MP Musthafa blames ‘Reeko’ Moosa over finance controller’s resignation

Finance Controller at the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Ahmed Assad, resigned yesterday after attempts were made by MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik to exert undue influence over the senior government official, claims Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa.

In a text message circulated to several media outlets, Musthafa alleged that several “capable professionals and technocrats” were quitting the MDP government in protest of acting chairperson Moosa’s outsize influence and “corrupt dealings” for personal gain.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Musthafa claimed Moosa had asked Assad for Rf5 to 6 million (US$320,000-390,000) to complete a project awarded to Moosa’s company Heavy Load Maldives to construct the jetty off the island of Kumundhu in Shaviyani Atoll.

Assad was unavailable for comment today as his mobile phone was switched off.

“Assad refused to issue the money and he went into a quarrel with Moosa and Moosa attempted to use his position and authority to exert influence over him,” Musthafa alleged. “He also tried to influence Abdulla Ziyadh, civil engineer of Works Corporation and tried to collect money for a Heavy Load project before it was completed. They completed 20 percent of the work and asked him to pay for 70 percent of work.”

Ziyadh had resigned from his post at the Works Corporation under the Housing Ministry in the wake of the incident, Musthafa claimed.

“Moosa has also taken Rf4 million (US$260,000) worth of oil for credit from Fuel Supply Maldives (FSM) and tried to get more oil for credit without paying for the oil he purchased earlier,” he alleged.

Musthafa said he planned to submit an amendment to the MDP charter to ensure that a businessman could not hold the post of chairperson.

Responding to remarks made by Moosa in the local media that Musthafa was “using my name to gain fame for himself,” Musthafa said: “,I ‘Seafood Musthafa’, was more famous and a millionaire in this country when Moosa was riding a bicycle around Henveiru.”

Contacted for a comment today, MP Moosa Manik said he did not wish to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said Assad had not divulged the reason for his decision to leave the government in his resignation letter.

“Unless he confirms the allegations, I would say that is just political speculation and theories,” said Zuhair, referring to Musthafa’s allegations.


Maldives hails “new dawn” in Libya, increases international pressure on Syria

Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem has welcomed “a new dawn in Libya” following reports yesterday that the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) had all but taken control of Libya’s capital, Tripoli.

President Muammar Gaddafi remains nowhere to be found, but early reports yesterday – confirmed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) – suggested that the rebels had detained his son, Saif al-Islam.

Saif however appeared in front of journalists later in the day declaring that the rebels had “fallen into a trap”, and “screw the criminal court.”

The Maldives was among the first countries to formally recognise the TNC rebels as the sovereign representatives of the Libyan people, and helped organise several UN Human Rights Council resolutions increasing pressure on Gaddafi and legitimising Western military intervention.

“The Maldives took these steps because of our conviction that men such as Muammar Ghadaffi should not be allowed to check, through violence, the recent march of democracy and human rights across the Muslim world – the Muslim Awakening,” Naseem said.

“For decades, the government of Muammar Ghadaffi has ruled through a system of patronage, repression and fear. The Muslim Awakening brought hope that this system could be dismantled peacefully, through dialogue, reform and free and fair elections. However, instead Muammar Ghadaffi chose to use his security forces to attack and kill civilians.

“With the imminent fall of Ghadaffi, the Muslim Awakening lives on, and the Maldives looks forward to welcoming a new, democratic Libyan State into the international family of nations,” Naseem said.


The Maldives is taking a similar line on Syria it took with Libya earlier this year, insisting on democratic reforms and yesterday spearheading an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“The Maldives considers itself a friend of Syria and its people, and has watched with increasing alarm as the government there has responded to peaceful protests calling for democratic reform with violence and intimidation. Thousands have been arbitrarily detained and hundred of our Muslim brothers and sisters, including children, have been killed. Worse, these gross human rights violations have intensified during the Holy Month of Ramadan,” Naseem said, in another statement.

Syria, which has failed to respond to the Council or cooperate with the UN, is backed by Iran and has taken a hard line against civilian demonstrators calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Protests began in January 26 as the ‘Arab Spring’ demonstrations began to sweep through the Middle East, escalating into an uprising in which over 2200 people have reportedly been killed.

Involvement of the Maldives

At a press conference held yesterday in Male’, the Maldives Ambassador to the UN Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed said that the small size and relative isolation of the Maldives was “no impediment” the country’s pursuit of an international human rights agenda.

“I think we have shown that size is not everything in international relations,” Ghafoor said. “Even if you are a small country your commitments, your principles, and how you work with others can help you achieve many of your goals.

“Our relations with other countries and our record of promoting human rights both at home and in concert with other countries, and our cooperation with the Human Rights High Commissioner has given us respect and legitimacy in the international community, and we have been at the forefront of a number of resolutions that has been initiated on matters of grave concern,” he said.

Asked about the Maldives’ commitment to human rights locally, and whether he concurred with the Maldives’ recent delegation to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives was the “most active national institution in Asia”, Ghafoor observed that “I don’t think there’s any country that has a perfect human rights record.”

“Without exception I think all countries have human rights issues and problems, but what is more important is how do we deal with it and how do we address these issues,” he said.

“I think Maldives has shown that it is willing to address the shortcomings it has in its human rights promotion and making every effort possible within the resources we have to improve our human rights record.

We are willing to work with other countries, with the international human rights organisations, even with NGOs to make the human rights issue a non-issue hopefully some time in the future. But that maybe a bit too much to hope for. So long as there are human beings interacting with each other there’s likely to be human rights issues.”

Speaking as to the Maldives’ position on the UN report detailing war crimes in the closing days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, Ghafoor said he did not think the matter would create friction with the Maldives’ neighbour.

“I do not see the government having any issues at this stage with the Sri Lankan government,” he said.

“[Naseem] has stated that we would like to see the UN take a more comprehensive review of what has happened in Sri Lanka, rather than concentrate on the last few days. This could skew the whole issue. So we do not see our memberships of the Human Rights Council making it difficult for us to have good relations with Sri Lanka or speak on issues of sensitivity. I think as good friends Maldives can speak very frankly with Sri Lanka and I’m sure they would happy to listen to our views.”


Syrian President dismisses cabinet as protests grow violent

President of Syria Bashar al-Assad has dismissed his cabinet in an effort to satiate protesters after two weeks of unrest, mirroring the approach of desposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

At one stage the 45 year-old Western-educated leader had promised to step down at the end of his term, but now appears to be trying to placate the protesters with the heads of his cabinet ministers.

Death tolls from the crackdowns have reached 130, according to activists in the country, while the official count is 30.

AFP reported that Syrian authorities were now “studying the liberalisation of laws on media and political parties as well as anti-corruption measures.”

In his first speech since the uprising began, Assad claimed that genuine protesters calling for reform were being led astray by instigators and “foreign plots”.

Syria, he claimed, was “a target of a big plot from outside, both internally and externally. If there is something happening it is using the cover of accusing Syria of popular response. If there are reformers we will support them. Those people have mixed and confused intellectual ways.”

“The plotters are the minority… we didn’t know what had happened until the sabotage operations had happened, since then we could see the difference between reform and killing. We are for people’s demands but we cannot support chaos and destruction.”

The US has backed calls for reforms in Syria – a key antagonist of the country’s Israeli allies – but stood short of calling for regime change.

“”We support the timely implementation of reforms that meet the demands that Syrians are presenting to their government, such as immediately eliminating Syria’s state of emergency laws,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We want to see peaceful transitions and we want to see democracies that represent the will of the people.”

Meanwhile besieged Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, who has refused to step down even as rebel forces take town after town on the road to Tripoli, backed by NATO air power, has lashed out at world leaders for their interference.

“Stop your barbaric and unjust offensive against Libya,” Gaddafi wrote in a letter to the European Parliament and the US Congress, warning that the country was on the brink of becoming a second Afghanistan”.

“Leave Libya for the Libyans. You are carrying out an operation to exterminate a peaceful people and destroy a developing country. We are united behind the leadership of the revolution, facing the terrorism of al-Qaida on the one hand and on the other hand terrorism by Nato, which now directly supports al-Qaida,” he wrote.


Some salaries restored, rest to follow in April

The reduced salaries of staff at independent commissions, courts, parliament and the judicial services have been restored while civil servant salaries will follow in April, the government has said.

State Minister for Finance Ahmed Assad said the salaries had been increased in line with the budget approved by parliament and that the salaries of civil servants and staff at other government institutions would follow when the government’s economic condition stabilised.

“The government intends to restore salaries sooner than April if possible,” Assad said, adding that he would have preferred all salaries to be restored at the same time.

Speaking during his weekly radio address, the president said the government’s present situation was “unsustainable” and the Maldives had “the highest wages in the world relative to expenditure over income”.

“Despite criticisms and calls for protests by several people, public servants appreciate the value and importance of public sector reforms undertaken by the government,” he claimed.

“Fiscal adjustments” were necessary, he said, because of the country’s large financial deficit.

“I [therefore] wish to thank all civil servants very much.”

The president’s press secretary Mohamed Zuhair said he expected that the government’s economic condition to improve by April.

He further added that the decision to restore the salaries was “not related” to Thursday night’s protest outside the president’s residence, Muleeage.

Spokesperson for the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Mohamed Fahmy Hassan sounded disappointed and said it was hard for him to trust the president’s words because they differed from the actions of the finance ministry “and the way things have gone.”

“We do not know what to [do] now,” he said, adding that it was unfair for government staff other than civil servants to receive the restored salaries.

”We have been repeatedly begging the finance ministry,” he said. “The president wishes the best for civil servants, but these things are happening without the knowledge of the president.”

Spokesperson for the Civil Servants Association (CSA) Abdulla Waheed said the government was ruling the Maldives “as if there was no law.”

He said that the CSA was planning to hold a protest in front of finance ministry on Tuesday.

Many civil servants were “afraid to come out for protest because they might be fired,” he added.


IMF warns restoring salaries will “jeopardise” international financing

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that international funding to the Maldives would be threatened if civil servant salaries are restored to former levels.

“One of the primary drivers of the large fiscal deficit has been government spending on public wages, which has more than doubled between 2007 and 2009, and is now one of the highest in the world relative to the size of the economy,” said Rodrigo Cubero, IMF mission chief for the Maldives.

“Measures that would substantially raise the budget deficit, such as a reversal of previously announced wage adjustments, would also put the program off track, jeopardising prospects for multilateral and bilateral international financing,” he warned.

State minister for finance Ahmed Assad confirmed that international funding might be at risk if the salaries were restored in the manner demanded by the Civil Servants Commission (CSC).

“The IMF have been saying that for a while,” Assad said, reiterating that the government was not capable of increasing civil servants salaries this month.

Permanent secretaries of various ministries had been submitting two salary sheets, he said, “so we know the difference.”

Spokesperson of the CSC Mohamed Fahmy Hassan said according to Maldivian law, the finance ministry had to pay the increased salary this month.

”For instance, if give you  work to do and say I will pay you 100rf when the work is done, after you complete the work is it fair for me to say, ‘Oh, I cant give you Rf100, I only have Rf50′,” he asked.

In response Assad said the IMF only gave economic advice, and was indifferent to a country’s law.

During talks between the CSC and finance ministry yesterday no agreements were made beyond a decision to continue negotiations.

In its statement, the IMF warned that “the Maldivian economy continues to face serious challenges. In particular, addressing the very large fiscal deficit is of paramount importance to secure a stable economy, equitable growth, and lasting poverty reduction.’

“A larger fiscal deficit would drive up interest rates, deprive the private sector of the credit it needs, and threaten growth and employment. It may also stoke inflation and erode the purchasing power of all Maldivians, including civil servants. It is to avoid such undesirable outcomes that the fiscal deficit needs to be reduced.”


CSC and finance ministry hold talks to resolve salary dispute

After months of trading blows in the media, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the finance ministry met this morning to discuss the restoration of civil servants’ salaries.

However neither party would reveal what was discussed in the meeting, saying only that the issue remained undecided and another meeting would be held.

”We do not want to comment on this yet,” said Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, a CSC member who has advocated discussions between the CSC and the ministry.

State Minister for Finance Ahmed Assad also refused to reveal what was raised in the meeting, but said was expecting the discussions to lead to a solution.

Both Assad and the finance controller from the finance ministry were present at the meeting.

In response to the silence, spokesman for the Maldivian Civil Servants Association (MCSA) Abdulla Waheed said he was convinced the discussions would not lead to a “beneficial” solution and that the finance ministry was simply seeking to extend the period of reduced salaries.

”The CSC might agree to keep the salary lowered till the parliament re-opens,” Waheed predicted, threatening a law suit against the CSC if the outcome of the discussions was deemed “an injustice”.


Civil Servants Association threatens to sue finance ministry if salaries lowered

The Maldivian Civil Servant Association (MCSA) said at a rally yesterday that it will file a lawsuit against the finance ministry if civil servants are given the lowered salary this month.

MSCA spokesman Abdulla Mohamed said the organisation was placing five lawyers on standby.

”The finance minister [Ali Hashim] has personal issues against the civil servants, he’s being stubborn,” Abdulla said, adding that the problems were getting worse “because [Hashim] does not have much knowledge on how to handle a government’s finance ministry.”

”Whatever he thinks is right at the moment, he does. He does not plan things well,” Abdulla claimed.

The ministry’s request that the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) and parliament mediate its dispute between the CSC “is not a solution”, he said, insisting that the ministry needed to “follow the law” and pay the full salaries for this month.

Otherwise, he said, the government would be in debt and owe civil servants the rest of the money.

Abdulla further added that the CSC had been careless, and failed to fulfill its responsibility to ensure the deductions applied the independent commissions, judiciary and police as well as other civil servants.

State Finance Minister Ahmed Assad said holding discussions with just the CSC would not lead to a solution, and that the involvement of a third party was needed.

The civil servants would be receiving the lowered salaries this month, he said. “The MCSA has a right to go to court and file a lawsuit if they have problems with the finance ministry.”

In addition, Assad claimed the CSC did not discuss the restoration of civil servants salary with the finance ministry.

”But they did asked us once: ‘is the country still in the state of a economic crisis?’, and we said ‘yes’,” Assad explained.

Governor of the MMA Fazeel Najeeb said the organisation would not outline its involvement in the arbitration process yet, but would speak to the press in several weeks.