MBC audio cable severed during parliament committee meeting

An audio cable of the Maldives Broadcasting Company (MBC) was severed during a meeting of parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee yesterday (November 4).

The meeting held to hear Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz’s response to a no-confidence motion was disrupted by MPs of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives, Jumhooree Party (JP), and Dhivehi Qaumee Party.

According to a statement by the parliament secretariat, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has been asked to investigate the incident.

Following the cancellation of a parliament sitting on September 23 amidst chaos in the chamber, opposition-aligned Raajje TV showed video footage of JP MP Ilham Ahmed, also the party’s deputy leader, take out what appeared to be a plier from his pocket and cut a cable.

A cable of the state broadcaster was also severed during a live telecast of a committee meeting in January 2012, briefly interrupting the live coverage.

Following the incident, MP Ilham was accused of cutting the cable by MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party.


Raajje TV service terminated after intruders break in, cut control room cables

Private broadcaster Raajje TV had its service terminated across the Maldives after intruders broke into the station and cut critical cables in the control room early this morning.

Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Abdulla Yamin told Minivan News that the cables had were vandalised some time between 7:00am and 8:00am.

“We suspect that the attack was by a person who knows this place and the functioning of Raajje TV very well,” Yamin said. “It has caused us millions of rufiya in damage because we have lost our reputation in front of our sponsors.”

Yamin said that the cables will cost more than Rf 100,000 (US$6666) to replace, and that it will take two days before the station can resume broadcasting.

“They shut down the electricity for the whole building which caused our electric lock systems to fail,” he said. “We suspect that either the culprit knows this place very well, or that this was done with the cooperation from a person who knew the place very well.’’

Yamin said the case was reported to police this morning.

‘’Police officers came over today but we have not heard from them since,’’ he added.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation has condemned the attack on Raajje TV and has said that the intention of the attack was to obstruct the freedom of speech and journalism.

The Commission called on police to conduct an investigation into the case at a fast speed, and also called on police to withdraw an earlier decision to stop cooperating with Raajje TV.

On July 24, the police announced they would stop cooperating with Raajje TV, claiming that the opposition-aligned TV station was broadcasting false and slanderous content about the police which had undermined their credibility and public confidence.

The decision came just a day after Raajje TV broadcasted CCTV video footage of some police officers, who the station alleged were “caught on video” while they were stealing petrol from a motorbike parked in a small road in Male’.

Raajje TV also recently aired footage of police pepper-spraying former President Mohamed Nasheed during a protest rally, an act which attracted widespread criticism from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and international groups.

Police in a statement had denied pepper-spraying the former President, and urged the MDP “to publish statements responsibly.”


Maldives disputes allegations of US “climate bribe” to support Copenhagen Accord

The Maldivian government has hit back at allegations of “climate bribery” in international media this week, disputing claims that it pushed for US$50 million assistance from the US government in exchange for uneqivocally backing the Copenhagen Accord.

A leaked US diplomatic cable detailing an exchange between the Maldives Ambassador to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed and US Deputy Climate Change Envoy Jonathan Pershing on February 23, 2010, was described as a “diplomatic dance” by the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

“Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately US$50m. Pershing encouraged him to provide concrete examples and costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance,” the Guardian quoted from the cable.

In response to growing criticism – including several questions on the subject directed at President Mohamed Nasheed during his appearance on BBC Hardtalk, the Maldivian government today released several diplomatic documents it claimed “show that the country pledged its support to the Copenhagen Accord unilaterally and without reservations on 19 December 2009, just hours after the climate change negotiations concluded in the Danish capital.”

In a letter dated December 19, 2009, Dr Shaheed writes to the Executive Secretary for the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) to “confirm that the Maldives supports and associates itself with the Copenhagen Accord of 18 December 2009.”

In a second letter, dated January 29, 2010, Dr Shaheed again writes to the Executive Secretary stating that “the Maldives’ submission of its mitigation actions is voluntary and unconditional. However we do wish to state, on the record, that the Maldives will be seeking international support for implementation, and that, at such a tie as we do, we are happy for our request to be recorded in the registry and for our mitigation actions to be internationally measured, reported and verified.”

In a statement released yesterday, Dr Shaheed dismissed as “smear” allegations “by some parties” that the Maldives had said it would only sign the Copenhagen Accord in exchange for US$50 million in assistance, and that the release of the letters was “in the interests of full disclosure” to prove that the Maldives supported the Copenhagen Accord on its own merits.

“In fact the Maldives was actively lobbying other parties, including the US, to associate with the Accord. Not the other way around,” Dr Shaheed said. “President Nasheed spent many hours late at night in the final Heads of State meeting which negotiated the Copenhagen Accord, working with other leaders to try to avoid a total collapse of the negotiations and to ensure that the interests of small island and vulnerable countries were protected.

“Having been so intimately involved in negotiating the document, it was natural that the Maldives signed up to the Accord immediately after the Copenhagen negotiations ended.”

The Maldives had led a “diplomatic offensive” to urge other countries to sign the Accord, Dr Shaheed noted. “To suggest, therefore, that the US somehow paid-off the Maldives to support the Accord defies all logic.”

“Some people are trying to spin this non-story into a scandal in order to undermine the progressive voices of small island states such as the Maldives,” he added.

“We are seeking to play a bridging role between rich and poor nations in the interests of getting a deal that will save our countries from a watery grave. But not everyone supports this effort.”


Rajapaksa and Fonseka responsible for alleged war crimes: leaked US cables

Leaked cables from the US Embassy in Colombo have revealed American diplomatic concerns alleging  Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former army commander Sarath Fonseka were last year responsible for war crimes committed during the end of the civil war against Tamil separatists.

The US diplomatic cables, leaked by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, includes 3325 from Colombo, making the Embassy in Sri Lanka among those hardest-hit by the scandal.

In a leaked cable sent on January 15 2010, Ambassador Patricia Butenis remarked there was a clear “lack of attention to accountability” following the mass killings of Tamils in the final days of the war, a situation she described as “regrettable” but unsurprising.

“There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remained in power,” Butenis said in the cable.

“In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka.”

The cable also revealed that Fonseka had quietly ordered the opposition campaign “to begin planning a ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission.”

In a comment piece published in Minivan News on November 30, Butenis condemned the release of the cables and said it was important for diplomats to be able to have “frank” discussions with their colleagues and counterparts.

“We support and are willing to have genuine debates about pressing questions of public policy. But releasing documents carelessly and without regard for the consequences is not the way to start such a debate,” she said.

The US has stated that it will not comment on the specific content of the leaked cables.

Cultural Affairs Officer and Spokesperson for the US Embassy in Colombo, Glen Davis, told Minivan News earlier this week that cable traffic was “very preliminary; pieces are incomplete and read out of context, they are easy to misconstrue.”

“A disclosure like this is bad for contacts, harmful to global engagement and makes it difficult to tackle problems such as organised crime and nuclear proliferation,” he said.

The Sri Lankan President was due to meet the UK’s Defence Secretary on December 3, as well as address the Oxford Union, however the visit was cancelled for security reasons.

The Maldivian government, which this year won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, recently established a credit line to Sri Lanka worth US$200 million. The announcement was made by President Mohamed Nasheed on November 18 prior to departing for Sri Lanka to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Sri Lankan President.

Read the full cable (English)