Education Ministry pledges to introduce Arabic to more schools

The Ministry of Education has pledged to introduce Arabic to more schools in the next academic year.

Speaking to the press today, Minister of Education Dr Aishath Shiham said Arabic will be available at “many” schools throughout the Maldives next year.

In addition to Arabic, the Education Ministry intends to expand civic education in the curriculum and introduce Like Skills Education as a separate subject to educate students on life skills such as conflict resolution and responsible citizenship.

The government intends to equip five schools in Malé with facilities to educate children with special needs and establish two centers in the atolls to train children with special needs, Shiham said.

The Education Ministry is still seeking 74 Quran teachers in order to ensure that all schools are able to offer Quran as a subject, Shiham also said.


India hosts Maldivian delegations to ensure “free, fair and credible” elections

India’s Elections Commission (ECI) and parliament are hosting respective delegations from the Maldives’ Elections Commission (ECM) and Majlis in an effort to ensure September’s presidential elections are conducted in a “free, fair and credible manner”.

A seven member delegation from the Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) is in India for six days as part of a cooperative program with the Elections Commission of India (ECI) to enhance the Maldives’ capacity to hold the upcoming presidential and local council elections.

While in India, the ECM has the opportunity to acquire first-hand experience during the Karnataka state assembly elections. The ECI is also organising a special election-related training module for the ECM in Mysore.

ECM President Fuad Taufeeq is leading the delegation, which includes other ECM senior officials. Prior to departing for India on May 4 the Maldives’ delegation met with the High Commissioner of India Rajeev Shahare to discuss the visit and other election related issues.

The ECM delegation is expected to return May 9.

Meanwhile, a Maldivian parliamentary delegation led by Parliament Speaker MP Abdulla Shahid is also in India and met with Indian Parliamentary Speaker Lok Sabha Smt. Meira Kumar yesterday (May 6).

Kumar assured the visiting delegation that India would extend “all possible assistance” – in close coordination with the ECM – to ensure the September presidential elections are conducted smoothly and peacefully.

She expressed her hope that elections may be held in a free, fair and credible manner.

Kumar said that India and Maldives enjoy “special and time ­tested relations” and reiterated India’s continued commitment to further strengthen and diversify the bilateral relationship. Along those lines, she emphasised the collective task both nations have to create an atmosphere of “strong understanding and interdependencies” in the region to achieve collective progress and prosperity.

Kumar also stressed the need to further strengthen bilateral parliamentary linkages, with the first meeting of the India–Maldives Parliamentary Friendship Group being held during the Maldives delegation visit, acting as a “step in the right direction”.

The Maldivian government was urged to take measures for establishing investor confidence in the country as well as conduct structural reforms to prevent harassment and improve living conditions for the nearly 30,000 strong Indian expatriate workforce.

Shahid assured Kumar that the Maldives would work closely with India for the mutual benefit of both nations and extended an invitation for the India’s parliamentary speaker to visit the Maldives.

“Electoral background discouraging”: Transparency report

The 2013 presidential elections are set to unfold “against a context of uncertainty, crises of political legitimacy and unprecedented levels of political polarisation,” Transparency Maldives has stated, in an extensive pre-election assessment published on March 28.

The detailed report identifies key challenges in the lead up to the election, such as the candidacy of former President Mohamed Nasheed, lack of monitoring of campaign financing, an extensive and entrenched culture of vote buying, and a media establishment set on fueling personality politics and further polarisation.

The ECM said in mid-March it had noticed a surge of discrepancies on membership forms submitted by certain political parties including forged documents, forms with false information and even forms filed under the names of dead people.

“Buy-offs and civic education” challenges: ECI

The current ECM visit to India is part of a joint assistance project agreed upon in early-March during ECI’s eight day visit to the Maldives to study the electoral environment in an effort to enable free and fair elections.

During the ECI’s visit, they identified areas the ECM needs to develop and improve. These included: staff shortages, training needs, and the lack of information technology software. Vote buying is another important issue being addressed, the ECM’s President Fuad Thaufeeq previously explained to Minivan News.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, India’s Deputy Election Commissioner Dr Alok Shukla said that preventing voter “buy-offs” and improving civic education were two “big” challenges about which the ECM was “extremely concerned”.


“When cats are elected they will fight”: Maldives’ plight caused by citizens electing self-interested MPs, says Ibra

The former chairman of the committee responsible for drafting the 2008 Constitution has said the country’s current crisis is the result of Maldivian citizens electing self-interested parliamentarians.

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) released the 2012 Majlis (Parliament) Watch report on Sunday (March 24). The report was launched by Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail, former chairman of the Special Majlis Drafting Committee.

Ibra emphasised that parliamentarians must represent public welfare and national interests foremost and “not exploit their official positions,” as clause 75 of the Constitution specifies.

However he said most parliamentary decisions are influenced by individual, business, and political party interests.

Responsibility for MPs’ prioritising their self-interests above Maldivian citizens’ well-being should be placed with the Maldivian people who elected these “shadowy figures,” Ibra declared.

“I would say the current plight of this country is down to the failure of the 77 parliament members to take note of Article 75 of the constitution. When casting votes in parliament they are thinking what is the best thing for me? How can more political power be given to the person who secures business opportunities for me? How can an Article be written to make it easy for me? I’m not referring to a particular party but to everyone,” Haveeru quoted Ibra as saying.

“During the last parliamentary elections we’ve all heard people saying they would even vote for a cat if it was the candidate from a specific party. So we are seeing the result of that today. When cats are elected they will fight,” he added.

Parliament Watch 2012

MDN’s Executive Director, Humaida ‘Humey’ Abdulghafoor, emphasised that parliament’s main priority should be service to the people and discussed the report’s main findings.

“MDN is not privy to the same information as Ibra. We try to be very objective in what we say, do, and how we present the [Majlis Watch] report,” stated Abdulghafoor.

“We advocate Majlis members serve responsibly as representatives of the people. They should have a clear idea of the lives and livelihood needs of their constituents.

“MPs should monitor the main needs of their constituencies, ask important questions, and highlight issues that relate to the lives of their constituencies. Based on these needs, MPs should prioritise the most relevant legislation that reflects what the people would like to see,” Abdulghafoor added.

Some of the main issues highlighted in the MDN report are in regard to challenges parliament has faced following the controversial transfer of power last February.

“We acknowledge that 2012 was very difficult for the Majlis. Their work has been slowed due to pending issues, which are a reflection of the challenges faced over the last year,” said Abdulghafoor.

“In some months, such as March and August 2012, the number of [committee] meetings were far lower than anticipated. Also, parliament halted for several days in March, because quorum was not achieved,” she added.

Abdulghafoor also discussed how meaningful legislation is often delayed at the committee stage and takes a “number of years” to become law. She stated that MPs must work together to “accelerate and overcome” obstacles that impede the law-making process, so to meet the urgent needs of Maldivian citizens.

“The number of bills submitted was also significantly lower [than expected], because the government is the largest source of bills. After February 7 2012, the government was not able to submit legislation, because the executive (President Waheed Hassan Manik) didn’t have a representative in the Majlis,” she stated.

“In other words, there were no sitting Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) party members in parliament. To accommodate this challenge, parliament had to change their regulations, which didn’t occur until October,” Abdulghafoor further explained.

Free elections require civic education

MDN also highlighted parliamentarians’ responsibility to create civic awareness among their constituents and ensure elections are legitimate and free from corrupt practices.

“We are advocating for Maldivians to use their vote responsibly to ensure elections are inclusive, free and fair,” Abdulghafoor stated.

“Political parties have a huge responsibility to recruit members ‘cleanly’ as well as inform party members what civic participation entails and what [democratic] political processes are – openness and clarity.

“The recent reports of registered deceased people are a stain on the reputation of the political party,” she declared.

The Elections Commissions (EC) said it has noticed a surge of discrepancies on membership forms submitted by certain political parties including forged documents, forms with false information and even forms filed under the names of dead people.