Government invites international experts to observe Nasheed’s appeal hearings

The government has invited experts from the United Nations Secretary General, the Commonwealth, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union (EU) to observe the appeal hearings of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison on March 13 over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
“On behalf of the Government the invitation was extended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Dunya Maumoon,” read a press statement from the foreign ministry.
“President Mohamed Nasheed was sentenced on 13 March by Criminal Court of Maldives for abducting a sitting judge in 2012.”

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

The United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) have joined a growing international chorus of concern over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest and surprise trial on terrorism charges.

In a statement today, the UN urged “fairness and transparency in regards to the legal proceedings” against the former president.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jens Toyberg-Frandzen in a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, “stressed the need for full respect for due process and transparency” in Nasheed’s trial.

He also appealed to the government to allow peaceful political dissent and to engage with the opposition in the interest of long-term political stability in the Maldives, the statement read.

At a first hearing yesterday, a visibly injured Nasheed appeared in court with his arm in a makeshift sling and repeatedly asked for medical attention and legal counsel.

Presiding Judge Abdulla Didi denied Nasheed bail and gave him three days to appoint a lawyer and answer charges.

The former opposition leader is to remain in police custody until the conclusion of the terrorism trial over the January 2012 detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

The EU Heads of Mission and Ambassadors of Norway and Switzerland in Colombo in a statement this evening said the delegation was “very concerned” over Nasheed’s arrest and was seeking clarification as to the nature of the terrorism charges.

“Equally, reports of former President Nasheed having effectively been denied appropriate legal representation at the court hearing on 23 February 2015, are of great concern,” the statement read.

“The EU Delegation reiterates the importance of respect for democratic principles, including respect for the rule of law, for the Constitution, for due legal process and for the independence of the judiciary.”

Foreign Minster Dunya Maumoon has hit back at the UN, and previous statements by the Commonwealth and Canada, expressing disappointment over what she called biased statements.

“Those who prefer to issue public statements about an on-going legal case, or on a domestic political situation, are advised to do a basic fact-check, before bandwagoning on to accusations made by a political party,” a press release by the Foreign Ministry this afternoon said.

Dunya insisted the police followed due process and standard procedure in arresting Nasheed and presenting him at court.

“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.

She urged foreign countries and international organisations to “refrain from acts and signals that could undermine the sovereignty of independent states,” and said President Abdulla Yameen’s government “will implement to the letter, the decisions and verdicts of the Courts.”

It added that Nasheed was arrested with a court warrant and presented before a judge within 24 hours in accordance with “normal procedure,” after which the judge granted the former president the opportunity to appoint a lawyer.

However, Nasheed was brought to court more than 24 hours after the arrest for the first hearing of a trial on terrorism charges, rather than a remand hearing.

Meanwhile, the Asian Centre for Human Rights has called “upon the United States, European Union, India, Singapore and others to impose a travel embargo on Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and presiding Judge Abdulla Didi for the illegal arrest and detention of Mr Nasheed.”

“The arrest and detention of former President Nasheed on terrorism charges is a grotesque act of political vendetta. The accountability of Prosecutor General Muhsin and Presiding Judge Didi must be established, including under universal jurisdiction for meting out torture, inhumane and degrading treatment to former President Nasheed in the court premises,” stated the ACHR’s Director Suhas Chakma.

Related to this story

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution

Commonwealth, Canada express concern over denial of legal representation for former President Nasheed

Former President Nasheed arrives in court with arm in makeshift sling

Nasheed denied right to appoint lawyer and appeal “arbitrary” arrest warrant, contend lawyers

Police arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed ahead of terrorism trial


Japan in talks to establish embassy in Maldives

Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih

The Japanese government has had funding approved for an embassy in the Maldives, reports the Japan Times.

Japan’s foreign minister Fumio Kishida stated that the country aims to bolster diplomatic relations with different countries as the world marks 70 years since the end of the Second World War.

An official from the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs have told Minivan News that negotiations are ongoing regarding the new diplomatic mission.

Japan is one of the Maldives’ largest trading partners, importing over US$5.1 million worth of goods from the Indian Ocean nation in 2013 – a year on year increase of 48 percent. However, Japanese tourists only make up around 3 percent of arrivals to the Maldives.

Statistics available from the fisheries ministry showed that Maldivian fish exports to Japan expanded rapidly last year, growing from US$4.8 million in 2013 to over US$6.8 million between January and October in 2014.

Japan has traditionally donated large amounts of aid to the Maldives, with President Abdulla Yameen explaining during a state visit to Japan last April that that Japan was the Maldives’ most generous aid partner.

Data from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency  (JICA) – which already has offices in Malé – shows that the east Asian nation gave over US$450 million to the Maldives in development assistance between 2004 and 2010.

JICA recently completed the ‘Project for Clean Energy Promotion in Malé’ with the installation of 740 solar panels in 12 government buildings in the capital, at a cost of US$11.1 million (MVR141.5 million).

Other projects benefiting from Japanese aid have included the first mechanisation of fishing vessels between 1973-76, the development of Malé’s seawall between 1987-2003, and the extension of loans amounting to US$34 million for post-tsunami reconstruction.

Last month, the Japanese government gifted the Maldives ¥100,000,000 (US$840,000) in grant aid, as well as contributing MVR13.9 million to assist with repairs to Malé’s desalination plant – partially destroyed by fire on December 4.

The capital city currently hosts five full diplomatic missions – belonging to China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The Maldives has had a full embassy in Tokyo since 2006.

According to the Japan Times, the Japanese government initially requested to create nine new embassies and six new consulates, and has opted to include six  embassies in 2015’s state budget,

In addition to the Maldives, Japan intends to establish embassies in Barbados, the Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Moldova, and Turkmenistan. Consulates will be established in the Mexican city of Leon and the German city of Hamburg.

Related to this story

President Yameen holds talks with Japanese prime minister

Japan gifts 100 million yen to government, Hitachi MVR1 million to water crisis fund


PPM responds to foreign minister silk route controversy

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has responded to the Maldives Democratic Party’s (MDP) criticism of foreign minister Dunya Maumoon’s remarks regarding India’s participation in China’s Maritime Silk Road initiative.

In a media statement released today, the PPM accused the opposition of twisting the story in order to harness attention from the international community.

The party also alleged that MDP is trying to divert attention from the party’s achievements during its third anniversary and from the one year anniversary of President Abdulla Yameen’s term.

MDP condemned Dunya for “intentionally” providing false information about the Chinese project when questioned by the parliament Maldives involvement in the project.

When asked about the potential impact of the scheme on India-Maldives relations, Dunya told the parliament last week that India had also discussed participating during the recent state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinpeng.

However, Indian Diplomats in Malé promptly refuted the claim, releasing a statement containing comments from the Indian External Affairs Ministry which denied such talks having taken place.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement today seeking to clarify any confusion caused by these remarks, saying that Dunya had “noted her concern if her choice of words had led to any confusion”.


Indian External Affairs Minister meets with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon last night (November 3) during her transit halt in the Maldives on her travels back to India from Mauritius.

At the meeting both Ministers discussed matters of bilateral importance, including upcoming projects in the Maldives to be executed with India’s assistance.

Ms Swaraj also extended Victory Day greetings to all Maldivians – celebrated annually to commemorate the heroes who defended the country during the failed coup attempt in November 3, 1988 – while reiterating India’s strong commitment towards the prosperity, stability, and security of the Maldives.

India was the first to respond during the attack on the capital Malé by deploying 1500 paratroopers and 3 warships after a distress call from the then President Maumoon Abdulla Gayoom asking for assistance from India, UK, and the USA.


Nigerian quarantined in Hulhumalé has no symptoms of Ebola, assures health ministry

No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan

A Nigerian tourist quarantined today as a precautionary measure has no symptoms of the Ebola virus, the Ministry of Health has said.

The health ministry and Health Protection Agency (HPA) briefed the press this afternoon following media reports of a Nigerian man taken from the foreign ministry in Malé to a quarantine facility in Hulhumalé by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers in protective suits.

HPA Epidemiologist Dr Aishath Aroona Abdulla explained that the foreign ministry informed the health authorities because the Nigerian was “sick looking”.

“After inspection, the doctor at the Hulhumalé hospital said he did not have fever. He is not taking medication for anything at the moment,” she said, noting that the most important symptom of Ebola was high fever along with fatigue, headaches, and aching joints.

Dr Aroona said she questioned the patient and took his history at the Hulhumalé hospital.

“He told me that he did not have a fever or any symptoms, but said ‘I am sick because I have nothing to eat,'” she said.

As the Nigerian did not have a fever, Dr Aroona said there was no risk of people he came into contact with catching the Ebola virus.

“However, he will be observed for the next 24 hours to see if he gets a fever,” she said, adding that both the MNDF officers who transported the suspected patient and the doctor were wearing personal protective equipment.

As the Nigerian could not be considered an Ebola patient, Dr Aroona said samples would be sent to a laboratory in Pune, India for testing only if he exhibits symptoms of a fever in the next 24 hours.

Under protocols put in place in accordance with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, she said if he develops a fever the patient would be treated as a suspected case until the test results return negative.

The authorities had the resources needed to treat a suspected Ebola case, she said, adding that the patient would be released with surveillance if he did not develop a fever.

Precautions taken

The Nigerian was screened upon arrival in the Maldives and entered into the HPA database, revealed Dr Aroona, explaining that visitors from countries facing an Ebola outbreak were placed under surveillance if they had been in the country for 21 days, which is the incubation period for the virus.

While 109 individuals from countries where the virus has been detected have visited the Maldives so far, Dr Aroona said 78 were placed under surveillance, of which 27 were presently in the country.

The resort or guesthouse where the tourist is staying are told to inform the authorities if a guest exhibits symptoms of Ebola, she explained.

She noted that Nigeria and Senegal were “low-transmission” and “low risk” nations with no new cases reported in the past 21 days.

“It’s very unlikely for someone who has traveled to Nigeria to contract Ebola,” she said, adding that visitors from the country were placed under surveillance as a precautionary measure.

While the countries where Ebola was rapidly spreading were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Dr Aroona said there have been no visitors from any of these countries.

While passport holders from the three African nations have visited the Maldives, she noted that none had traveled to these countries for 21 days prior to arriving in the Maldives.

State Minister for Health Hussain Rasheed said the Maldives was following international best practices in accordance with WHO recommendations and efforts were underway to improve surveillance capabilities.

He appealed to the media to correct initial reports and provide information responsibly, noting that the Maldivian economy was dependent on tourism and could be adversely affected by alarmist news headlines.

Director General of Health Services Dr Sheeza Ali revealed that the Nigerian was in the Maldives on a tourist visa but had attempted to find work in the country.

“So we will be consulting with the immigration [department] and the tourism ministry,” she said.

The Nigerian arrived in the Maldives on September 13, she added.

Dr Aroona meanwhile said the incident would be reviewed to improve the process of isolating and testing.

The Nigerian had gone to the foreign ministry for “personal purposes,” Dr Aroona said, declining to reveal details.

According to the WHO, more than 3,000 people have died from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa while a total of 6,574 cases have been reported so far.


Agreements on bridge and airport penned during Chinese president’s visit

The historic visit of Chinese President Xi Jinpeng today saw MoUs signed on the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport and promoting the construction of the Male-Hulhulé bridge.

Following a lively welcoming ceremony – featuring a Chinese dragon, Maldivian dancing, and a 21 gun salute – President Xi and President Abdulla Yameen observed the signing of eight MoUs.

The visit has also seen the signing of a preliminary contract agreement on the development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

Xi’s arrival marks the first visit to the Maldives by a Chinese president in the 42 years since diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in October, 1972.

The most notable MoU concerned the promoting the construction of the long-awaited Male-Hulhulé Bridge – with a replica awaiting President Xi’s arrival at Republic Square this morning.

A foreign ministry statement has said that the Chinese government will “favourably consider” providing financial support for the project.

Both presidents also launched two Chinese funded and implemented projects concerning housing in Hulhumalé and a link road in Laamu Atoll. The housing project is to be financed through concessional loans, while the 15.1km Laamu road project will be constructed through non-reimbursable aid financing.

Other MoUs were signed on health sector promotion, establishing a joint committee on trade and economic cooperation, strengthening cooperation between the foreign ministries of both countries, and establishing a joint mechanism on dealing with the issue of safety and security of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives.

President Yameen also revealed that further development of the tourism industry had been discussed during today’s talks, expressing hope that Chinese arrivals would increase three-fold over the next four years. Chinese tourists currently make up around 30 percent of all arrivals to the country.

During a joint press conference on Monday at the President’s Office, President Yameen thanked China for its assistance, stating that “graduation from a less developed country has come with enormous challenges and hardships.”

“As a small island state, we are at a disadvantaged position in global commerce and trade. Our socio-economic development forecast changed dramatically with the status of a middle income country”.

“At such a crucial juncture in our development, it is indeed a source of major encouragement and inspiration that one of our most trusted economic partners is willing to support our national effort to transform our economy, bringing happiness to our youthful population and promoting trade and investment,” he stated.

New phase

In addition to the Maldivian President, President Xi Jinping and his delegation have also met with Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed and other senior government officials.

Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives Wang Fukang – signatory of a number of today’s MoUs – told Chinese media that, after decades of development ties, the bilateral relationship had entered a new phase

“China has helped with several construction projects in the Maldives, including the foreign ministry building, and the national museum. This has been totally free of cost. We have also helped the country build a thousand residential homes,” said Wang.

A press release from the President’s Office reveals that the Housing Project’s Phase II will be funded through concessional loan financing by the Government of China, and implemented by the China Machinery Engineering Corporation.

Yameen also praised the New Silk Road project, reported by Chinese state media to be pass the intended site of the Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project – or ‘iHavan’ – in the northernmost atoll in the Maldives.

“Maldives is now honoured to feature among China’s partners in building a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road – a unique vision of President Xi which will bring Asian neighbours closer together,” said Yameen at this morning’s press conference.

In an op-ed published in local media ahead of the visit, President Xi called for the Maldives “to get actively involved in building the 21st century maritime Silk Road by leveraging its own strength.”

“China looks forward to working with Maldives to speedily translate this cooperation initiative into reality so as to boost the development and prosperity of all countries and the rise of Asia,” wrote President Xi.

The foreign ministry reports that the Maldives is prepared to actively participate in relevant cooperation with regard to the establishment of the Silk Road, and that the two countries further agreed to cooperate in the fields of maritime issues, economy, and security.


Emails hacked at foreign ministry

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) have begun investigating hacking of emails at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the weekend, reports CNM.

An official at the ministry said its emails were attacked by hackers. However, measures were promptly taken once the hacking attempt was discovered, the official said.

According to CNM, the ministry has been preparing for a visit from a foreign dignitary.


Maldivian jailed in Thailand for 14 months

A 44-year-old Maldivian man has been sentenced to 14 months in jail in Thailand for using counterfeit US dollars and overstaying his visa.

Nahula Ali, executive coordinator at the Foreign Ministry, told local media that the Maldivian citizen was indicted in June and had confessed to the crime.

Local media has identified the man as Abdulla Saeed from Raa Atoll Ungoofaru.

The Foreign Ministry has reportedly communicated the news to the man’s family and local authorities.