President Yameen’s administration has failed, contends Nasheed

No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan

President Abdulla Yameen’s administration has failed to deliver on campaign pledges to improve the economy and ensure public safety, former President Mohamed Nasheed contended last night (October 11).

Speaking at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally in Fuvahmulah, Nasheed said the government was unable to explain or show how it would create the promised 94,000 new jobs after almost one year in office.

“One of the most important reasons for the bleakness we are seeing is the lack of employment opportunities. And we cannot see a plan or project from this failed government to increase employment opportunities,” the opposition leader said.

Referring to the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, Nasheed claimed foreign multi-national companies were reluctant to invest in the Maldives.

President Yameen has hailed the SEZ Act as a “landmark law” that will “transform” the economy through diversification and mitigate the reliance on the tourism industry.

The government maintained that SEZs with relaxed regulations and tax concessions were necessary to attract foreign investors and launch ‘mega projects’ for economic diversification, which would create jobs and elevate the economy to a “new production frontier.”

On the government’s pledge to provide MVR10,000 a month to fishermen during lean periods, Nasheed said fish purchasing prices have declined since the new administration took office in November.

“We are saying the [Progressive Party of Maldives’] government has failed because they are not practicing what they preach at all,” he said.

A campaign pledge to provide financial assistance to local farmers has also not been fulfilled, Nasheed added.

While the government pledged to ensure security and rehabilitate wayward youth, “we are seeing that the job uniform of youth has become balaclavas and masks,” Nasheed said.

Criminal gangs were roaming the streets of Malé, Nasheed continued, and the security services were unable to curb gang violence.

Failed centre

As the “central government has failed”, Nasheed suggested that development should be sought through local councils.

“I for one am certain that we, the people of the Maldives, cannot reach a safe shore without empowering councils,” he said.

“While President Yameen and the PPM government is failing, we are seeing the Maldivian state failing as a result. The Maldivian state is not just their government. We are also part of the Maldivian state. We cannot let this state fail.”

The system of decentralisation should be strengthened to avoid becoming a failed state, Nasheed argued, noting that the MDP had majorities in many local councils.

The MDP could serve the public through councils while remaining the opposition party, he said, by undertaking efforts to create jobs and develop infrastructure.

Of 30 councillors in Fuvahmulah, Nasheed noted that 24 councillors were elected on MDP tickets.

Nasheed observed that the fiscal deficit has ballooned to MVR4 billion (US$259 million) while the projected deficit agreed upon last December as part of a record MVR17.96 billion (US$1.16 billion) budget was MVR1.3 billion (US$84 million).

The deficit was plugged with the public’s savings at banks, he contended, expressing concern with the impact on the financial sector should the government find itself unable to pay back treasury bills.

“Third hand”

Referring to the PPM expressing concern with the arson attack on the MDP Hithadhoo South office on Friday night, Nasheed said the MDP believed either the PPM or senior government officials were behind the attacks.

If the PPM and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were telling the truth about the ruling party’s involvement, Nasheed said a third party should be responsible.

“[President Yameen] is saying it is not his party or ministers that are attacking our rallies and attempting to harm us. And we are saying we are very worried about this. So there is a third party,” he said.

“Who is the third party? Who killed Afrasheem? Who abducted Rilwan? Who are sending us texts once a day threatening to kill us? Who is torching our offices and disrupting our rallies?” he asked.

Nasheed said the MDP was concerned that “the third hand” could overthrow the government.

“We are ready to remain as the opposition sincerely for five years. We are not impatient to come into government,” he said, calling on President Yameen to reveal who “the third hand” is to the public.


President Yameen reiterates campaign pledges ahead of local council elections

President Abdulla Yameen reiterated the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) pledges at a campaign rally in Addu City last night ahead of Saturday’s local council election, urging voters to choose candidates willing to work with the government.

Addressing supporters in Hithadhoo, President Yameen vowed to fulfil the PPM’s pledge to provide MVR10,000 a month to fishermen during lean months, and to raise old age benefits from MVR2,700 to MVR5,000 a month before the end of the year.

“But I said even then [during the presidential election], these things are not done out of the state budget. MVR2,700 a month is given to all persons over the age of 65 from the state’s budget. In addition to money given from the state budget, what I said was that there are large amounts of money in various state funds,” Yameen said.

“If this money is handed over to a fund manager to earn a better income, an adequate profit could be made from it. It is from this that the MVR5,000 I mentioned could be distributed,” he explained.

The old age pension could not have been increased in the state budget as parliament has not approved any of the government’s revenue raising measures, Yameen contended.

The Fisheries Ministry has meanwhile begun registering fishermen, Yameen continued, after which the scheme for providing MVR10,000 a month would be launched.

Fishermen would have to pay about MVR80 to MVR90 a month as a deposit to a fund, he explained, out of which MVR10,000 would be distributed during months when fishing is poor.

“But I should have the opportunity to do this, shouldn’t I? It is the public that gives me the opportunity. The public gives this opportunity through the councillors and members of parliament you elect,” he said, urging voters to choose PPM or government-aligned candidates in the upcoming elections.

Regardless of political affiliation or ideology, he added, the public should ensure that MPs “do not say no to projects that are beneficial to the people,” which was not the case at present with MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Opposition MPs should vote for the budget and enable the executive to enact its economic policies, Yameen contended, as the government was elected by a majority of the public with implicit endorsement of its policies.

Refusing to approve ministerial appointees or pass legislation did not amount to “holding the government accountable,” he argued.

Addu City development

A number of infrastructure projects for the southernmost atoll was included in the 2014 budget, Yameen said, including establishing sewerage systems, providing clean water, and upgrading powerhouses.

Moreover, he added, the Addu International Airport at Gan would become “a seaplane hub” that transports tourists to nearby atolls.

As a foreign company has won the bid for the Herethera Resort, Yameen said further jobs would be created, whilst more tourism projects for Addu City were in the pipeline.

The government has also invited bids for the Equatorial Convention Center – which was at present an “eyesore” that was “not utilised for any purpose” – to be developed as “a city hotel complex,” Yameen said.

“We’re talking about thousands of jobs. We’re talking about economic development. We’re not talking about mariculture in a small lagoon here. We are talking about projects, a vision for economic progress,” he said.

Noting that MVR300 million (US$19 million) was allocated for the youth ministry, Yameen also pledged to establish a sports complex in each ward of Addu City this year.

High youth employment and sports facilities were necessary to reduce crime, he stressed.

If the government’s efforts were not obstructed, Yameen said, the country would undergo an “economic transformation” with GDP per capita doubled in the next five years and tourist arrivals reaching 5 million a year.

“Vote for the scale”

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile been campaigning in Male’ for MDP candidates from the capital.

Speaking at a campaign event in Maafanu last week, Nasheed urged the public to “vote for the scale [MDP logo]” to preserve and consolidate democracy.

The choice was between the unjust and oppressive practices of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year reign and the “rapid development” and social security of the MDP’s three years in government, Nasheed contended.

“Do you want equality or for the riches of the nation to be left to a wealthy few? Do you want to maintain individual liberty or lose your freedom of expression and freedom of assembly saying it is for the good of the society?” he asked.

“Do you want the path to development becoming clear through political parties and peaceful political activity or do you want an authoritarian family rule?”

Nasheed called on voters to choose MDP to “reform and improve the condition of this country.”

“It is not possible to do it in one election. Outmoded principles and traits entrenched through the ages can only be changed in this country by repeatedly voting for the scale,” he said.


Government formulating roadmap for first 100 days to implement PPM manifesto

A roadmap for the first 100 days of the new administration is being drawn up to implement the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) manifesto and fulfil campaign pledges, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has said.

Speaking to press after an impromptu PPM council meeting yesterday (November 18), President Yameen explained that the roadmap would “outline what will begin to be implemented by the 30th or 45th day.”

“Committees have been formed and work has started on implementing what we promised for youth and fishermen in our manifesto,” he said.

The PPM’s campaign pledges include raising the old age pension to MVR5,000 a month, designating a General Practitioner to each family, providing subsidies for fishermen and farmers, and creating more than 90,000 jobs.

At the ongoing budget debate in parliament, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs have been calling on the government to incorporate its policies in next year’s budget and fulfil its campaign promises, pledging their assistance and cooperation.

Both opposition and government-aligned MPs agreed that the government should be offered the opportunity to revise the budget based on the PPM manifesto. A budget of MVR16.4 billion (US$1 billion) was submitted by the outgoing administration on October 30.

President Yameen meanwhile told reporters that he has asked Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad to revise recurrent expenditure as “more than a billion could be saved.”

Funds could be reduced from budget items in recurrent expenditures, he said.

Recurrent expenditure of MVR12 billion (US$778 million) – wages, subsidies and administrative costs – accounts for 73 percent of government spending in the proposed budget.

“We will bring big changes to the budget. The budget has to be changed to one that addresses what our parties pledged to do for the public,” he said, referring to the pledges by other parties in the PPM-led coalition.

Other parties in the coalition government include the Jumhooree Party led by business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, the Maldives Development Alliance led by tourism magnate Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, former President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihad Party and a number of smaller parties.

The new administration was also in the process of “restructuring” the President’s Office, Yameen said, and all political appointees at the office were dismissed on Sunday (November 17).

Government ministries would follow “the example the President’s Office is showing” to reduce the number of political appointees and posts, he said.

Cabinet ministers would not formulate new policies but focus on implementing the manifesto, he added.

President Yameen also met former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at the President’s Office yesterday.

In a statement following the meeting, Yameen said the PPM leader assured the new administration of political support and assistance through the People’s Majlis.

He expressed confidence in implementing the party’s manifesto with the cooperation of coalition partners as well as the opposition in parliament.

The focus of the new administration was on reducing costs and increasing government income, President Yameen said.

“The aim of our efforts will be to provide at the earliest possible opportunity all the services we assured for the public,” he said.


MDP MPs call on government to fulfil pledges as budget debate begins

The parliamentary debate on the budget proposed for 2014 began today with MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) calling on the newly-elected coalition government to fulfil its campaign pledges.

MDP MP Ali Waheed urged the new administration to submit its legislative agenda to parliament and incorporate its policies in next year’s budget.

“Very big promises have been made to the people. Our grandmothers and grandfathers want MVR5,000 (US$325) in their accounts at the end of this month, MVR5,000 each, so total MVR10,000 if it’s a couple.

“Each of our citizens want a doctor in our homes at the end of the month [as pledged by the PPM]. They are clearing out the room intended for the guesthouse for the new doctor. Our fishermen are expecting MVR10,000 a month subsidies (US$650). Fishing is not too good right now,” he said.

Referring to the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) pledges to raise the old age pension and designate a doctor for each family, Ali Waheed said the opposition party would vote for a budget that reflected the campaign promises.

“Our responsibility is to be the people’s eyes in this Majlis. People want us to watch over and hold this government accountable,” the MDP deputy parliamentary group leader said.

Most MPs suggested that the new government should be able to submit a revised budget based on the PPM manifesto.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid explained that amendments brought to the Public Finance Act stipulates that the budget must be submitted by the end of October. Parliamentary rules however allow the government to “include components of their new budget” through the Budget Review Committee, he said.

Reappointed Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told local media today that the government did not plan to submit a supplementary budget or reduce recurrent expenditure but would propose changes to the Public Sector Investment Program (PSIP).

Jihad stressed that the proposed revenue raising measures should be approved by parliament to finance new infrastructure projects.

The measures include hiking T-GST (Tourism Goods and Services Tax) to 12 percent from 8 percent, revising import duties, deferring abolishing the tourism bed tax for one more year, raising the airport departure charge from foreign passengers from US$18 to US$25, leasing 12 islands for resort development and introducing GST for telecommunication services (currently exempt from the tax).

During today’s debate, MP for Shaviyani Kanditheemu, Mohamed Hussain, who left the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) in April and remains an independent, said there were “serious problems” with the budget and that 2013 was an “empty year” for his constituency.

None of the projects included in the 2013 budget for the islands he represent was carried out this year, he said, while some have been omitted from the 2014 budget.

Former President Dr Mohamed Waheed laid the foundation stones for a new school and mosque in Shaviyani Feydhoo in January, he added, but the projects did not commence and were not included in next year’s budget.

DRP MP Hassan Latheef, who represents the Hithadhoo south constituency in Addu City, said there were no projects for the southernmost atoll apart from establishing water and sanitation systems.

Latheef objected to only MVR45 million (US$2.9 million) allocated for Addu City, which he contended was disproportionate for a population of 32,000.

MDP MP Mohamed Riyaz meanwhile expressed concern with the PPM backtracking on its pledges, by claiming that campaign banners with these promises were put up by supporters rather than the party itself.

Pro-government MPs

PPM MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur appealed for new sources of revenue and cost-cutting measures to be included in the budget.

Azeez also noted that projects in the 2013 budget for his constituency in Laamu Maavah did not proceed and have been omitted from next year’s budget.

PPM MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem urged the government to reduce MVR2 billion (US$129 million) from recurrent expenditure, which accounts for 73 percent of government spending.

PPM MP Abdulla Raheem Abdulla meanwhile thanked opposition MPs for assuring their assistance and cooperation to the new administration.

The PPM deputy leader also said that the budget had to be revised for the PPM to deliver on its campaign pledges. He added that the government would provide the financial benefits that were promised.

“The budget has to be prepared in a way that we can fulfil the promises,” he said.

Several MPs expressed concern with the high recurrent expenditure compared to capital investments. While the projected revenue for 2014 is MVR13.9 billion (US$901 million), recurrent expenditure – wages, subsidies and administrative costs – stands at MVR12 billion (US$778 million).

The budget deficit is estimated to be MVR988 million (US$64 million) or 2.5 percent of GDP, according to the Finance Ministry.


Gasim pledges to establish National University faculties in each atoll

Government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate and business magnate MP Gasim Ibrahim has pledged to establish a faculty of the National University in each atoll of the Maldives.

According to newspaper Haveeru, Gasim said at a campaign rally on the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll last night (June 23) that he would upgrade the National University faculty in the island and open a Villa College campus should he be elected president in September.

Gasim is the chairman of the Villa Group of businesses, which includes resorts, a domestic airline, a cement packing factory, gas providers and retail outlets. Gasim is also the owner of private broadcaster Villa Television (VTV), which airs extensive coverage of the JP leader’s presidential campaign.

Speaking in Thinadhoo, Gasim meanwhile pledged developing the island’s hospital to match the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in the capital Male’ as well as building an indoor sports center and an artificial beach.

He also pledged to upgrade the regional airport in Kaadedhoo to an international airport, after which additional resorts and city hotels would be developed in the southern atoll.

A Villa gas and cement factory would also be opened in the atoll in his presidency, the MP for Alif Dhaal Maamigili reportedly said.

The inter-atoll ferry service established by the previous government would function reliably under a JP government, he added, and would be overseen by island councils with government subsidies.

Among Gasim’s other pledges made during campaign visits to islands include building an international dock yard in Haa Alif atoll, expanding the previous government’s Aasandha universal health insurance scheme to allow Maldivians to receive medical treatment for free in India and Sri Lanka and establishing Villa College campuses across the country.


Presidential candidates’ policy pledges threaten the environment: Environment Ministry

The Environment Ministry has ‘called out’ presidential candidates for making election pledges that threaten the environment, amidst civil society calls for government authorities to support NGOs’ sustainable development initiatives.

Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela noted that no policy on environmental protection has been articulated by candidates despite their numerous election pledges during her speech at the “NGO Forum on Environment and Sustainable Development 2013” held by the Environment Ministry and NGO Federation yesterday (May 5).

“Although all political parties are currently talking about their plans to govern the country for the next five years, none of their manifestos include policies on protecting the environment,” local media reported Shakeela saying.

“When you deeply consider these policies, I certainly haven’t heard of any plans to protect the environment. But on the other hand, we keep hearing of plans that can seriously threaten the environment of the Maldives,” she added.

Shakeela stated that despite the economic benefits which could be gained from finding oil or establishing a mariculture industry, these policies could pose grave threats to the environment, according to local media.

“Sometimes, although these plans gain a short-term gain, or some amount of money, they may cause great damages in the long run. It is very important that we give this due consideration,” said Shakeela.

Shakeela emphasised that civil society must hold the Maldivian government and policy-makers accountable when they “veer off course” and endanger the environment.

“Regardless of who prepares it, if the plans are such that they may harm the environment, it is the role of the civil society organizations to be vigilant over such matters and try to stop them,” declared Shakeela.

She also stressed that civil society organisations must identify the environmental threats posed by such policies on the behalf of Maldivian people.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has pledged to develop a mariculture industry in the country should former President Mohamed Nasheed be reelected in September 2013.

The potential for developing a domestic oil industry was launched as a campaign issue during a January 14 speech by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential prospect, MP Abdulla Yameen.

Leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, has also vowed to find oil in the Maldives should he be elected president.

NGOs issue government recommendations

The NGO forum was held to facilitate environmental protection discussions between civil society organisations, as well as implementation of sustainable development methodologies and policies.

“This is the only forum of this kind. Civil society did not previously get the opportunity to come together and discuss these issues,” NGO Federation President Ahmed Nizam told Minivan News yesterday (May 6).

Many NGOs work on environmental issues at the island and national level – particularly conducting advocacy and awareness programs – however they do not conduct adequate work on environment and sustainable development, according to forum participants.

Participants highlighted ongoing issues that narrow the opportunities available for Maldivian NGOs, which include legal challenges as well as government administrative procedures. NGOs also lack access to resources, such as well educated people and finance.

Given these limitations, the 15 participating civil society organisations presented a list of recommendations to the government, in line with the forum’s theme of enhancing NGO engagement in environmental governance and management.

The forum recommended the government provide NGOs with equal opportunities and “reveal their stand” to the organisations.

Participants also recommended the Environment Ministry establish a separate focal point to engage with NGOs and provide a common room for civil society organisations within the “green building” currently under construction for the ministry. Research grants for NGOs and environmental studies students should also be provided.

Organisations further recommended the government include NGO representatives in all delegations from the Maldives attending environmental and sustainable development meetings. These organisations also requested the government provide Maldivian NGOs opportunities to participate in environmental and sustainable development projects.

“Minister Shakeela’s response to the recommendations was very positive. She pledged to do everything possible to implement the recommendations,” said Nizam.

“However, she also said certain things might not be possible to implement immediately due to budget and planning constraints,” he added.

Nizam explained that the NGO Federation plans to take the discussion forum to a “different level” by ensuring dialogue and collaboration on environmental protection and sustainable protection continues.

He emphasised that the NGO Federation aims to hold conferences annually or biannually and will continuously seek improvement and additional NGO participation.

The Maldivian NGO Federation held a follow-up workshop today on NGO capacity building for advocating environmentally sustainable development, a project funded by UNDP’s Global Environment Facility, Small Grants Programme.


Coalition governments incompatible with presidential system, contends former President Nasheed

A coalition government with cabinet posts divided among parties is not compatible with the presidential system envisioned in the Maldivian constitution, former President Mohamed Nasheed reiterated during campaign rallies at Fuvahmulah and Addu City this weekend.

Addressing large crowds in the two southernmost atolls, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate accused mogul politicians of forming political parties only to offer its members “on a platter” to negotiate coalition agreements.

“[They say] my party will enter a coalition with your party if I can get this many seats in cabinet, that many judges, as well as a large warehouse and two resorts,” Nasheed said in Fuvahmulah on Thursday night (April 25), adding that “business” deals were made between leaders while party members remained “oblivious.”

Nasheed had previously characterised the cabinet of President Dr Mohamed Waheed as less of a team committed to shared goals than a group of individuals with divided loyalties and disparate ideologies often working at cross-purposes.

Both the Maldives’ own experience of ruling coalitions as well as lessons from “human experience” have established the conditions whereby such alliances could govern effectively without becoming unstable, Nasheed observed.

“In a presidential system, dividing the cabinet into four or five parts is not something we could do under any circumstances, [and] it is not something permitted by the Maldivian constitution either,” Nasheed said in Fuvahmulah.

According to the constitution, Nasheed continued, cabinet ministers are appointed by the president and are sworn to serve at his pleasure.

The constitution does not permit cabinet ministers to take orders from their parties instead of the president, Nasheed added.

Coalition governments therefore went against “the spirit of the constitution,” said Nasheed, and could not function under a presidential system.

Nasheed repeated the criticism of power sharing coalitions in his speech the following night (April 26) in Hithadhoo, Addy City.

The incentive for the proposed “broad coalition” to compete against the MDP was the hoped-for rewards of government posts and the country’s resources, such as uninhabited islands, to be divided among coalition partners, Nasheed contended.

Power sharing agreement

Nasheed’s remarks came while parties in the ruling coalition led by President Dr Mohamed Waheed are reportedly engaged in discussions over power sharing agreements.

However, in addition to President Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP), all major government-aligned parties have fielded presidential candidates, including MP Abdulla Yameen from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), MP Gasim Ibrahim from the Jumhooree Party (JP) and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

Smaller parties such as the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) – led by Special Adviser to the President Dr Hassan Saeed – have entered into a coalition with Dr Waheed’s GIP.

While business magnate Gasim Ibrahim is reportedly in talks with Dr Waheed over a potential power sharing agreement, the JP presidential candidate has said he would not consider becoming the running mate of any other candidate.

At its recently-concluded fourth congress, DRP Leader Thasmeen meanwhile dismissed the possibility of a coalition with either the PPM or MDP.

The PPM was formed in 2011 by DRP founder, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, following months of factional squabbling and an acrimonious war of words between the PPM figurehead and his successor at DRP.

MDP rally in Addu City

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News last week that parties in the ruling coalition needed to reassess their views on power sharing after thousands of people attended a MDP rally on April 19 to celebrate the signing of Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid.

In his speech at the MDP rally in Addu City last night (April 26), Shahid meanwhile said that 1,300 people have signed for the party during the past week.

Speaking at his first MDP rally on April 19, Shahid pledged to carry out a recruitment drive across the country to bolster the party’s membership strength ahead of the September presidential election.


Services halted, Maldivians deprived of progress following “coup”: Nasheed alleges

An array of services formerly provided by the Maldivian government have stopped since President Dr Mohamed Waheed came to power, former President Mohamed Nasheed has alleged.

Nasheed, speaking in local media, has accused the Waheed administration of depriving the Maldivian people of “one and a half years of prosperity” and progress since his government ended following the controversial transfer of power February 7, 2012.

Despite the criticisms, President Waheed has in recent days been touring North Maalhosmadulu Atoll to view developments such as sanitation and education projects that are currently being undertaken by the state.

However, Nasheed alleged that all of the initiatives launched under his administration have since been halted by Waheed’s government, which he said came to power under the guise of protecting the “nation and religion”.

“Every island that I go to, I see commenced projects unfinished. Harbours have come to stop. Sewerage systems have come to a stop. The change of school sessions to a single session have come to a stop. Aasandha has become a Baasandha. Transport has come to halt, everything has stopped. So I think Waheed’s campaign slogan is ‘halted’,” he was quoted as saying by Sun Online.

“President Waheed has neglected the most prosperous one and a half years of this nation. Since my government was changed through a coup, I can only perceive this coup [government] as something that has come to halt,” said Nasheed.

Nasheed was reported to have made the comments during an MDP “Dheythin Fahethi” campaign event on Kurendhoo Island in Lhaviyani Atoll.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad and Spokesperson Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq were both in meetings and could not respond to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Revenue through tourism

Speaking Friday (April 12) on the island of Rasgetheemu on North Maalhosmadulu Atoll, President Waheed pledged to develop local islands in the area into resorts to help enhance social welfare for local people.

The president claimed that revenue generated through taxing these resort properties would then allow the state to spend a proportionate amount of funds on benefiting nearby islands, while also providing employment for young people.

Pointing to the potential development opportunities provided by tourism, President Waheed also slammed the efforts of “the group of people calling for the boycott of Maldives tourism”.

“In the past one and a half year, a group of people have continuously attempted to defame the Maldives and called upon tourists not to visit the country” he stated.

Boycott calls

In addition to concerns about a recent petition threatening a boycott of tourism in the Maldives – which has now been signed by over two million people since its launch -Waheed also condemned individuals making “false allegations on human rights abuses”.

Dr Waheed urged the Maldivian public to be aware of any such attempts to “destroy the Maldives’ tourism industry”.

The Avaaz petition is calling for legal reforms in the country after a controversial flogging sentence was handed to a 15 year-old rape victim who admitted to having consensual sex with an unnamed man during a police investigation.

The government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed has pledged to appeal the sentence given to the minor by the country’s Juvenile Court, while also reviewing local laws to enact potential reforms over the use of flogging. No time-line for such reforms has yet been set beyond the commitment to hold talks.

In a letter published on Minivan News earlier this month, Executive Director Ricken Patel insisted that the organisation had not called for a outright tourism boycott.

“What we do stand ready to do, however, is to inform tourists about what action is and isn’t being taken by the Maldives government to resolve this issue and change the law, and to identify those MPs and resort owners who are using their influence to push for positive change – and those who are not,” Patel said.