Further protests as MDP calls for international community to be “mindful” of Maldives judiciary

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called for the international community to be “mindful” of the status of the Maldives judiciary, claiming it to be systematically flawed and biased.

The party’s sentiments were echoed in last night’s (February 16) protest as thousands of supporters of Nasheed once again took to the streets of Male’.

The former President has been inside the Indian High Commission since Wednesday afternoon after he sought refuge from a court warrant ordering police to present him before the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Nasheed and his party have maintained that the charges – of illegally detaining Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed prior to his controversial resignation on February 7, 2012 – are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him from contesting presidential elections scheduled for later this year.

In contrast to Friday night’s protest, where 55 people were arrested following clashes with police, demonstrators last night took part in a “seated protest” in the intersection between Majeedhee Magu and Chaandhanee Magu.

Maldives Police Service (MPS) Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that while there had been no arrests made, a vehicle belonging to the Police Family and Child Protection Department was set on fire.

Police also allege that protesters set fire to a police barricade in the early hours of the morning.

However, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed the circumstances surrounding the barricade fire were suspicious.

“There had been reports that a police barricade was set on fire by protesters. However police tweeted about the fire two minutes before it actually happened,” Hamid claimed.

Minivan News observed around 4,000 demonstrators at last night’s gathering and witnessed multiple charges at the crowds by riot police.

MDP concern over Nasheed’s trial

statement released by the MDP yesterday expressed concern regarding the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, adding that the status of the judiciary and rule of law in the country was not conducive to ensuring a fair trial for the former president.

The statement accuses judges within the Maldives judiciary as being “under qualified, of dubious moral character, corrupt with political bias, and unduly influenced by members of the former regime”.

“When international actors refer to rule of law and due process, it is only a presumption that rule of law exists in the Maldives,” Ghafoor stated.

“When calling for rule of law in the Maldives our international partners must bare in mind the current state of the judiciary, and its ability to conduct a fair trial.”

Speaking to Minivan News on Thursday, trial observer Stephen Cragg, who compiled a report on Nasheed’s trial, said it was clear the former president was concerned he would not receive a fair trial with the current judges on the case.

Cragg visited the Maldives last year on behalf of the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) to observe the hearings of former President Nasheed’s trial.

“I think it is clear that Mr Nasheed is concerned that he will not get a fair trial if the case goes ahead with the current judges due to hear the case, and his action is likely to highlight those concerns internationally,” Cragg said.

The report compiled by Cragg notes: “BHRC is concerned that a primary motivation behind the present trial is a desire by those in power to exclude Mr Nasheed from standing in the 2013 elections, and notes international opinion that this would not be a positive outcome for the Maldives.”

In the statement, the MDP welcomed calls from India, United Kingdom, United States, the Commonwealth, United Nations and the European Union for a free, fair and inclusive presidential election in the Maldives.

On Friday, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said she was following the latest developments “with concern” and “called on all parties to refrain from actions or statements which are liable to inflame the political climate in the country”.

“I underline the urgent need to resume dialogue between the parties, so as to ensure that the presidential elections set for September 2013 are credible, transparent, inclusive and fully representative of the wishes of all Maldivians, and so that the reforms identified by the Commission of National Inquiry in August 2012 can be rapidly implemented,” she said in a statement.

President of the Maldives, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik released his own statement yesterday condemning Nasheed’s actions on Wednesday.

“I am dismayed that the former President Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male’ when he was summoned to the court. The court order which required the Police to arrest Nasheed and have him appear before the court was due to his refusal to attend court hearing. It had expired at 1600 hours on the 13 February 2013, and there is no reason for him to remain in the High Commission and to instigate street violence.

“The court order has nothing to do with my government. Upholding the rule of law means nobody is above the law. I would like to assure the people of Maldives that the law and order will be maintained,” the President’s statement reads.


Motor racing comes to the Maldives: Piston Motor Racing Challenge 2013

An “official” street racing event open to drivers and motorcyclists in the Maldives is to take place in Hulhumale’ later this month as part of the Maldives Motor Racing Association’s (MMRA) ‘Piston Motor Racing Challenge 2013’.

The event will give individuals the chance to experience racing with “no speed limits”, as long as they meet race requirements and have access to a vehicle, Piston Motor Racing Challenge Event Organiser Ismail Agleem told Minivan News today.

According to the event’s Facebook page, the race is the only motor racing challenge in the Maldives and is being undertaken in association with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and MMRA.

“We have a special area in the industrial ground of Hulhumale’ which will be closed off for the riders and drivers to race in. It is going to set the benchmark for motor sport racing in the Maldives”, Agleem said.

“We want to encourage motor sport racing in the Maldives and eventually build an official track to encourage sports tourists into the country. It is an ideal location to attract people interested in motor racing,” he added.

According to the MMRA website, individuals who hold a valid licence and are “physically and mentally fit” will be eligible to take part in the race.

Agleem said that while anyone who meets the race requirements can enter, motor cyclists will be required to have five days worth of practice and car drivers will need to attend a practice session. Any competitor who fails to attend these sessions will be deemed a “non-qualifier”.

The MMRA website states that competitors in the junior events should also attach a “no objection” letter from a parent or guardian when submitting entry forms.

Asked whether there was a risk that the competitors – some of whom who may have only driven in the speed controlled zones of Male’ – risked an accident, Ismail said there had been “no serious accidents” in previous events, and that drivers are given plenty of time to practice.

Speed limits in Male, according to Transport Authority Chairman Abdul Rasheed Nafiz, are less than 30km/h, whereas for motorcycles the speed limit is just over 25km/h.

Police Spokesman Hassan Haneef today said that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) would be meeting with event organisers tomorrow to discuss matters regarding the race.

“Clearly driving [at speed] is an issue and that is our concern. We will be meeting with the event organisers tomorrow to discuss how we can work together,” Haneef told Minivan News.

Agleem said that roughly 95 vehicles will take part in the event, spread out across a 14 different races based on engine size and vehicle type.

According to Agleem, while the event is the fifth of its kind, it is the first time the MNDF have been involved and MMRA have worked together with Piston.

MNDF spokesman Colonel Abdul Raheem confirmed to Minivan News that the MNDF are involved in the event helping with “security and the preparation of the event.”

Raheem further stated that the MNDF will be providing medical services and an ambulance should it be needed.

Responsible driving

The MMRA website claims the event will “provide a safe environment for racers to come out and show their talent” while also directly helping “to reduce traffic violations” in regard to speeding and dangerous driving.

MMRA members are not allowed to perform stunts without permission of “concerned authorities” and is fully against illegal street racing, the website states.

According to the MMRA website, the association was legally registered in 2009 and has organised many events, rider development programs and fundraisers in the past years.

The Piston Motor Racing Challenge Facebook page also states that organisers will be working together with local law enforcement agencies to ensure public road safety.

Starting on January 18, the event will be officially launched at Raalhugandu in Male, followed by a car and bike procession through the main streets of Male’.

Qualifying rounds for the race will take place in Hulhumale on January 25, and the actual race will take place on January 26, according to the MMRA website.

Between the race days, the Facebook page states there there will be raves, drag races, DJs and live music as well as stunt shows and fireworks.

“We have invited all cabinet and parliament members to come along to the races too,” added Agleem.

Race day events

There will be a total of ten motorcycle races and four car race events as follows:

Motorcyle events:

  • Mio, Airblade, PCX open event
  • 125 modified
  • 135 modified
  • 125 to 135 open
  • 125 to 200 manual open
  • 400 to 750 modified
  • 600 to 1000 modified
  • 400 to 1000 open event
  • Exhibit event
  • Ladies scooter event

Car race events:

  • 1000 to 1600 modified
  • 1600 to 2000 modified
  • Up to 3000 and  above open event
  • RX8 event

Race entries are now closed. Photographs by ‘rushhphotos’.


Transport vehicles need renewable energy plan: Blue Peace

“Solar power is not the only source, and it is not enough. We have to pursue other sources as well,” said BluePeace founder Ali Rilwan about the Maldives’ recently proposed mission to cut emissions by 60 percent, using solar energy primarily.

The government’s plan was approved by the Cabinet last month, and a recent proposal from the Renewable Energy Investment Office (REIO) was submitted for crowdsourcing on the internet last week.

Rilwan called the mission admirable but incomplete. “Proposals have been made, but we haven’t seen anything in the Maldives in years,” he said. According to Rilwan, the Maldives is overlooking one of the most significant energy-consuming functions in the country: water transport.

Over 25 percent of the Maldives’ GDP is spent on diesel used for boats.

“Wetlands and vegetation absorb carbon dioxide, and the oceans are being affected by boats’ daily diesel use. But nobody has studied the specifics of carbon sinking, to calculate that 60 percent emissions reduction we need to evaluate how much needs to be done,” he elaborated. “We don’t know, we might be carbon neutral already.”

When diesel was first introduced to boats in the Maldives in the 1970s, law required that sails be kept on boats, said Rilwan. Not only was this method energy efficient, it also had cultural value.

“The sail wasn’t just carbon-neutral, it was a cultural tradition. We also used to have sailing competitions as part of our tradition. But now the sails are no longer required, although you’d think they would be a good idea for a tourist destination like the Maldives.”

Rilwan said the Ministry for Human Resources and Sports last year supported a “not so carbon friendly” motorcycle competition last year, allegedly on Hulhumale.

In January 2010, the Maldives joined 137 countries in signing the Copenhagen Accord declaring their intention to go carbon neutral by 2020. The document is not legally binding but it recognises climate change as a leading issue worldwide.

A government official said the Maldives has since focused on decarbonising the electricity sector, which accounts for over 31 percent of industrial project expenses.

Decarbonising the Maldives over the next 10 years is expected to cost the Maldives US$3-5 million.

Earlier this week, the Maldives signed the Renewable Energy through Feed-In Tariff.

The tariff is expected to reduce electricity costs by promoting a shift from oil fuel to renewable energy sources.

Rilwan praised the government’s “political will and efforts to negotiate” renewable energy in the Maldives. But he said investment in renewable energy was expensive, and that the Maldives lacks expertise.

REIO’s crowdsourcing initiative aims to improve that shortfall.

“While we are working now on the initial production planning and development we will also be looking to use local and international expertise to develop storage capacity,” said Minister for Economic Development Mahmoud Razee.

The initial plan, which is up for debate on an on-line forum, does not account for night time energy and energy storage due to its high cost. A government official said today that limiting use of solar energy to the daytime would still reduce costs significantly. Meanwhile, storage costs are expected to drop to an affordable rate in the next five to ten years.

The official added that plans addressing land transport vehicles’ energy emissions will be announced in the coming months. He noted that not only are electricity-based motorcycles and cars affordable, but Male’s small size negates the concern of going too far from a recharge station.

Although water transport energy reductions have not yet been addressed at the government level, Renewable Energy Maldives (REM) Director Hudah Ahmed said today that the company will soon be testing one of the first hybrid dhonis.

“Solar power is a viable option for the Maldives,” said Ahmed. “But we always say that energy efficiency comes before renewable energy. Consider how to do the best with what you have and what you need before you try to reinvent the system with a whole new resource.”

The REM hybrid dhoni uses a converter, and could reduce diesel consumption by 30 percent. Ahmed said the big idea is to replace current ferries and fishing boats with hybrid dhonis.

Ahmed suggested the Maldives investigate ocean thermal energy conversation (OTEC), a method of generating energy from the temperature differences between deep and shallow waters. “It isn’t commercial yet, but REM says it shouldn’t be ruled out. I think there are some areas in this country where OTEC could be useful,” said Ahmed.