Bank of Ceylon to arrange US$500 million credit exposure

The Sri Lankan government has agreed to provide a US$500 million credit exposure to the Maldives through the Bank of Ceylon (BoC), according to Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) Leader Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam Mohamed.

Briefing the press Thursday night on President Abdulla Yameen’s maiden state visit to Sri Lanka last week, the MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo revealed that the new administration had requested raising the credit exposure to US$1 billion to alleviate foreign currency exchange difficulties.

“They said they will arrange for US$500 million. So when that is arranged, God willing, it will make it very easy for us to [solve] our foreign exchange issues and that will benefit Maldivian citizens,” Shiyam said.

Along with the Jumhooree Party (JP) led by business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, the MDA is a coalition partner of the Progressive Party of Maldives-led (PPM) government.

Flanking the president, Gasim told reporters that the Maldivian delegation met ambassadors of Arab nations in Colombo and discussed establishing banking facilities in the country as well as securing loans.

President Yameen added that Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed would leave on an official visit to Arab countries including Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia in the near future.

On mutual cooperation, Yameen said discussions on areas such as health, education, and the economy would resume in the existing joint commission this year.

Characterising Sri Lanka as a “second home” for Maldivians, Yameen said official talks with Sri Lankan counterparts mainly focused on issues of concern for the approximately 14,000 Maldivian citizens residing in the neighbouring country.

The issues discussed included education, healthcare, consular services and difficulties obtaining dependency visas, Yameen noted.

Detailed discussions on the visa issue would take place during followup visits by the foreign ministry, he added.

The foreign ministry would also commence joint efforts with the Sri Lankan government to compile a registry of Maldivians living in Sri Lanka, Yameen said.

Following completion of the registry, Yameen added, the Maldivian embassy and its improved consular department would adopt a proactive approach to assisting Maldivians.

Ties strengthened

Moreover, agreements concerning transnational crime, developing police cooperation, vocational training and youth skills development, and sports cooperation were signed during the trip.

An understanding was reached on “avoidance of double taxation” for businesses operating in both countries, Yameen said, such as the corporate profit tax.

A business delegation from the Maldives participated in a business forum with the Sri Lankan chamber of commerce to discuss “the scope for investing in the country,” Yameen said.

Gasim noted that the Maldivian delegation invited Sri Lankan companies to invest in the local tourism industry.

Yameen also revealed that the government has decided to provide a plot of land in Malé for the Sri Lankan embassy.

“God willing, President Rajapaksa will visit the Maldives on our invitation very soon,” he said.

Close bilateral relations between the two countries were strengthened as a result of the trip, Yameen said.

Yameen further noted that the Maldives would back Sri Lanka in the international arena concerning its human rights record and placement in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s (CMAG) agenda.

“We have raised our voice very positively for Ceylon in these international matters. And they acknowledge it with appreciation,” he said.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – told reporters that the ministry would provide details of the agreements reached during the president’s visit.

President Yameen also met Maldivians living in Sri Lanka during his visit, discussing the introduction of Quran classes for children and the renovation of the embassy building, said Dunya.

Sea sand

Shiyam also revealed that the Sri Lankan government had given assurances on providing sea sand as a substitute to the river sand aggregate required by the construction industry.

“God willing, we made unexpected progress during the president’s visit,” he said.

Sea sand contains fewer impurities than Indian river sand, Shiyam added, which was mined from mountains and could not provide strength for large buildings.

Difficulties in importing construction material, such as river sand and reinforcement rock boulders from India last year led to a shortage of the supply and subsequent rising costs for construction companies.

On February 15, 2013, the Indian government revoked a special quota afforded to the Maldives for the import of aggregate and river sand.

The Indian government’s decision followed a diplomatic row with Maldives over the previous administration’s termination of a concession agreement with Indian infrastructure giant GMR to upgrade and develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).


MP Siyam’s alcohol case sent back to police

A case involving the discovery of alcohol in the luggage of prominent businessman and MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Siyam has been sent back to police from the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The case was said to have included incomplete information regarding the discovery of the bottle during luggage screening at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in March, reported Haveeru

Siyam is also head of the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), the country’s newest political party. The MDA has formed a coalition with the Progressive Party of Maldives for this Saturday’s presidential poll.


Maldives Development Alliance to hold coalition talks

The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) headed by local MP and business tycoon Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam is reportedly looking to form a coalition with which to contest the presidential election scheduled for next month.

MDA national council members present at a meeting held on Thursday (August 1) unanimously approved the decision to form a coalition, with an unnamed party official telling Shiyam’s Sun Online news service that the power-sharing talks were thought to involve the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

According to local media, a five-member committee has already been formed to discuss forming a coalition with the PPM, which is presently standing by itself with Parliamentary Group Leader MP Adulla Yameen as presidential candidate.

PPM vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and Spokesperson MP Ahmed Nihan were not responding to requests to clarify the report at time of press.


‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam says World Bank cannot give any more money to Maldives

MP for Meedhoo constituency Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam has informed the Majlis that, after meeting with a representative of the World Bank, he was told that no additional money could be provided to the Maldives, reports Sun Online.

“The reason given by him is that Maldivian citizens are being forced to cope with political unrest and danger. He said that Maldivians are in dismay, and that investors are apprehensive about investing in Maldives,” he said.

Shiyam was reported in local media as telling the Majlis that investor confidence was being negatively affected by the country’s politics.

Sun reported Shiyam as saying that more attention should be given to the opinions of foreigners in the Maldives affairs and that new faces were needed on the political scene.


‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam reported to be forming political party

Independent MP for Meedhoo constituency and chairman of the Sun Travel Group Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam Mohamed is reported to be establishing his own political party under the title of the ‘Maldives Development Alliance’.

Local newspaper Haveeru has reported that more than one hundred people attended a meeting held at the Nalahiya Hotel in Male’ last night during which the formation of the party was discussed.

Shiyam was unavailable for comment at the time of press.

The President of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuad Thaufeeq said that he had not yet received any information on the new party. Haveeru said that the registration process was set to begin within a week.

A member of the EC stated that, in order to register a political party, a written request must be submitted containing the names of 50 people who support the party’s formation. After this initial registration, the party is given one year to gain a minimum of 3000 members.

The largest political party in the Maldives, by membership, is the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with around 48000 members, followed by the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) with around 27000, and then the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) with around 16000.

There are currently 15 political parties registered in the Maldives, although only six of these have maintained more than the minimum 3000 members.

In a leaked audio clip released earlier this year, Shiyam was heard criticising the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the head of the Majlis’s minority leading party, the PPM.

In the clip, Shiyam discussed the diminishing trust in the former president with Gayoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen. Yameen is currently the parliamentary group leader for the PPM.

Both men were heard denigrating Gayoom’s political support and warning against his running again for the presidency. Rumours that Gayoom would contest the next presidential election on behalf of the PPM have persisted.

Shiyam expressed disappointment with Gayoom’s refusal to issue him a diplomatic passport and give him land for a boat yard in industrial Thilafushi Island. “These are the only two favours I ever asked of Maumoon,” Shiyam said.

Shiyam was formerly a deputy leader of the DRP, the party formed by Gayoom in 2005 to contest the country’s first multi-party elections. The DRP splintered in 2011, resulting in the formation of the PPM.

In 2010, Shiyam was reported to have had the worst attendance record of any MP in the Majlis.

Rising political tensions in the country have resulted in a number of MPs switching parties, with the PPM and the Jumhooree Party (JP) benefitting from recent defections.

Tensions within the government’s ruling coalition yesterday saw members of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) declare their alliance with the DRP to be over after members of the latter party supported a motion from the sole opposition party, the MDP, to debate police brutality in the Majlis.