President Yameen announces land reclamation project for Addu Feydhoo

President Abdulla Yameen announced last night that a land reclamation project would commence next year in the Feydhoo ward of Addu City.

Speaking at a ceremony held in Feydhoo to inaugurate a road construction project, President Yameen said construction of the Rahdhebai Magu “will greatly assist the island’s residents, while paving the way for further development projects in Feydhoo,” according to the President’s Office.

President Yameen was accompanied by First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb during his visit to the southernmost atoll.

A by-election for a vacant seat in the six-member Addu City Council is meanwhile scheduled to take place on September 20.

The election comes after Addu City councillor for the Feydhoo constituency, Abdulla Aswan, died of a heart attack on July 8.

All six seats of the city council were won by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party candidates in January’s local council elections.

Speaking at a meeting in Feydhoo last night, President Yameen reportedly criticised the city council over a stalled project to install lights at the Feydhoo football stadium.

The project remained stalled due to a disagreement between councillors, Yameen claimed, calling on the council to cooperate with the government’s development efforts despite political differences.

“If something else is beneficial [to the public], they don’t have to consider the ideology of a political party. They should do it the way the public wants,” he was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

Yameen urged the people of Feydhoo to vote for ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate for the Feydhoo council seat, Ena Naseer.

The Feydhoo branch of PPM handed over membership forms of 100 new members to First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim at last night’s meeting.

The opposition MDP meanwhile selected Ali Fahmy Ahmed as its candidate to face the by-election in a primary last month.

Speaking at a press conference today, MDP MP for Addu Meedhoo, Rozaina Adam, accused President Yameen of attempting to unduly influence the upcoming by-election by launching or announcing development projects in Feydhoo.

Referring to pro-government MPs rejecting an urgent motion in parliament over power outages in Addu City, Rozaina questioned the president’s sincerity and commitment to develop the city.


Road Development Corporation contracted to build two roads in Feydhoo

The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has contracted the Maldives Road Development Corporation to build two roads in Feydhoo, Addu City.

At an event held at the ministry for signing of the contract today, Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Muiz revealed that the project is worth MVR7.9 million.

According to Muiz, the corporation will be building Rahdhebai Magu and Bandharu Mathee Magu, with work commencing as soon as the environmental impact analysis of the project is completed.


Juvenile Court postpones order to summon HRCM members

The Juvenile Court has postponed an order summoning all members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) to discuss their alleged misleading of the public over the court’s work.

An official from the Juvenile Court has today confirmed to local media that it has now asked all members to produce themselves to the court next Monday (March 17) at 9:30am.

The official told local newspapers that the decision was made in compliance with the commission’s request made due to three members being out of town and the other two also unable to attend.

The Juvenile Court has previously sent letters to the commission on two occasions asking them to discuss a report made regarding a 15 year old minor charged for fornication in 2012.

The court has claimed the report contained misleading information that gave a “negative impression” of the court’s conduct. The report was also said to contain statements that could be considered as attempts to influence the court’s work.

In a matter relating to criticism of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz has this week said that the maintenance of the respect and the positive reputation of the courts was a constitutional responsibility of all state authorities.

Following the HRCM members’ failure to comply with the court requests last Sunday (March 9), the court issued the summons for today.

The report in question came during the trial of a 15 year-old girl who had given birth to a baby which was later discovered buried in the outdoor bathroom at her residence. Her stepfather was subsequently charged with sexual abuse of a child and committing premeditated murder.

The 15 year-old was convicted of premarital sex at the Juvenile Court on February 26 and sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest  after confessing to fornication with another man.

The Attorney General’s Office appealed the case on March 27 last year following appeals from international human rights advocacy organisations and, which launched an online petition that gained over two million signatures.

On August 21, 2013, the High Court decided to overturn the minor’s sentence after she denied having confessed to consensual sex with an unknown partner during the Juvenile Court trial.  Authorities have previously said the minor had confessed to having consensual sex during a separate investigation into her abuse.

According to Islamic Fiqh scholars, a confession of fornication can be retracted before the resulting sentence is carried out in full, the High Court statement added.

It was further noted by the court that there were discrepancies in the statement given by the girl to the Juvenile Court. The High Court concluded that the minor – found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – was unable to correctly define pre-marital sex according to the law.

The High Court argued that its verdict had been based on evidence that the girl was “unfit for trial” during investigations into her alleged abuse and the subsequent Juvenile Court hearings.

The court said that the minor had provided her original statement in the capacity of a victim and not a suspect, and that authorities had therefore not given her the fundamental rights legally required of a suspect in a crime.


MP Alhan Fahmy returns to Malé following stabbing

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Alhan Fahmy has returned to the Maldives after recuperating in Sri Lanka following a stab attack in Malé last month.

Local media reported that the Feydhoo constituency member returned yesterday, walking with a crutch following initial fears that the wound received to his back may have caused permanent paralysis.

Alhan, set to contest for his parliamentary seat as an independent later this month, is said to be planning a press conference in the near future, reported Haveeru.

The Civil Court last week accepted the MP’s request to look into the MDP’s Feydhoo primary contest – which took place just days before the attack. Alhan has claimed the vote was fraudulent.


Haveeru journalist released without charges

A journalist from newspaper Haveeru based in Addu City who was arrested yesterday has been released without charges.

According to the local daily, Ahmed Adshan was released after five hours in police custody. He was told that there was “nothing to investigate” while keeping him in custody.

Adshan was detained allegedly for taking photographs of police officers in plainclothes who were frisking people at the Feydhoo harbour.


Two men arrested in Addu City with 38 bottles of alcohol

Police arrested two men from the Feydhoo ward of Addu City with 38 unopened bottles of alcohol on Thursday night.

The two suspects, aged 21 and 22, were taken into custody in an operation conducted by police intelligence and Special Operations (SO) officers, after which the Maradhoo magistrate court extended their remand detention to 15 days.

Police revealed that the 21-year-old suspect had a criminal record for drug abuse and assault.


Alhan to contest as an independent, Jabir awarded MDP ticket again

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Alhan Fahmy has decided to contest the Addu Atoll Feydhoo constituency as an independent candidate following the party’s decision not to invalidate primary results despite irregularities.

Meanwhile, the MDP’s deputy parliamentary group leader MP Abdulla Jabir has been granted the party ticket again after the party’s appeals committee invalidated the disciplinary committee’s decision to retract the ticket.

The MDP held primaries in 56 constituencies to determine candidates for the People’s Majlis in late January. The party ticket was awarded to 29 candidates by default.

The MDP’s primaries have been marred by allegations of irregularities, but the election committee has said none of the complaints effect the results.

Feydhoo constituency

Alhan lost the party ticket to Mohamed Nihad on January 31, winning only 154 votes to Nihad’s 316. Shortly after results were announced, Alhan said he did not accept the results and said that polling had proceeded on an outdated voters list.

The election committee has confirmed 67 members were missing from the list at the ballot box, but decided not to hold a re-vote, arguing the primary outcome would not change even if the 67 members were allowed to vote.

Alhan was stabbed in public on February 1 and is currently receiving treatment at Colombo’s Central Hospital.

Speaking to local media, Alhan said: “I do not believe MDP’s decisions are very just at the moment. That is why I have decided to contest as an independent. Certain people are influencing the MDP’s decisions.”

Family members have said Alhan intends to challenge the MDP’s decision at the Elections Commission and the Civil Court as soon as he returns to Malé.

Despite expressing concern that Alhan may not be able to walk yesterday, family members have now said doctors believe Alhan will regain the full use of his legs. Doctors have not yet, however, detected any movement in his right leg yet.

“Doctors say it will take him some time to walk after the operation. They say that leg will get better. It is [paralysed] due to damage to the backbone. It will take some time for my brother to walk,” Alhan’s brother Azban Fahmy has said.

In addition to Alhan, primary candidate in Baa Atoll Kendhoo constituency Mauroof Zakir has also alleged irregularities in the MDP’s Majlis primaries.

Kaashidhoo constituency

The MDP’s disciplinary committee on January 26 retracted Jabir’s party ticket after he violated a three-line whip and voted for President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s cabinet.

Jabir had won the ticket by default due to a lack of contenders.

The committee also stripped Jabir of his position as deputy parliamentary group leader and asked him to issue a public apology. The appeals committee said Jabir had also violated a three-line whip on the day following the cabinet approval vote by rejecting the Penal Code.

The MDP then called for new applicants for the constituency, and had scheduled a primary for this evening.

Jabir subsequently appealed this decision with the MDP’s appeals committee, claiming the disciplinary committee’s verdict was “authoritarian and discriminatory”.

A majority of the six member appeals committee ruled today that under Article 113 of the MDP constitution, the disciplinary committee could only issue a warning, levy a fine, and suspend or revoke party membership. It could not revoke a party ticket, the ruling said.

Further, under the MDP Parliamentary Group’s rules of procedures, the group’s deputy leader could only be removed from his position after a no confidence motion within the group.

Jabir has now been reinstated to the position, and primaries for the Kaashidhoo constituency have been called off.


Man arrested for molesting a minor

Police have arrested a man on the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll on charges of molesting a male minor.

The arrest was confirmed to media by the police but no further information was provided.

A council member of the island told local newspapers that the man arrested was a duty officer at the island’s power house.

According to the council member the parents first complained about the abuse to the council, who reported it to police.

The council member said the incident occurred last Sunday [23 September].


Justice “still out of reach” for Maldivian women, girls:

Social activism website Avaaz has said it remained concerned at the “appalling state” of women’s rights in the Maldives, despite welcoming a decision by the High Court this week to overturn a controversial flogging sentence handed to a 15 year-old girl charged with ‘fornication’.

Avaaz, which earlier this year launched an online petition signed by over two million people calling for the minor’s sentence to be quashed, has expressed continued concern that justice remains “out of reach” for Maldivian women.

The flogging sentence – handed to the minor by the Juvenile Court in February after she had been charged with ‘fornication’ – was overturned by the High Court on Wednesday (August 21) after the girl was found to have previously denied confessing to having had consensual sex with an unknown partner.

Sources from Feydhoo, in Shaviyani Atoll, where the girl is from, previously told Minivan News that islanders had raised concerns regarding the suspected abuse of the minor as far back as 2009.

Local people were said to have suspected that the girl had been the victim of sexual abuse, not just by her stepfather – who has subsequently been charged with several sex offences – but also by a number of other unidentified men from the island.

The High Court concluded that the minor, found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was also unable to correctly define pre-marital sex according to the law.

“The High Court’s ruling is a step forward, but the Gender Ministry should now ensure that the girl receives a proper education, is not sent back to the custody of relatives who failed to protect her, and ensure that she doesn’t end up ghettoised because of stigma,” stated Avaaz.

“Glimmer of hope”

After visiting the country earlier this year to lobby the Maldives government to overturn the minor’s case, Avaaz said it continued to advocate for systemic legal reforms to overcome “serious hurdles women and girls face in trying to get justice for gender-based crimes”.

“Today people in the Maldives and across the globe celebrate that this young girl is free and won’t be flogged,” said Avaaz Campaign Director Jeremy Waiser. “It is a glimmer of hope which must not be an isolated case – now it’s time to listen to the majority of Maldivians and kick start major reforms to protect women and girls and put an end to flogging for consensual sex outside of marriage, once and for all.”

Avaaz pointed to the recently published results of a survey conducted on its behalf by Asia Research Partners that concluded that nearly two-thirds of Maldives nationals surveyed would support a moratorium on flogging.

According to Avaaz, the first survey of its kind to be conducted in the Maldives found an “overwhelming” 92 percent of those surveyed believe that laws and systems to protect women from sexual assault should be reformed.

With the upcoming presidential election scheduled for September 7, Waiser argued that ensuring rights for both women and girls should be treated as an issue of huge importance by all candidates standing next month.

“The ruling and the recent opinion survey should serve as a wake-up call to all candidates and parties that they cannot afford to neglect one half of the Maldivian population – women and girls want to live without fear of persecution and with dignity,” he said.

“The vindictiveness with which the Prosecutor General’s office pursued the case against this Maldivian child highlights the dangers that women and children face in the Maldives,” the statement concluded.

“Politicised” issue

Some government figures have been critical of international campaigns targeting the reputation of the country’s lucrative tourism industry in order to push for legal reforms.

Discussing the campaign by Avaaz in the Maldives, Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukhoor criticised unnamed groups for  having “politicised” the issue, arguing such campaigns they had complicated the work of Maldivian authorities.

In March this year, former Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal directly questioned the motives behind the Avaaz campaign calling them “dubious”, despite accepting a need for “capacity building” in parliament and other institutions.

“People should not be doing anything to damage the [tourism] industry. In Switzerland, you would not see a campaign designed to damage Swiss chocolate. Likewise you would not see a German campaign to damage their automobile industry,” he said.

However, organisations like the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) have this week stressed the need for strengthening measures to protect victims of sexual abuse to prevent other similar cases from occurring.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International – which has previously warned that the 15 year-old’s case was the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the country’s treatment of victims of sexual offences – has released a statement this week calling for a moratorium on flogging.

“Annulling this sentence was of course the right thing to do. We are relieved that the girl will be spared this inhumane ‘punishment’ based on an outrageous conviction,” said Amnesty’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director Polly Truscott.