Maldives will “emerge victorious over adversarial states,” says President Yameen

The Maldives will “emerge victorious over adversarial states,” President Abdulla Yameen has declared, slamming alleged foreign interference in domestic affairs following the conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

Addressing supporters at a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) rally last night, President Yameen reiterated that exercising authority over either the Prosecutor General or the judiciary would threaten constitutional separation of powers.

“God willing, God Almighty will grant us just rulers. And God will grant our state the courage to remain steadfast in Islam and the guidance of Islam. And God willing, we will emerge victorious over adversarial states,” Yameen concluded his remarks by saying.

“We are on the righteous path. We will not go astray. God willing, no matter how small, this Maldivian state will have the courage to hold fast to Islamic guidance.”

President Yameen’s remarks follow international concern over the lack of due process in the rushed trial of the opposition leader. Nasheed was found guilty of ordering the military to “forcibly abduct” Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012 and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Lawyers and Judges Gabriela Knaul last week urged the Maldives to guarantee that Nasheed’s appeal would respect the most stringent fair trial and due process standards.

Yameen went on to say that other countries believed the Maldives does not enforce the law, “but we are telling those states that the law is enforced in the Maldives the same as it is in those states.”

Cases were tried through independent courts and sentences were implemented after an appeal process, he added.

Trials should be conducted swiftly to ensure justice, he continued, claiming that terrorism cases involving up to 1,500 defendants were completed in 48 hours in England.

“We don’t go criticising the mechanisms there. And we don’t request getting into the courtrooms there,” he said.

“But when it’s the Maldives, because we are a small country, [they] want to meddle in everything we do. No. That day is in the past. The Maldives, this Maldivian state, will no longer give room for that.”

By calling on the president to release Nasheed, Yameen said both the opposition and foreign parties were inviting the president to commit an “impeachable offence”.

The president was not responsible for either the PG’s decision to prosecute or the court’s verdict, he said.

Exercising oversight over the PG was the task of parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee, he continued, questioning why opposition MPs have not summoned the PG so far.

The president ordering the PG not to prosecute or withdraw charges in a specific case would amount to “obstruction of justice” and violation of the constitution, Yameen said.

Related to this story:

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UN human rights chief expresses strong concern over “hasty and apparently unfair” Nasheed trial

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Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

Foreigners cannot meddle in domestic affairs, declares President Yameen


Saudi Arabia assured loan assistance for airport development, says Dr Shainee

Saudi Arabia has assured loan assistance at a low interest rate from the Saudi Fund to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee has revealed.

Speaking to reporters at the airport yesterday after accompanying President Abdulla Yameen during a state visit to the kingdom, Dr Shainee said Saudi Arabia has offered a lower interest rate than other parties the government has approached.

“They have indicated they would give us a loan with about two percent [interest],” he said.

A Maldivian delegation would depart for Saudi Arabia in the next week for further discussions, he added.

Last month, the government revealed that the estimated cost of the INIA development and expansion project was US$845 million. The government had previously announced it was seeking a US$600million loan from China and Japan for airport development.

While a project for building a second runway has been awarded to Chinese Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG), development of the airport terminal was awarded to Japanese Taisei Corporation.

61324_7af2b0d2-b_President Yameen meanwhile told journalists that several bilateral agreements between Saudi Arabia and Maldives would be signed in the next two months.

The Maldives sought assistance in various fields, such as education, health, and foreign investment, Yameen said, and “constructive” discussions took place with government ministers during the visit.

During the state visit – made at the invitation of the Saudi king – President Yameen met the Saudi Arabian ministers for education, defence, petroleum and mineral resources, and finance.

The Saudi Arabian government has pledged 150 scholarships for Maldivian students to pursue higher education in Saudi institutions, he noted, stressing that relations between the countries have been significantly strengthened as a result of the visit.

Reject “foreign interference”

A joint communique issued on March 18 noted that President Yameen “held talks with the Custodian of 61346_742a4339-6_the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in an amicable atmosphere that reflected the bonds of brotherhood that unite the two countries and the excellent relations between them.”

“The two sides confirmed their intentions to continue fortifying their bilateral cooperation in all fields including foreign affairs, defence, Islamic affairs, judiciary, economy, commerce, investment, education, and health for the purpose of accomplishing their common interests and providing support to the issues of the Muslim nation, while rejecting any foreign interference in their internal affairs,” read the communique.

“To this end, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agreed to open an embassy in the Republic of Maldives.”

It also stated that the two sides agreed to increase “their commercial exchange while expanding and enhancing investment between the two countries and extending invitations to their respective private sectors to explore the available investment opportunities in both countries.”

“The Saudi Fund for Development will continue to finance the development projects in the Republic of Maldives and will consider participating in the expansion of Malé airport and beache preservation in Hulhumalé,” it added.

President Yameen meanwhile “emphasised that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the primary partner of the Republic of Maldives.”

Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told the press that the Saudi government has agreed to increase the Maldives quota from 1,000 pilgrims at present to 2,000 next year.

President Yameen also requested a plot of land in Mecca to construct a hotel for Maldivian pilgrims, Shaheem revealed, the Saudi government agreed to allocate land.

Moreover, the Saudi government would assist with the establishment of an Islamic University in the Maldives, he added.

King Salman asked for an agreement to be signed between the Maldivian Islamic ministry and the Saudi counterpart in order to provide assistance in Islamic affairs, Shaheem said.

The communique also noted that the “two sides have agreed to finalise the procedures leading to the signing of an agreement in Islamic affairs between the two countries.”


Foreigners cannot meddle in domestic affairs, declares President Yameen

Foreigners will not be allowed to meddle in domestic affairs of the Maldives, President Abdulla Yameen has declared, slamming opposition politicians for seeking foreign interference.

Addressing youth supporters Sunday night at a private function in Citron Restaurant – reportedly organised by First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim – President Yameen said foreigners could not come to the country to “settle our affairs” as the Maldives was a member of the UN family with the same rights and independence as any other nation.

“We wouldn’t want foreigners from different countries coming here to criticise what we do and telling us what to do. So that is not something we will give any room for,” Yameen is heard saying in a recording obtained by Minivan News.

“So in the work we’re doing in the Maldives we will try to do things in accordance with our laws and Islamic principles. And if the consequence of that is people from distant nations finding it unacceptable, that is their problem. That is their problem. But we are not going to give up an inch of our country’s sovereignty to foreign parties.”

Photo from social media

Yameen’s remarks come amidst a political crisis and anti-government demonstrations sparked by the arrest and prosecution of both former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on terrorism charges.

Last month, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon hit back at statements issued by the UN, EU, India, Canada, and the Commonwealth expressing concern with the arrest and trial of the opposition leader.

“The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” she said in a statement.

Yameen meanwhile said protesting on the streets was not a right reserved to the opposition and warned them not to consider the government’s “compassion and patience” as weakness.

“Do not believe at all that it is our weakness when we don’t act or take up problems seriously. It is because we love the Maldivian people. We were patient to prioritise [national] interest, peace and security here. But when it reaches the point where our patience is challenged, then we will say that we will also welcome taking things down the determined path,” he said.

While his administration welcomes protests and free expression within legal bounds, Yameen said opposition politicians inviting foreign governments to take action against the Maldives was unacceptable.

He argued that causing harm to society and imperilling national security could not be justified in the “context of individual liberty.”

Yameen asked youth to consider if it was acceptable to call for tourism boycotts and invite other countries to “meddle in the Maldives’ sovereignty and independence.”

People who cause damage to the country should be given just punishment, Yameen insisted.

Referring to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-Jumhooree Party (MDP-JP) alliance’s demands to release “political prisoners,” Yameen said the new constitution separated the three powers of state and the president could not interfere in judicial proceedings.

He also accused the opposition of not attempting to save youth incarcerated for arson and other offences during anti-government protests after allegedly encouraging the crimes.

“But when they feel something is about to happen to a politician over a crime he committed, it is as if the Maldivian sky is falling on our heads,” he said.

“So this is the double standard among us.”

While ordinary Maldivians faced harsh sentences on a daily basis, Yameen said the opposition politicians and lawyers briefing foreign diplomats about the “inadequate system” were unconcerned.

“But when just one case of a politician is filed at court, the entire justice system of the Maldives becomes a corrupt system,” he said.

The Maldives’ judiciary deserves the respect of foreign nations, he said.

He went on to say that former allies the JP and Adhaalath Party who protested against Nashed’s administration now calling for his release was “a riddle.”

All citizens were equal before the law, he continued, and all citizens have a constitutional right to defend themselves in a court of law.

Opposition protests against Nasheed’s administration in 2012 were prompted by the government “destroying the justice system” and arresting Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, Yameen said.

The public “came out in defence of the constitution” when Nasheed defied the Supreme Court’s orders to release the chief judge, he said, adding that the protests were about “a substantial and serious problem” whilst the current protests were “without any substance or basis.”

On the opposition alliance’s demands to release Nasheed, Yameen insisted that the government has not “arrested any politicians” and argued that enforcing the law without bias was in the best interest of the nation.

“Those facing punishment for their crimes happening to be politicians does not mean [we are] taking action against politicians,” he said.

If the president interfered and sought to settle such cases out of court, Yameen asked both the youth and opposition parties to consider if the president should overrule the judiciary once a death penalty verdict has been passed.

“Should President Yameen enforce the judgment differently for different people based on their colour, their faces, and their social standing?” he asked.

“If President Yameen acts differently in the present cases, why wouldn’t he act so in [death penalty cases]?”

Related to this story:

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution

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Islamic Minister advises Maldivians against participating in foreign wars

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has urged Maldivians to refrain from participating in foreign wars.

The appeal comes after reports of at least two Maldivian men being killed in the Syrian civil war during May.

According to an online media group called Bilad Al Sham Media, a 44-year-old Maldivian man died  in a suicide attack on May 25 and another was killed two days later in a gun fight against soldiers loyal to Bashar Al Assad.

“[Islam] does not permit shedding another [Muslim] brother’s blood,” Shaheem said noting a high rate of civilian casualties in wars being fought in Muslim countries elsewhere.

Often, wars are being waged between different Muslim factions leading to the death of Muslim women, children, and elderly people and the destruction of mosques and homes, the Islamic Minister said at a press conference today.

“Islamic Jihad is that waged with sincerity, in the name of Allah, in defense of religion and nation, behind a designated Muslim leader, and against enemies of Islam and nation,” he said.

“Hence, rather than destroying oneself in conflicts of an unknown nature, the Islamic Ministry believes it is better to serve one’s own parents, families, and country,” he continued.

“[We] beseech all Maldivian youth and citizens, who love Islam, to refrain from participating in conflicts between one Muslim group and another. It is better to allow the citizens of the country in war to solve their own problems.”

Foreign interference obstructs citizens of a country from achieving their goals and allows governments to claim they are not fighting their own citizens, but foreigners, said Shaheem.

He further said that neither Islamic scholars nor citizens of war torn countries have asked for foreign interference. Instead, they ask foreigners to leave and allow them to solve their internal affairs.

“We must [only] pray for the beloved citizens of those countries under war,” he said before calling on the international community to do more to end bloodshed and conflict in Muslim countries.

‘Good intentions, but the wrong path’

In issuing today’s fatwa, the Islamic Ministry had consulted both local scholars and scholars from Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, Shaheem told the press afterwards.

“All [local scholars] of them in general agree people must not go there, to ongoing wars. It is not about deciding if it is a Jihad or not, even if it is Jihad, not to go to foreign countries. When foreigners intervene, it creates even more conflict. Instead of achieving goals, it contributes to greater internal conflict and greater disagreements”

Shaheem said Maldivian militants who go abroad must not be punished, but be rehabilitated and informed of religious teachings.

No Muslim scholar in the Maldives has called on Maldivians to participate in foreign wars, “but there are youth, who get emotional from what they see, of the suffering of Muslims, there are Maldivian youths who want to avenge that,” he said.

Their intention may be good, but the path they have chosen is not the right path, he said.

“I do not believe it is the right way. If it is an Islamic jihad, it is for a very holy purpose, the leader of the struggle has to be clear, their manifesto of what is to happen after the war has to be clear, whether it will give victory for Islam. Only if all of this clear, can one go into war,” he said.

Admitting to growing radicalisation in the Maldives, Shaheem said the media and scholars must help the government in its effort to educate the public.

Radicalisation begins with praying in separate communities, refusing to register marriages at court, and declaring other Muslims infidels, Shaheem said.

In February, the government shut down the Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu mosque to stop unauthorised Friday prayers by a group described as “extremists”

According to local media, the congregation prayed to Allah to weaken and current government and its leaders and prayed for ill-health and calamity to befall senior government officials, the Islamic Ministry and city council.

In May, the US State Department in the 2013 country report on terrorism said the Maldivian government believes that funds are being raised in the country to support terrorism abroad. However, the Maldives Monetary Authority denied the claim in a subsequent press release.