State companies dismissing May Day protesters from jobs

The state owned utilities company Fenaka Corporation has dismissed two employees without notice for their alleged participation in an antigovernment protest on May Day, amidst growing concern that other state owned companies are considering similar actions against opposition supporting employees.

“The notice for dismissal I received said I had taken part in an act against the state. But my contract does not state I cannot take part in political activities,” Ibrahim Didi, a Fenaka employee told Minivan News today.

A Fenaka supervisor in Addu City, Abdulla Sodig, was accused of traveling to Malé to participate in the May Day protest and was fired.

“I was in Male’ but I did go to the protest. I have requested the company to review the situation and reverse their decision,” he said.

Nearly 200 people were arrested and scores injured when violent clashes broke out in the capital Malé.

Approximately 20,000 people took to the streets on Friday against the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed in the largest antigovernment protest in a decade. Two police officers were also severely beaten.

On Saturday, ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan urged the government to track down civil servants and employees of state owned companies who had participated in the protest and dismiss them immediately.

The Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) had earlier warned employees it would fire anyone seen at the May Day protest, but a senior manager Ahmed Athif said the company has not yet received any reports their employees had taken part in the protest.

 

Employees of the Maldives Customs Services told Minivan News they are being shuffled between departments due to their political views.

“We haven’t gotten direct threats or anything like that but people are being shuffled around departments because of their political views. These are acts of intimidation,” a senior officer who wanted to remain anonymous said.

He also said employees are asked to attend ruling party events even as they face reprisals for taking part in opposition activities.

“We got an internal memo asking to participate in a PPM event earlier. It said employees are advised to attend the event to show support for the ruling party,” he said.

But the commissioner general of customs Abbas Adil Riza rejected claims of intimidation.

“The customs always has and will always follow the rule of law. We will not intimidate or scare our staff,” he said.

Meanwhile, a former customs employee has said he was fired for taking part in an opposition demonstration on February 27.

“I served for 36 years in the government out of which 34 years I spent in the customs. I took part in the opposition February 27 protest and was asked to either resign or face being fired. I resigned,” he said.

In March, at least four employees of State Electric Company Limited (STELCO) and one from Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MSWC) were dismissed, and at least five were suspended from MPL over the February 27 demonstration.

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Government to provide electricity to all islands before Ramadan

Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim has stated that the government aims to provide sufficient electricity services to all inhabited islands prior to the month of Ramadan – likely to fall in late June.

Speaking at a conference of the government-owned Fenaka Corporation’s managers, Nazim acknowledged that currently some islands do not have sufficient electricity services. He stated that the utilities company Fenaka can play a major role in the government’s initiative to provide electricity to all the inhabited islands.

Nazim opined that the interferences in the supply of electricity in islands is mainly caused by the lack of proper maintenance of the generators, and the difficulty in obtaining spare parts.

Nazim stated that the current project undertaken by Fenaka to acquire new engines would contribute to providing a solution to the matter, while also highlighting the importance of having a plan to install and maintain the engines.

“We will need to panic at the last minute unless we have a plan to install them before they come to customs. Unless we do so, we cannot accomplish this in the right manner. The government now wishes to provide sufficient electricity to all inhabited islands prior to Ramadan. We can achieve this if this project proceeds in the right manner,” he stated.

Noting that Fenaka provides basic services, Nazim stated that employees at the company should work in line with government policies. He said that this does not require employees to act within political interests.

“If there is a difference in political ideologies, then it is best to let us know this through a letter. There are many people who are seeking jobs. The important thing is for those with different ideologies to step aside and give space to these people who are seeking jobs. I do not accept that any employee of this company needs to have a difference in political ideologies interfere with the work they are meant to do,” Nazim stated.

Nazim stated that the conference of Fenaka’s managers would assist in formulating effective policies to finding a solution to the problem of electricity service interruptions in the islands, while also building relationships which will assist in future cooperation between managers from various islands.

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Fenaka Corporation contracted to establish sewerage system in Maamendhoo

The government has contracted state utilities company Fenaka Corporation to establish a sewerage system in the island of Maamendhoo in Laamu Atoll.

In an event held in the Environment Ministry on Tuesday, the government contracted the Corporation to construct the sewerage system in a period of 18 months with a budget of MVR31 million.

The agreement was signed by Minister of Environment Thoriq Ibrahim and Fenaka Corporation Managing Director Mohamed Nimal.

Speaking to press after the event, Thoriq stated that the development of an island depended on the maintaining of peace and unity in the island, and that the government will keep this in mind when initiating such projects.

He also called on local councils in the islands to cooperate with development projects initiated by the government.

Feneka Corporation Managing Director Mohamed Nimal stated that physical work on the project will begin in the next 14 days and that the project is expected to be completed within the estimated timeframe.

On March 3, the government also contracted the Feneka Corporation to establish sewerage systems in the islands of Burunee and Madifushi in Thaa Atoll.

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Fenaka appoints new Managing Director

Farooq Mohamed Hassan has been appointed to the vacant Managing Director’s post at government utilities company Fenaka Corporation Ltd, local media has reported.

His appointment comes after former MD Mohamed Nimal was dismissed last July following accusations of misuse of authority regarding the corporation’s hiring policy.

Fenaka was established by presidential decree in 2012 with the goal of ensuring sustainable primary services to the populace in the regions of the country other than Male’ – supplying clean water, sewerage and electricity, and establishing environment friendly waste management systems.

The corporation was designed to replace the decentralised companies introduced under the previous administration which had been described as inefficient by the current government.

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Presidential election regulations unveiled as rival parties slam state commitment to free and fair polls

The Elections Commission (EC) has unveiled new regulations  for the presidential election set for September 7 this year, claiming “comprehensive changes” have been made to the legal framework used five years ago.

EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz told Minivan News that the latest regulations were drawn up with consultation from political parties and NGOs – providing more than just a “cosmetic change” to the framework used for the country’s first ever multi-party democratic elections in 2008.

Both opposition and government-aligned parties competing directly against President Dr Mohamed Waheed in September have alleged that even with new regulations in place, there were concerns that the incumbent was using state resources unconstitutionally to unfairly influence voters.

The allegations have been denied by the President’s Office, which maintains that it has done nothing to try and unfairly influence voters.

EC optimism

EC Vice President Fayaz said that despite the allegations raised by various parties this week, the commission was “very optimistic” about its ability to ensure elections were free and fair in September with the new presidential election regulations – said to have undergone drastic changes since 2008.

“The 2008 regulation was actually formatted in a rush and the EC was given about 60 days to do its work,” he said of the legal outline used for the last presidential election. “From the feedback we have received [regarding the new election regulation] nobody has said that they were bad,” he claimed.

The Regulation on the Presidential Election was published online Monday (May 20) in the Government Gazette.

Fayaz added that the EC had so far received “no formal complaints” from political parties in the country regarding concerns that September’s elections would not be free and fair.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said he had not personally had chance to review the new regulations for September’s election at present.

Undermined

Ghafoor said that despite concerns about the functioning of the country’s independent institutions, the MDP had been “comfortable” with the ongoing work of the EC.

Yet no matter how comprehensive the new elections regulation for September’s vote was, he said MDP continued to hold concerns that credible elections were being undermined by both the recent conduct of the government and the country’s police and security forces.

Ghafoor claimed that party fear’s were partly based around the recent conduct of police around the country, as well as ongoing concerns raised by both the party and independent experts over the independence of country’s judiciary, as well as its watchdog body, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

Meanwhile, the Maldives’ Police Service has previously denied arresting approximately 50 people – primarily MDP supporters – the night prior to President Mohamed Waheed’s arrival in Addu City on May 8.

Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig told Minivan News that before Waheed’s arrival, close to 50 people were arrested, “and about 90 percent of those taken in were MDP supporters”.

These arrests were made under the “’Our Peaceful Addu City” operation, which the police have said was established to make the atoll “crime free”.

Political ends

Ghafoor also leveled criticisms at President Waheed directly, accusing him of unconstitutionally spending state fund on his own campaigning, while also making development pledges not included within budgeted funds during recent tours of the country.

He also pointed the centralised utilities ‘Fenaka’ corporation that was formed last June as an example of President Waheed’s use of government-owned enterprise to provide his own supporters with jobs.

“We have seen this government rape institutions like the police and state companies for their own political ends,” Ghafoor claimed. “These are unconstitutional actions we are seeing by the state.”

PPM “concerns”

MP Abdulla Yameen, presidential candidate for the government-aligned PPM, this week told local media that he understood “concerns” raised by MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed regarding President Waheed’s use of state resources for campaigning.

“That is, the way [the government] is doing things, there are problems over whether we could reach free and fair elections. The Auditor General and ACC [Anti-Corruption Commission] have taken note of this,” Yameen told local media.

While accepting an incumbent would have advantages for campaigning while in power, Yameen called on the government to consult with the Auditor General’s Office and ACC to put rules in place for campaigning within legal bounds and in line with the principles of good governance.

The PPM parliamentary group leader also criticised the government’s decision to sack Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed from his position of home minister following his decision to stand against President Waheed as Yameen’s running mate.

The government at the time cited Dr Jameel’s decision to stand as Yameen’s running mate as representing a conflict of interest, claiming any other cabinet minister standing directly against Dr Waheed would also have to be dismissed ahead of September’s voting.

Cabinet ministers in a coalition government are not obliged to assist the president’s election campaign, Yameen added this week.

He also claimed that PPM has not been given the number of government posts promised by Dr Waheed more than a year ago with the formation of the coalition government.

Former Home Minister Dr Jameel, meanwhile said he believed that appointments to government posts and creation of government-owned companies ahead of the election was intended to influence the outcome.

Government response

The President’s Office has rejected allegations that the government was working to exert undue influence on voters through state resources or funds, accusing both the MDP and PPM of making allegations without any evidence.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said that politicians seeking to run for office should therefore act responsibly and avoid making baseless accusations against the government.

“I will say on the record that we are not engaged in any activity that would give us an unfair advantage [in September’s election],” he said.

Responding directly to the MDP’s allegations that the state were using government-owned bodies such as the Fenaka Corporation to gain political influence, Masood claimed that the company was presently headed by a PPM member, leaving president Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) with little influence to do so.

“Fenaka has much more PPM and MDP members working for it than it does GIP supporters,” he said. “Fenaka is headed up by a PPM member, so we do not have any control over this. We do already have difficulty with GIP members ringing us up and asking for jobs,” he said,

Masood concluded that President Waheed had done nothing to exert his influence on voters, claiming appointments made to state institutions following the controversial transfer of power remaining almost unchanged since they were formed under the present administration.

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Ahmed Numan appointed Chairman of the Fenaka Corporation Ltd board

Ahmed Numan has been appointed as Chairman of the board for the recently formed centralised utilities group, Fenaka Corporation Ltd.

The appointment of Numan by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan follows the formation of Fenaka earlier this month by presidential decree.

Under its remit, the corporation was set up to take over from the seven utility corporations established during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed as part of its decentralisation policy.

“The key objective of this company would be to ensure sustainable primary services to the populace in the regions of the country other than Male’; supply of clean water, sewerage and electricity, and to establish an environment friendly waste management system,” read a President’s Office statement following the announcement.

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President Waheed creates centralised utilities corporation, ‘Fenaka’

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has today established the Fenaka Corporation Ltd by presidential decree.

The corporation will take over from the seven utility corporations established during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, under its policy of decentralisation.

The objectives of the company, which has 100 percent government-owned shares, were detailed in a press release from Waheed’s office.

“The key objective of this company would be to ensure sustainable primary services to the populace in the regions of the country other than Male’; supply of clean water, sewerage and electricity, and to establish an environment friendly waste management system,” read the statement.

President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that the previous utility companies, each with its own board, had become totally dependent on government finances, weighing heavily on the state budget.

“The separate utility companies were not well governed. There has to be continuity, accountability, and manageability,” said Abbas.

“Fenaka will take over the the utility corporations – there will be no more boards – it is more transparent,” he continued.

Abbas had previously explained to Minivan News that the government’s policy was largely intended to eliminate these “political boards” which he argued were impeding service provision.

Abbas also explained that there would be an option for islanders to acquire shares in the corporation.

The decree comes the day after President Waheed stressed the importance of population centralisation as he spoke to the media before leaving for the Rio +20 summit.

“One solution to the challenges we face is to centralise communities to more densely population islands and shape our development goals in order to secure a better future for us all,” local newspaper Haveeru quoted Waheed as saying.

Abbas explained that the President wished to reaffirm the government’s commitment to developing urban centres with greater market potential, just as previous government’s have worked to do.

Centralisation and efficiency

The issue of service and welfare provision and population dispersal has long been an issue faced by Maldives governments.

Population consolidation plans originated in the 1980′s under the banner of ‘Selected Islands Development Project’.

Concerned by the inefficiency of the distribution of social services and basic infrastructure in islands with small populations, and to counter migration towards the capital Male’, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration embarked on a revised resettlement program called the ‘National Population Consolidation Strategy and Programme’, published in 2001.

In the foreword to the most recent National Development Plan, in 2006, Gayoom outlined some of the reasons for voluntary population movements.

“This policy aims to mitigate the risks posed by future tsunamis and rising sea levels, help realise economies of scale in the provision of public and private services in the atolls, strengthen service quality in the atolls and improve welfare of the people,” wrote Gayoom.

This document, the seventh such development plan, covered the years between 2006 and 2010. This document described, in depth, the issues concerning population dispersal and service provision.

“One of the most pressing challenges to the nation’s development [is] the wide dispersal of small communities,” read the report.

“Smaller communities are in an extremely vulnerable situation, as the unit cost of providing social infrastructure and facilities are high, and thus these islands do not have adequate facilities.”

Mohamed Waheed Deen used his first speech after being confirmed as Vice President in April to expound on the virtues of greater population consolidation.

“Without population consolidation we cannot achieve sustainable economic development…where is the economy of scale? If government continues to spend on small island populations, the expenditure will turn out to be a waste,” he said.

“I envision that people of Maldives will live in 25 to 30 islands. Each island will be of twice that of Hulhumale’. Around 60,000 to 70,000 will live on each island. This is a dream I see. I will try to make this dream come true,” said the Vice President.

The Nasheed government, led by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), chose to focus on greater transportation and connectivity between island populations.

After the announcement in April of the government’s plans to centralise both utilities and health provision throughout the country, Policy Undersecretary for the former government Aminath Shauna, made the case for a decentralised policy of service provision.

“Maldives’ geographical fragmentation means one central board or company will find it impossible to effectively monitor and deliver services in an equitable manner,” Shauna said, before questioning the centralising tendencies of the current government.

“They want to re-establish a relationship of dependency between the islands and Malé. Their intent in this is to consolidate power. Islanders will once again have to come to Malé and beg for services,” she said.

Shauna explained that the policies of the Nasheed government had been intended to create reliable market-orientated policies, arguing that previous centrally run services were slow and corrupt.

Shauna acknowledged that the companies had not all been financially independent but argued that they were merely bolstered with state funds whilst they were “finding their feet”.

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