Defence ministry sacks eight officers

The defence ministry has dismissed eight officers at the aviation security command claiming the military no longer trusted them.

But the dismissed officers, who are all members of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), told Minivan News they were fired because of their political views.

The dismissals come at a time of heightened political tension in Malé following the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The fired officers had served between 13 and 26 years at the aviation security command.

They include the head of security for Koodoo Domestic Airport, head of administration, head of cargo unit, head of human resources, supervisor of the Malé international airport’s international terminal, two outpost duty officers and a driver.

“We are all members of MDP and we will always remain so. But never in my 26 years of service have I ever betrayed the state. Now they see my political beliefs as a threat to them,” former head of Koodoo Airport Mohamed Nadeem told Minivan News today.

Hussain Nazeef, who was the head of cargo unit, said members of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had wanted them dismissed from their jobs.

“We were at a very senior level and the people working for us, who were also members of PPM, lacked proper qualification and the leadership to advance. So the only way for them to go ahead was to get us fired,” Nazeef said.

The ministry, citing budgetary constraints, had given the eight officers notice in early March, but the decision was not enforced until Wednesday. Two more officers who were given notice in March still remain at their jobs.

The dismissal notes said: “Based on the intelligence information gathered by the Ministry of Defence and National Security, you are no longer trusted to continue working in an environment related to the national security.”

At a press briefing today deputy defence minister Thorig Ali Lutfee dismissed the officer’s claims, but failed to reveal the reasons for dismissal.

“It is difficult to state the exact reason why we let go of any of our staff. We don’t want to reveal our reasons to the media,” he said.

Meanwhile, other employees of the Aviation Command say they “fear for their jobs” and have described their working environment as “tense.”

“There are many people who are depressed because they do not know what will happen to them eventually. People are scared of losing their jobs. It’s not easy to work in a place not knowing what accusations they are going to throw at you the next minute,” an employee who asked to remain anonymous said.

The defence ministry has previously brought changes to its ranks during Maldives’ frequent political crises.  In February, following the arrest of ex defence minister on weapons smuggling charges, the military dismissed the head of the armory and the head of the special protection group.

Several employees of state owned companies have also reported being dismissed for their participation in the opposition’s mass protests.

The defence ministry also dismissed several senior ranking officers from the military during the contested presidential elections of November 2013.

Nine soldiers including former head of military intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam, Brigadier General Abdulla Shamal, Captain Abdulla Muizz Musthafa and Sergeant Major Naushad Ali were dismissed in December 2013 after President Yameen assumed power.

Nilam and Muizz subsequently sued the state for unfair dismissal.

The Civil Court last Thursday threw out Nilam’s lawsuit, stating they were unable to summon Nilam to court as he had provided the wrong address on case documents.

Muizz’s case is ongoing.


Defence Ministry sacks ten aviation security officers

Citing budgetary constraints, the Defence Ministry sacked ten aviation security officers on Sunday

According to an Aviation Security Command (ASC) announcement, three Superintendents, four Corporals and three Staff Sergeants were made redundant.

However, the ASC had been hiring new officers as late as December. An announcement posted on the government gazette on November 20 called for applications for 13 aviation security officers. Interviews took place between December 17 – 21.

Following ex Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s January 20 dismissal, changes were brought to senior positions within the military.

Nazim is now in police custody, standing trial for smuggling weapons, after police discovered a pistol and three bullets during a midnight raid on January 18.

The retired Colonel claims weapons were planted at his home.

Prior to Nazim’s arrest on February 10, President Abdulla Yameen retired Vice Chief of Defense Forces Ahmed Mohamed and appointed Brigadier General Ahmed Shahid to the post.

Changes brought to military ranks in late January include the dismissal of Major Ahmed Faisal and Captain Ibrahim Naeem from the posts of head of the Special Protection Group (SPG) and Head of Armory, respectively.

Lieutenant Colonels Ahmed ‘Papa’ Fayaz and Abdul Rauf were appointed to head the SPG and Armory respectively.

Dozens of Maldives National Defence Force Officers (MNDF) officers were sacked during the disputed presidential elections of November 2013.

Nine soldiers including former head of military intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam, Brigadier General Abdulla Shamal, Captain Abdulla Muizz Musthafa and Sergeant Major Naushad Ali were dismissed in December 2013 after President Yameen assumed power.

Nilam and Muizz subsequently sued the state for unfair dismissal.

The Civil Court last Thursday threw out Nilam’s lawsuit, stating they were unable to summon Nilam to court as he had provided the wrong address on case documents.

Muizz’s case is ongoing.


Brigadier General Zakariyya appointed Commander of Aviation Security

Minister of Defence Major General (retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel has appointed Brigadier General Zakariyya Mansoor as the commander of the Aviation Security Command today.

Zakariyya Mansoor is also the director general of counter terrorism at the defence ministry.

The ministry has today denied media reports that Zakariyya has also replaced Chief of Defence Force Brigadier General Ahmed Shiyam, who was said to have retired from active duty.

The appointment of Zakariyya marks the most notable change brought to MNDF after the dismissal of Mohamed Nazim from the post of defence minister after a police raid on his residence, resulting in the confiscation of “dangerous weapons”.


Four passengers detained for threatening to hijack plane

Four passengers who were to board a flight operated by local airline operator Flyme have been detained by the Aviation Security Command (AVC) for allegedly threatening to hijack the plane.

According to local media reports, the incident occurred last Saturday evening around 7:00pm at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) while passengers were boarding Flyme’s scheduled flight from INIA to Laamu Atoll Kadhdhoo domestic airport.

A police media official confirmed to Minivan News that such a case was investigated but said that the police had not made any arrests regarding the matter.

“The Aviation Security Command did not mention the issue was of serious concern. There is no reason to detain them and investigate. So we did not arrest them,” the official told Minivan News.

Flyme is an airline operated under resort tycoon-turned-politician Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group which  began its operations on October 1, 2011, with the opening of Gasim’s and the Maldives’ first private airport in Alif Dhaal atoll Maamigili Island.

The Head of Aviation Security Command Colonel Mohamed Ziyad told local newspaper Haveeru that the four passengers had given out a false threat in a bid to express their frustration over the delay in boarding the passengers to the flight.

“[Regardless of accuracy of such threats] we are obliged to take action. That is because, as per aviation regulations no passenger or any one for that matter, can make such threatening remarks. If anyone gives such an alarm, we have to take action. That person would not be allowed to board the flight and will be handed over to police,” Colonel Ziyad was quoted on Haveeru.

“We are at the moment trying to compile their statements. After that we will hand them over to police.”

However, an official from Flyme told local media outlet Sun Online that the four passengers had threatened to hijack the flight.

“While the passengers were boarding the flight, some individuals threatened the officials about hijacking the plane. So due to those threats we had to hand them over to the police,” the official told Sun Online.

He added that the incident had now been resolved although the flight had been delayed for about 45 minutes due to the incident.

Minivan News tried contacting Flyme’s media official Ahmed Shareef and Head of Aviation Security Command Colonel Mohamed Ziyad, but were not responding to calls at time of press.


Government defies parliament vote, moves Immigration under Defence Ministry

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has decided to defy parliament’s decision to not endorse the transfer of the Immigration Department to the Ministry of Defence, and make the change without parliament’s consent.

The government of President Waheed on Tuesday sought parliament’s approval to move Immigration department, National Disaster Management Centre and Aviation Security Command under the Defence Ministry led by Minister of Defense, retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim.

However, the parliament by a majority of 27 to 23 votes decided to disapprove the departmental shuffling.

During the debate on the request by the President’s Office to endorse the changes to the defence ministry’s mandate, MP Mohamed Rasheed of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) proposed a motion against approving the changes.

The motion against approving the changes was passed after four MPs from the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), including its presidential candidate Yameen Abdul Gayoom, backed the MDP’s motion.

Other PPM MPs who voted with the opposition include MP Ahmed Mahloof, MP Mujthaaz Fahmy and MP Ibrahim Riza.

The article 116 of the constitution states that the President – despite having the discretionary power determine the jurisdiction of the ministries – is required to submit all information relating to the ministries and their areas of jurisdiction to the parliament for its approval.

In December 2012, the responsibility for overseeing the Department of Immigration and Emigration was switched to the Ministry of Defence and National Security. The President’s Office claimed the decision to move the department under the mandate of Defence Ministry was made in a bid to make administration of the country’s immigration system more efficient.

President Waheed on Wednesday decided to make the change anyway despite parliament’s objection, with the result that approval will again be sought via parliamentary vote.

Following parliament’s decision, Attorney General Aishath Bisham told local news outlet CNM that despite parliament’s disapproval, the Department of Immigration and Emigration can still operate under the watch of the Defence Minister.

According to Bisham, the president has the power to transfer the department to any ministry under section 35 of the Immigration Act. However, Bisham said the president had sent the matter to parliament to adhere to the requirement stated in article 116 of the constitution which requires parliamentary approval for changes in mandates of cabinet portfolios.

Bisham also said that the government would again resubmit the matter to parliament concerning the transfer of Disaster Management Centre and Aviation Security Command to the Defence Ministry.

Speaking to Minivan News, opposition MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy – who is also a member of parliament’s Executive Oversight Committee (EOC) – alleged President Waheed was undermining the constitution and the laws of the country by attempting to militarise state institutions.

“The constitution clearly states that any changes brought to the mandate of a government ministry must be approved by the parliament. If the president can do whatever he wishes to do, why is it in the constitution stated that such decisions require parliamentary approval?” Fahmy questioned.

Fahmy claimed that any decision disapproved by parliament would be deemed invalid and therefore could not be considered to have legal effect.

“The reason to obtain parliamentary approval for such decisions is to have proper accountability. It is the duty of the parliament to hold the government accountable,” Fahmy added.

The Immigration Department has come under heavy fire from the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) – the independent institution responsible for prevention of corruption and corrupt practices – over alleged corrupt activities including the signing of establishing a border control system with Malaysian mobile security provider Nexbis.

The ACC have taken the matter to Parliament’s Finance Committee claiming that the deal with Nexbis will cost the Maldives MVR 2.5 billion (US$162 million) in potential lost revenue over the lifetime of the contract.

The former Controller of Immigration Sheikh Ilyas Hussain – brother-in-law of President Waheed – stands accused of corruption charges over the Nexbis deal. The trial of Illyas Hussain is currently being heard at the Criminal Court, where he has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Ilyas is accused of omitting from the concession agreement clauses that required Nexbis to provide 29 scholarships and 200,000 identity cards free of charge. The clauses were in the original technical proposal submitted by Nexbis to the tender evaluation board.

If convicted, the state minister could face either a jail term of up to three years, banishment or house arrest.