Fenaka blames arsonists for fire at Addu City office

The state utility Fenaka Corporation has blamed arsonists for a fire at its offices in Addu City on Saturday.

A group of people poured kerosene and set fire to an area adjacent to the Fenaka sub station, which houses a transformer in Addu City. The fire was an attempt to disrupt electricity services in the area, the company said in a statement yesterday.

The station’s doors were damaged in the fire.

“We believe this was an attempt to damage the transformer at the station. If the transformer had been damaged there would have been difficulties in providing electricity to residents in the area as well as Muhyiddeen School,” the company said in a statement.

“We appeal [to the public] not to commit acts that may damage important service infrastructure for the sake of obtaining certain benefits.”

The police said no arrests have been made yet.

The fire comes two weeks after a group of people threw rocks and shattered windows at the home of Fenaka’s regional director Abdulla Zuhair.

A retail shop owner in Addu City Inaz Mohamed said the fire at the Fenaka sub station and the attack on Zubair’s house may be a result of “desperation” due to an unresolved dispute over electricity prices between the power company and local businesses.

Addu City businesses have been protesting since April over what they called a sudden hike in electricity prices.

In March, Fenaka increased prices in Addu and cut electricity subsides in other atolls in a bid to save MVR11 million (US$713,359) per month from the state budget.

Power bills have increased by 30 percent, shop owner Inaz Mohamed Didi said.

Inaz said businessmen in Addu had lodged separate petitions with government offices, the parliament and the courts. “But no one in this government is listening to us.”

He said he does not know who was responsible for the attacks and said businessmen in Addu do not encourage violence and have always prioritised dialogue.

Businessmen across the country closed their shops in protest in April. But the company said its hands were tied as it was only implementing government policies.

Fenaka is the main electricity provider in the atolls and operates in 151 of the 188 inhabited islands of the Maldives.

Addu City deputy mayor Abdulla Thoyyib meanwhile expressed concern over differences in electricity prices, noting that charges in Addu City and Fuvahmulah are up to 37 per cent higher than in capital Malé.

Higher electricity prices reduce investment in the southernmost city, he said.

In early May, Fenaka cut off electricity to several businesses, including a private hospital, when owners refused to pay bills.

Four businesses lodged a complaint with a magistrate court over power cuts. The court initially issued a stay order, but a new judge appointed to oversee the case overturned the ruling and said Fenaka was authorised to cut electricity if businesses fail to pay bills.

Presenting the 2015 budget in parliament, the government said it would target electricity subsidies to the poor.

But businesses and the opposition say the government failed to inform the public of the change in prices.


Power cut at Addu hospital in dispute over electricity subsidy

A private hospital in Addu City is operating with a backup generator after the state owned utility Fenaka Corporation cut off its power supply.

Fenaka stopped providing electricity to the International Medical and Diagnostic Centre (IMDC) around 1:30pm yesterday after the hospital refused to pay electricity bills in solidarity with other businesses in the southernmost atoll.

Shops and business across the country have refused to pay bills in protest over the government’s decision to cease electricity subsidies in March, which led to monthly charges doubling and tripling in some cases.

“We are running the hospital on our backup generator. However, we still cannot produce enough electricity for the whole hospital,” said IMDC’s manager Fathuhulla Anees.

Anees said the hospital was only able to start the generator at around 11:00pm last night, causing a lot of difficulties in providing medical assistance to the 10 patients currently admitted at the 38-bed capacity hospital in the Hithadhoo ward of Addu City.

Hospital staff worked by candlelight until technical problems with the generator were resolved.

“We had to discharge some of the patients and transfer others to the regional hospital, because we were unable to provide urgent services,” he said.

Fenaka is the main electricity provider in the atolls and operates in 151 of the 188 inhabited islands of the Maldives.

Former health minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela – a shareholder in the Simdi Company that operates the hospital – has condemned the corporation’s move as inhumane.

In a tweet last night, Shakeela slammed Fenaka for cutting off electricity services to a hospital “without giving the opportunity to find a solution”.

Fenaka also reportedly cut off electricity to the Simdi showroom in Hithadhoo on Sunday.

Shakeela lost the health minister’s post in August last year after pro-government MPs voted against her reappointment to the cabinet. She has since been critical of the president Abdulla Yameen’s administration and has participated in an anti-government rally on May 1.

A businessman in Addu City meanwhile has filed a case at the Hithadhoo magistrate court seeking a court order to compel Fenaka to continue providing services despite unpaid bills. The court initially granted a stay order pending a judgment in the case.

Anees, who is also suing Fenaka over the power cut, said the magistrate court has since ruled against the businessman.

“They wanted to cancel the stay order, so they just ruled that Fenaka can cut power if bills are not paid. I don’t believe we will get justice from the new magistrate at the court,” he said.

Anees said that the hospital will not pay the bill until the court orders them to do so. The hospital refused to accept bills for March and April.

“We are not paying it because we are not able to. We are not paying it because we think it is unjust and discriminatory,” he said.

Electricity charges in Addu City and Fuvahmulah are up to 37 per cent higher than in capital Malé, according to figures from Fenaka.

The government’s decision to cut electricity subsidies to businesses in March left more than 5,700 businesses in the atolls facing millions extra between them in electricity charges.

The government previously provided Fenaka with about MVR11 million (US$713,359) a month to subsidise electricity for atoll businesses, but this cost must now be borne by the companies themselves.


Businessman to sue state over discriminatory electricity prices

A businessman in the northern hub of Kulhudhuffushi has lodged a complaint with a magistrate court over alleged discrimination in electricity prices.

Adam Shareef says prices in the northern Haa Alif, Haa Dhaal, and Shaviyani atolls are 72 percent higher than in the capital Malé.

Businessmen from Ihavandhoo in Haa Alif atoll and Fuvahmulah in the south have also submitted petitions to the government over the doubling of their electricity bills.

As the constitution entitles all citizens to economic and social rights without discrimination of any kind, Shareef said the state-owned Fenaka Corporation is obliged to provide electricity at equal rates throughout the country.

Fenaka is the main electricity provider in the atolls and operates in 151 of the 188 inhabited islands of the Maldives.

The Kulhudhuffushi magistrate court rejected Shareef’s case today saying it has no jurisdiction. Shareef says he is now preparing to file the case at Malé’s civil court.

The government has previously said that the large distances between the Maldives’ remote islands mean that services such as electricity will inevitably be more expensive in the atolls.

Businesses across the Maldives protested by closing shops last month after the government’s decision to cut electricity subsidies left more than 5,700 businesses facing millions extra between them in electricity charges.

Fenaka has 46,590 meters in 151 islands, of which 5,765 meters were registered as business consumers.

Electricity bills for businesses doubled, and in some case tripled, when the subsidy was discontinued in March.

Fenaka officials previously said bills in Kulhudhufushi are higher than other islands because businesses were charged a much lower rate than the tariff structure approved by the energy authority in 2009, leading to a threefold increase when the subsidy was removed.

While the actual rate was 7.50 laari per unit for usage above 400 units, the now-defunct upper north utility corporation charged 2.75 laari per unit for Kulhudhufushi businesses.

Addu City mayor Abdulla ‘Sobe’ Sodiq has also urged Fenaka to levy equal fees, saying higher prices affect investments in the southernmost city.

“Electricity is a basic right. The service must be provided equally to everyone. There cannot be any discrimination,” he told the press yesterday

Prices in Addu City and Fuvahmulah are up to 37 per cent higher than in Malé, according to figures from Fenaka.

But Fenaka says its hands are tied as the company is only implementing government policies, which are intended to curb rising expenditure. The International Monetary Fund had urged the government to move its subsidies to a targeted system, rather than blanket payments.

Meanwhile, grocery shops have increased prices of goods in Ihavandhoo due to higher electricity prices.

Owners have also decided to keep shops closed from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

“Almost all businesses in Ihavandhoo have decided to raise the prices of goods, as the electricity expenses cost approximately 60 percent more now,” said Abdul Mueed Ibrahim, vice president of the Ihavandhoo council

Profits are considerably lower due to the higher electricity bills, said a local Ihavandhoo shop owner, Ahmed ‘Jizuvan’ Rilwan.

Businessmen in Ihavandhoo had submitted a petition regarding the issue to the island council and Fenaka, he said, but was yet to receive a response.

Jizuvan said that the shops had raised the prices of 118 varieties of goods.

“Nobody likes to raise the prices of products as it only burdens the local citizens. However, most of us do not have any other choice,” he said.

Jizuan suggested that Fenaka earned enough income to charge lower rates, but says it’s decision to increase mangers from two to five – each with a monthly salalry of about MVR 12,000 – might have led to higher operating costs.

“I believe the providers are taking more than what is necessary,” he said.

Jizuvan said he had received text messages accusing him of trying to defame the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Ihavandhoo, Mohamed Abdulla, and warning him that he could be jailed.

The government previously provided Fenaka with about MVR11 million (US$713,359) a month to subsidise electricity for atoll businesses, but this cost must now be borne by the companies themselves.




Fenaka begins MVR35 million water project in Addu City

The state owned utility company, the Fenaka Corporation, has begun a MVR35 million (US$2.2million) project to provide potable water to all the residents of Addu City.

Inaugurating the project in Addu City last night, environment minister Thoriq Ibrahim said the state funded project will be completed by the end of 2015.

A sewerage system is to be established on Hithadhoo, and the government has taken a loan from the OPEC fund to establish sewerage systems in the remaining islands of the atoll, he said.

The total cost of establishing water and sewerage systems in Addu City amounts to MVR600 million (US$39 million), he explained.

The former Southern Utilities Limited (SUL) company, along with UK’s Biwater International Ltd had begun a US$42 million project to improve the atoll’s supply of drinking water and sewage treatment in 2010.

Biwater International was to establish desalination plants to provide potable water and install sewage treatment plants, pump stations, and pipe work systems.

SUL was to contribute US$15 million and Bywater was to invest US$27 million but the project soon stalled as a result of mismanagement, said Thoriq.

The Fenaka Corporation was established to take over from the seven utility corporations established during the administration of former President Nasheed.


MVR35 million power station opened in Kolhufushi

An MVR35 million (US$2.27 million) power station built by the government in Meemu atoll Kolhufushi was opened and handed over to the Fenaka Corporation today (October 14).

The power station, constructed by Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC), was launched at a ceremony held at Kolhufushi by the Minister of Environment and Energy Thoriq Ibrahim.

While speaking to local news outlet sun online, a spokesperson from the Fenaka said that the power house has two 250kW generators and one 200kW generator.

Speaking at a ceremony held to inaugurate the distribution of 77 generators government utility company Fenaka last month, President Abdulla Yameen pledged to provide 24hr reliable electricity throughout the country during 2015.


Laamu Gan residents hold demonstrations over inadequate sewage system

Residents of  Laamu Gan demonstrated today over the island’s damaged sewage system which has remained unfixed for the past two months.

The system at fault is located in the new settlement of the tsunami-displaced population that moved to Gan from Mundoo and Kalhaidhoo islands in 2007.

It was funded and established by the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC) as part of their tsunami recovery work before being handed over to the government of Maldives upon completion.

According to the council, no one has since taken ownership of the system and it has remained abandoned and without any maintenance. The Ministry of Housing has earlier said the damages to the system was caused by vandals.

The damaged system has been causing sewage waste to spill into the island,  particularly during wet weather. In June the council expressed concern over the issue, alerting authorities and the media.

“The pumps in the system are not working, and the [septic] tank is also damaged. So when sewage effluent gathers in the tank it overflows and spills out. But this has got worse with the rainy season, the waste is being carried across the island through the puddles,” Council President Ahmed Salah told Minivan News at the time.

“Sometimes it is overflowing from the toilets, leaving houses and rooms filled with waste.”

The council had proposed to join the system with a new MVR85 million sanitation facility being established in Gan for areas which previously did not have any such facilities. However, experts said it was not possible as the two systems are incompatible.

Gan council subsequently managed the situation by using a mobile tank, donated with the sewage system, to drain the waste into the sea. The process takes around 20-30 rounds to drain it to a usable level after each spill, explained the council at the time.

After repeated requests from the government and ministries, including a special visit to Malé to meet the heads of institutions, the Ministry of Environment and Energy awarded the operation and maintenance of the sewerage system to FENAKA Corporation Ltd on July 21.

The US$1.8 million project will be implemented under International Federation of Red cross and Red Crescent Societies loan, Minivan News was unable to contact FENAKA at the time of publication


Equatorial Convention Centre’s unpaid bills approach MVR8 million

The unpaid electricity bills for Addu City’s Equatorial Convention Centre (ECC) have reached MVR 7.9 million (US$512,000) local media has reported.

Local director for the state-owned FENAKA utilities company told Sun Online that the constant supply of electricity needed for the three-year-old facility had not been paid since its construction.

Built on reclaimed marsh land for the for the hosting of the 17th SAARC summit in 2011, the ECC has become somewhat of a white elephant, with current responsibility for its upkeep falling to the Housing Ministry.

Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig has previously expressed concern that the neglect of the convention centre could cause irreparable damage to the premises.

Earlier this year the Housing Ministry also reclaimed oversight of the country’s other major convention centre, Dharubaaruge in Malé. On this occasion the ministry accused Malé City Council of failing to maintain the facility, to which the council responded that it had not been granted the promised funds.

Both Malé City and Addu City councils are heavily dominated by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.

Zuhair told Sun today that requests to secure payment for the ECC’s bills had been unsuccessful.

Previous plans to lease the centre to private companies were shelved after the fall of the MDP government in February 2012, the same month the winning bidder was to take over operations.


High Court orders re-arrest of child abuse suspect

The High Court has ordered the arrest of the manager of Guraidhoo island’s (Thaa Atoll) state-owned utilities company.

Fenaka Corporation employee Ahmed Fuad was previously arrested in connection with two cases of child sex abuse but was released by Thimarafushi Magistrate Court when brought before the judges to extend his detention period.

A police media official today said that the case was appealed at the High Court after Thimarafushi Magistrate Court ordered his release.

‘’Yesterday the High Court cancelled the release order and issued an arrest warrant and extended his detention period to 15 days for investigation,’’ police media officer said.

“He was arrested at about 3:05pm yesterday,’’ the officer continued.

At the time he was arrested police told the media that the charges related to charges of molesting two minors, a male and a female aged 13 and 17.

Local media outlet Sun Online reported police as telling the paper that the two minors had testified against the accused during the hearing held to extend his detention period in Thimarafushi Magistrate Court.

Local newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported that the victims are believed to have been in the guardianship of Fuad, who was also reported as being a senior activist in the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).


Fenaka says halted Biwater projects unrelated to political turmoil

Government utilities corporation Fenaka has denied that changes to a sewage project in Addu Atoll were influenced by February’s transfer of political power, according to Sun Online.

UK company Biwater International Ltd signed an agreement with the Southern Utilities Company to improve the supply of drinking water and sewage treatment in South Province.

The Fenaka Corporation has claimed that the decision to remove the sewerage work from Addu, and to halt all the company’s projects in Fuvahmulah, was due to the company’s failure to provide the $27million (MVR415.8 million) originally agreed upon.

It added that the decision to halt the Fuvamulah projects had been made before the change of government.

The Fenaka Corporation was established to take over from the seven utility corporations established during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, under its policy of decentralisation.