Government scales down water relief effort

President Abdulla Yameen’s administration has scaled down water relief efforts today by ending the distribution of bottled water to residents of capital Malé.

“We decided to stop the bottled water distribution because there is no shortage of drinking water at the moment. There is also enough water at corner shops for purchase,” Minister of Defense Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim said at a press conference last night.

The government had set up water distribution centers after a fire at Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) on December 4 gutted the sole desalination plant in Malé, leaving 130,000 people without drinking and running water.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the government’s decision with party Chairperson Ali Waheed saying that the decision will lead to further hardship and claimed the Maldives is currently seeing its worst days since the 1970s.

A Bangladeshi navy ship, the BNS Samudra Joy, arrived in Malé today with 100 tonnes of bottled water and five reverse osmosis plants, the Foreign Ministry has said.

Meanwhile, custom built panels to replace the damaged panel boards connecting electricity generators and desalination plants at MWSC arrived in Malé from Singapore today.

MWSC has now started releasing water once in the morning and once at night. Water was available for four hours this morning and will be available from 7:30 pm – 12:00 am tonight.

The government has also decided to establish a 20,000 ton ‘strategic reserve’ of water to prevent another crisis, using funds gathered through the US$ 20 million ‘Malé water crisis management fund.’

Nazim, who also heads the water crisis task force, said that funds would mainly be used to recover costs which are not covered by insurance, the construction of the 20,000 ton water reserve and to cover the cost of relief operations. Individuals and corporations who contributed to the relief effort will all be reimbursed, he said.

The fund’s establishment has garnered criticism from the opposition and civil society groups, who have demanded transparency in the fund’s utilization.

In response, Nazim said the fund was set up with “very good intentions.”

“Information about the fund would be released in a very transparent manner. I urge the public to refrain from politicizing the fund.” he added.

Anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives has demanded a break down of the US$20 million and said “the decision to seek donations from the public raises questions given that MWSC is a private, profit-making corporation with 80 per cent government shares.”

Private donors have contributed US$5.5million to the fund so far.

Protests demanding free water continued in Malé last night, but were disrupted for the third time by a group of seven young men.

Minivan news observed six to seven young men who were hiding within the protesters jump on a truck and start vandalizing the generator powering the sound system. One attacker lifted up the generator and threw it on the ground.

Police immediately moved in and arrested the attackers. Minivan news saw little to no resistance from the attackers during the arrest.

Several eyewitnesses later told Minivan news that the attackers were praising President Yameen as they waited for a police vehicle to take them to the police head quarters.

“President Yameen is the best thing to have happened to the nation,” one of the attackers was reported as saying.

Another eyewitness told Minivan News that he heard one Special Operations (SO) police officer insulting Former President Mohamed Nasheed while stating those arrested would be released the next day.

A police media official confirmed to minivan news that seven men were arrested last night in relation to the attacks at the protest.

A similar incident occurred on the previous night when three young men attacked the protest armed with box cutters.

On Wednesday, Mirihi Island resort has donated a temporary desalination plant capable of producing 100 tonnes of water to the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

The MNDF has also started distributing disposable cups, plates and cutlery to cafés in Malé.

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People’s Majlis disrupted after disorder over water crisis

Allegation of assault against opposition MPs followed disruption in the People’s Majlis today as MPs attempted to debate the ongoing Malé water crisis.

Water services have been cut off from the capital for six days following a fire at the capital’s sole desalination plant.

The Majlis convened today – with debate on the proposed 2015 state budget and an urgent motion of the water crisis on the agenda. But proceedings were prematurely concluded after numerous points of order were raised by the opposition MPs.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mariya Didi expressed her discontent that the parliament was receiving running water while water services for Malé residents were disrupted.

“While there is no water for the general public, there is water in the parliament. There is even running water in the toilets,” local media reported Mariya as saying.

This subsequent commotion saw Mariya standing in front of the Speaker of the Parliament Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed in protest, while former Speaker of the Majlis and MDP MP Abdulla Shahid has alleged he was attacked by members of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Shahid had since submitted a letter addressed to the speaker urging an investigation, while the MDP released a statement condemning the attack on Shahid and alleging an additional attack on Mariya by a pro-government MP.

However, PPM Parliamentary Group Leader Ahmed Nihan has denied the attacks when speaking with local media.

“Shahid started calling for the resignation of the government during the commotion. Some of our younger MPs went near the table and then there were some disagreements,” Nihan told Haveeru.

Questioning the water fund

The MDP also raised several queries regarding the US$20 million ‘Malé water crisis management fund’ set up by the government in order to recover the cost of dealing with the situation.

Speaking at a press conference today, MDP Vice Chairperson Ali Niyaz said that the government’s demands for US$20 million without a detailed breakdown of how the money is going to be spent might lead to corruption.

“Even though MWSC managing director is present during the press conferences, he has not been given any opportunity to speak and we have not received any information on the damages from a technical viewpoint,” complained Niyaz.

Following calls from the defence minister not to politicise relief efforts, Niyaz said that the party is not trying to politicise the US$20 million fund but was demanding answers and correct information from the technical staff at the MWSC rather than the “political figures” in the president’s task force.

The team assigned by President Abdulla Yameen to deal with the crisis includes Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim, Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed, Minister of Environment Thoriq Ibrahim, and Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee.

Meanwhile, 5 people were arrested last night at a protest voicing the public’s frustrations with the government’s handling of the water crisis.

A police media official told Minivan News that the people were arrested for disobeying police orders and that all have now been released.

The MDP denied involvement in the protests, saying that the protests did not feature any of the MDP flags and that it was merely people expressing their frustrations with the government.



Related to this story

No fall back for disaster of this magnitude: President Yameen

Government seeks US$20 million in donations to repair Malé’s desalination plant

President Yameen to return to Maldives as water crisis enters third day

UN Maldives commends government’s response in water crisis, opposition condemns

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Tiny Hearts praises record attempt as “huge success” for charity in the Maldives

Maldivian NGO Tiny Hearts might have fallen short in its attempts to secure a place in the Guinness book of World Records, despite thousands of people turning up at Male’ National Stadium yesterday, yet the NGO said the event was nonetheless a great success for charitable aims in the country.

The NGO, which was formed back in 2009 to help local children suffering with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD), attempted to gather thousands of people into a heart shape to raise awareness about the number of Maldivians affected by the condition. The charity estimates that one person in every 100 born around the world suffers from a CHD.

According to organisers of late nights record attempt, the target number for participants needed to enter the record books was 11,708 – a figure corresponding to the date of the attempt July 8 2011 – with 4,665 turning up to be involved.

Although not sufficient to make the record books after several attempts yesterday evening, a spokesperson for tiny hearts said that as a means to create awareness and organise local people to a cause, the event was still a success for the group.

“Ultimately, we aimed to get as many people together as possible to raise awareness [about CHD] across the country. We therefore achieved our objective,” said the spokesperson. “We managed to organise thousands of people together for a single cause, with no salaried staff: this is a huge success.”

Future goals

Yesterday’s event was designed as a means to celebrate two years of Tiny Hearts being registered as a charity in the country. Yet in looking ahead to its future goals, the NGO’s spokesperson said that it was not presently planning to renew its attempts to break into the record books – focusing instead on fundraising measures.

“Right now, we are trying to minimise costs in looking for events for funding,” the spokesperson said. “At present one surgery [for a local child] costs US$5,000, this does not include additional charges for transportation abroad. People affected by CHD are increasing all the time in a country. We have more than 200 children registered with the charity and there are likely to be an even larger number unregistered.”

Last year, a charity football match organised by the charity involving public figures and celebrities raised Rf265,000 (US$20,500) for patients.

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