Government to restart construction of 300 flats for MNDF officers

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has announced that work is to restart on a project to construct 300 flats for Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers and their families.

Dr Waheed said Thursday (August 15) that the government had previously failed to provide enough attention to the welfare of MNDF officers, who also required rights as Maldivian citizens, according to the President’s Office website.

President Waheed said the 300 flats being provided to officers were expected to be completed by next year, adding that his government would work to ensure the project faced no further delays or suspensions.

He also denied that the flats were being provided to officers “as a favour from those in power”, stating that the housing was being given as a duty of the government.

Flats for police officers

The government’s decision to restart the flat construction for MNDF officers was announced after President Waheed earlier this month handed 50 flats on the island of Hulhumale’ to the country’s “top 50” police officials.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News at the time that the 50 officers presented with housing were required to undergo an “internal” selection procedure, based on specific criteria outlined by the institution itself.

Haneef explained that all officers who applied for the housing were then judged on a points system using the aforementioned internal criteria, with the “top 50” officers being selected.

Since President Waheed’s government came to power during the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, which followed a mutiny by sections of the police and military, more than 1000 officers have been promoted, while 110 new police officers were hired.

A housing scheme has also been introduced for police officers, with 300 flats to be constructed in Hulhumale’, arrangements were made for cheap accommodation in Sri Lanka for officers and their families and a loan scheme was set up for police officers.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile has raised concerns whether the 50 flats – which it contends forms part of the “Veshi Fahi” Male’ (decongestion) project launched under the previous government in 2011 – were being given to the most deserving.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has previously said it was “very concerning” that police should be given flats exclusively, to the detriment of teachers, doctors and other civilians. He also questioned how officers themselves had been selected for the process.

“The intention for these flats was for the needy and people who deserved them. This is why these flats were built,” he added.

President Waheed awarded the housing days after Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz declared that police would continue to refuse any orders deemed by the institution to be “unconstitutional”.


Court commences police chief’s ‘baaghee’ defamation case against former president

The Civil Court yesterday ( April 8 ) began hearing statements in a defamation case filed by Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Riyaz is seeking MVR3.75 million (US$243,506) in damages from Nasheed, who is accused of labelling the commissioner a ‘baaghee’ (traitor) following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, which saw sections of the police and military mutiny against the former government.

Nasheed is accused of continuing to call the commissioner a ‘baaghee’ even after a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) later concluded the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed came to power constitutionally.

A Civil Court spokesperson confirmed to Minivan News that lawyers representing both Riyaz and Nasheed were present yesterday during the first of five hearings anticipated to determine the charges against the former president.

During the hearing, the presiding judge asked the defence to answer the allegations against Nasheed. The next hearing of the case is expected to allow Nadheed’s representatives to present a statement in his defence, according to a spokesperson for the Civil Court.

No date was set for the next hearing, the court claimed.

Riyaz’s defamation case had been scheduled to begin last year, but was later postponed upon request of the commissioner himself.

MDP MP and lawyer Mariya Ahmed Didi said the party has previously issued a statement following the postponement of the hearings, claiming that Nasheed was “anxious to proceed with the case”.

Mariya alleged that Commissioner Riyaz was hesitant to proceed with the defamation case for fear that he would not be able to prove that his standing in society or his wider reputation had suffered as a result of the former president’s comments.

“There are hundreds of witnesses just waiting to give their evidence in court. In addition, senior police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers including [former] commissioner of Police Faseeh and Defence Force chief Moosa Jaleel have testified to the relevant committee of parliament that the events of February 7 and February 8 were indeed a coup,” she claimed. “We are confident that if we get a free and fair trial we will get a judgement in our favour.”

“Undermining” commisioner’s esteem

Riyaz’s lawyers have previously accused Nasheed of undermining the esteem and respect of the police commissioner by labelling him as a “traitor.”

The legal team also argued at the time that Nasheed’s words had compromised the safety of Riyaz, requiring security at his residence to be strengthened.

Commissioner Riyaz and Police Spokesperson Chief Inspetor Hassan Haneef were not responding to calls at time of press.

Meanwhile, MVR3.75 million in damages are being sought from Nasheed by serving Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, who has also accused the former president of damaging his reputation by labelling a traitor during a public address last year.

Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported at the time that following a speech by Nasheed attacking the defence minister, a group of protesters came outside Nazim’s house, “leaving Nazim’s family in fear”.

Former Youth Minister Dr Hassan Latheef, who defended Nasheed at a Civil Court hearing held in October 2012, told the presiding judge at the time that the former president denied the charges against him.

Nasheed’s legal team has previously contended that Riyaz had filed the defamation case in the civil court at a time when the police were continuously arresting people for calling them ‘baaghee’ on the streets. The same representatives also accused the country’s criminal court of continuing to provide extensions of detention periods for people arrested under the charges.

Further charges

Nasheed is also currently in the process of being tried on charges that  he illegally detained a senior judge during the end of his presidency.

However, all trials concerning the judge’s detention were suspended earlier this month pending a High Court ruling on the legitimacy of the bench of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court conducting Nasheed’s case.


US to provide Maldives with cost-free border control system

The US government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Maldives government to provide it with a border system after several years of uncertainty and legal wrangling over the future of the country’s immigration controls.

Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Michele J Sison signed an MOU that will see a US technical team coming to the country next month to begin work on planning and implementing a new border system, according to local media. The system is scheduled to be installed by June this year.

Speaking to Minivan News , Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali said it was too early to tell if the new border controls would be a direct replacement for the system provided by Malaysia-based IT group Nexbis.  Nexbis is currently awaiting a decision by higher courts in the Maldives over whether anti-corruption authorities have the right to terminate its agreement with the government.

“We will have to see [what the agreement means for the government’s concession agreement with Nexbis]. Details need to be worked out,” stated Dr Ali, who did not elaborate further.

Immigration sources had told Minivan News earlier this month that the country faced a potential return to “pen and paper” border controls should the government be made to cancel its agreement with Nexbis without an adequate replacement.

The Nexbis border control system is still presently in use by immigration officials at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), after the Supreme Court issued an injunction halting the scrapping of the controversial system by parliament.

Cost-free system

Defence Minister Nazim said that the system proposed under the MOU would be provided free of charge to the Maldives in a move he estimated would save the country MVR500 million (US$35 million), according to Sun Online.

Local media reported that the border controls would be based around its Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES).  The same technology is reported to be used not only at US airports, but in a number of other countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Thailand.

Maldivian staff are also expected to receive training on using the biometric-based system, as well as assistance with any expansion to the system in future, Sun Online has reported.

Prior to the announcement of the MOU, former Immigration Controller and now State Defence Minister Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim was quoted in local media as raising concerns that US involvement in the border control system would allow the country to exert its influence on Maldivian affairs.

Ilyas told the Channel News Maldives publication that the system would serve to provide a “door for American influence” by allowing the US to take control of the system and use it to locate foreign nationals whenever it wished.

When contacted by Minivan News today, Ilyas said he did not have any comments on the matter as he was no longer involved with the immigration department, and requested any questions be forwarded to Defence Minister Nazim.

However, Nazim asked that any questions regarding the system be sent to him by email. Minivan News was awaiting a response at time of press.

Earlier this month, outgoing Indian High Commissioner Dnyaneshwar Mulay formally handed over a new Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) to immigration authorities at INIA that was designed to provide passport information and other details of incoming travellers before their arrival.

The system was not intended to be a direct replacement for the existing border control system provided by Nexbis, authorities said at the time.


Nexbis is currently involved in legal wrangling over whether the Maldives’ Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has the power to compulsorily request the government to cease all work in relation to the border control system agreement.

While refuting allegations of any corruption or wrongdoing in being awarded a contract under the previous government to install and operate a border control system for the Maldives, Nexbis earlier this year said it would not rule out criminal involvement behind attempts to “sabotage” its contract with the government.

However, a source with knowledge of current immigration practices had previously said no alternative border control system was available should the government terminate its concession agreement with Nexbis.

“So far we don’t have any alternative to the [Nexbis] system going forward. We are using the system and waiting for the courts to decide. However, if the court decides [in favour of the ACC], we will need a new system in place,” the source told Minivan News. “Without [an alternative], the system would go haywire. A replacement would have to be found. We cannot go back to the 1970s and just use books and paper.”

Minivan News was awaiting a response on the MOU from Nexbis’ local legal representatives at time of press.

Human trafficking

The MOU has been signed at a time when the Maldives has come under increasing scrutiny regarding its immigration control.

The country has appeared on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for three years in a row.

Back in January this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs inaugurated an initiative aimed at raising awareness of human trafficking issues in the Maldives.

Despite these commitments, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has accused state and private sector employers in the country of lacking consistency in their efforts to address human trafficking, preventing “real” change in controlling illegal migration.