Government proposes scrapping punishment for evading mandatory national service

The government has proposed scrapping a provision in a 1976 law that allows the president to banish or place under house arrest persons who evade mandatory national service after completing state-funded training or education at public schools.

Presenting the amendment bill (Dhivehi) on behalf of the government at today’s sitting of parliament, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Rifau said the provision contravened article 55 of the constitution, which states, “No person shall be imprisoned on the ground of non-fulfilment of a contractual obligation.”

Rifau also noted that according to article 16(a) of the constitution, fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by chapter two could only be restricted or limited to any extent “only if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”


In the ensuing debate, PPM MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed argued that abolishing the provision would be a “cosmetic change” as it had become null and void with enactment of the new constitution in August 2008.

Advising a broader debate on national service, Nasheed noted that 80 percent of workers was employed by the government and 20 percent by the private sector when the law was passed in 1976 while the reverse was true at present.

“Our ground reality has changed while this law was on the books,” he said.

In 2013, Nasheed added, 7,623 students completed O’ Levels, out of which 3,123 students (43 percent) was eligible for A’ Levels after passing five subjects.

The number of students who completed A’ Levels in 2013 was meanwhile 1,725, he noted, of which 1,294 students (75 percent) was eligible to pursue higher education or bachelors degree.

While students who completed O’ Levels 40 years ago were forced to serve the government regardless of their grades, Nasheed said in the present day hundreds of people apply for job openings at government offices.

The 1976 law – comprised of 11 articles – requiring 80 percent of school leavers to join the civil service was therefore irrelevant today, he contended, with the exception of sections dealing with employees who refuse to return to work after completing government-sponsored higher education or training.

As the issue was not “clearcut,” Nasheed recommended “serious debate” on formulating new rules appropriate for present circumstances.


Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdul Gafoor Moosa meanwhile contended that the entire law should be abolished as it was unconstitutional.

The law was also in conflict with article 36 of the constitution on the right to education, which stipulates that the state should provide free primary and secondary education and ensure accessibility for higher education for all citizens.

While supporting the amendment, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, however, accused the government of seeking positive headlines to mislead the public.

Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim recommended expediting the debate on the legislation “to save time” as there was consensus among MPs on approving the amendment. The JP leader noted that several similar amendments to laws in conflict with the constitution were before parliament.

Among other amendments submitted by the government to bring outdated laws in line with the constitution include revisions to the Immigration Act, Child Protection Act, and detention procedures.

In June, Attorney General Mohamed Anil told local media that 51 pieces of legislation will be submitted to the current session of parliament out of a legislative agenda comprised of 207 bills.


Fornicating couple sentenced to 18 months jail, 25 lashes for self-made sex video

The Criminal Court has sentenced two consenting adults to 18 months in jail and 25 lashes for videoing themselves engaging in extramarital sex.

Aseel Ismail and Mariyam Sana were arrested in April 2011 after a police raid found CDs and photos in which the couple appear to engage in extramarital sex.

Aseel is currently serving a seven year jail term for assault and Sana is facing trial for drug abuse and alcohol consumption.

The Criminal Court on Wednesday sentenced the two to six months in jail and 25 lashes for fornication and issued an additional one-year jail term for producing pornographic material.

Meanwhile, renowned Quran reciter Hussain Thaufeeq has been sentenced to six months banishment and 15 lashes for sexually abusing children. However the Criminal Court suspended the sentence for three years, on the grounds it was the Qari’s first offence.

Thaufeeq was arrested in August 2010 on multiple charges of child sexual molestation with “some cases going a long time back,” police said at the time.

Thaufeeq’s students had also submitted a petition to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) asking the commission to investigate the matter

Thaufeeq hosted a daily Quran teaching program on Television Maldives (TVM) for school children every evening after Isha prayers. He also led Friday prayers and conducted sermons.

He is also being charged with possession of pornographic material. The trial is still pending at the Criminal Court.

Under the Child Sex Offenders (Special Provisions) Act of 2009, the penalty for child sex abuse is 10-14 years but can be extended to 15-18 years if the accused was in a position of trust with the children he allegedly abused.

However, it appears Thaufeeq has been charged under a different regulation criminalising fornication and sexual misconduct.

The Criminal Court was not responding to calls at the time of press.

In August this year, a 15-year-old girl who faced 100 lashes after she was raped by her stepfather had her sentence overturned following an international campaign.

The Juvenile Court in September sentenced a 17 year old boy to four months in prison after he kissed a 16 year old girl in a court waiting room. The girl was sentenced to four months house arrest.

Meanwhile, a series of sex tapes in which Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed appears to be having sex with several unidentified foreign women were leaked in July, but the judicial oversight body voted not to take any disciplinary action citing lack of evidence. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) continues with the investigation.

According to a 2007 UN study, one in three women in the Maldives experience physical and /or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Further, one in eight women reported they had experienced childhood sexual abuse, the study said.


Woman sentenced to exile over misappropriation of tsunami relief funds

A woman has been sentenced to exile for three years and seven months by the Criminal Court for misappropriation of tsunami relief funds.

Criminal Court said that Sharmeela Sharaeef of Oivaru, Meedhoo in Dhaalu Atoll, had been initially been handed MVR 266,888 (US$17,307) by the government on September 16, 2009, local media reported.

However, only MVR 89,572 (US$5800) was distributed to 49 households and the remaining MVR 177,316  (US$11,500) had been kept in her desk drawer, according to local media.

The money was provided by the government to be distributed to farmers on the island of Meedhoo in Dhaalu Atoll, who suffered losses during the 2004 tsunami.

The Criminal Court ruling stated that one day after she had been handed the relief funds, MVR 13,200 kept in Sharmeela’s care had gone missing.

The ruling stated that it could not be proven in court that a copy of the drawer key was held by anyone else other than Sharmeela.

According to the Public Finance Act, money kept in an office on a temporary basis should only be kept in a safe, local media reported.


Man sentenced to two year’s banishment for stealing RAM from mother’s computer

The Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced a man to two years banishment for stealing two pieces of RAM from his mother’s computer.

According to the Criminal Court, Ahmed Arushad, of Male’ municipality special register 5269, confessed to stealing the memory chips from his mother Waleedha Abdulla’s computer at Henveiru Madhoshimaage on January 7, 2012.

The court noted that this was Arushad’s second conviction and banished him under article 131(a) of the penal code.


Parole board pardons former MP Abdul Hameed

Former independent MP for Kaashidhoo, MP Abdul Hameed, has been granted clemency by the parole board, local media reports.

State Home Minister Mohamed Fayaz was reported as stating that MP Hameed had implemented one third of his sentence before he requested the parole board grant him clemency.

The Criminal Court last year sentenced Ismail Abdul Hameed to one year and six months banishment after he was found guilty of corruption.

The Prosecutor General pressed corruption charges against Hameed alleging that he had abused his authority as the former Director of Waste Management at the Male’ municipality to financially benefit a Singaporean company, named Island Logistics, in a deal to purchase a barge.

According to local media reports, Judge Abdulla Didi noted in the verdict at the time that the agreement stipulated that the barge was to be delivered within 90 days of signing the agreement, upon which 50 percent of the value was to be paid to Island Logistics.

Although the barge arrived in the Maldives on October 23, 2008, Hameed had however signed a document claiming that the barge was delivered on schedule on April 28, 2008.

The judge ruled that Hameed’s actions were intentional and in violation of the Anti-Corruption Act.

The case was appealed at the High Court and the Supreme Court, however the superior courts upheld the Criminal Court’s decision.

Until today the government had been telling the local media that Hameed was held under house arrest because an island for his banishment had not yet been determined.

The State Home Minister has said that his verdict was implemented by placing him under house arrest, as that was how banishment had been implemented lately because island councils had refused to accpet banished people.