Ruling coalition to celebrate by-election victories with fireworks

The ruling coalition is planning to celebrate Saturday’s council by-election victories with fireworks in Malé tonight.

The fireworks display is due to take place around 8:30pm at the artificial beach.

According to provisional results from the Elections Commission, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdul Mufeed won the by-election in Haa Alif Muraidhoo for a vacant seat on the island council with 208 votes (45.41 percent) whilst his closest contender, independent candidate Mohamed Fuwad, received 143 votes (31.22 percent).

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Aishath Visama received 107 votes (23.36 percent).

In the contest for the Meedhoo constituency seat on the Dhaalu atoll council, Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) candidate Mohamed Mamdhooh secured 997 votes (60.94) against MDP candidate Salim al-Sabah with 639 votes (39.06 percent).

The Meedhoo constituency is represented in parliament by MDA leader and resort tycoon, MP Ahmed Siyam Mohamed.

Voter turnout was 70.25 percent in Meedhoo and 80.56 percent in Muraidhoo.

Speaking at a press conference last night following the announcement of the by-election results, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb declared President Abdulla Yameen would win re-election in one round of voting in 2018.

Adeeb said the victories for PPM and coalition partner MDA candidates showed the government’s support was not 25 percent as the opposition claims.

A majority of the public was behind the current administration and supported its policies, he suggested.

“We will show results through the ballot box,” said the PPM deputy leader, condemning the opposition’s ongoing nightly anti-government demonstrations.

After former coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) withdrew support for the government and formed an alliance with the MDP last month, the opposition has contended that the current government lacks legitimacy and does not have a popular mandate to govern.

In the cancelled first round of the 2013 presidential election, PPM candidate Yameen polled 25 percent.

After polling 29.72 percent in the first round re-vote, Yameen won the second round run-off against former President Mohamed Nasheed after the JP decided to form a coalition with PPM.

JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim finished third place in the re-vote with 23.43 percent and endorsed Yameen after initially declaring he would remain neutral.

Adeeb meanwhile noted last night that the ruling coalition won the recent by-elections after the JP left the coalition.

Street protests could neither produce results nor weaken the government, he said.

The nightly protests were also adversely affecting local businesses and causing disruptions in the capital, he added.

Adeeb also slammed former ally Adhaalath Party (AP) for joining the opposition campaign, contending that its leaders have “betrayed” the religious conservative party’s members.

“GMR is now OK, Denmark is also OK [for AP leaders],” he said, referring to AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla spearheading nationalistic protests calling for the cancellation of the Indian infrastructure giant’s agreement to manage the international airport and the party’s allegations that former President Mohamed Nasheed pursued anti-Islamic policies.

At a press conference last week, Adeeb said the AP’s leaders have made “a career” out of toppling governments.

Adeeb also claimed that the ruling coalition has won six out of eight by-elections held since the 2013 presidential election. However, 12 council by-elections have been called since the presidential poll, half of which were won by opposition candidates.

In several by elections, opposition candidates won by default as the ruling coalition did not field candidates.

If there’s an election, it’s won by PPM or MDA. Therefore, we must have fireworks in Malé tomorrow, PPM PG Leader Ahmed Nihan said. 

All are invited. We secure results from the ballot box, a PPM supporter said.


MDA Leader Siyam acquitted of alcohol smuggling charges

Government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) Leader Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam Mohamed was acquitted of alcohol possession and smuggling charges by the Criminal Court on Thursday (December 4).

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed found the resort tycoon not guilty on the grounds that due process was not followed in accordance with the Maldives Customs Act.

The MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo was charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol in November 2013 after a ‘Johnny Walker Black’ bottle was found in his luggage at the airport upon returning from Sri Lanka in March 2012.

In June, two witnesses for the prosecution testified to finding a bottle of alcohol in Siyam’s luggage.

While the customs officers testified that they discovered the bottle when Siyam’s bag was screened, a Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) staff member who handled the luggage said they were unaware of its contents prior to screening.

However, Siyam’s lawyer argued that the MP was being framed, noting that according to the prosecution’s witnesses the luggage was not searched in his presence.

Following multiple delays and cancellations of hearings, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed took over the case from Judge Ahmed Sameer Abdul Aziz in May after Siyam claimed the latter’s “hand gestures and facial expressions” indicated a personal grudge against him which could lead to an unfair trial.

Siyam wrote to both the chief judge and the Supreme Court requesting the removal of Judge Sameer from his case.

Responding to criticism of the court for providing preferential treatment to the coalition leader, Judge Abdulla declared at a ceremony in September that the court would provide VIP treatment and escort persons facing trial in and out through the back door in circumstances where it sees fit.

Siyam was reportedly escorted in and out of the backdoor when he arrived at the court for a trial date and was also seated in a separate area.

The penalty for alcohol possession in the penal code is either a fine of between MVR1,000 to MVR3,000 or imprisonment, banishment or house arrest for up to three years.

Under Article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than one year in prison will lose his or her seat in parliament.

Siyam’s MDA formed an alliance with the now-ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in August to back PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

In March 2012, an audio clip of a conversation between Siyam and Yameen was leaked on social media, in which the pair aired grievances against PPM leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Related to this story

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed takes over Sun Siyam’s case

Sun Siyam’s alcohol possession trial delayed again


Unsafe dredging in Meedhoo can cause lung and respiratory diseases, says HPA

In a letter addressed to the minister of environment and energy, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said that said unsafe dredging in Meedhoo, Dhaalu atoll, will have great health risks for the local population.

The Meedhoo land reclamation project was halted by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to take measures to minimise the environmental impact of the work as per regulations.

The HPA launched an investigation to identify the health impact of the project after having received complaints.

HPA’s letter – a copy of which was obtained by Minivan News today – noted that there is a high chance that the continuation of the project as it is would have a negative health impact in the long run.

According to the letter, the agency’s investigations indicated that it is highly likely to cause lung and respiratory diseases.

“Therefore we request to find another way of carrying out the work, and to encourage working in a way that would not have any negative impact on human beings,” read the letter.

Using the rainbowing technique – the propulsion of materials through the air in a high arc – rather than using pipelines to take the the sand closer to the land, has left a large part of the island’s shoreline vegetation and many houses near the beach covered in fine sand and sea water.

Environmental NGO Ecocare earlier said that the project’s environmental implications are “frightening” and both public and private property are at risk.

“While layers of sedimentation found on some rooftops were 2-3 inches thick, large trees on the shoreline and inland had also effected loosing its leaves, and are now drying and dying,” the organisation said in a statement issued yesterday.

Meedhoo Council President Ahmed Aslam confirmed that rainbowing has affected destroyed the vegetation on the island and caused some damage to property as well.

“It is true, rainbowing has caused some damages to the island. Soil and seawater was sprayed all over the place. And as this is a small island, it was all over the houses near the beach and had damaged the vegetation all over the island,” Aslam explained.

He said that when the council took the issue to the Housing Ministry, they requested they communicate with Boskalis International – the company contracted to carry out the work – to ensure mitigation measures are taken properly.

Aslam however denied media reports that the dredging vessel had left the island due to the environmental issues.

“We communicated directly with Boskalis people. They confirmed that the vessel was leaving the island to repair a pump. They are bringing in mechanic from abroad. We expect the work to resume within four days,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Housing Dr Mohamed Muiz told Haveeru that the EPA had acted without discussing the issue with the ministry and that there were political reasons in the EPA’s suspension of the operation.

“The issue of EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] came up while some political people were trying to stop the work, because we are speeding up a work which they were unable to do during MDP’s three years in government,“ Muiz was quoted as saying in Haveeru.

While the EPA is a legal regulatory authority, the agency it not independent and functions under the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

Muiz confirmed to Haveeru that the work was halted due to violation of EIA conditions and said Boskalis International had now been asked to suspend operations and to continue work after resolving the issues.

The US$10.8 million government project to have 17.5 hectors of land reclaimed and a 485 metre revetment constructed in Meedhoo is being implemented by Netherlands’ Boskalis International.

President Yameen inaugurates land reclamation project in Meedhoo

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom inaugurated a land reclamation project on the island of Meedhoo in Dhaalu atoll on Sunday.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Yameen said he visited the island with a gift for its residents, noting that the people of Meedhoo have been waiting for over 20 years for such development projects.

President Yameen asserted that the Maldives could be developed using available resources, according to the President’s Office.

Yameen urged the people of Meedhoo to utilise the reclaimed land for economic and social purposes.

The current administration would endeavour to ease economic difficulties faced by the public, he added.

The project was awarded to the Nederland’s Boskalis International company to reclaim 17.5 hectares of land and set up 485 metres of revetment in Meedhoo.

Boskalis has also been contracted by the government to reclaim land in Baa Eydhafushi, Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo, and Kaafu Thulusdhoo.

President Yameen also pledged to make ambulance services available across the country before the end of August. He noted that the project would be funded from savings made from the state budget through cost-cutting and economising.

The Meedhoo constituency is represented in parliament by MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam Mohamed, leader of the Maldives Development Alliance, a coalition partner of the ruling Progressive party of Maldives.