions or take action against statements made by a member through the work of the legislative as long as it conformed to constitutional and islamic principles.

“The three powers of the state are separated. The president’s spokesperson seems unaware of even this. By making such a statement, he is interfering with another branch of the state, and is breaching democratic norms,” he further said.

Jabir said that it was his duty as a member of parliament to make the government and the president accountable. He pledged to continue with the work and condemned what he said was the government’s attempts to inhibit it.

However, Jumhooree Party’s Chief Spokesperson Moosa Rameez told Minivan News today that the party did not share Jabir’s opinion of the government.

“This party is part of Waheed’s government. We have not noticed any instance where Waheed has spent money he does not have for campaigning,” Rameez said.

“We are very concerned about Jabir having made such a statement. He did not discuss this in the party’s council. Our concern is that this might create problems within the unity government.”

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was not responding to calls at the time of press.


Government alleges continued opposition “harassment”, while MDP slams “terrorism” charges

No date has been set  for President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to participate in all party talks, the government has said, claiming the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) continues to “harass” state officials despite agreements to the contrary.

Speaking following his return from Saudi Arabia, the president spoke with local media about several issues affecting the country,  including financial and political stability.  He also talked of the likelihood for his participation in talks with key parliamentary and opposition representatives.

The comments were made as the MDP this weekend hit out at the government over accusations it is conducting a string of “seemingly politically motivated charges” to destabilise the party, ahead of the publication of findings by the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI). The CNI was established to investigate the events surrounding February’s controversial transfer of power that brought Dr Waheed into office.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza claimed that despite the MDP’s pledge to cease its street protests over the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramazan to facilitate fresh talks, harassment by party members was continuing.  Abbas pointed to an attack on two police officers yesterday (August 17), that he alleged that were politically motivated and carried out by MDP members.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed to Minivan News that attacks on two officers had taken place yesterday evening, but claimed that they were not at present being treated as politically motivated assaults. Investigations are continuing into the matter, Haneef added.

According to police, a group of 20 men reportedly attacked two on duty officers yesterday evening near the Dolphin View Cafe’ in Male’. Two male suspects aged 18 and 19 years of age have been arrested in connection to the incident.

CNI outcomes

Upon his arrival today at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male’ after representing the Maldives at the fourth extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Conference, President Waheed told local media that the government would not discuss any outcome of the CNI until the body concluded its work later this month.

The CNI is scheduled to publish its report by August 29, on the events leading to Dr Waheed assuming the presidency on February 7. The report will first be made available to the authorities and prosecutor general. The public will be given access to the findings on August 30.

Abbas stressed that the government was committed to not “intervene” in the inquiry’s work, as it had been set up, and later amended under international pressure, to operate free from state interference.

“The outcome will be respected by the country’s various institutions such as the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Human Rights Commission and the Police Integrity Commission,” he said.

Abbas also told Minivan New that the president was nonetheless committed to taking part in road-map talks between government-aligned parties and the opposition MDP to try and overcome the country’s political deadlock, but only once he was confident the opposition had stopped its alleged harassment.

“The president has continued to reiterate that this harassment needs to stop. It is not stopping and two police officers have been beaten this weekend by MDP supporters,” he went on to allege. “As long as harassment continues we will not join talks.”

Last week, the government alleged that protests against Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen on the island of Hulhumale’, where he was met with a barrage of offensive language, were directly linked to the MDP, despite the party’s decision to temporarily suspend street demonstrations.

However, the MDP at the time denied any direct involvement in the incident – which saw eight people arrested – claiming it represented the frustrations of individuals against the present political situation.

Ahead of the government’s ongoing accusations that it was being harassed by the MDP, the country’s only opposition party yesterday released a statement expressing “grave concern” at the prosecution of its members, who it alleged were being targeted unlawfully.

“The MDP believes this is a deliberate attempt by the regime to destabilise the country ahead of the Commission of National Inquiry report into February’s transfer of power, which is due to be published on 30 August,” the party stated.

“The regime is pressing charges against MPs for Male’: Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – for obstructing police duty, MP Ibrahim Rasheed for obstructing police duty, assaulting police officers, threatening and creating unrest and MP, Imthiyaz Fahmy, for allegedly assaulting a police officer.”

According to the statement, there was also particular concern over terrorism charges the party said had been filed against MP Mohamed Rasheed and Addu City Councillor Ahmed Mirzad.

“Terrorism charges against these two individuals are being levied under allegations that they incited violence and arson attacks on public buildings and police stations on 8 February 2012 in Addu City. Furthermore, last month the Prosecutor General lodged a case at the criminal court against MP for Thoddu constituency and Deputy Leader of MDP’s Parliamentary Group, Ali Waheed,” the statement read. “The charges against him are also for obstructing Police duty. All the MPs have denied the charges. The MDP believes all of the charges to be politically motivated.”

Coupled with uncertainty over whether former President Mohamed Nasheed will face trial for his role in the controversial arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, the MDP alleged that its members continue to be the victims of a “witch-hunt” orchestrated by the state.

“While politically motivated prosecutions continue, the MDP notes with dismay that no action has been taken against security forces who mutinied and used excessive force on peaceful protesters, although these concerns have been highlighted by international organisations and international media agencies,” the party claimed. “At a time when the people of the Maldives and the international community are also questioning the legitimacy and the impartiality of the government and the courts, it is concerning the government is continuing to press politically motivated charges against pro-democracy activists.”

OIC funding talks

Beyond domestic politics, President Waheed also today discussed the (OIC) that saw the establishment of an institute of dialogue to allow member states within the organisation to collaborate and reach agreement on religious issues.

Abbas said that the president has also had meetings with a number of fellow OIC member states regarding unspecified funding projects.

“The president will in due course reveal the details on these funding projects and how they will work,” he said.


Police crack down on ‘harassment’ of politicians

Police are taking stronger measures against people who harass politicians and such incidents are falling, according to President’s Office Abbas Adil Riza.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile alleged that freedom of speech is being unfairly restricted by the crackdown.

Commenting on the arrest of an MDP activist known as Okay Zahir – who allegedly called the Islamic Affairs Minister a ‘baaghee’, or ‘traitor’ – Abbas said that Zahir stood accused of harassment.

Local media reported yesterday that Zahir’s period in detention had been extended by a further 10 days after his original arrest on August 7. Zahir is a former director of the Thilafushi Corporation (TCL).

Abbas alleged that the accused “verbally abused the Islamic Minister”, engaging in “indecent behaviour” towards Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Seed whom he claimed was in the company of his nine year-old son at the time of the incident.

Neither Sheikh Shaheem nor Police Spokesman Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef were responding to calls at time of press.

A source who had seen the arrest warrant claimed that Zahir was accused of approaching Shaheem’s son on a number of different occasions, inquiring as to the whereabouts of “baaghee Shaheem”.

The source stated that police obtained the warrant due to their belief that this alleged offence would be repeated.

MDP spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor stated that the charges against Zahir seemed “very bizarre”, and expressed his concern that “the scope of freedom of speech is being severely constrained.”

“One could argue it is unconstitutional,” continued Ghafoor. “I don’t see how giving your opinion of the truth equals harassment”.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Lawyer Hisaan Hussain used social networks to express her belief that calling someone a ‘baaghee’ is not a criminal offense.

Meaningful dialogue

Since his accession to the Presidency, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s public appearances have often been accompanied by heckling crowds disputing the legitimacy of his government.

As well as calling for early presidential elections, the anti-government demonstrations have attempted to mock and ridicule leading government figures as part of a well-choreographed non-violent strategy.

The harassment of politicians has recently been central to the government’s negotiations with the opposition MDP.

During the last round of the UN-mediated roadmap talks in June, pro-government parties presented the MDP’s representatives with a list of 30 suggestions for resolving political tensions in the country which included calls to stop the harassment of political figures.

However, the list also included calls for the MDP to stop the use of “black magic” and “erotic tools”, leading the MDP to interpret a lack of sincerity on the part of the pro-government group.

More recently, President Waheed said that he would not engage in the all-party talks until the harassment of his officials stopped.

The MDP announced last week that it intended to suspend its program of anti-government demonstrations in order to “facilitate meaningful dialogue”.

This move was initially welcomed by the government, before protesters targeted Vice President Waheed Deen as he attended a ceremony in Hulhumale, causing Abbas to tell local media that the government’s participation in talks may have to be reconsidered.

Freedom within limits

During a speech given in June, President Waheed stated his belief that freedom of expression ought not to be permitted to the extent that it impinged on the rights of others.

“People misuse the right to freedom of expression and yell whatever words that come to mind at other people. You have seen and heard this, not just on TV or radio, but on the streets, in front of houses and schools. This is not how it should be,” Dr Waheed was reported as saying.

As well as being enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of expression is listed in the 2008 Maldivian Constitution as one of the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens.

The right to freedom of speech, however, has long been met with caveats and provisos which in effect limit the ability of individuals to unrestricted expression.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights espoused the right to freedom of expression whilst delineating restrictions it describes as “necessary in a democratic society”.

The list of exceptions includes constraints “for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others”.

Similarly, the right to freedom of speech is guaranteed by the first amendment to the US constitution but has been restricted by subsequent Supreme Court rulings which have included issues concerning incitement, false statements of fact, and obscenity.

During the speech, Waheed expressed his hope that the People’s Majlis would move to curb the actions of those who, he felt, were abusing this fundamental freedom.


MDP suspends demonstrations to “facilitate meaningful dialogue”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) yesterday announced it would be suspending its anti-government protests and demonstrations in a bid to open dialogue with the government in the closing weeks of Ramadan.

In a press release, party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor stated that the demonstrations would be halted in order to “facilitate meaningful political dialogue to end the political crisis the country faces.”

“The MDP strongly believes unless there is political dialogue and agreement at a political level, the Maldives will not be able to come out of the current political crisis. In this regard, the MDP decides to halt its demonstrations to sincerely re-assure its commitment to meaningful dialogue,” read the statement.

Whilst Minivan News was today unable to elicit a response from the President’s Office, the office’s spokesman Abbas Adil Riza has expressed his scepticism in the local media.

“Though MDP tells the media that they’ve stopped their direct action protests – considering the actions of the party’s members, it’s hard to trust them. There’s a lot of intimidation,” Abbas told Haveeru.

“They’re attacking the vehicles belonging to ministers, harassing their families, disrespecting mosques, so the government needs assurance that the harassing will stop. We need to see it happen from their actions,” he continued.

The protests have been almost continuous since the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7 – a resignation the party continue to allege was forced.

February 8 saw clashes between Nasheed’s supporters and the police, whose mutiny had brought to the boil what had been a simmering political crisis.

Tensions were heightened once more last month as the MDP embarked on a campaign of protests on Chaandanhee Magu in the political and military heart of the capital. More clashes with the police resulted in multiple arrests and injuries which, again, provoked international consternation.

The persistent activities of the anti-government activists have regularly been cited as an impediment to high-level political dialogue.

Following the tense exchanges on Chaandanhee Magu, President Waheed stated that he would not engage in discussions with the MDP whilst it continued to back street protests.

Chances for dialogue?

The most prominent vehicle for dialogue since late February has been the all-party ‘roadmap’ talks initiated by current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan with the backing of Indian diplomats and United Nations mediators.

After a series of failed attempts to define a mutually acceptable agenda for the discussions, six points were agreed upon in May to be dealt with in consequential order.

The MDP’s protests since February have focussed predominantly on calls for early presidential elections. The discussion of a date for these elections was agreed upon as the last of the six points to be discussed in the roadmap negotiations.

The first of these points – public order and stability – resulted in a 30-point list of demands being presented to the MDP delegates by pro-government parties during the talks at Bandos Island Resort in June.

These demands, which included calls for the MDP to desist from using “black magic” and “erotic tools”, were deemed by the MDP to be indicative of the coalition’s lack of seriousness in progressing through the agreed agenda.

In yesterday’s statement, Ghafoor described some of these points as “plainly farcical”.

“We are committed to ensure an environment conducive to hold political talks at the highest level. Therefore, today, the MDP National Executive Committee decided unilaterally to halt the demonstrations. We hope leaders of political parties take this time to seriously engage in dialogue”.

In a further attempt to expedite progressive talks between political groups in the country, Nasheed last month offered an apology to former President Gayoom for accusing the 30-year ruler of orchestrating a coup d’etat.

Gayoom, leader of the parliament’s second largest party, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), had stated that he would be unwilling to sit down and negotiate with a man who made such accusations.

The roadmap talks have formed one half of a two-pronged approach to resolving the political crisis in the Maldives. The Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), after much coaxing from the international community, was established to conduct an investigation into the events up to and including Nasheed’s resignation.

The Commission is expected to conclude its investigations by August 31 after having received testimony from a reported 244 people, including President Waheed himself.

Abbas told Sun Online that he expected the MDP would merely halt its current activities in order to prepare for a mass protest on the day the CNI report is published.


Business bill under review after government raises “socio-economic” concerns

Parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee has this week begun a review of the Business Registration Bill returned to the People’s Majlis by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, after it was originally approved in April.

The President’s Office told Minivan News that the bill, initially proposed under the previous government, had been returned over fears about the impacts it could have on the country’s economy at the present time.

Official government figures indicated that inflation had risen to an annual rate of 16.53 percent in April. Earlier in the year, the Finance Committee estimated that the current budget deficit would reach 27 percent of GDP, or  Rf9.1 billion (US$590 million).

The government meanwhile announced this week that it had already been issued with a Rf300million (US$19.5 million) government loan from the Bank of Maldives (BML), despite questions being raised over whether the deal needed Majlis approval.

The government had previously asked for parliamentary approval for the budget support loan in place of an existing $65 million (Rf1 billion) loan that had been approved for the 2012 budget.  The President’s Office claimed the funding, devised as part of a “mop up” operation, would help “reduce the circular flow of rufiya in the economy” adding it would not exacerbate the current national spending shortfall.

While unfamiliar with the latest amendments being proposed to the Business Registration Bill, a former Economic Development Minister who served under the previous government claimed the legislation had originally been devised in an attempt to simplify the registration of foreign investors.

However, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that the bill was deemed by the present government to represent the implementation of a new tax regime in the country – a decision he suggested was unreasonable considering the current economic climate.

“At a time where as I’m sure you are aware, the economy is beginning to improve, the president and the cabinet has agreed that the time is simply not right to introduce new taxes,” he said.

According to local newspaper Haveeru, President Waheed’s concerns regarding the bill were said to include “Article 3 (e)”, which relates to services provided for islands beyond the capital of Male’. The report said that the nature of these services was believed to be unclear in the original drafting of the bill.

The president was also reported to have raised an issue with a perceived failure in the bill to specify a “process” required for the registration of a foreign branch of a company in the Maldives. The government therefore requested the removal of “Article 5 (b)” as well as a number of amendments relating to the registration of a branch of a foreign company in the Maldives, raising concern over a lack of specifics related to the use of the term “foreigners”.

When questioned by Minivan News, Abbas did not specify the exact nature of the potential “legal and socio-economic ramifications” that had concerned the government about the Business Registration Bill.

The bill was one of three pieces of legislation related to economic reform returned to parliament for revision last month on the basis of issues raised by Attorney General Azima Shukoor.

The exact nature of these concerns was not detailed by the President’s Office at the time, while the attorney general was also not responding to calls today about the nature of the government’s decision to return the bill.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad meanwhile forwarded Minivan News to the Ministry of Economic Development concerning an enquiry on the Business Registration Bill.  Economic Development Minister Ahmed Mohamed was not responding to calls.

Reform package

Although unfamiliar with the latest proposals for amendments to the Business Registration Bill, Mahmoud Razee, Economic Development Minister under the previous government, said the legislation was original proposed as part of a wider economic reform package championed by Nasheed’s administration.

The reforms, introduced under the previous government, were further revised following consultations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over how to strengthen and stabilise the economy.

These policies included introducing a general Goods and Services Tax (GST); raising import duties on pork, tobacco, alcohol and plastic products; raising the Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) to 6 percent; and reducing import duties on certain products.

Razee stressed that registration bill was intended specifically to provide a “clearer means” for facilitating foreign investment within the Maldives’ business sector.

“We were trying to make it easier to register foreign shareholders here,” he said.

Taking the retail sector as an example, Razee said that the retail sector was quite “restrictive” in terms of encouraging foreign investment.


Government asks Majlis to approve Rf300 million budget support loan

The government has asked the People’s Majlis to approve a budget support loan of Rf300million in place of an existing $65million (Rf1billion) loan which had been approved for the 2012 budget.

The Parliamentary Finance Committee today discussed whether the loan proposal needed to be approved by the full floor of the Majlis. The committee agreed that the matter ought to be passed on to the Counsel General.

“We cannot grant it as it was not in the state budget,” said Finance Committee member Abdul Ghafoor Moosa, who argued that the new loan would cost the government more money.

He explained that the new rufiyaa denominated loan would be obtained from the Bank of Maldives (BML), whereas the US dollar loan would have come from foreign banks.

Moosa claimed that the Rf300 million loan would be taken on a commercial basis, with high interest rates that would require the government to pay back Rf384million.

He said that the $65million loan, delayed due to incorrect paperwork, would have only been taxed at rates of around 2 percent.

Using these figures, the interest paid on the original loan would be Rf20million (US$1.3 million), whilst the interest on the new loan would be Rf84million (US$5.4million).

“Mop up” operation

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that the figure given by Moosa was incorrect, adding that the government was “not going to lose money on the deal”.

Abbas explained that Abdullah Jihad and other members of the current Finance Ministry had advised the government to take out the new loan as part of a “mop up” operation.

“This will reduce the circular flow of rufiyaa in the economy,”  said Abbas.

He explained that new Rufiyaa denominated loan would help to ease inflation, which government figures show had risen to an annual rate of 16.53 percent in April.

Jihad was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Former Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz said that it was the central bank’s job to conduct open market operations – the buying and selling of government debt – as part of its monetary policy.  He contended that it made little sense for the government to become involved with this kind of policy.

Inaz argued that this operation would not help in mopping up liquidity – unless the government intended to do nothing with the borrowed money.

He argued that the money would be better used in the private sector, stating that the job of the government was to facilitate the running of the economy.

“If you take the fuel out of the engine, the engine will stop running,” said Inaz.

Earlier in the year, the Finance Committee estimated that the current budget deficit would reach 27 percent of GDP, or  Rf9.1 billion (US$590 million).


MDP women’s wing protest in Male’ as party awaits CMAG outcome

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has claimed that the momentum behind an ongoing series of protests against the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan remains undiminished as its supporters await the outcome of increased Commonwealth pressure on the new administration.

In the latest round of protests yesterday, the party estimates that 6,000 people took part in a peaceful march around the capital passing several major streets and landmarks such as Majeedhee Magu, Sosun Magu, the People’s Majlis and Fareedhee Magu before returning to the party’s protest area. Police confirmed to Minivan News that no major disturbances or arrests were made by its officers during the march, which began yesterday afternoon at 4.00pm.

The government has responded that yesterday’s demonstration was not an official protest called by the MDP and instead represented followers of former President Mohamed Nasheed – who is affiliated with the party. The government said that the demonstration was not therefore seen as a “major issue”.

Since the controversial transfer of power in February that saw President Waheed succeed Mohamed Nasheed in office, MDP supporters have been linked with both peaceful protest action and violent clashes against police over claims security forces had been part of an alleged “coup d’etat” to remove Nasheed from office.

MDP Women’s Wing spokesperson Aishath Aniya told Miniva News that yesterday’s march, which began from the Usfangandu area, was devised to call on the government to take heed of the Commonwealth’s calls for early elections this year. The demonstration’s organisers have said that protesters also called on the president to consider the ramifications of potential expulsion from the Commonwealth unless a more “credible” and “impartial” commission is established to review the circumstances that brought the government to power earlier this year.

“While we can’t say what exact economic impacts there will be. We will lose participation in many scholarships, art and development projects if the Commonwealth removes us,” she said. “We have been in the Commonwealth for over 29 years and have been offered many opportunities internationally such as participation in the Commonwealth Games.”

While the number of participants attending yesterday’s march was reportedly down from those taking part in a similar protest held in the capital last week, Aniya said she believed that the number of anti-government protesters had remained consistent.

“I don’t see the numbers of protesters decreasing, though [turnout] does depend on the time and place of demonstrations,” she said. “We would obviously get a lot less protesters during school hours.”

Aniya claimed that from her experience, during instances where former President Mohamed Nasheed was in attendance, larger numbers of people had been found to attend demonstrations.

The Women’s Wing spokesperson added that there was “tremendous pressure” among its members at the moment to mobilise demonstrations at various events attended by the new president around the capital and the wider country.

“We are informed that our members often wish to be there to protest and shout Baghee Waheed [at the president],” she said.

Aniya said she was unable at present though to disclose any future dates or plans for protests of which a “huge number” of people were wanting to take part.

“ We have to be careful though as many people are sitting their A-level examinations right now, we don’t want to be encouraging large amounts of noise that may disturb them. We also do not want people getting arrested or injured by police,” she claimed. “We have two weeks left before the next Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) review. I’m sure there will be more protests before this, but we don’t want to disclose the frequency of them.”

After several demonstrations have been conducted in the capital during the last two weeks, Police spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that there had been “no problems” regarding disturbances or arrests during yesterday’s demonstrations.

Despite recent allegations of violent provocation by both police and civilians against each other, Aniya claimed that the MDP has always been a proponent for peaceful protesting and demonstrations.

“One thing you will see is that the MDP do not provoke police,” she said.

Aniya added that the party continued to allege that police had abused their powers in certain cases over the last few months in regards to the treatment of anti-government protesters.  However, she believed increased international pressure on the government had appeared to ensure demonstrations were conducted much more peacefully.

“We protest as peacefully as we can, mostly by trying to stay away from police as much as possible. The High Court has also outlined where we cant assemble, so we walk around these areas instead,” she said.

Aniya alleged that previous reports of anti-government protesters violently attacking police and throwing projectiles had been the result of government aligned parties using young people to infiltrate MDP’s protests.  It was these infiltrators, she claimed, that were often responsible for violent acts that provoked police to use force against them.

Aniya accepted that police officers in the present political environment were often put in a “very difficult” situation due to allegations that some key figures in the service had involvement in deposing former President Nasheed in the run up to his controversial “resignation”.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that from a government perspective, recent demonstrations like yesterday’s march were not a serious issue for President Waheed as they did not officially represent the wider views of the now opposition MDP.

“The protests were themselves called by former President Nasheed and are not an issue for us. Any MDP protests should be called from the party’s national council representation,” he said.

Minivan News also questioned the President’s Office on the reportedly peaceful nature of the recent demonstrations.  Abbas responded that the lack of clashes with police appeared to show that the party had begun to move away from “violent factions” in its organisation that he claimed were linked to the former president.