MDP will empower island councils, says Nasheed

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) MPs will seek to amend the Decentralisation Act to empower local councils, former President Mohamed Nasheed has said.

Speaking at campaign events in Malé last night, Nasheed said the party’s aim was to award a nearby uninhabited island to each island council as a source of income.

“We want each council to conduct business transactions using the island [to generate income] for establishing sewerage and water systems, build roads or even construct a harbour or do work needed for the school – we want to find a way for you to undertake these efforts on your own,” he said.

Under the existing system of governance, Nasheed contended that the central government could not establish “even two sanitation systems” this year due to financial constraints and the current state of the economy.

Nasheed observed that sewerage, water,and electricity has been established in over 100 resort islands.

The MDP’s policy was facilitating guest house or mid-market tourism in inhabited islands in order to make infrastructure projects economically feasible, Nasheed explained.

Nasheed made the remarks at jagaha (campaign hub) opening ceremonies in the Henveiru ward for the MDP’s candidates for the Eydhafushi constituency in Baa atoll, and the Isdhoo constituency in Laamu atoll.

Speaking at the opening of the campaign hub Eydhafushi candidate, Hisaan Hussain, Nasheed said the law had to be amended for islands to benefit from its natural riches.

“We have to change the decentralisation law to give powers to island councils. We have to give the Eydhafushi council the discretion and the resources to reclaim land. One aim of our party is to empower island councils, generate income for island councils, and find ways for island councils to develop their islands,” he said.

Island councils should be able to initiate infrastructure projects such as establishing sewerage systems, Nasheed added.

In his speeches last night, Nasheed urged voters to compare the MDP’s candidates for Eydhafushi and Isdhoo with their opponents in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Both Hisaan and Umar Razzaq were academically qualified and experienced in government administration and public service, Nasheed said.

Meanwhile, speaking at a function held last night to award the party’s ticket to candidates, Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) Leader Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam Mohamed reportedly said that voting for MDP candidates for parliament “could be a sin.”

Voters should not choose MDP candidates because of the party’s track record during its three years in government, the MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo said.

Praising the MDA’s candidates as “competent and educated,” Shiyam assured supporters that MDA MPs would not sell their votes or accept bribes.

“Bribing to obtain votes is haram. You must not do such a thing,” Shiyam said.

“Ruling a nation is like running a company. Developing a country is also putting the economy back on its feet. That is what we are working for,” the resort tycoon added.


President promises four bilateral agreements during Sri Lanka visit

President Abdulla Yameen and the First Lady Madam Fathimath Ibrahim have today departed on an official state visit to Sri Lanka, where Yameen anticipates four bilateral agreements will be signed.

The President’s Office reported Yameen as saying that the visit was intended to improve the already-strong ties between the two nations, and that the three-day visit would include one-to-one talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Yameen will be accompanied by a large delegation, including coalition partners Gasim Ibrahim and Ahmed Shiyam – of the Jumhooree Party and Maldives Development Alliance, respectively.

Also present on the trip will be Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb, and Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed.


Maldives reaches one million tourists target for 2013

The Maldives has reached one million tourist arrivals for the current year, with the Tourism Ministry announcing that 1,000,203 had visited the country as of Monday (November 25).

The Maldivian government had narrowly failed to reach this milestone target in 2012, after a year of political turmoil and an economic slump in key markets.

“It’s a major victory for the whole country,” recently re-appointed Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb was quoted as telling media yesterday.

“This victory has been made possible amidst boycott campaigns and other such obstacles. Resort owners, ministry employees and MMPRC have worked really hard for this.”

Repeated delays to the scheduled presidential elections recently brought threats of prolonged strike actions from leading tourism industry groups, including the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM).

In late October the People’s Majlis accepted a bill that would criminalise any actions calling for a tourism boycott, supporting or endorsing a boycott, participating in a boycott, or any act that would incite fear amongst tourists.

Previously this month, the Finance Ministry revealed that “political turmoil” had caused growth in the tourism industry to stall in 2012, though it did anticipate that the sector – responsible for around 28 percent of GDP in each of the past five years – would return to growth this year.

The Tourism Ministry revealed yesterday that the “Maldives received 925,413 tourists at the end of October 2013 and 783,999 tourists at the end of October 2012, which is an increase of 18% compared to the same period of last year.”

“A total 284,926 Chinese tourists visited the Maldives which is 30.8% of the total arrivals to the Maldives and is the highest arrival from a single source market,” continued the ministry’s press release.

The large numbers of Chinese arrivals to the country’s idyllic resorts, the Finance Ministry has suggested previously, was increasing arrivals whilst reducing the relative value of the industry.

“As the most number of tourists to the country now come from China, we note that the low number of nights on average that a Chinese tourist spends in the Maldives has an adverse effect on the tourism sector’s GDP,” read the Finance Ministry’s ‘Fiscal and Economic Outlook: 2012 to 2016’ statement this month.

Recent tourism statistics show that, whilst there was a slight growth in European arrivals this year, the overall share of the market is now dominated by Asia.

Prominent resort owner and leader of the government-aligned Maldivian Development Alliance Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam has blamed the relative decline in the European market on the state’s failure to properly market the destination.

The official hashtag of London’s World Travel Market was hijacked by Maldivian pro-democracy activists this month, making global headlines by linking prominent resort owners with the overthrow of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

A similar tactic was used by anti-government protesters in 2012 as the government re-launched the ‘Sunny side of life’ slogan that had been temporarily replaced under Nasheed’s tenure.

In order to celebrate the one million tourist milestone, the Ministry of Tourism together with Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation and the Airport Reps Association of Maldives will be holding a week of celebrations at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport between December 25 to December 31.