Nasheed’s lawyer arrested in Addu City

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyer has been arrested by police in Addu City after allegedly disobeying police orders on Wednesday night (March 27).

Hisaan Hussain, who is part of Nasheed’s legal team, told local media that she had been arrested shortly after her husband was detained by police earlier in the evening.

Local media reported that police had conducted an inspection at Hithadhoo Kalhibis beach barbecue area following reports that people had been intoxicated in the area.

According to Hisaan, her husband had been arrested after he had questioned the actions of the police when they turned up to the family event.

Hisaan claimed that she was then later arrested when she went to Hithadhoo Police Station to submit a request to act as her husband’s lawyer.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has since claimed that the arrest of Hisaan – who has now been released by authorities along with her husband – was a direct attempt by police to intimidate Nasheed’s lawyers.

“We see it as pure harassment. The Police are trying to intimidate lawyers who represent the MDP and President Nasheed. It is extremely disturbing that the police have again displayed their complete disregard to the law.

“We urge the Police and the Police Integrity Commission to look into the matter and take urgent action against those officers who continue to violate the law & brutalise Women,” President Nasheed’s spokesperson MP Mariya Didi claimed.

Contrary to reports in local media, a statement from the MDP claimed that police had searched the area under a law relating to gang violence.

The MDP statement further claimed that Hisaan, who is 24 weeks pregnant, had been pushed to the ground by police, while her husband was punched in the face by an officer.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls or text messages from Minivan News at time of press.


Man dies during MNDF military training programme

A man has died while taking part in a military training program in Addu City yesterday (February 23), local media reports.

Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Media Officer Abdulla Ali told local media that the man, 24 year-old Ismail Habeeb of Seenu Feydhoo Dhunnikage, died whilst taking part in swimming training.

Local media reported that Habeeb had just completed his 200 metre swimming test before suddenly drowning as he touched the finish mark.

Ali said instructors had jumped in and taken him out of the water within five seconds, and took him to Hithadhoo Regional Hospital immediately.

The MNDF media officer said the hospital had confirmed Habeeb’s death, but said the official cause of death can only be confirmed after a review of the doctor’s reports.


Missing man from Fuvamulah found dead

The body of a missing 30 year-old Fuvamulah man, Mohamed Nafiz, has been found dead on the shore of Fuvamulah.

Nafiz was declared missing by police on January 24, at 8:00pm.

Police said the body was discovered yesterday morning at 6:27am in an area of Fuvamulah beach called ‘’Ambulu fannu’’.

Police said a forensic team and investigative team had been dispatched to the island to investigate the case, and had confirmed the body was Nafiz.

In a statement, police said fingerprints of the dead body found on the beach matched those of the missing man.

The body was discovered while Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) divers and police officers were searching for him.

Nafiz was last seen alive when he and two other friends of the same age arrived to Fuvamulah from Addu City.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported that two men have been arrested in connection with the death of Nafiz.

Haveeru reported that his family alleged he was killed by the two friends who had accompanied him to Addu.

According to ‘Haveeru’, the clothes Nafiz had been wearing were discovered on the beach, wrapped around 19 bullet-sized packets containing illegal drugs.

A councilor of Addu City, on condition of anonymity, told the paper that Nafiz may have drowned after jumping off a boat to get to shore, after attempting to avoid police officers.

Nafiz’s uncle told Haveeru that Nafiz left Fuvamulah to go fishing but later said he and his two friends had gone to Addu to traffic illegal drugs into the island.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.


Equatorial Convention Centre in Addu owes MVR 4 million in electricity bills

The Equatorial Convention Centre (ECC) in Addu City owes MVR 4 million (US$ 259,235) in unpaid electricity bills, local media has claimed.

Head of Southern Utilities Company Abdullah Zuhair was reported to have said that the ECC has not paid any electricity bills since it was opened.

According the Zuhair, both the Finance Ministry and Housing Ministry have been requested to pay the money, but no response has yet been received.

Mayor of Addu City Abdullah Sodig told Sun Online there was nothing the council could do in regard to the unpaid bills as the ECC was not under its control. He further claimed that there are other issues facing the convention centre.

“The problem of unpaid electricity is not the only problem faced by ECC. There is no system to clean and monitor the centre either,” he was quoted as saying.

“The equipment that was initially taken there is also no longer there. The only things that remain are tables and chairs. We fear that the place might end up in ruins”

Over MVR 150 million (US$9.7 million), was spent on the construction of ECC in Addu City by the government of former President Nasheed for the 17th SAARC summit, local media claim.

“We had high hopes associated with ECC. We hoped that Addu City would be proud of ECC, that it would increase job opportunities for Addu City. But we don’t have much hope left now for these things,” Sodig told local media.

Late last month,  Male’ City Council (MCC) Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik claimed the capital was facing having its street lights “switched off” over an outstanding MVR 3.9 million (US$ 254,569) electricity bill.  The MCC at the time alleged that the Finance Ministry was responsible for the lack of payments.

Construction of 250 new homes in Addu to begin next year

Construction work on 250 new flats is to begin at the start of next year, Addu City Council has revealed.

The first flats are to be built at the Hitadhoo Maakilhi area, and will be part of a bigger government housing project that will eventually see a total of 700 flats in the area.

Councillor Abdulla Thoyyib said that eight high ranking officials from the Chinese National Machinery and Equipment, Import and Export Corporation (CMEC), along with the Deputy Housing Minister, had visited Addu on a survey trip to gather information and explore the site location.

Thoyyib added that the CMEC has completed its initial assessment and finished preparations for the start of the project and CMEC has informed that machinery and equipment will be transported to Addu in January.

“We have designated the area for this purpose as the area is suitable to accommodate a large population and as the flats are populated, other services can be developed.” Thoyyib said speaking to Haveeru.

“They are also extremely happy with the location. Even if 250 flats are initially developed, the ministry has informed that the work on the rest of the flats will also follow. However we haven’t received any details of it yet,” he added.

Only 25 housing units out of 700 have been built so far by the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC), despite the project being announced on April 22, 2009 during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.


OPEC loan for Hithadhoo hospital finalised

A delegation from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) has concluded a visit to the Maldives after signing a US$8.4 million (MVR 129million) loan agreement to finance the Hithadhoo Regional Hospital Project in Addu Atoll.

OFID Director-General Suleiman J. Al-Herbish met with President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to discuss the fund’s current operations in the Maldives as well as further avenues for cooperation.

Suleiman said the new hospital would deliver a wide range of specialized and emergency medical services, benefiting around 76,000 people.

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health Geela Ali said that the work on the 100-bed facility would upgrade the level of healthcare in the atoll to tertiary level.

Currently, this advanced level of healthcare is only provided in Male’s two hospitals – the privately operated ADK hospital and the state-run Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

Other than this, Maldivians can receive secondary of care in the country’s six regional hospitals. This includes Raa Atoll regional hospital which the ministry intends to begin renovating.

“This will be a huge project. We are currently seeking government funding for this,” explained Geela.

OFID is a finance institution established by the group of petroleum exporting states to channel aid to less-developed nations.

Previous loan support from the fund was given to upgrade Male’ international airport in 1999, and again in 2005 to extend Wataniya’s telecoms coverage.

A press release from the fund described the fund’s 35 year relationship with the Maldives during which time is has co-financed projects to strengthen the country’s agriculture, education, transportation a sanitation sectors.

“Under its Trade Finance Facility, OFID has participated under the International Islamic Finance Corporation’s syndication of US$25 million to assist the State Trading Organization, Maldives, in importing refined petroleum products. In addition, grant funding has provided emergency aid for tsunami victims and supported healthcare programs,” read the statement.

Chinese visit

As the OFID visit concluded, a high level Chinese delegation arrived as part of a three nation tour which will also take in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The delegation is headed by Li Changchun who is China’s fifth highest-ranking leader and has been on the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee since 2002.

Chinese state media reported Li as lauding the exemplary nature of the Sino-Maldives relationship as a model for ties between larger and smaller nations.

“The development of relations between China and the Maldivians serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples as well as maintaining the regional peace, stability and prosperity,” Xinhua reported Li as saying upon his arrival at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Li has since met with President Waheed who thanked him for China’s continuing assistance with the Maldives’ development, whilst welcoming Chinese investors to explore opportunities in the country.

Waheed expressed similar sentiment when paying his first official state visit to China last month during which he finalised a deal for US$500 million in aid, with promises for further assistance in the future.

The President’s Office website has confirmed that the Ministry of Housing has exchanged letters agreeing to a feasibility study for developing a road in the Laamu Atoll Gan to Fonadhoo stretch of islands.

A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the Chinese Ambassador Yu Hongyao and the Ministry of Environment and Energy concerning the provision of goods for addressing climate change.

Chinese relationships with the Maldives was established 40 years ago but has expanded rapidly over the past decade.

China leapfrogged the United Kingdom in 2010 to become the number one source of arrivals for the country’s travel industry.

China opened an embassy in Male’ in time for the opening of the SAARC summit last November, reciprocating the opening of a Maldivian mission in Beijing in 2007.


OPEC fund to provide loan for Addu hospital

The government has agreed a loan of US$8.4 million (MVR129.5 million) with OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) to build a hospital in Hithadhoo, Sun Online reports.

OFID is a finance institution established by the group of petroleum exporting states to channel aid to less-developed nations, most often for vital infrastructure

Previous loan support from the fund was given to upgrade Male’ international airport in 1999, and again in 2005 to extend Wataniya’s telecoms coverage.

Sun reported that the loan had originally been agreed last year, at a slightly higher rate of interest, and that the repayment period was 20 years.

Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad told Sun that the Health Ministry would begin the search for contractors next week.


DRP deputy says party offering alternative for disillusioned voters

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Dr Abdullah Mausoom has claimed that his party can offer an alternative to what he calls the divisive and personality-based politics offered by its major rivals.

Prominent party members including Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and Speaker of the People’s Majlis Abdulla Shahid have been in Addu Atoll this weekend to participate in a rally scheduled for this evening. The party will also be conducting door to door campaigning during its visit.

The event will coincide with the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) own rally in the country’s southernmost atoll that is being conducted as part of its ‘Journey of Pledges’ campaign trip.

Mausoom said that the timing of the event was a coincidence, with the date for the occasion chosen by local party members.

The DRP is currently the second largest in the country by membership, and the third largest by representation in the People’s Majlis – with 26,900 members and 13 MPs.

The MDP remains the country’s largest party, with 48,503 members and 30 MPs.  The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has 17,489 members and 17 MPs.

Despite suffering a slight decline in members in recent months as well as some defections to other parties within the Majlis, Mausoom claimed that the drop had not been as severe as expected and that the DRP still remained more settled than either the MDP or the PPM.

The DRP was the second political party to be registered officially in the Maldives after the MDP following democratic reforms introduced at the end of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s thirty year rule.  Gayoom founded the DRP before internal divisions last year resulted in the creation of the PPM.

In an interview with local media, Speaker Shahid has described the DRP as the mother of all political parties in the country, from which the PPM was born.

However, Mausoom believed that many people associated the PPM – now led by Gayoom – as a symbol of the past, whilst simultaneously feeling let down by the MDP who “over promised and under delivered”.

Mausoom said that the DRP was accused both of being a wing of the PPM as well as being on the verge of forming a coalition with the MDP.

“We are the only party taking the aspirations of the people seriously,” he contended.

Dr Mausoom said that the DRP had people with expertise and technical skills who had previously worked within both the governments of Former Presidents Gayoom and Nasheed.

He argued that the downfall of the MDP could be traced to the designation of jobs to its former activists regardless of skill.

“There is a strong culture of personality politics in the Maldives,” added Mausoom. “But Maldivian people are more politically educated than before.”

He described DRP Leader Thasmeen as a “true democrat”, who delegates responsibility throughout the party.

“While the MDP and the PPM are involved in jealous personal fights, the DRP is continuing to work as a responsible political party,” Mausoom added.


RAF veterans remember their days on Gan: Part 1

A group of Royal Air Force (RAF) veterans remember their time on the beautiful Maldivian island of Gan in the Addu Atoll as the best days of their lives.

Living thousands of miles from home, the servicemen of Coral Command who lived and worked on the atoll of Addu in RAF Gan and nearby Hithadhoo, where the RAF were fitting radio transmitters in the seventies, made their own fun long before the resorts were created.

In true forces style the squadrons based here, mainly Brits and the Indian Air Force, with a couple of Americans, created a night life scene which was enjoyed by many, including some liberal locals. Sadly, all this ended when the forces pulled out.

The RAF needed to travel back and forth between the islands for work and entertainment. They built a causeway linking six islands to help them to get there easily but before that they had to travel by boat.

Nowadays there is little entertainment, save the bar at the Equator Village resort in Gan on the other side of the island, and the sleepy hamlet of Hithadhoo is a very different place now – but it didn’t used to be, as one former airman reveals.

Richard Houlston, now 63, remembers the recreational activities which were available in the seventies in Hithadhoo after hours. Long before the resorts, Hithadhoo can proudly boast the establishment of the first entertainment in the Maldives.

Weekends were filled with diving and crab fishing, dhoni racing, pranks and skinny dipping in the pristine lagoon. After work hours Coral Command would spend hours drinking at “Siggies bar”, known affectionately as ‘Fairly Blato’, for obvious reasons.

On special occasions, some of the lads would head to the legendary Bushy disco – the first outdoor rave on a jungle-cropped island close to Hithadhoo.

“There were around 25 of us on the site when I arrived, this gradually increased to about 50 over the next few months when Skynet came (Satellite Communications),” remembers Richard.

“We had a big 2000 litre water tank in case of fire but we filled it full of fish from the lagoon, including three 4ft sharks, six puffer fish and a large titan trigger who ruled the pool. This had to be emptied, cleaned out and re-filled every week on a Tuesday afternoon to keep it going.

It was very entertaining to watch the catching of a four foot long shark by the tail,” Richard recalls.

Many hours were enjoyed placing a pole across this tank for people to walk across (which gives a whole new meaning to Shark Infested Custard, for those with a service background).

“No one ever did manage to make it across. If they looked as if they were doing well the pole was rolled first one way then the other! With three 4ft sharks in there, no one stayed in long,” he laughed.

On weekends and evenings many pranks were played by the men on their fellow comrades. These practical jokes helped to keep camaraderie and spirits high and playful by nature Richard was one of the main pranksters.

“John Scott and I used to go and catch 20 sand crabs and a large land crab every evening after tea and sometimes at night when everyone was in the bar Scotty and I would catch frogs and put them in peoples beds. We’d put the land crabs in washing boxes or down the loo,” he said.

“It was quite startling when you are about to seat yourself down to have a number two and a huge pair of pincers suddenly appears – that would make your eyes water.”

Firm and long lasting friendships were made during the time on Addu, which is evident in the hundreds of messages posted on the Then and Now website.

These lasting friendships enabled the RAF Gan memorial visit a couple of years back, where more than 50 former airmen and officers stepped back onto the atoll and met again for the first time in almost 40 years.

Many shared tales of times gone by and made new friends too. At the time men were not allowed to socialise with local women so with little social interaction, apart from with each other, the men filled their days with activities such as snorkelling, and diving.

There were dhoni competitions where men would row for entertainment and many other games too.

“As you are probably well aware the main problem with Gan was the lack of women. For 12 months with no female companionship, it was very difficult for servicemen – almost unbearable,” Richard explained. “Of course, we were not allowed to meet the Maldivian women, probably just as well, as I think I might still have been out there… or washed up on some beach.”

He left the air force to get married and remains happily so, with two children and recently the addition of a new grandchild.

There were some characters on the base. Richard fondly recalls the madcap adventures and avoidance tactics of a particular infamous squadron leader called Buckle.

“At the time we had Squadron Leader Buckle based on Gan but in charge of us on Hithadhoo. He heard a rumour that some airmen on Hithadhoo were sunbathing in the nude. This would of course be upsetting to the Maldivians – well the men anyway – who used to pass through the camp from time to time.

“He made many surprise trips trying to catch the culprits but as they had to have permission to land the boat we always knew in advance,” he laughed.

“It sort of backfired on him when he had a little rhyme composed about him: ‘Bare Bum Buckle was his name’ and ‘Bare Bum Spotting was his game’. I can’t remember the rest, perhaps it just as well). I know we had a flag pole over the bar in the Hermitage with a belt buckle hanging from it – a hangman’s noose.”

The Hithadhoo Diary’ was a cartoon feature for each period and the last six months-worth can be read on the Gan Remembered web site.

While he wouldn’t admit it some of Richard and his colleagues’ pranks even made the gossip sheet, which covered part of the time he was there, he laughs.

Richard and his comrades from Coral Command re-visit Gan as much as they can still have a close connection to Gan and Hithadhoo through Facebook, some say their hearts actually never left the curiously heart-shaped atoll.

Visit the RAF Gan Memorial Website.