Kaadedhoo airport suspends operations during repairs to firetruck

Flights to Kaadedhoo airport in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll have been temporarily suspended during repairs to the airport’s fire truck, local media has reported.

The Transport Ministry told Haveeru that the Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) and airport technicians were working to repair the truck and bring in a temporary replacement.

Airports cannot be operated without a functioning firetruck, the ministry stated.

Flights have meanwhile been diverted to Kooddoo airport.


Koodoo Fisheries to provide ferry service in Huvadhu atoll

Government-owned fisheries company Koodoo has been tasked with providing ferry services in Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaal atolls on a temporary basis, according to local media reports.

In March 2013, the transport ministry terminated an agreement with Trinus-CAE Holdings Pvt Ltd to provide public transport in the two atolls following interruptions in the service.

The private company was contracted to provide ferry services in November 2009 under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) policy of the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government.

A nationwide transport network was one of five main pledges of the previous government.

In October 2012, the MDP-majority Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Council accused Trinus-CAE of ceasing ferry services and asked the transport ministry to cancel the agreement with the company.

The council said in a statement at the time that it was receiving a number of complaints from citizens inconvenienced by the unavailability of ferry services.

“The council believes that since the company that provides this service in the atoll has been given an uninhabited island [under the PPP programme] and continues to reap benefits from the island, the public should receive adequate services,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director at the Transport Ministry Abdulla Shakeeb told newspaper Haveeru today that ferry services will resume on Saturday (June 22) with five boats and the same ticket prices of MVR 25 for inter-atoll transport and MVR 50 between the two atolls.

Shakeeb said the government would make an announcement in the near future seeking a party to offer ferry services in the two southern atolls. He added that the ministry expected the bidding process to be completed in the next six months.

According to Sun Online, Deputy Transport Mahdhy Imad said at a ceremony held today to sign the agreement with Koodoo that the government would cover the cost of providing the service if the fisheries company was unable to do so. The government would however not provide any finances for Koodoo to commence the ferry service, he added.


Hundreds demonstrate in capital after former president placed in detention

Additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed and Daniel Bosley

Hundreds of protesters gathered near the President’s Office in Male’ on Monday night as close family and legal representatives of former President Mohamed Nasheed left to visit him at the Dhoonidhoo detention facility, where he is being kept ahead of his trial on Tuesday afternoon.

The country’s first democratically elected president was taken into police custody yesterday on the island of Fares-Mathoda in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll after the Hulhumale Magistrate Court issued a warrant for his arrest and presentation in court on Tuesday October 9.

The issuing of the warrant – exactly seven months after Nasheed’s ousting – follows his defiance of a court-ordered travel ban outside the capital Male’, and two court summons.

The Maldives Police Service confirmed to Minivan News that it had been ordered to detain Nasheed and present him at his trial in Male’ at 4:00pm today, but added that no order had been received to keep him in custody beyond the hearing so far.

Leaving to meet Nasheed last night, his wife Laila Ali, several close family members, and a handful of legal advisers travelled to Dhoonidhoo  at 10:15pm to cheers and chanting from a vocal group of around 500 to 600 supporters. The demonstrators had gathered behind temporary police barricades set up by the main Bank of Maldives building in the capital.

Demonstrators had been gathering since about 9:30pm as police set up blockades around the roads surrounding the President’s Office building on Boduthakurufaanu Magu.

Tensions during the evening were mostly evident in vocal exchanges between protesters on the front line and the 20 to 30 police officers assigned to man the blockades, who faced heckling and jeering from the crowds.

“You are only protecting certain individuals in this country,” one protester shouted angrily.

An police officer on the front lines responded that he was there to protect everyone. The jeering and chanting continued throughout the evening.

By 10:30pm, Minivan News observed some minor scuffles as police attempted to force the several hundred demonstrators back behind temporary barriers to chants of “free Nasheed” by the gathered crowd.  However, violent clashes with authorities were minimal during the gathering.

Senior officials of MDP were among the demonstrators, with MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on the front-lines of the gathering.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said the demonstrations, which concluded at around midnight, were conducted peacefully and without any arrests.

“There were three barricades that were thrown into the water by the Bank of Maldives building, but no one had been arrested as a result,” he said.

Minivan News observed a small number of riot police in helmets later gathering behind police lines, but these officers were not deployed, as protests died down soon after midnight.

Also present earlier in the evening was former Minister of Environment Mohamed Aslam, who had travelled with Nasheed during the day after he had been detained by police.

Speaking to Minivan News, Aslam said Nasheed had requested he be returned to his home in Male’ under police custody ahead of his trial, rather than the detention centre at Dhoonidhoo.

The request was rejected by authorities, with Nasheed being dropped off at Dhoonidhoo, where representatives from the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) were said to be present.

While being returned to the capital yesterday, Aslam alleged that a foreign national, whom he believed to be from the India, was also travelling with police, saying he had requested to be transported back to Male’.

“I would say it is highly irregular to have a foreign person on a police boat in such a situation,” he claimed.

Discussing Nasheed’s arrest, Aslam said that after meeting with members of the public on Fares-Mathoda, Nasheed and his entourage returned to the former environment chief’s home on the island after it had been confirmed that a police force had landed nearby.

“These were police armed with riot guns gathered by my home,” he said.

Upon requesting entry to the building and showing an arrest warrant for Nasheed, Aslam said he had asked officers for a few minutes to discuss the situation with the former president.

“As soon as I turned around they had forced their way into the building and begun shoving us around,” he said. “As they forced there way in they also pushed me onto a glass table that broke, fortunately I wasn’t badly hurt from this.”

As police forced themselves into several rooms before locating Nasheed, Aslam claimed that the former president did not resist arrest. The former environment minister said that he was however unable to confirm reports that Nasheed had been pepper sprayed by officers, adding that he did not see such an incident at the time. He claimed to have seen some form of unidentified firearms being packed away by police after they left Fares-Mathoda.

Aslam said he had opted to travel with Nasheed they were transported to larger boat off the island to return to Male’. Along the way he added they had stopped for lunch, at which point it was announced that Nasheed was to be taken to the Dhoonidhoo detention facility.

Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said the government had wished to avoid any direct involvement in Nasheed’s detention and trial, referring any requests on the matter to police and judicial authorities.

“We have asked the Maldives Police Service to notify media of any developments.  The President’s Office wishes to stay clear of this matter,” he said at the time. ”We know as much as the [media] about developments right now.”

Masood added that, despite allegations raised by the MDP concerning alleged use of excessive force to seize the former president, police authorities had insisted officers had acted with restraint.

“I’m told [Nasheed] asked for a box of cigarettes, a request that [officers] granted.  He was given Benson and Hedges as I understand,” Masood said.


MDP islanders protest failure of justice on Thinadhoo

Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Thinadhoo island court was held under locked conditions by supporters of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for failing to administer justice within the courts.

After entering the court room to protest their grievances the islanders were escorted outside by a court official who locked the door. The crowd subsequently grabbed the court keys from the official and later handed them over to police, one islander said.

Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Gadhdhoo court magistrate Mohamed Ragib Ahmed was also prevented from coming to the island today, where he was to rule on a defamation case against MDP council member Mohamed Hassan Didi.

According to local media, Ragib was transported by police on a gulf craft launch to Thinadhoo where approximately 200 MDP supporters prevented him from coming ashore. Meanwhile, five men boarded the launch and several others tailed him back to Gadhdhoo.


Kaadehdhoo airport given to Island Aviation Services for development

Kaadehdhoo airport in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll was today handed over to Island Aviation Services Limited (IAS) for development.

A special ceremony was held to mark the occasion after a cabinet meeting scheduled for this afternoon in Gaaf Dhaal atoll Thinadhoo, reported Haveeru News. The government is also considering a proposal to offer IAS an island for resort development.

Cabinet discussions at Thinadhoo today were said to address development programmes planned for Thinadhooo and Upper South Province.

President Mohamed Nasheed was said to inaugurate Thinadhooo Development Corporation this evening before leaving the island.


Police stop over-capacity atoll ferry

Police stopped an atoll ferry from leaving Gaaf Alif Dhaandhoo today with passengers numbers above the legal capacity.

Sun Online reports that Gaaf Alif Atoll Councillor Abdu Salaam was on board at the time. Salaam said that when police counted there were approximately 30 passengers above the 50-person limit.

The councillor explained that the lack of capacity was a recurring problem.

Under the government’s public-private partnership (PPP) policy, the ferry service in the atoll is provided by a private company called Drimex.