Week in review: August 24-30

August 24-30, 2013

The week began with stormy seas across the Maldives – two boats were sunk around Male’ and a typhoon reported in Shaviyani Atoll. Maldivian bodyboarders competing in Australia found conditions far easier, however, impressing judges and winning prizes in the Jeff Wilcox Memorial. The PPM also enjoyed smooth sailing, winning the Nolhivaram island council by-election and predicting an easy ride to the presidency, barring “major incidents” on polling day.

The PPM were soon headed back into the choppy waters of the presidential election campaign. After repeated criticism of the Elections Commission (EC), one party member took it upon himself to file a case in the Supreme Court requesting an audit of the EC’s IT software, and a greater role for the military in the upcoming poll. EC commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek had previously given Minivan News a comprehensive analysis of how polling would occur on election day.

Insisting that the senior party official had filed the case in a personal capacity, the official business of the PPM campaign continued in the atolls, with candidate Abdulla Yameen asking the people of Kudahuvadhoo the value of development without peace. The head of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) this week described state spending as “beyond appropriate”, despite having cancelled all state financed development earlier this year. Yameen’s comments were likely prompted by the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) unveiling of a detailed manifesto involving 137 development projects, with more than half focused on giving city status to Fuvahmulah – the country’s only one-island atoll.

The MDP were not without their own pre-election concerns, however, alleging that ongoing prosecutions against senior party members were tantamount to campaign obstruction. The party was equally suspicious of the ability of a Commonwealth’s security expert to control the police force. The Commonwealth also announced the names of its 17 member observer group this week.

It was the turn of the running mates to debate policy on Television Maldives as the state broadcaster’s election coverage builds towards the upcoming leader debate. Despite criticism of TVM’s recent interview style, the Jumhoree Party confirmed that leader Gasim Ibrahim would still be taking part. The journalist behind Gasim’s prior inquisition this week received death threats. Meanwhile, the JP was forced to defend itself from opposition claims that its leader was using his vast personal wealth to buy votes.

Tensions continued to rise in the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) this week, doing little to allay Transparency Maldives’ fears that the integrity of the country’s courts was being eroded. These fears will not have been allayed by the upholding of a former Civil Court judge’s sentence for having sex in public.

In Singapore, the GMR group won an early victory in the tribunal investigating the early termination of the INIA airport development deal. The practical impact of another terminated foreign investment venture – the Nexbis border control system – remained unclear. The future of four Palestinian refugees in the Maldives was resolved – the group passed through the airport and immigration for the final time after being granted asylum in Sweden.

Finally, former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed was blocked from carrying out his role as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights by Iranian officials. Dr Shaheed’s former position was left vacant this week after the death of Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla. President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan described the loss as a national tragedy.


Maldivian Foreign Minister dies during treatment in Singapore

Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla has died during treatment after undergoing kidney dialysis at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

The 67 year-old died during treatment at 1:05am Male’ time on Sunday morning, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Dr Samad was first admitted to intensive care on August 20 in a critical condition after suffering a severe heart attack. The 67 year-old had undergone heart bypass surgery 15 years ago.

On Thursday the Foreign Ministry reported that Dr Samad’s condition appeared to have stabilised, although he remained in intensive care in a state of induced unconsciousness after undergoing dialysis.

“On behalf of the Government and people of the Maldives, and on his own behalf, President Waheed extends his heartfelt condolences, at this time of national tragedy, to the family of the late Dr Abdul Samad,” read a statement from the President’s Office.

“The President recognises Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla’s sincere services to the government and the people of Maldives, especially as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, in strengthening diplomatic relations with other countries,” the statement added.

Dr Samad has served in numerous roles for both the Maldives Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

He has also served as the first High Commissioner of the Republic of Maldives to the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh and was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in March 2012, by President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s new government.

Dr Samad’s funeral will take place in Singapore after Zuhr (afternoon) prayers. Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen will attend the funeral, reports local media.

Dr Samad is survived by wife Ameena Ali and three children.


Foreign Minister visits India

Foreign Minister Dr Adbul Samad Abdullah yesterday travelled to India on an official visit to meet with his Indian counterpart, Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna.

India was one of the first states to recognise the new President, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, after the resignation of Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed is reported to be planning a trip to India to meet with politicians later in the month.

India has offered both diplomatic and material assistance to the Maldives since the events of February 7, brokering a multi-party plan that was intended to lead to new elections, as well as offering to replace police vehicles destroyed during the unrest.

The Defence Minister, Mohamed Nazim met with Indian military officials earlier in the week to discuss greater military coordination between the Maldives and its northern neighbour.