Coalition leaders campaigning for independent candidates

Leaders of the ruling coalition are campaigning for independent candidates in constituencies where the parties in the Progressive Coalition have fielded candidates, online news outlet CNM reports.

Former President Dr Mohamed Waheed – who joined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in December – has participated in campaign activities for his sister-in-law, Ifham Hussain, who is contesting as an independent candidate for the Hanimadhoo constituency.

The official coalition candidate for the Hanimadhoo constituency is Hussain Shahudhy from the Jumhooree Party (JP).

A JP campaign official expressed concern with Dr Waheed’s campaigning for a rival candidate, alleging that the former president drove around the island with the independent candidate last night in government vehicles.

Waheed has also been campaigning for the Adhaalath Party’s candidate for Haa Dhaal Nolhivram, former State Minister for Home Affairs Abdulla Mohamed.

The Nolhivaram constituency was reserved for the JP in the coalition’s seat allocation deal.

Aneesa Ahmed, a PPM council member, has meanwhile been campaigning for Adhaalath Party candidate Anara Naeem in Haa Dhaal Makunudhoo, another constituency assigned for the JP.

JP Secretary General Dr Mohamed Saud however told CNM that the party was not concerned with Dr Waheed or Aneesa’s campaigning.

“The head of the coalition is President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom]. So it is President Maumoon who will talk on behalf of the coalition as its most senior leader. I don’t know the reason why they are acting contrary to how President Maumoon says,” he was quoted as saying.

Neither Dr Waheed nor Aneesa was available for comment.

Leaders of the coalition parties have meanwhile been urging independent candidates to withdraw and endorse coalition candidates.


Malé City Council to bring back 24 hour shops and cafes

Malé City Council has decided to bring back the 24 hour service at cafes and shops, seventeen months after it was banned by Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government.

The proposition was passed unanimously by nine members present at yesterday’s council meeting (March 18), though the government has suggested that it does not have the authority to make such decisions.

Councilman Shamau Shareef said that the council decision came in response to a number of request from Malé City residents.

“This is what the people want. The former government discontinued the permissions to operate such places citing criminal activity and instability in the city. But now we have an elected government, and we think it should be reconsidered now,” said Shamau.

He noted that council have now been tasked with issuing trade permits for the city and it is in the council’s mandate under the Decentralisation Act to address this issue.

But the Ministry of Economic Development has today said that the issuing of trade permits was delegated to the council under a memorandum of understand with the ministry, which does not allow issuing 24 hour license.

“The government decided to end the running of 24 hour businesses. From that point the procedure for issuing trade permits were changed. City council have been tasked with issuing permits under those procedures,” the ministry’s Director General Usman Shakir was quoted as saying in Haveeru.

Shakir said that the government has not yet changed it’s position on allowing 24 hour businesses, and warned that the ministry will take action if any such permission is issued.

Responding to the ministry’s statement Councilman Shamau said that there are “some barriers” in implementing the decision, but the council is willing to overcome these issues by discussing it with the ministry.

“We will do whatever it takes. This is the capital city, and there are 24 hours ferries operating, people coming from other islands, people are working round the clock. There should be some way for them to eat or buy things they need. We are talking about basic necessities of the people,” he said.

President Mohamed Nasheed’s government decided to issue permits for 24 hour businesses in December 2010. After the change in government, Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration in October 2012 decided to put an end to these opening hours.

The ministry’s official reason for decision was national security concerns. There was a high level of concern about increasing rates at the time, particularly with political instability and the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali within the same month.

While it is not known whether the decision had any positive impact in reducing crime rates, the parliamentary national security committee at the time suggested impact it had was negative.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party at the time described the decision as an attack against small and medium businesses which ‘left thousands of people unemployed’. Resuming the permits was an election pledge of the party’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed in 2013.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives was at the time a coalition member of the government, and President Abdulla Yameen was elected as president, the party has maintained support for the ban on 24 hours businesses.

When the permits were revoked in 2012 there were forty four businesses with permit in Malé city, now all shops have to be closed at 11pm and all cafes at 1am.


Gayoom commends Yameen’s efforts to improve strained Indo-Maldives relations

Leader of the the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has commended President Abdulla Yameen’s efforts to improve strained bilateral relations with India.

Speaking to local news agency Haveeru, Gayoom said the president’s official visit to India from 23-25 December will be a successful one and that he hopes India will make some “good arrangements” regarding issues of concern for Maldivians. He noted that he himself has talked on such issues with Indian officials he met, and that Maldivians need to lend a “friendly hand” to India.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation for the visit came in reply to a letter reassuring the strengthening of relations with India under the new administration.

Meanwhile, Minister of Defense and National Security Colonel (ret.) Mohamed Nazim along with a senior military delegation is on an official visit to India, responding to an invitation from his Indian counterpart Mr A.K. Anthony.

According to the Ministry, Nazim will discuss Indian assistance in developing the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), the Senahiya Military Hospital, and for “boosting up” investments started with India’s help.

Defense cooperation between both countries was highlighted during the meeing. Four Indian military ships have visited and conducted joint military exercises in the Maldives within the past three months, whilst Indian newspaper “The Hindu” reports that India will gift a second Advanced Lightweight Helicopter (ALH) during Nazim’s current visit.

The two defense ministers discussed increasing cooperation between the armed forces of both countries and  advancing medical facilities and expertise in the MNDF through training medical specialists and assigning Indian Armed Forces medical specialists. Indian defense minister announced that all MNDF personnel will now be eligible for treatment in Armed Forces medical institutions in India for major surgeries and for treatment of major and serious illnesses.

Under Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration – in which President Yameen’s PPM was a coalition member – bilateral relations with India were heavily damaged, particularly following the premature cancellation of Indian Infrastructure company GMR’s $511 million airport project in 2012.

A number of issues that might have affected the relations were highlighted by India, among them exploitation of Indian workers, discrimination, reopening of cases relating to sentenced Indian prisoners, visa fees charged from Indians, and the issue of dependent visa for old parents of Indian employees.

India later imposed restrictions in issuing medical visas for Maldivians, an issue Gayoom hopes will be resolved with the President’s first official trip overseas.


Presidents use Victory Day to warn against modern-day traitors

Presidents past and present have extended greetings to the people of the Maldives in celebration of Victory Day – the occasion commemorating the failed 1988 coup.

The attempt to overthrow the government of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom by Maldivian dissidents and Tamil mercenaries was repelled by a combination of the Maldives National Defense Force and Indian troops.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed paid tribute to the those who fought to defend the nation on that day, taking advantage of the occasion to stress the importance of national unity and the danger of foreign interference.

“Similarly, this is the time for us to find solutions to issues faced by us. We must resolve our issues ourselves. We must not let any foreign party to interfere and have their say in our affairs.”

“We must always remember that giving that opportunity to foreigners could negatively affect our independence and sovereignty, and we may have to face further harms,” said a President’s Office statement.

Meanwhile, local media quoted former President Gayoom as using the occasion to warn against the danger of traitors still present within the country, calling on Maldivians to be be wary of similar schemes threatening the nation today.

Police Commisioner Abdulla Riyaz yesterday revealed that documents concerning the coup could be declassified from today – 25 years after the incident – though he said a  decision was yet to be made on the way in which they would be made public.


Week in review: October 12 – 25

The past fortnight has been dominated by the build up to, and the fallout from, the re-scheduled presidential elections. Due to take place on October 19, the poll was delayed at the eleventh hour when police blocked the removal of documents from the Elections Commission (EC).

The police’s decision – later criticised by the Human Rights Commission as well as the EC – came after the EC had been unable to obtain the signatures of the candidates as mandated by the Supreme Court for the completion of the voter registry.

Both Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) candidates had broken off contact with the EC, just as the commission neared completion of a frantic drive to re-register over 70,000 voters in less than two weeks.

The EC’s efforts were further placed in jeopardy by the court’s maintenance that any concerns regarding fingerprint verification must be addressed – a task that the commission maintained was beyond its capacity.

Re-registration was made harder still when PPM and supporters of its coalition ally the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) caused chaos in the re-registration queues after a systems malfunction. The police were again criticised by the EC for failing to come to its aid in a timely manner, with Chair Fuwad Thowfeek (fore-)telling Minivan News “there are people who want to block this vote”.

The police subsequently defended its role in delaying the election.

JP and PPM officials re-surfaced in the afternoon prior to the polling date to state that they would not sign the register without further verification – of 10 and 5 percent of fingerprints, respectively – before both parties returned to the Supreme Court, requesting the further delay of polls.

When the court failed to accede to these requests, the police obliged, prompting the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to take to the streets in a peaceful sit-down protest that covered the length of Male’s main thoroughfare and beyond. In a rousing speech MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed vowed to “establish good governance in the Maldives”.

Two nights of these protests followed, as did meetings between the EC and political parties, before the election was moved to November 9 – with a potential run-off scheduled for the 16th. The Supreme Court, however, has already deemed that its prior guidelines must be followed to the letter.

After deciding to withdraw his own candidacy for the new poll, President Waheed publicly expressed his doubt over credibility of the scheduled October 19 vote.  Waheed also stated his refusal to acknowledge the five percent vote he had received in the first (annulled) poll.

In his latest foray into Maldivian politics, British businessman Richard Branson revealed this week that he had been on the verge of writing to Waheed to congratulate him on his handling of the democratic process before the vote’s deferral.

Waheed’s calls, the day before the scheduled vote, for parties to cease obstructing polling fell on deaf ears, as have his calls for conciliation. Waheed suggested to Indian media that he would threaten to resign if necessary, a sentiment strongly supported by Nasheed.

Fierce rhetoric has refused to abate in the aftermath of the cancelled vote, with the two presidential coalitions launching attacks on the EC, after having focused on one another prior to the 19th.

JP presidential candidate and MP Gasim Ibrahim called for the Majlis to declare a state of emergency in order to pursue criminal charges against the EC and Chair Fuwad Thowfeek – whose superhuman efforts prompted an outpouring of support from the public.

Meanwhile, the prospect of the court invalidating Nasheed’s candidacy altogether remains on the table as PPM council member Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed refused to defer to the requests of his leaders and withdraw his court case.

The MDP – who now enjoy a Majlis majority with the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – tabled multiple no-confidence motions against senior cabinet members, as well as legislation to ensure the orderly transition of power from the executive to the speaker should the presidential term end (on November 11) without a successor having been chosen.

This flurry of activity in the legislature prompting the Supreme Court to fast-track the suspension of two MPs on charges of decreed debt.


Aside from the elections, the police received continued criticism from Raajje TV regarding the station’s arson attack, with its chairman seeking international assistance to find the perpetrators.

One officer who failed to return from accompanying the ballot box to the UK was caught out on social media as he tweeted about his attendance at Arsenal’s Champions League game this week.

Following a suicide in Male’ in a location frequented by drug users, the National Drug Agency warned of a potentially lethal drug in circulation.

Finally, global climate justice NGO told Minivan News this week that the recent IPCC report only strengthened the world’s need for climate justice advocates such as former President Nasheed.


PPM accuses JP of backing MDP, claims any vote for Gasim “a waste”

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has suggested that Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim is “stuck” under the influence of advisers sympathetic to his political rivals.

Speaking to local media yesterday, PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen’s election agent suggested that former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members within the JP were working to bring former President Mohamed Nasheed back to power.

“Lately we haven’t seen any campaigning from Gasim. Or Gasim pitching his policies or manifesto. All we’re seeing him do is complain and launch attacks against rival candidates,” Abdulla Ameen told local media.

After both the PPM and the JP had mooted the idea of backing a single anti-Nasheed candidate in the upcoming vote, it was revealed by local media yesterday that the parties could not agree on a candidate.

Whilst the JP were said to have favoured incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed as the sole candidate, Yameen was reported to have rejected the proposal.

Campaigning for the presidential elections resumed in earnest last week after the Supreme Court scheduled a new date for the first round, annulling the previous poll held on September 7.

The court’s investigation of potentially fraudulent voting was initiated by Gasim’s JP after it finished in third place, just 2,677 votes behind the PPM.

Ameen yesterday predicted that Gasim would again fail to reach the run-off in Saturday’s re-scheduled election, branding any vote cast for the JP candidate “a waste”.

Current JP President Ibrahim Didi – formerly president of the MDP – has dismissed the PPM’s claims.

“It’s not true,” he explained, “But the reality is that the majority of members of JP don’t support PPM leadership in their policies.”

Didi left the MDP in acrimonious circumstances shortly after Nasheed’s controversial resignation in February 2012.

MP Alhan Fahmy left the MDP at the same time after both he and Didi were accused of making statements contrary to the MDP’s official position that the February transfer of power had amounted to a coup.

Fahmy has since returned to the MDP, as has former JP member Abdulla Jabir – both of whom have a history of party switching.

Gasim and Nasheed met last month to discuss matters of national interest and the maintenance of stability and public order.

Speculation regarding potential coalitions would prove premature following the court’s recent verdict, though when asked following the pair’s meeting Gasim stated that he bore no personal animosity towards any other candidates.

Nasheed meanwhile said that Gasim was “a family friend since childhood” who has offered good advice and counsel throughout the years.

The JP were initially aligned with the MDP following Nasheed’s victory over 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in the 2008 presidential election.

The coalition lasted just a few months, with the JP later going on to form part of the ‘December 23’ coalition which led months of protest calling for the protection of Islam against the so-called irreligious policies of Nasheed’s government.

After subsequent unrest preceded a police mutiny and Nasheed’s resignation, the JP went on to form part of Dr Mohamed Waheed’s national unity government.

Waheed last week opted to withdraw from the re-scheduled election after receiving just five percent of the popular vote in the initial poll last month.


UK MPs highlight “deteriorating situation” in the Maldives

An early day motion has been tabled in the UK Parliament calling upon the House of Commons to support the UN secretary general’s call for a “credible and peaceful second round of voting” in the Maldives.

The motion, sponsored by MP Grahame Morris, also called upon members of the House of Commons to declare that it “condemns those who are seeking to prevent President Mohamed Nasheed from participating in any future elections in the Maldives; further condemns the perpetrators of the arson attack that destroyed the opposition-supporting Raaje TV station in Male’; and demands that the authorities take all necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Attempts to disqualify Nasheed’s candidacy – reportedly now backed by the religious Adhaalath Party – have already been criticised by incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

Rarely debated on the floor of the house, early day motions are used as a way to publicise topics of interest to certain MPs, with fellow members invited to add their name to the motion.

Robert Buckland MP this week also asked the leader of the house if time could be made available in the commons’ schedule for discussion of the current political crisis in the Maldives.

“May we find time for an urgent debate on the deteriorating situation in the Maldives, where the first round of a presidential election has been annulled and it is feared the authorities are trying to obstruct the return to power of President Nasheed, who was ousted in a coup last year and who clearly won an election that was described by international observers as free and fair?”

Leader of the House Andrew Lansley assured Buckland that he would request the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to brief the house on the current situation during the next oral question session, if not earlier – the next FCO question time is scheduled for October 29.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the first round of voting earlier this week, UK Foreign Minister William Hague called upon the government of the Maldives to respect the democratic process, and to create conditions for a free and fair poll.

“It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections be free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited,” said Hague.

The United Kingdom remains one of the Maldives tourism industry’s biggest markets, although recent arrival figures show negative growth of a fall of  -6.4%  in UK arrivals this year when compared with 2012.

The FCO updated its travel advisory for the Maldives after growing unrest following the delaying of polls.

The guidance urged visitors to keep away from demonstrations: “There is no indication at present that any political unrest will affect tourist resorts or airports, but if you have any concerns you should check with your hotel or tour operator,” the statement read.

Voting for the rescheduled first round will begin at 7:30am on Saturday, October 19 and polls will be closed at 4:00pm, the Elections Commission announced at a press conference last night.


Thasmeen to stick with Nasheed in re-scheduled poll

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has today announced his intention to maintain his new alliance with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) going into the re-scheduled presidential elections.

After running as the vice-presidential candidate on the ticket of incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed, Thasmeen and his DRP announced their decision to support Mohamed Nasheed in the scheduled run-off just days after Waheed received just 5% of the popular vote.

“I believe that it would be an irresponsible and cowardly act to back away from doing what must be done to ensure that democracy is upheld in this country due to some words I might have said in the past. And therefore, tonight I assure all of you that DRP will do everything we possibly can to help Nasheed win these elections,” Thasmeen told an MDP rally one week after the first poll.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the first round of voting, Thasmeen told local media today of his intention to continue his MDP alliance.

Waheed has yet to announce if he will run as a candidate in the upcoming election – with the first round to be held by October 20.


Week in review: September 27- October 4

This week began with the Elections Commission meeting to decide if it was to go ahead with the scheduled run-off on Saturday (September 28). After police demonstrated their intention to stop the vote by force, the EC declared that it could not hold polls under such circumstances.

The decision to delay, however, did not prevent the EC’s members receiving multiple death threats, prompting requests for police assistance.

Whilst EC advisor Judge Johann Kriegler held a public lecture regarding the importance of collective belief in a successful election, legal experts in the country explained to Minivan News that the Supreme Court’s rulings had left the country in a legal void.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) began what they hoped would be a pre-election rally from the south side of Male’, which turned into a stand-off with police in the streets surrounding the Supreme Court. Following news of the delay, Mohamed Nasheed’s supporters have demonstrated in the same area for seven consecutive nights.

After some reflection, the MDP’s leadership announced its determination to establish a “people’s government” should a new president not be sworn in by the end of incumbent Dr Mohamed Waheed’s term on November 11.

Waheed, after calling for national calm whilst the Supreme Court deliberates, hosted his former boss Nasheed at Muleeage – the pair’s first meeting since the February 2012 transfer of power.

The remainder of Waheed’s address to the nation was largely concerned with warning the state’s warring institutions about foreign actors who may take advantage of such disharmony. His fears were no doubt stoked by the remarks made on social media by former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, who had suggested that resolution of the Maldives’ current crisis may require some form of foreign assistance.

Whilst Waheed stayed away from the UN General Assembly this week, Acting Foreign Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela was in attendance, warning the group’s members against attempts to interfere in “the emergence of an indigenous democratic system of governance in the Maldives”. Shakeela’s comments came just days after the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) expressed concern at recent developments during its biannual meeting.

Unrest within the security forces became apparent this week, as a number of leaked letters from current and former military personnel revealed concerns over the potential politicisation of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). Authorities have responded with stricter internal regulations and a number of suspensions, as well as blasting media outlets for reporting the leaked letters.

The Maldives Media Council announced its intention to file a no-confidence motion in parliament against the country’s broadcast regulator, as well as accusing the EC of favouring certain outlets.

The Indian High Commission this week revealed its own lack of confidence in multiple Maldivian state institutions, whom it accused of being complicit in the mistreatment of hundreds of its workers.

The country’s political deadlock has threatened to spread to the economy as port workers flexed their collective muscles in order to send a message to the government regarding the delayed vote. Reports of strikes by air traffic controllers and ground handling staff at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) were played down by management.

Customs workers also held strikes on Thursday – citing long term workplace grievances – and have given management one week to address their demands .

Calls for tourism workers striking last week failed to result in significant incident, though Minivan News was informed of the partisan political atmosphere in Irufushi which has resulted in numerous dismissals at the resort.

Travel advisories in a number of significant markets, including China and the UK, were updated this week to warn of growing instability.

The MDP’s supposed run-off opponents, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) took advantage of the lack of activity in the Supreme Court to call for the removal from parliament of MDP MPs who had criticised the court’s recent rulings. The Home Ministry has announced it is investigating both Transparency Maldives and the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) for similar offences.

The PPM also called for the resumption of Nasheed’s stalled trial regarding the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, and the quick resolution of the Dr Afrasheem Ali murder case. Police this week forwarded a further four names to the Prosecutor General for their alleged involvement of the late PPM MP’s killing.