Nasheed calls for inquiry into MWSC fire

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called for an inquiry into the fire at the Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) on Thursday (December 4) that caused the capital’s ongoing water supply crisis.

“We absolutely need an inquiry, an investigation, right now [in order to find out] how this happened,” the opposition leader said at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally in Haa Alif Dhidhoo last night.

The public should be duly informed about the efforts of the ministerial task force formed by President Abdulla Yameen to resolve the crisis and given a date for resumption of water supply services, he added.

The MWSC cut off water supply in Malé after underground cables connecting the switch room and generator caught fire, causing damage to the reverse osmosis plant used to produce desalinated water.

Nasheed said the Danish government had advised MWSC to keep 21-days worth of water supply in reserve after completing a project to provide water to Malé.

The water crisis was caused by President Yameen appointing “thug activists” to the MWSC after dismissing experienced and qualified staff at the company, Nasheed contended.

The MDP government had a plan to deal with similar situations as well as natural disasters, Nasheed said, asserting that the crisis would have been resolved in 24 hours under his administration.

Of the 2 meters of annual rainfall in the capital, Nasheed observed that less than half was collected for use.

He went on to express gratitude to police and military officers for their efforts in assisting residents of the capital as well as the Indian government for promptly responding to pleas for assistance.

Referring to reports of foreigners denied water at collection points, Nasheed called on President Yameen to apologise to expatriates residing in the capital.

President Yameen’s “biggest failure” was his administration’s foreign policy, he continued, which he said should not be biased in favour of any particular country.

Nasheed also repeated his criticism of President Yameen “ruling in absentia” and called on the president to disclose his alleged health problems to the public.

Briefing the press this morning, Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim urged the opposition to refrain from “politicising” the crisis.

The Maldives Police Service has meanwhile launched an investigation into the fire incident at MWSC. Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed has reportedly tasked a special team with the investigation.

Related to this story

Indian aircraft arrives to ease Malé water crisis

Palm trees used by MDP to curse President Yameen, alleges senior government official

Public should be informed about president’s health, says Nasheed


Haa Alif Dhidhoo hit by ‘Udha’ waves

Dhidhoo, the capital of Haa Alif atoll is being flooded by ‘Udha’ swell waves coming in from the eroded southern side of the island, the island council has said today.

Deputy President of the council Jauhari Ali today said the waves are coming from three eroding areas, one of which is populated densely – with the nearest houses just seven feet from reach of these swells.

“It is an eroding area, the waves have coming in constantly for the past three days, particularly early morning. But since all houses in the area have fence walls the houses are not flooded – but all around the houses the streets are flooded,” he said.

‘Udha’ is a common phenomenon in the Maldives, particularly during the south-west monsoon, and is often associated with changes in ‘Nakaiy’ – the fortnightly intervals of the Maldives’ unique weather calendar.

A local environmentalist familiar with the Nakaiy system said Udha waves are connected to the moon, gravity, and changes in winds and said it is a completely normal natural phenomenon but that it could harm islands which are already eroding.

Jauhari said the groundwater in the area has been affected so badly that many people are not able use the wells which they commonly use for all purposes other than drinking – for which rain water is used.

“People showed us how this is damaging their property. Washing machines and kitchen utensils are damaged as the sea water has affected the [ground] wells.” He said.

Dhidhoo, like many other Maldivian islands, also faces shortage of rain water supply but has not had to request emergency water supplies from the Disaster Management Center this year.

“Some of the houses did run out of water but we managed using [public] water tanks at the Mosque and School. And with this rainy season, we don’t think drinking water will be an issue this year,” explained Jauhari.

Gravity waves

A report from the “Detailed Island Risk Assessment in Maldives” intiative undertaken by the Maldives government in 2010 described Udha as a “gravity wave phenomenon”, suggesting that it is “highly probable” that these waves originate as swell waves from the Southern Indian Ocean which are further fueled by the onset of southwest monsoon during May.

The report also stated that the intensity and impacts of Udha waves are usually very low, with flooding occurring within 10 meters of coastline at less than 0.3 m height above the ground, and is not expected to be a major hazard in the short-term.

“This issue needs to be further explored based on long term wave and climatological data of the Indian Ocean before any specific conclusions can be made,” the report stated.

“However, if the relationship does exists, this phenomena could prove to be a major hazard in the face of climate change since the intensity of southern Indian Ocean winter storms is expected to increase,” it continued.

The impact Udha of waves on the erosion of the islands is one of the biggest of worries on Dhidhoo council.

Deputy President Jauhari said the island has been eroding at a “dangerous level”, with approximately 300-400 feet already taken away from an initial area of approximately 85 hectares, which is home to an estimated 4500 people.

“It is happening all across the southern part of the island except for the newly [in 2010] reclaimed area. And particularly the mid-area and two sides of the south-western beach are affected,” he added, noting that one of the first issues discussed by the newly elected council was resolving the issue of soil erosion.

“As a temporary solution we used put jumbo bags to prevent the area from erosion with help from the public. But now with the south-west monsoon the waves are going over these bags in to the island,” he said

The island and atoll council members visited the area and have discussed finding an immediate solution, Jauhari said.

“Right now the areas is not accessible due to the waves, people cant go in there and put a barrier. And at the moment we do not have any heavy load vehicles here, and no bags either. But we are planning to put bags at the beach now.”

He said the government have also been informed and in response a Maldives Transport and Contracting Company team working in nearby Vashafaru Island was sent to inspect the area.


Haa Alif Atoll councillors allegedly assaulted in Dhidhoo

Haa Alif Atoll councillors were allegedly attacked yesterday by island councillors of Dhidhoo together with a few young men from the island, following a vote of no-confidence against the chair of the atoll council.

An atoll councillor told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that the dispute between the island and atoll councils centered around the vacant residence used by the former Atoll Chiefs.

“The Haa Alif Atoll Province Office gave us the building to stay in because atoll council members were elected from different islands, and we all had to move to Dhidhoo because that is where the atoll council has to hold meetings,” he explained.

The dispute began after island councillors claimed the building for their purposes but were overruled by the Province Office, he said.

“This has been going on for a while,” he said. “While we were staying there with the authorisation of the state, the island councilors broke in and threw us out, and they changed the locks on the doors. Then we had to wait two days without proper sleep, shelter or food.”

The incident led the atoll councillors to move a motion of no-confidence against the chair of the council, who is from Dhidhoo.

“We passed the no-confidence motion and the island councilors came with eight or nine young people in the island and attacked us,” he claimed. “Three of the atoll councillors were injured, but no major injuries were caused.”

Following the incident, he added, atoll councilors were told by the government to move back to their islands until further notice.

“Now all the councilors have moved back to their own islands and we are thinking of ways to conduct our work even while staying in different islands,” he said.

A Dhidhoo island councillor, Abdulla Waheed, however dismissed the allegations and insisted none of the events took place.

Waheed said the atoll councilors were staying in the ‘Atoll House’ unlawfully and claimed that electricity bills had not been paid for the past eight months.

“It is the property of the island council and it has been a month since the atoll councillors were told to hand the building over to the island council because it does not have an adequate place to work,” he said.

The situation in Dhidhoo was “calm and normal” in the wake of the dispute between the councils, he said.


Health Ministry criticises “inhumane treatment” of alleged sex abuse victim

The Ministry of Health and Family has today condemned some islanders on Dhidhoo, Haa Alifu Atoll, for what it has called the “inhumane treatment” of a 13-year old school girl.

The girl in question is an alleged victim of a sexual abuse case involving eight men, including two under the age of 18. The case came to light in April and was under police investigation.

The Health Ministry has hit out at the reported treatment of the girl by members of the local community that have been accused of trying to block her from returning to public education.

“Even if it’s the actions of a few, we are saddened to see that at a time when the girl is already undergoing physical and mental trauma, there are people who attempt to deprive the [alleged victim] of her basic rights and inflict more trauma,” the ministry stated in a press release.

After a long period of absence from public education, the girl attended school yesterday. However, a group of islanders barged into her class and removed her chair in an attempt to get her out of school, according to local news service, Haveeru.

She reportedly remained in class without a chair during the morning, and when she left school at interval time, the same group went and locked the entire building in an attempt to stop her from returning.  Police confirmed that they had “received reports of the closure of the Dhidhoo School” and had later re-opened it.

The school’s role

One local islander, who wished to use a false name to protect her identity, told Minivan News that there had been concerns about the alleged victim’s return to her school.

“Most islanders object to the fact that she is able to go back, while the school goers among the male suspects involved in the case are barred from [attending],” said Aiminath Sheenaz,18, a resident of the island.

Sheenaz said that when the abuse case first came to light, after a couple of days the girl did attend school. However, she added that disturbances created by some islanders had led to her staying home.

“The Ministry of Education informed the school to take her back that’s why she was in school yesterday,” Sheenaz claimed.

The principal of Dhidhoo school, Hussain Badheeu, was not answering calls when contacted by Minivan News and was unable to confirm the reports.

However, according to the press release published by the Health Ministry, the school had asked the alleged victim’s parents not to send her to back until the investigation was complete.

“When this ministry became aware of this, we contacted the relevant authorities and requested they facilitate her return to school,” the release stated.   “Education is a basic right, and after concluding the alleged victim is not at fault for what happened, the Ministry of Education asked the school to take her back.”

Islanders Attitudes

Despite the ministry’s verdict, Sheenaz said that some islanders believed it remains unfair that the alleged perpetrators can’t attend school.

“It was consensual. She did all that, fornicated with so many men,” she added.

Although being closer in age to the alleged victim, Sheenaz claimed she was also convinced of the 13 year old’s “willing participation” in these acts, adding that this was the prevailing belief of most islanders also. When the eight men suspected of having involvement with the case were first arrested, a group of islanders protested and called on the police to release the group that resulted in clashes.

Asked if attitudes about the case were likely to change in the future if the court case went on to prove that the male suspects had sexually abused the girl, Sheenaz was adamant that it would be impossible.

“A lot of people have given assurances that the girl agreed to the sexual acts,” she said.  The fact that these assurances apparently originate from the alleged suspects themselves does not seem to make a difference to these attitiudes.

The President of Dhidhoo council declined to comment on the issue when contacted by Minivan News.

However, it is believed that both the suspects and the victim are presently living on the same island at present.  Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that the suspects implicated in the case were freed after a court had ordered their release.

The sub-inspector added that the investigation had now been completed, with the case expected to be sent to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office very soon.

Shiyam said that the reported disturbance that occured in Dhidhoo concerning the case would be investigated and action taken against anyone who threatens fellow members of the public.

The Health Ministry has also bemoaned the lack of organisations such as NGOs advocating the rights of the alleged victim or voicing concern about the treatment she has received on her island.

“Actions like this by the public – hindering the girl from attending school –  even if it involves [a few people], encourages perpetrators of similar crimes to repeatedly offend,” said the ministry press release.  “We call upon everyone to stand up against injustice like this and work towards protecting the rights of the victims.”

Official police figures given to Minivan News this week indicated that a total of 163 sexual abuse cases were reported last year.  By comparison, the same statistics also revealed that 108 sexual abuse cases had been reported up to the end of May 2011.

According to these figures, 30 of these cases allegedly involved victims aged between two to 12 years.