PPM threatens to leave govt coalition if Tourism Minister Adheeb is dismissed

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has threatened to leave the government coalition if Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb is sacked from the cabinet by President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

According to local media reports, PPM MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla alleged at a press conference today that the resignation of State Minister for Tourism Mariyam Mizna Shareef – daughter of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Spokesperson Ibrahim Shareef – was part of “a scheme” by the DRP and President Waheed to dismiss Adheeb.

Mizna resigned citing the “unacceptable” manner that the ministry was run by Adheeb, who was elected deputy leader of the PPM earlier this year.

MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla claimed that Mizna’s allegations would be used as a pretext to remove Adheeb.

“If Adheeb is dismissed, it is very likely that a proposal would be made to the PPM council to decide whether to remain in the government coalition,” he was quoted as saying in newspaper Haveeru.


Maafushi Prison inmates petition president over poor conditions

Inmates in Maafushi prison have petitioned President Dr Mohamed Waheed over poor conditions in the prison.

In the petition, the inmates stated that there were people in the prison sentenced to be incarcerated for more than 100 years, calling for the chance to reintegrate into society.

According to the petition, the inmates alleged they were being deprived from basic human rights guaranteed by the constitution, regulations made under the constitution and international treaties the Maldives had signed.

The inmates said that some of the cells were so small there was no space to kneel towards the Qibla during prayer time. They complained they had been able to perform Friday prayers for the past four years and had not been provided with healthy food and clean water.

According to the petition, the daily amount spent on food for each inmate had dropped from MVR95 (US$6.16) to just MVR35 (US$2.26).

The inmates called on Dr Waheed to take urgent measures to ensure food and clean water were provided in the cells.

‘’There are inmates who have serious medical conditions, who are advised by doctors to take medication accordingly, but the prison officers are not providing them the medical treatment as asked by the doctors,’’ the petition stated.

The inmates referred to one incident in which an inmate identified as Mohamed Ibrahim of Seenu Hithadhoo was refused medical treatment, which allegedly resulted in his appendix bursting inside his stomach while he was in the cell.

The petition also claimed that when inmates travelled to Male’ by sea, they were handcuffed to the back of the vessel with no prison officer on standby, which was against safety regulations.

The inmates also claimed that prison officers had banned inmates from marrying another inmate.

The inmates said they regretted remarks by former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel alleging that inmates were homosexual, and alleged the banning of marriages in prison was intended to force inmates into homosexuality.

The petition called on the state to allow inmates to marrying inmates of the opposite sex ,and to fix issues the Maafushi Prison.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told Minivan News that the office had not received the petition.


US calls for Maldives to address rights abuses, lift restrictions on religious freedom

The Maldivian government’s respect for freedom of religion has declined in the past year, according to the US State Department’s 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom.

The report highlighted “increasing reports of abuses of religious freedom, religious intolerance and governmental restriction of religious freedom and pressure to conform to a stricter interpretation of Islamic practices” in the Maldives.

The report concluded these concerns were especially relevant after the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

The US State Department said it had emphasised during regular missions to the Maldivian government the importance of the right to religious freedom. It detailed that “the embassy advocated for the right of all residents of the country to practice the religion of their choice, and encouraged efforts to promote religious tolerance.”

Pointing out that the Constitution of the Maldives and other laws and regulations restricted freedom of religion, the report found the government to have enforced these in practice.

“The law prohibits citizens’ practice of any religion other than Islam and requires the government to exert control over all religious matters, including the practice of Islam. There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief or practice,” the findings reported.

“There was an increasing trend among political leaders to call for greater limits on religious groups and activities. There was an increasing use of religion in political rhetoric, which led to derogatory statements about Christianity and Judaism, and harassment of citizens calling for a more tolerant interpretation of Islam. Anti-Semitic rhetoric among conservative parties continued.”

The report added that according to government records, all 350,800 citizens are required to be Muslim, with the majority of this number practicing Sunni Islam. Non-Muslim visitors to the country are only allowed to practice their religion in private, it added.

Increasing abuse of religious freedom

The US issued study claimed there was also an increase in reports of abuse of religious freedom, ranging from detention of individuals to pressure to conform to a stricter interpretation of the religion.

Pointing out that conversion to Islam from another religion can lead to the rescinding of the convert’s citizenship, the report stated that no such incidences were reported in 2012.

“The government subjected individuals who made public calls for religious tolerance to extended extrajudicial police detention”, the US State Department said in the report.  It added that the government had also “deported individuals found with Christian images” while detaining “several individuals for periods of several weeks on charges of ‘anti Islamic’ behaviour before releasing or deporting them”.

The report found that the government continued to control all religious matters, mainly through its Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

The State Department also stated that the Ministry published a weekly newsletter advocating a line of religion thought as that of the ministry itself.  The report added that government officials had said the newsletter was aimed at “maintaining a moderate Islamic environment.”

Banning ‘unauthorised gatherings’, state inaction against violence

The US State Department noted a number of incidences that occurred in 2012 to back its findings.

These included a government ban on discos and the deployment of police to conduct patrols to close down ‘unauthorised gatherings’. It also refers to the mob attack on the National Museum, which saw pre-Islamic artifacts destroyed. The attack occurred at the time of last year’s controversial power transfer on February 7.

“The ministry continued efforts to curb what it described as the ‘prevalence of un-Islamic practices’ in the country due to lack of religious awareness,” the US State Department claimed.

The report highlighted the case of a Bangladesh national who was kept in detention for 23 days prior to deportation, without being charged with any crime. According to the report, his employer alleged that he was deported after police discovered books on Christianity in his possession.

The report also accused the government of inaction over the attacks on local freelance journalist Ibrahim ‘Hilath’ Rasheed, who is described in the report as being “known for his moderate views on Islam.”

The report states that Hilath believes the “attack was carried out by violent extremists in the country.”

The report claimed that the blocking in the country of Hilath’s personal blog by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in 2011, on the justification that it had anti-Islamic content, remained in effect.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said that one of the “more prominent theories” about the murder of moderate Islamic scholar and parliamentarian Afrasheem Ali October 2, 2012, was “that violent extremists viewed Afrasheem’s very public moderate approach to Islam as apostasy and killed him to send a message to moderate Muslims that a strict interpretation of Islam is the only acceptable approach.”

The report highlighted incidences of societal harassment and abuse targeted towards citizens, especially women, who do not conform to strict, narrow “acceptable guidelines”.

Religion in political rhetoric

The report claimed there had been an increased use and continuation of anti-Semitic rhetoric by public officials throughout the last 12 months.

One example given was a pamphlet titled “President Nasheed’s Devious Plot to Destroy the Islamic Faith of Maldivians”, authored by a former home minister of the current administration, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

Dr Jameel was recently removed from his cabinet post by President Waheed over concerns of a potential conflict of interest after he became the presidential running mate for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – becoming a direct rival of the incumbent.

“The pamphlet received wide-spread attention upon it’s release and played a role in the events that eventually led to the February 7 transfer of power,” it read.

The report further refers to statements made by President Waheed, who came to office following last year’s transfer of power.

“During the year, President Waheed warned the nation that foreign parties were attempting to influence the country’s ideology and promote secularism; he urged citizens to resist these impulses,” the report read.

Laws governing religion

According to the findings of the report, the government interprets the Constitutional clause naming Sunni Islam as the official religion and the government regulations being based on Islamic law as imposing a requirement that all citizens must be Muslim.

Stating that Civil Law is subordinate to Islamic Law, the report points out that the law prohibits the making of public statements which are contrary to Islam, leaving offenders subject to a two to five year jail sentence.

Furthermore, all are prohibited to publicly discuss Islam unless by prior government invitation, and Imams are not allowed to prepare sermons without government authorisation.

Several constitutional articles declare the practice of Islam as mandatory, and all schools are required to “inculcate obedience to Islam” and “instill the love of Islam” in students.

The report said that any actions found to breach the country’s Religious Unity Act were subject to criminal penalties.

Specific crimes included in the act, which is highlighted in the US issued report, include “working to disrupt the religious unity of Maldivians”, “delivering religious sermons or engaging in public discussions in a way that infringes upon the independence and sovereignty of the country” and “propagating any religion other than Islam”.


Dr Jameel sacked from cabinet “for becoming PPM running mate”

Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has been sacked from the cabinet by President Dr Mohamed Waheed, two days after he was unveiled as the running mate of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

“I am being informed by HEP Dr Waheed that I have been dismissed from my post as Home Minister for joining PPM & becoming running mate,” Jameel tweeted today.

Jameel added that he remained “determined to serve the nation” and expressed gratitude to President Waheed and the cabinet “for the opportunity I received to work together.”

“I extend my well wishes to HEP Dr Waheed and his team’s attempt to win the upcoming election which PPM will also attempt to win and succeed,” he wrote.

Dr Jameel is currently campaigning with PPM presidential candidate Yameen in Addu City.

In August 2007, then-Justice Minister Jameel along with then-Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed resigned from former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s cabinet citing obstruction of political reforms and launched the latter’s presidential campaign.

After Dr Saeed came third in the first round of the October 2008 presidential election, the former ‘New Maldives’ ministers “unconditionally” backed Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed in the second round run-off against Gayoom.

The pair were appointed special advisor to the president and minister of civil aviation and communication, respectively, in the MDP-led government that took office in November 2008.

Jameel was however sacked as civil aviation minister on May 31, 2009 following public criticism of the government ahead of the parliamentary elections earlier that month, which was also contested by Jameel’s Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

“Some people say he was a bit abrasive,” President Mohamed Nasheed’s press secretary told Minivan News at the time.

Fraying coalition

Prior to Jameel’s dismissal, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told the press that having a rival candidate’s running mate as the home minister would create a conflict of interest.

In addition to the PPM, the other main parties in the ruling coalition have fielded presidential candidates, including MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim from the Jumhooree Party (JP).

Dr Hassan Saeed’s DQP and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party have meanwhile entered a formal coalition with Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP).

Speaking at Thursday night’s PPM ceremony to unveil Dr Jameel as running mate, former President Gayoom reportedly said that a sitting president should not be allowed to seek re-election if a serving cabinet minister could not become another candidate’s running mate.

On the same night, DRP Leader Thasmeen said at a rally on the island of Thulusdhoo in Male’ atoll that the party was concerned with Dr Jameel’s administration of the home ministry.

The former minority leader of parliament said that the DRP could have worked with the opposition MDP to pass a no-confidence motion against the home minister but the party instead “prioritised national interest.”

Jameel’s dismissal also follows friction between the PPM – the largest party in the governing coalition – and President Dr Waheed.

MP Abdulla Yameen told newspaper Haveeru last week that some PPM members were joining Dr Waheed’s party.

Yameen expressed disappointment with Mohamed Naseer, brother of slain PPM MP Afrasheem Ali, actively working with Dr Waheed’s GIP after the PPM campaigned to elect Afrasheem’s younger brother Ibrahim Ameen to parliament.

Yameen also referred to rumours of the possible defection of PPM MP Ahmed Shareef to GIP over dissatisfaction with a stalled airport project in his constituency.


MDP expresses concern over legality of Immigration Department switch

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has questioned the legality of transferring control of the Department of Immigration and Emigration to the Defence Ministry amidst wider concerns over what it alleges are a number of “surprising coincidences” this week.

In a press statement, the opposition MDP accused President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik of acting suspiciously after parliament voted by 74 votes to cancel the border control system agreed with Malaysia-based IT service provider Nexbis.

The President’s Office said today it rejected any insinuations that it had operated outside the law, while declining to comment on any statements from the MDP.

The former ruling party’s allegations focused on the president’s decision to travel to Malaysia – where Nexbis’ head offices are located – for a personal visit just three days after the Majlis vote.

The MDP also maintained that the president’s decision to transfer the Department of Immigration and Emigration to the Ministry of Defence and National Security was an unlawful act.

The Immigration Department was previously under the mandate of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

According to the opposition party, the structures of the executive ministries compiled by parliament had placed the immigration department under the oversight of the Ministry of Home Affairs.  The party contended that the President’s Office decision to transfer any department outlined in this structure without prior parliamentary approval was therefore an unlawful act .

The Nexbis agreement was signed when President Waheed’s brother in law, Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim, was serving as Controller of Immigration and Emigration.

Ilyas has since been transferred to the Ministry of Defence and National Security as a State Minister, to which the immigration department now reports. The MDP statement alleged that the transfer of the department effectively placed control of immigration back under the authority of Ilyas.

The statement alleged that the move was an attempt by Waheed to cover up allegations of corruption in the deal signed with Nexbis.

Nexbis has denied all allegations of corruption in its Border Control System (BCS) deal, while last week filing a case with the Maldives Civil Court claiming parliament lacked the jurisdiction to order the government to terminate the IT company’s contract.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad also dismissed the MDP’s claims, stating “This government will never do anything unlawful. We review actions carefully before doing anything. It’s MDP that conducts unlawful activities.”

Masood refused to comment further on the matter, stating “MDP releases lots of statements. I do not wish to comment on what they have to say in those.”


Jumhoory Party MPs Jabir and Alhan to vote against President in no-confidence motion

MPs Abdulla Jabir and Alhan Fahmy of the Jumhoory Party (JP) – part of the current coalition government – today publicly announced that they will vote against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan in an upcoming no-confidence motion.

During a press conference, held at the People’s Majlis along with opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Ibrahim Rasheed and Imthiyaz Fahmy, Jabir and Alhan told local press that they did not have confidence in the current president.  The two MPs claimed they were ready to stand against him, even if the vote was to be taken tomorrow.

Jabir was among a number of MPs and senior MDP figures arrested earlier this month on suspicion of the possession of drugs and alcohol following a raid by police on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll.

Jabir, his wife Dhiyana Saeed – the former Minister for Gender and Human Rights under the current government – and the MDP have all alleged the arrests were politically motivated.  The charges have been vehemently denied by the President’s Office, which has told media that it had no knowledge of the operation until it had been carried out by police officers.

The arrests have nonetheless been labelled as “very worrying” by a delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which late last week claimed it was “difficult” to believe the police raid had not been politically motivated.

Speaking at today’s press conference, MP Alhan alleged that Dr Waheed was threatening MPs because his attempts to make MPs act as his puppets had not worked. He said Waheed had also threatened MPs during public speeches he had given of late.

Local newspapers meanwhile quoted MP Jabir as saying that Dr Waheed should not be kept in his position, reiterating that he did not come to power through an election.

Jabir also revealed plans to forward a no-confidence motion against Home Minister Dr Ahmed Jameel and said that he had already signed the motion.

Earlier in October MDP, filed a no-confidence motion against Home Minister but was withdrawn on November 12 without mentioning a clear reason.

At the same time, a no-confidence motion against Dr Waheed was also submitted to the parliament.

The MDP claimed that the no-confidence motion was submitted to the parliament in response to what it alleged were orders from President Waheed to attack citizens and MDP MPs, and to carry out acts of “inhumanity” on February 8.

The MDP also accused President Waheed of trying to “destroy” the sensitive economy of the nation, claiming that his handling of the economy had destroyed foreign investor confidence in the Maldives.

The motion was filed with the signatures of 26 MPs of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on October 10.

According to article 100 (e) of the constitution, a no confidence vote against the President can be passed with votes from two-thirds of the total numbers of MPs in parliament, which amounts to 52 votes.


JP backs hiding of votes during no-confidence motion against President and Home Minister

Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Alhan Fahmy has said that the party supports the motion submitted to the parliament committee by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) proposing that votes during the upcoming no-confidence vote filed at the parliament against President and Home Minister be hidden.

Speaking to local press in the Villa TV conference hall, Alhan Fahmy said that his party’s parliamentary group was following instructions from the party’s leader and MP, Gasim Ibrahim.

Alhan said it would be difficult to cooperate with the government unless it gave a fair reason as to why Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shahmheed was this week dismissed from his position, after he awarded a 99 year lease to Gasim’s Maamagili airport.

Alleging that Dr Shahmheed was dismissed because he did not support every decision made by the President, Alhan questioned why President Waheed had failed to take action against the Nexbis project, and alleged corruption in the recent sale of a 30 percent stake of the Addu International Airport Company Pvt Ltd (AIA) to business magnate ‘Champa’ Hussain Afeef’s Kasa Holdings.

He also alleged that President Waheed was not fair in taking action against those accused of corruption, and noted that Thilafushi Corporation’s Managing Director Mohamed Latheef was dismissed from the position on allegations of corruption but later appointed to another position.

Alhan likewise noted that Felivaru Chairman Mohamed Imthiyaz – a member of the JP – was dismissed on allegations of corruption but said Waheed did not appoint him to another position.


MDP activist ‘Nazaki’ Zaki appointed as Deputy Leader of GIP

The Gaumee Ithihaadh Party (GIP) led by current President Dr Waheed Hassan Manik has appointed former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activist and current Ambassador to Malaysia Mohamed ‘Nazaki’ Zaki as the party’s Deputy Leader.

Secretary General of GIP Mohamed Mushrif told local media that ‘Nazaki’ Zaki was appointed with the full majority of 11 council members that were at the council meeting held last night.

The party decided to appoint a Deputy Leader before its National Congress because it was difficult for Dr Waheed to run the party while performing his duties as the President at the same time.

The position was previously filled by the former government’s Education Minister and Chancellor of the Maldives National University (MNU) Dr Musthafa Luthfy, who was appointed to the then-cabinet as a GIP member. He later shifted to MDP and remains a member of the party, after its acrimonious 2010 split from the MDP coalition.

Online newspaper ‘Sun’ quoted Zaki as saying that he had been a member of GIP since May this year after resigning from the MDP in April.

He told the paper that he had joined GIP because he found it easy to work with Dr Waheed and said it was possible that he might very soon resign from the position of ambassador and focus solely on running the party.

He also said that his reason for departing the MDP was because of the influence of “several people” within the party, and claimed that then-President of MDP Dr Ibrahim Didi was unable to run the party.

The President’s party had 2508 members by the end of September 2012 according to the Elections Commission. It has no representation in parliament or local councils.


MDP submits no-confidence motion against President

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has submitted a no-confidence motion in parliament against President Dr Waheed Hassan Manik.

According to MDP, the no-confidence motion was submitted to the parliament in response to orders from by Waheed to attack citizens and MDP MPs, and to carry out acts of inhumanity on February 8 which were executed by the army and police.

The MDP alleged that President Waheed had destroyed the sensitive economy of the nation and that his handling of the economy has destroyed foreign investor confidence in the Maldives.

The MDP also noted that Dr Waheed’s government had not taken appropriate measures to curb gang violence in the country.

The party also raised the government’s recent loan of MVR 300 million (US$19.5 million) from the Bank of Maldives (BML) without the consent of the parliament as legally required.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that he was “very confident all PPM MPs are with Dr Waheed and this no-confidence motion vote will fail in parliament.”

Nihan said the MDP’s objective was to obstruct parliament from conducting its work, to waste parliament’s time, and to disturb President Waheed.

‘’MDP also have it on their agenda to split the coalition parties,’’ he added. ‘’They are doing this just to pressure the parliamentarians at a time when the people of the nation are in need of the parliament.’’

Nihan reiterated that many of the important bills submitted to the parliament by MPs have been sitting in parliament for ages without being passed.

He also criticised the MDP for saying that Dr Waheed had destroyed the economy of the state, and said that MDP was responsible for ‘’bringing [Indian airport developer] GMR to the Maldives, and selling Dhiraagu shares to Cable and Wireless.’’

Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Abdulla Mausoon said the party had not discussed the matter, but said the DRP would not follow the MDP.

“Although we haven’t officially decided on the matter our view on it is already known. We will not support any irresponsible issues created by MDP,’’ Dr Mausoom said. “All the DRP MPs that have already met me have joked about this. We will not dance to the beat of the MDP,’’ he said.

He also said he believed the MDP was trying to drive media attention away from former President Mohamed Nasheed’s ongoing trial.

Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Alhan Fahmy recently said that he would submit a no-confidence motion against President Dr Waheed Hassan and said he was receiving cooperation from MDP and other parties in parliament.

Later his party’s leadership dismissed the comments he made and said the party was in support of Dr Waheed.

Parliament figures show that MDP has 30 MPs, Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) has 13 MPs, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has 17 MPs, Jumhoree Party (JP) has 5 MPs, Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP) has one MP, People’s Alliance Party (PA) has 3 MPs, while 7 MPs remain independent.

It takes a two-thirds majority to win a no-confidence motion against the President or Vice President.