Dharubaaruge reopens after renovation

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure reopened the Dharubaaruge convention centre in Malé on Thursday (August 7) following renovation and repair work.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz told the press at an opening ceremony that the project had cost MVR5 million (US$324,254).

Muiz explained that extensive repair work was needed for the convention centre as the roof leaked when it rained, the stairs were dilapidated, and the walls were crumbling.

In addition to repair work and a new paint job, Muiz said glass panels, wall fabrics, and carpets have been replaced.

The ministry has also decided to make changes to rental prices for leasing Dharubaaruge halls for private functions, Muiz continued, while food and drink would not be allowed in the Rannabadheyri, Hiriya, and Hakura halls.

In May, following a long-running dispute over jurisdiction and ownership, the housing ministry took over Dharubaaruge from the Malé City Council, with police deployed to change locks.

The convention centre was constructed ahead of the SAARC summit held in Maldives in 1990.


Housing Ministry to stop leasing some Dharubaaruge halls for private functions

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has announced that it will no longer lease Rannaban’deyri Maalan, Hakuraa Maalan, and Hiriya Maalan of Dharubaaruge for any private functions.

Instead, the three halls in the national convention centre will now be leased only for the holding of political party, company, and national functions.

Dharubaaruge has been the source of jurisdictional wranglings in recent years, being forcefully taken from Malé City Council by the government earlier this year. Plans to renovate and eventually replace the convention centre were subsequently revealed to local media.

Dhoshimeyna Maalan, Faashanaa Maalan, and Billoori Maalan halls will continue to be available for private functions.


Housing Ministry to renovate, then replace Dharubaaruge

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu has revealed plans to replace the Dharubaaruge convention center with a new facility.

Speaking with local news outlet Haveeru, Dr Muizzu explained that the ministry’s development plan will consist of two phases – the first involving renovation to the current premises while bidding is opened for a new facility.

This phase is to be followed by the eventual construction of a new convention center on the same site, explained the minister.

“Since there isn’t another place like Dharubaaruge in Malé city, we are trying to renovate the place without closing it down, by dividing the work into two phases. That would make this easier,” he told Haveeru.

The announcement follows the takeover of the facility by the central government earlier this month after repeated wrangling over ownership of the premises over the past two years.

Police moved in to enforce the central government’s reclamation of the premises from Malé City Council after a cabinet decision in late March.

Council members were reportedly told that the government was taking charge of the center as it was not being adequately maintained, though the council – reliant on central government funding – claimed it had not received the requested maintenance budget.

The Dharubaaruge takeover is the latest in an ongoing dispute between the ministry and opposition-dominated council regarding ownership of land in the capital city.

Originally built for the 5th SAARC summit in 1990 — Dharubaaruge is rented out for events, press conferences and private functions.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed handed the center over to the city council with the establishment of a local government system in 2011.


MDP primaries restart after cancellation of disorganised first poll

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has restarted voting in 18 parliamentary primaries after polls were cancelled yesterday following administrative and voter registry issues.

Minivan News observed large and orderly queues at Dharubaaruge today where voting for 12 constituencies is currently proceeding. Ballot boxes for the remaining 6 constituencies have been placed at Malé City Hall and party offices in Hulhumalé and Villingili islands.

Candidates and voters complained of  fluctuations in the voter register, but MDP Chairperson and primary candidate ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said he did not notice significant changes in his own constituency.

According to MDP media official and MP Ali ‘Alibe’ Mohamed, voting was cancelled yesterday due to “unmanageable” large crowds, with the MDP having scheduled voting for 58 constituencies at Dharubaaruge for all party members registered in Malé. Voters also took issue with their names not being present on the party registry, he said.

“The MDP has a very large membership. We were unable to accommodate such a large number of people at Dharubaaruge all at once yesterday. Many voters also complained over their names not being present on the voter list,” Alibe said.

The MDP is the largest political party in the Maldives with 43,277 members registered at the Elections Commission.

Eyewitnesses described the scene as a “bureaucratic nightmare” and accused ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) members of disrupting the vote.

A 10 member committee – which includes former President Mohamed Nasheed and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih – has been set up to oversee polling.

Candidates in 27 of the 85 constituencies have won the MDP ticket without a primary. They include Eva Abdulla for Galolhu Uthru, Ali Azim for Henveiru Medhu and Imthiyaz Fahmy for Maafannu Uthuru in Malé.

Voting was completed for Kulhudhufushi North and Dhuvaafaru constituencies yesterday. The party hopes to schedule polls for the remaining 38 constituencies in the upcoming week, Alibe said.


Candidate for Machangoalhi Uthuru Aishath Velezinee described the large crowds at Dharubaaruge yesterday as “suffocating.”

“There were too many people, too many ballot boxes. Even I left without voting. People were really cheerful yesterday. Quite a few are elderly and some of them were sick. So they got tired and left without voting. I’m hoping all of them return today,” she said.

Ahmed Hameed, 29, said his name was not present on the voter registry despite having submitted a membership form in February 2012. He also claimed he saw PPM members at Dharubaaruge to disrupt the vote.

“We know faces. Very well known PPM members were there. They were pushing and shoving people. MDP members are not like that. There was so much aggressiveness,” he said.

Polls had originally been scheduled from 2:30 pm to 8:00 pm, with ballot boxes set-up in every island and in Malé. At 4pm, however, the MDP announced it was cancelling the vote and rescheduling polls for 12 constituencies between 9:00 pm – 12:00 pm in Malé.  The party was subsequently unable to proceed with this vote, eventually rescheduling a new vote for 18 constituencies today.

These 18 constituencies include 10 Malé City seats and eight atoll constituencies – Addu Meedhoo, Addu Hulhudhoo, Nilandhoo Meedhoo, Mahibadhoo, Hithadhoo Uthuru, and Hoarafushi constituencies.

According to the MDP, voting had proceeded smoothly in only these eight constituencies yesterday, and today’s polls would allow constituency members residing in Malé to vote.

Despite the cancellation of polls yesterday, MDP members remain positive. Zubaidha Mohamed, 29, said the experience was a learning process for the MDP.

“We are the only party in the Maldives to hold primaries on such a large scale. This is a learning process. I think today’s voting will go well,” she said.

Ahmed Ikram, 22, said voting was proceeding smoothly, but expressed concern over the voter registry.

“Things are going well today. But there are still several complaints regarding names not being present on the voter registry. Some people who voted in the primaries for local councils say their names are not present on the list,” he said.

Double voting

The MDP had published an updated voter registry on January 10, which included all membership forms submitted to the party offices up until December 19.

A press release at the time said the party had received 10,518 new membership forms in the period between December 10 and 19. Of that number, 5,464 forms were received on December 19. The final list was published on the party’s website on January 10.

The party opened up a ten-day window from January 7 – 15 to allow voters to register. According to the MDP’s election committee member Ibrahim Waheed, members were required to register if they were voting in a location different to the one registered for the nationwide local council elections held on January 18.

After members complained of their names not being present on the voter registry, the MDP has now opened up voting for all MDP members without registration

Election committee member Ali Niyaz has expressed concern over room for double voting, but said he hoped candidate’s representatives at polling booths would monitor repeated votes.

The MDP will also crosscheck lists of those who voted in their constituencies and in Malé to ensure no double voting took place, Niyaz said.

Changing lists

Candidates and members alike have complained of frequent changes to the party registry.

“I have been carrying out a targeted campaign. I initially received a list with 588 members. Now there are 846 members on the list. There are entire households on the list who told me they are not MDP members when I visited them,” Velezinee said.

Meanwhile, MDP member Ahmed Hameed said he believed several candidates had submitted new membership forms to manipulate the vote in order to win the party ticket.

“Many MPs have submitted forms just to win the party primary. That is not good for the party. The party membership will not be genuine or healthy. I think the vote should be delayed until all issues are resolved. Otherwise people may question the validity of the vote,” he said.

However, MDP Chairperson and primary candidate ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said he did not notice significant differences in the voter registry.

Candidate for Machangoalhi Dhekunu Noorban Fahmy said she did not want to comment on the registry, but said she hoped voting would proceed smoothly today.

Minivan News was unable to reach MDP’s membership committee chair Ali Shiyam at the time of press.


MBC, broadcasting commission summoned to parliamentary committee over televising “politicised” religious sermon

A religious sermon televised live on Television Maldives (TVM) was interrupted for violating the state broadcaster’s guidelines, Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik told a parliamentary sub-committee today.

The MBC chairman along with members of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission were summoned before the Independent Institutions Committee following complaints by MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that the sermon by religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim infringed the rights of the party’s presidential candidate.

“We definitely do not consider [televising the sermon] as anti-campaigning against a particular candidate using religion. [But] around 11:35pm, because his talk was changing a little, we stopped the live [broadcasting],” Manik was quoted as saying by local media.

The state television decided to approve the live broadcast after considering whether it involved either a politician or political party and after determining if the Islamic Ministry had authorised the sermon, Manik explained.

Asked by MPs whether he had heard the Sheikh’s criticism of the MDP’s guest house policy, Manik said MBC will evaluate the content of the sermon and take measures.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam, a member of the sub-committee, explained that the complaints alleged that the religious scholars politicised the sermon titled ‘Andhalus,’ which MDP MPs contended resembled negative campaigning more than a religious sermon.

Rozaina said that MBC Chairman Manik told the committee that the MBC did a background check on the two sheikhs that delivered the sermon to determine if they had previously been in any political parties or if they were affiliated with any political party. Manik claimed that the background check showed that the sheikhs were not involved in political activities.

According to Rozaina, MDP MP Ali Waheed in the meeting noted that Sheikh Shameem had recently visited his constituency and told the people of the area that MDP would kill him if former President Mohamed Nasheed was re-elected and openly campaigned against the party’s candidate.

Rozaina observed that Sheikh Shameem last night talked against MDP policies such as introducing mid-market tourism but did not reflect on more important issues in terms of religion such as murder, gang violence and drugs.

“The MBC Chairman told the MPs that they cut the live feed when the Sheikhs speech was getting politicised,” Rozaina said. “But I don’t know if they actually cut the live feed.”

The sermon last night was organised by NGO Salaf, attended by senior Adhaalath Party members and broadcast live on all local television channels with the exception of MDP-aligned Raajje TV.

The sermons were delivered by Salaf preachers Sheikh Adam Shameem and Sheikh Ahmed Sameer under the title “The Fall of Andalus (Spain).”

Advertisements on social media stated that “the fall of Andalus (Spain) is an event Muslims will never forget. Why did it happen? What lead to the fall of this great Muslim state and what lessons can we draw from this. We present to you ‘Andalus’ by Sheikh Adam Shameem and Sheikh Ahmed Sameer.”


Roads closed for Republic Day ceremonies

Several roads in the southeast of Male’ will be closed for the public for a special ceremony on Sunday ‘Dharubaaruge’ to mark the 44th Republic Day of the Maldives.

Some of the main roads that will be closed include fuel shed area on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, the area where Ameenee Magu and Boduthakurufaanu Magu meets, Moonlight Hingun, the end where Janavaree Magu and Buruzu Magu meets.

Police said any other road that has to be closed due to any reason will be closed, and thanked the people for their cooperation and apologised to the people for any inconvenience caused due to the closure of these roads.

Meanwhile, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has set up a huge stage at the Republican Square to perform a musical event as a celebration of Republic Day.

Former President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed has also issued a statement sending greetings to all Maldivians.

The Maldives declared Republic on 11 November 1968, ending the 853 year-old monarchy. The monarchy was replaced by a republic under the presidency of President Ibrahim Nasir.

The official name of the country was then changed from ‘Maldive Islands’ to the ‘Maldives.’

On 15 March 1968 a national referendum was held on the question with 93.34 percent of those taking part voted in favor of establishing a republic.


ACC forwards five corruption cases for prosecution

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has forwarded five cases for prosecution in recent weeks after concluding investigations into complaints lodged at the commission dating back to 2009.

The cases sent for prosecution involves corrupt practices at the Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Council and Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo office as well as abuse of authority by former councillors of Laamu Maavah and Seenu Hithadhoo and former Housing Ministry Director Ibrahim Fayaz.

In the first case, the ACC found that the Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Council purchased furniture worth Rf54,200 from a shop in Male’ without a public announcement or bidding process.

Regulations under the Public Finance Act stipulates all procurement in excess of Rf25,000 to be made after a public announcement.

The ACC therefore recommend the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to charge Chair of the Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Council Mohamed Nizam, Deputy Chair Shahir Hassan, Atoll Councillor Mohamed Muhthar and Abdulla Shiyaz with abuse of authority for financial gain to a third party.

The second complaint investigated by the ACC concerned fraudulent valuation of five proposal to provide security to the Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo office in January 2011, which resulted in the bid being awarded to the party that did not submit the lowest price.

The ACC found that members of the bid evaluation committee – Adam Shareef, Nasrullah Afeef, Mohamed Abdulla and Saudhullah Ali – abused their authority to secure financial gain to the winner of the bid, ARDK Investments.

While the public announcement did not state that marks would be awarded for experience, the ACC found that the bid was awarded to ARDK on the basis of having more experience than the other four interested parties.

The third complaint meanwhile involved a monthly allowance of Rf2,000 provided to an employee at the Laamu Maavah powerhouse from April to May 2009 by former councillor Waleed Zakariyya without the approval of either the island development committee or government officials.

The ACC investigators determined that Waleed Zakariyya’s claim that the employee performed additional tasks during the period could not be proved.

The ACC therefore recommended that Zakariyya be charged for abuse of authority under article 12(a) of the Anti-Corruption Act as he was found to have made the decision on his own. In addition, the ACC informed the PGO on May 29 to recover the Rf4,000 lost from public funds.

Prior to the formation of local councils following elections in February 2011, island councillors were appointed by President Mohamed Nasheed.

In the fourth case, the ACC found that former councillor of Seenu Hithadhoo, Mohamed Shamin Ali, awarded a contract worth Rf189,393.75 to construct a check-post in the island after the island development committee decided to postpone the project due to financial difficulties.

The ACC noted that the check-post was used by police for a short period and has since deteriorated beyond use. The ACC recommended the former councillor be charged with abuse of authority for financial gain to a third party.

The last case meanwhile involves abuse of authority by Housing Ministry Director Ibrahim Fayaz, who was in charge of the Dharubaaruge convention centre.

Fayaz was found to have cancelled an advance booking by private broadcaster DhiTV to lease the Rannabadeyri hall to telecast a debate between candidates for the president and vice-president of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on April 26, 2011.

The ACC discovered that Fayaz cancelled DhiTV’s booking and leased the hall to MDP-aligned Raajje TV. The booking was cancelled after DhiTV advertised the event and completed preparations to telecast the debate.

The ACC investigators determined that Fayaz’s claim that he cancelled the booking after informing DhiTV to make the full payment a day ahead of the event could not be established from either documentation or witness statements.

The ACC recommended that Fayaz be charged with abuse of authority under articles 12(a) and 23 of the Anti-Corruption Act.


Housing Ministry takes dispute with MCC to Human Rights Commission

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has decided to involve the Human rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) in its ongoing feud with Male’ City Council (MCC).

The ministry has forwarded a case to police as well as the HRCM in relation to its civil servants who have been assigned to work at the Dharubaaruge conference center.

President of the HRCM Mariyam Azra confirmed that a complaint had been received today regarding the right to work of these civil servants. She said that the HRCM will work with the CSC to resolve the issue.

In one of a series of jurisdictional disputes in the capital, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) informed the MCC in April that its Dharubaaruge staff had been transferred to the Housing Ministry following a cabinet decision to transfer the conference centre to the central government.

Upon receiving the letter, the MCC sent all members of staff home and locked the doors to the conference centre.

This prompted a swift response from Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz who declared that the centre had been closed unlawfully. Police were sent in and the centre forcefully reopened.

Dr Muiz told Sun Online that Housing Ministry staff had been arriving for work at the conference centre since mid-April and being forced to stand outside as the MCC refuses to accept the legality of the transfer of ownership.

The minister argued that this situation contravened the workers human rights.

“Eighteen civil service employees of Dharubaaruge have to stay out in the sun every day after reporting to work. They can’t enter Dharubaaruge to work. So whether it’s City Council or another institution, they are denying these employees their rights,” Muiz told Sun.

MCC Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem denied that this was the case and said that the MCC had made interim arrangements with the CSC.

“No, they are not waiting outside, they are working at the Housing Ministry. We have arranged a temporary permit with the CSC to use our civil servants in the Dharubaaruge until the legal dispute is resolved,” said Kareem.

Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, Chairman of the CSC said that there was no prospect of Housing Ministry staff gaining access to the building until the MCC had agreed to the transfer and a full inventory of the facilities and equipment had been conducted.

“We have instructed the Ministry of Housing to make arrangements for staff to sign up and go home until the situation with the MCC is dealt with,” said Fahmy, though he was unsure whether these instruction had been carried out.

The legal battle between the MCC and the government continued to smoulder this week as the police, responding to a request from the Home Ministry, requested an order from the Criminal Court to dismantle the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) Usfasgandu protest area.

This area was one of 32 plots of land given over to the MCC as part of the 2010 decentralisation act and was reclaimed by the Housing Ministry on May 9 after its warnings for political activities in the area to cease went unheeded.

After some deliberation, as well as pleas from the MCC, the Criminal Court decided that this Usfasgandu did not fall under its remit, leaving the police to consider its next move.

The Ministry has Housing and Environment was this week renamed the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure following the creation of the Ministry of Environment and Energy.


Housing Ministry accuses MCC of misleading the public in Huravee and Dharubaaruge dispute

The Housing Ministry has accused Male’ City Council (MCC) of misleading the public in laying the blame for potential service disruption following last week’s disputes solely at its door, according to Sun Online.

Last week the MCC was informed by the Housing Ministry that it’s Dharubaaruge staff were to be transferred to the ministry and a day later, that it had to vacate some of its offices in the Huravee building to make way for new government departments.

Following the latter incident, the MCC held a press conference in which it said: “These services [provided at the Huravee site] will be obstructed because of the Housing Ministry’s actions”.

The Housing Ministry rejected the claims made by the MCC that its actions were disrupting the Council’s provision of services.

“Following our request to vacate these premises, City Council told the media that this ministry obstructs public services provided by City Council – which is a purposeful attempt to mislead the public on this issue,” a Ministry statement is reported to have argued.

The Ministry is also reported to have said, “[We] made the request from City Council on two occasions, to hold discussions on the arrangements to be made following the transfer of employees [from Dharubaaruge] to this ministry, but [were] not met with a reasonable response from City Council.”