Former defence chief and two MPs among high-profile switches to pro-government parties

Former Chief of Defence Forces Major General (Retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel and Malé City Councillor Lufshan Shakeeb ‘Loope’ – formerly of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – signed for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) yesterday.

Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, also signed for the PPM today and announced that he would seek re-election on the party’s ticket. Nasheed served in the cabinet of former President Gayoom as information and legal reform minister.

Meanwhile, MDP MP Ahmed Rasheed joined the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP).

Speaking at a ceremony attended by former president and PPM leader, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Jaleel said he joined “to serve the public through PPM,” adding that he believed the current government’s policies would ensure development and “save the country”.

After 32 years of service, the chief of defence forces under former President Mohamed Nasheed retired from the military in the wake of the controversial transfer of presidential power in February 2012.

In January 2013, Jaleel told parliament’s Government Oversight Committee that he believed former President Nasheed had “resigned under duress.”

Shakeeb – city councillor for mid-Henveiru – meanwhile said he decided to join PPM based on the focus and opportunities for youth in the party’s manifesto. The film actor quit the MDP in the wake of the party’s electoral defeat in November 2013.

In addition to Jaleel and Shakeeb, senior members of the Maziya Supporters club as well as television presenter Aminath Namza also signed for PPM at yesterday’s ceremony.

Warm welcome to Moosa Jaleel, Lufshan Shakeeb, Aminath Namza n other prominent figures who joined PPM in my presence last night,” Gayoom tweeted to announce the new members.

Speaking to press at the party office yesterday, Gayoom contended that the new government “could not provide the services it wants to the public without winning the [upcoming local council and parliamentary] elections.”

“A PPM majority will pave the way to go ahead with the PPM manifesto,” he said.

MDP Male’ City Councillor ‘Jambu’ Hassan Afeef also joined the PPM at today’s ceremony. In addition to Nasheed and Afeef, Maldives Broadcasting Corporation Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik signed for the party this afternoon.

With the new signings, the PPM currently has two councillors on the 11-member Male’ City Council.

Ahmed Rasheed to JP

MDP MP for Hoarafushi Ahmed Rasheed signed for the JP at a ceremony in the party’s headquarters Maafanu Kunooz yesterday.

JP leader Gasim Ibrahim told reporters that Rasheed had offered to join the party “a long time ago” while he was JP’s sole representative in parliament.

“But I said stay there, in MDP, for now. I believe Ahmed Rasheed is a person who worked very hard and transparently for democracy in the Maldives while in MDP,” the business tycoon said.

Rasheed said he decided to join the JP because the public chose the government coalition in last year’s presidential election.

Praising Gasim for his services to the public, Rasheed said he would seek re-election in the Hoarafushi constituency, adding that parliamentary seats were “more important to the government coalition” than the opposition.

Gasim said that Rasheed would be given the JP ticket without a primary by virtue of being a sitting MP, adding that he believed JP MPs should be able to contest on behalf of the coalition for their constituencies.

The Hoarafushi MP was among six MDP MPs who voted against the oppposition party’s whip line to approve President Abdulla Yameen’s ministerial appointees last month.


Criminal Court sentence drug lord to 25 years for trafficking cannabis

The Criminal Court has sentenced 43 year-old Ahmed Rasheed, of Always Happy House in Male’, to 25 years in prison after finding him guilty of trafficking cannabis into the Maldives.

Rasheed was arrested by police in May 2012 during a police effort to uncover a drug network operating in the Maldives.

The court said police arrested Rasheed on May 2, 2012, at 7:15 pm in an operation conducted following intelligence that Rasheed was in possession of drugs.

According to the Criminal Court, police located Rasheed inside a teashop called ‘Sai Hotaa’. When Rasheed saw the police officers, he pulled out a plastic can that contained illegal drugs and threw it away.

The Criminal Court said that an additional eight cans and a plastic bag containing illegal drugs were discovered inside a locker belonging to Rasheed.

The court said a total of 1152.51 grams of cannabis were discovered.

The Criminal Court has also fined Rasheed MVR 100,000 (US$6500) and ordered him to pay it within a month.

The Police Drug Enforcement Department (DED) busted the large drug network they allege revolved around a 56 year-old man working on the cargo vessel ‘MV Reina’ in May 2012.

The main suspect in the case was arrested when he arrived to the Maldives from Tuticorin in India.


Maldives’ Ambassador to the UAE resigns

The Maldives’ first Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Rasheed, has resigned for what the President’s Office has said are “personal reasons”.

President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza explained that Rasheed had been appointed to the mission at the start of the year under the Nasheed government, after having previously been Chief of Protocol for the Foreign Ministry.

Abbas said that Rasheed’s family were strong supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), adding that Rasheed was related by marriage to former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Dr Farahanaz Faisal.

Dr Faisal resigned from her post shortly after the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed in February, as did the Maldives’ Ambassador to the United Nations Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed – then the country’s most senior diplomat.


President sends letters to three MDP MPs requesting “clarification” of corruption allegations against government

President Mohamed Nasheed has sent letters to Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Ahmed Rasheed, Mohamed Musthafa and Shifaq Mufeeq, requesting they clarify corruption allegations made recently against the government.

According to the President’s Office, the Nasheed requested the MPs send details and evidence related to the corruption allegations as soon as possible, and urged their cooperation.

Mustafa told Minivan News that he had received the letter sent by the President and that he would share all the information he had, as requested by the president.

‘’These corruption allegations have become a national issue and the President is obliged to investigate it,’’ Mustafa said. ‘’I believe that when the president makes a request, we are obliged to share whatever information he wishes. There are many corruption allegations against senior officials of MDP and some serious allegations that we cannot share with the media right now,’’ he claimed.

“We will be sharing this information later,” he said, adding that he would reply to the president’s letter.

Several MDP MPs have recently alleged in parliament that there were corruption allegations in the government and that these should be investigated and stopped.

On November 21 during a debate in parliament MDP MP Shifag accused MDP Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik of corruption.

He claimed that excavators sent by Moosa’s Heavy Load Company to the SAARC Summit preparations were not usable, but that Moosa was paid millions of rufiya in lease payments for the excavators that he was not entitled to receive.

MDP MP Ahmed Rasheed claimed that same day in parliament that there was corruption in the government to a level that was ”concerning and dangerous.”

Ahmed Rasheed was not in town and was not available for a comment, while Shifag was in a committee meeting and was unavailable for a comment.

Moosa also said he was in a meeting and was unable to comment.

Last week Transparency International revealed that the Maldives had risen slightly to rank 134 in the organisation’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

The country scored 2.5 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean), placing it alongside Lebanon, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

The score however is a mild improvement on 2010, when the Maldives was ranked 143th and below Zimbabwe. The Maldives still rated as having higher perceived corruption than many regional neighbours, including Sri Lanka (86), Bangladesh (120) and India (95).

Project Director of Transparency Maldives, Aiman Rasheed, warned that the ranking could not be compared year-to-year, especially in the Maldives where there were only a three sources used to determine the index (India has six).

“Corruption in the Maldives is grand corruption, unlike neighbouring countries where much of it is petty corruption,” Rasheed said. “In the Maldives there is corruption across the judiciary, parliament and members of the executive, all of it interlinked, and a systemic failure of the systems in place to address this. That why we score so low.”

Faced with such endemic and high-level corruption, it was “up to the people of the Maldives to demand better governance”, he said.


PA MP announces decision to leave party following coalition split

MP of the opposition-aligned People’s Alliance (PA) Ahmed Rasheed has announced on MNBC his decision to leave the party “to better serve the public as an independent.”

Rasheed, who spoke to the state broadcaster on Sunday, also said he was open to joining other parties “if it was within the public interest.”

The PA’s acting Secretary General Ahmed Musthafa however told Minivan News today that he was unable to confirm whether Rasheed had left the party: “We don’t believe he has moved. I saw him yesterday,” he said, adding that the party would issue a formal communication on the matter in the next few days.

“Maybe he has been pressured by another party such as the MDP to join, although I don’t think he will,” Musthafa said.

Once Rasheed officially informs parliament of his new status as an independent, his departure from the PA could force the committee composition to be revisited for a third time this session.

While the PA would be entitled to fewer seats, parliamentary rules dictate that Rasheed must be given a seat on at least one committee as an Independent.

MP Ahmed Rasheed represents the constituency of Isdhoo in Laamu Atoll, an area of strong opposition support that voted largely for PA candidates under its former coalition agreement with the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP).

The PA decided decided on July 13 to break the longstanding coalition agreement, after internal strife within the DRP saw the party split into factions loyal to its leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali or the party’s ‘honorary leader’, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Eleven of the DRP’s MPs met with other opposition parties, including the Jumhoree Party (JP), the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and an independent MP to discuss the creation of a new voting bloc, one which could see the DRP’s majority control of parliament reduced to 13-15 MPs.

DRP MP Abdulla Mausoom raised concern following the split that the PA’s decision to break the coalition agreement would upset constituents in Laamu Atoll who “are very loyal to the DRP but voted for the PA tag.”

Z-DRP MP Ahmed Mahlouf responded that such islands “voted for the PA because President Gayoom asked them to do it. Even now Zaeem (Gayoom) is with the PA, they are working together. Voters in Laamu didn’t vote for Thasmeen – they voted for Gayoom.”


President Grants clemency for 39 Maldivians and 10 expats

President Mohamed Nasheed has granted clemency to 39 Maldivians and 10 expats who were sentenced to Maldivian jails.

Most of those granted clemency were inmates sentenced for long term punishments and had spent a long time in the cells, according to Director General of Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services [DPRS] Ahmed Rasheed.

“Among the 39 Maldivians [granted clemency], most were mainly charged with drug-related cases and some of them were sentenced for objection to order and other such crimes,’’ said Rasheed.

“Seven of the 10 expats were sentenced in a single fraud case.”

Rasheed said although clemency was granted to the seven expats, they would be deported from the Maldives.

President Nasheed also granted clemency decreasing the punishment of another 100 convicted criminals.

“These people were also mainly sentenced for drug related cases and some of them had been banished,’’ Rasheed said.

Inmates at Maafushi jail have on many occasions claimed that President Mohamed Nasheed promised that he would grant clemency to everyone in Maafushi jail when he came in to power.

They claimed that most of their parents and family members voted for president Nasheed due to this pledge he made.

However, the Human Right Commission of the Maldives [HRCM] has claimed that Male’ has reached a situation where it is difficult for people to live a normal life due to rising gang violence.

The commission noted earlier this week that the release of people charged with “perilous crimes” such as murder had led to them repeating the crimes, and that the agencies responsible for the implementation of sentences are not taking necessary measures to ensure they were served.


Bill banning import of alcohol presented to parliament

A bill banning the importing of alcohol and pork into the Maldives has been presented to the parliament.

The bill was presented by Independent MP Ibrahim Muthalib, which he said amended the list of things that could not be imported to the country under 75/4 of the law on concerning contraband.

”The last time I presented a bill  banning that sale and usage of alcohol on inhabited islands they sent it off the floor claiming that it only bans particular places or areas (inhabited islands),” he said. ”This time I am presenting a bill to ban [alcohol and pork] from being brought inside the country at all.”

He said he hoped that all the MPs would make “a good decision” on the bill after thinking “with a good mind.”

DRP MP Ahmed Rasheed said that he would not support the bill.

”By removing my arms in case I hit someone, by cutting out my tongue in case I talk filth, by blinding my eyes in case I see something that ought not to be watched, by plugging my ears in case I hear something I ought not – I can’t be a Muslim that way,” he said. ”I don’t think there is anyone with so weak a faith.”

People’s Alliances party MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abu Bakuru said that he “fully supported” the bill.

”I have information that in 1972 alcohol was not imported to the country,” Jamal said. ”It is not a good way to think that its best to be surrounded by sins and not to commit. [For example] it is said to stay away from sex before marriage, and to wait patiently without doing it.”

PA leader and MP Abdulla Yameen said that although the Maldives was a hundred per-cent Muslim country importing alcohol could not be fully banned.

”Look at Jeddah (a Saudi Arabian city on the shores of the Red Sea). It is a city in an Arab Islamic country but you can get alcohol from there,” Yameen said.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Parliamentary group leader Moosa Manik claimed he would not support the bill as it was “politically motivated”.