Maldivian judge re-elected for second term on UN anti-torture subcommittee

Maldives Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon Mohamed has been re-elected to the UN subcommittee on the prevention of torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment.

Shujoon was first elected for the sub-committee in 2010 and won re-election by winning 63 of the 70 valid ballots cast at a vote held in Geneva.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon congratulated Judge Shujune, saying that the re-election “is a true testament to Judge Shujune’s performance in the sub-committee, her integrity and conviction.”

Shujoon is one of the founding members of the Maldives Detainee Network – now the Maldives Democracy Network – as well as being outspoken on issues of bribery within the judiciary.

The 20 member UN subcommittee works with governments to prevent torture and makes unannounced visits to prisons and detention centres to ensure detainees are not being mistreated.

Late last year, the Maldives passed its first anti-torture legislation. The Anti-Torture Act declares freedom from torture as a fundamental right, penalises torture, ensures respect for human rights of criminal suspects, and prohibits torture in state custody.


President Waheed appoints housing, environment ministers

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has appointed Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as Islamic Minister, and Dr Mohamed Muiz as Environment Minister.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s daughter, Dhunya Maumoon, was also appointed State Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Sheikh Shaheem was ranked one of the world’s top 500 most influential Muslims in 2010 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISC) in the Kingdom of Jordan.

He resigned from his post as State Minister of Islamic Affairs under former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government, in December 2010.

His resignation followed the burning of the Israeli flag in Republic Square over opposition to a visiting delegation of Israeli eye surgeons, whom Islamic NGOs had accused of coming to the Maldivies to illegally harvest organs. Shaheem was one of the speakers at the event, along with current Vice President of Gayoom’s Progressive Party of he Maldives (PPM), Umar Naseer, voicing anger at the acceptance of aid from Israel.

Former Press Secretary for Nasheed, Mohamed Zuhair, told Minivan News at the time that in light of a recent number of protests against government policy allegedly involving Shaheem, “it was possible that the State Minister may have decided his position was untenable”.

Sheikh Shaheem was subsequently employed as a lecturer at Villa College, owned by Jumhoree Party (JP) MP and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

Shaheem has been an outspoken proponent of the study of comparative religion at higher secondary level, stating that “it is important for both Muslims and non-Muslims to compare their religions and cultures, and to compare philosophies.”

However he also warned against a move by the Education Ministry to make Islam and Dhivehi optional at higher secondary level.

Presenting himself as the face of moderate Islam in the Maldives, in early 2010 he became the first Islamic scholar from the Ministry to visit the UK with a government delegation.

He attended discussions on counter-terrorism with a range of relevant authorities, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Cabinet Office, Home Office and heads of counter-terrorism in the Justice Ministry, and met with Abbas Faiz of Amnesty International.

“The main objective was to discuss rapidly growing concerns around extremism and terrorism with relevant stakeholders in the UK,” Shaheem told Minivan News at the time: “There was a lot of discussion on ideas, such as how to fight ideologies and radical ideas. It was a very nice trip.”

More recently, he was accused of sexual misconduct in a video broadcast by Raajje TV, although the allegations were never clarified as Raajje TV claimed the station could not release further footage “in the interest of public decency”.

Shaheem responded at the time that he did “not wish to comment on matters regarding my private life while I am waiting for evidence. I will issue my comment when the time is appropriate.”

Cabinet appointments

All but a few of the cabinet ministers remain to be appointed by President Dr Waheed, and will need approval from parliament when it resumes on March 1.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused Dr Waheed of replacing the cabinet with mostly Gayoom supporters and senior opposition figures, particularly to the positions of Defence Minister (Mohamed Nazim), Police Commissioner (Abdulla Riyaz), Youth/Human Resources Ministry (Mohamed ‘Mundu’ Shareef, Gayoom’s spokesperson), Attorney General (Azima Shukoor, Gayoom’s lawyer), and Home Minister (DQP member Dr Mohamed Jameel).

Dr Waheed has dismissed the claims as misleading, saying that “Anything other than President Mohamed Nasheed’s government is now being painted as the old government, as a return to the old regime. In this country most of us grew up and got education during the last 33 years, and most of the well educated people in this country worked in government. The government was the biggest employer in the country and continues to be so.

“Therefore don’t be surprised that some people served in President Gayoom’s government. That doesn’t mean that anyone seen in the last 33 years has allegiance to a particular person. This is a very narrow way of looking at it. If you look at cabinet you can see I have been very careful in my selections.”


PPM to submit more than 3000 forms to EC in next two days

“Surprisingly more people than expected” have signed up to the former President’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), the party’s spokesperson and MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News today, adding that the required number of 3000 had been reached.

The PPM has been conducted a recruitment drive to obtain the 3000 signatures needed to officially form the party before the Elections Commission. Signatories are legally required to withdraw their membership from other political parties, such as the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), for the new membership to be valid.

“Currently we are doing the work of arranging the forms in order, re-checking the filled forms to see whether all the forms are filled correctly and entering the data and filing the forms in our office,’’ Nihan said. ‘’It will not take long before we submit the forms to the Elections Commission (EC), but because the commission will dismiss any form filled incorrectly or forms with missing information, we are just double checking and preparing them for submission.”

Nihan said the party expected to submit the forms tomorrow or Tuesday.

“On the 8th of this month the commission authorised us to commence work to find the 3000 signatures, and the next day was supposed to be the day we officially began recruitment,” he explained, “but then the Hiriya incident occurred and we took four days to mourn and postponed all the work.’’

Nihan said the number of people signing up for the PPM was so many “because there are figures in the party who have gained the confidence of citizens.”

“We have former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and other senior figures of the former government who have served the nation for 30 years, and they have brought much development to the country and there are many people who love them,” he said, adding that all such people were joining PPM.

Nihan said that PPM’s policy was to allow youth to progress, and to “always give high priority to the voice of the citizens.”

“In this battle we will bring forward the citizens and all we will give opportunities for the young persons in our party to progress,’’ he said. ‘’We are knocking on the doors of people who think it is time to bring a change in their lives.’’

When former President Gayoom announced that he was about to register a new party in the name of Progressive Party of the Maldives, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that he would doubted whether Gayoom’s party would attracted enough people form a Friday prayer group – minimum of 40.

Seven MPs in the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) resigned to form the new party after claiming disillusionment with the party’s leadership.


Foreign minister of Sri Lanka visits former president

Foreign minister of Sri Lanka Professor G L Peeris has visited former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s official residence Maafannu Aliwaage.

Leader of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and former foreign minister and leader of DRP women’s wing Dhunya Maumoon participated in the meeting.

Two senior officials of the Sri Lankan foreign ministry and MP Sajin Gunavarudhana also attended the meeting.