Gasim’s Villa denied stay order in court battle

The Villa Group has been denied a stay order on the tourism ministry’s seizure of two lagoons in a court battle that could bankrupt one of the Maldives’ largest companies.

The civil court yesterday rejected a request by Villa, which is owned by opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, for the stay order, paving the way for the tourism ministry to take control of the lagoons.

Villa Group is currently locked in a series of lawsuits against the state over the seizure of several leased properties as well as a notice to pay US$100 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines.

The opposition claims the government is unfairly targeting Gasim’s business interests following the JP’s split from the ruling coalition. The government denies any political motivation behind the moves.

Villa has filed ten cases at the civil court contesting the tourism ministry’s termination of amended lease agreements as well as the US$100million notice.

The company is seeking stay orders halting the enforcement of the notices until the court decides on its legality.

But in yesterday’s ruling over the termination of lease agreements for the Maadhihgaru and Kanuhuraa lagoons in Kaafu atoll, the court ruled that Villa Hotels will not suffer “irrevocable losses” if the stay order is not granted as the state could compensate the company if the case is concluded in its favour.

The tourism ministry had also terminated lease agreements with Villa for three more islands shortly after the JP formed an alliance with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in early February.

Requests for stay orders in the other cases are still pending. Former Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz is representing Villa in the lawsuits against the tourism ministry and the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA).

MIRA had initially asked Villa to pay US$100million by late March, but extended the period until mid April.

Gasim has said the government is planning to freeze Villa’s accounts if the company is unable to pay the amount, warning that it would bankrupt the company and leave his 5,000 employees jobless.

In early February, the civil court granted a stay order halting the seizure of the five properties in separate litigation. However, on February 24, the High Court overturned the stay order.

Gasim meanwhile met Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed yesterday following the apex court’s refusal to accept an appeal for the High Court decision.

Gasim told reporters after the meeting that he expressed displeasure with the Supreme Court registrar rejecting the appeal without offering a reason.

The chief justice told him to submit a letter and that matters cannot be settled verbally, Gasim said.

Villa Group is one of the largest companies in the Maldives with the holding company Villa Shipping and Trading Pvt Ltd conglomerate operating businesses in shipping, import and export, retail, tourism, fishing, media, communications, transport, and education.

The three islands and two lagoons at stake in this case were leased as part of a settlement agreement signed with the government in December 2013 after the Supreme Court ordered the state to pay Villa over US$9 million as compensation.

Lagoons are generally leased for purposes of land reclamation for either industrial or tourism purposes.


Gasim “economically paralysed,” says JP Deputy Leader

The current government has “economically paralysed” Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim, its Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim has said.

“Even though Gasim has not been put behind prison bars, the government has economically paralysed him,” Ameen said at a press conference of the opposition’s newly formed “Maldivians against brutality” alliance today.

Gasim could not actively participate in opposition activities as the government has “cornered” the tycoon by targeting his businesses, Ameen said.

While the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) accepted the Adhaalath Party’s (AP) invitation to form a united front against the government, the JP’s national council is yet to decide whether the party will join the new alliance.

However, Ameen and several other senior JP members have been working with the alliance, claiming their participation was in an “individual capacity.”

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla accused the government of planning to seize all of Gasim’s assets and making sure he was “unable to move his hands or legs” in his defence.

Meanwhile, in an appearance on Gasim’s Villa TV, MDP Vice President Mohamed on Saturday said Maldivians should not wait and watch while the government destroyed Gasim’s Villa Group.

On March 1, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) gave a 30-day notice to Villa Group to pay US$100 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines.

Moreover, in February, the tourism ministry seized several islands and lagoons leased to Villa Group as part of an out-of-court settlement.

MDP-JP alliance

After officially leaving the ruling coalition in January, the JP formed an alliance with the MDP in January and launched nightly protests on February 10 against what they alleged were repeated violations of the constitution by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

Gasim himself and other JP leaders took part in the protests, which culminated in a mass rally on February 27.

Following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest on February 22 ahead of a surprise terrorism trial, Gasim called on the Prosecutor General to withdraw the “politically motivated charges” and vowed to continue protests.

However, after failing to return from a trip to Sri Lanka to attend the February 27 protest march, Gasim has not appeared in opposition protests. He has also not made any public statements since a meeting with Home Minister Umar Naseer on March 5.

Villa Group is one of the largest companies in the Maldives with the holding company Villa Shipping and Trading Pvt Ltd conglomerate operating businesses in shipping, import and export, retail, tourism, fishing, media, communications, transport, and education.


Government targeting Gasim unfairly, says MDP Vice President

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Vice President Mohamed Shifaz told VTV last night that Maldivians should not wait and watch while the government targeted the Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim’s businesses.

Shifaz said that Gasim had contributed greatly to the nation and that he was diligent when it came to paying required taxes to the state.

“If we ignore these things today, there would not be a country tomorrow and the citizens would have nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help,” he told the station, owned by Gasim’s Villa Group.

The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) on March 1 ordered Gasim’s Villa Group to pay pay the state US$100 million within 30 days.

Gasim is currently contesting MIRA’s order. The government said Villa owed the state money in rent and fines for several islands and lagoons leased to the company.

Also speaking on VTV yesterday, the JP’s legal secretary, Imad Solih, said that Gasim had received the ‘Ran Laari’ award in 2014, given in recognition of those who pay the highest amount in taxes to the state.

“A single opinion causes the entire degradation of an airport and a simple political stand results in the seizing of assets. Is this justice and equality?” asked Imad.


MDP, Adhaalath Party announces first rally of “Maldivians against brutality” alliance

The first rally of the newly formed “Maldivians against brutality” alliance of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former rival Adhaalath Party (AP) is due to take place tonight.

At a press conference of the opposition alliance this afternoon, AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla stressed the importance of a united and strong alliance to counter the “brutality” of President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

“The goal of this alliance is to bring an end to the government’s brutality. That does not mean overthrowing the government,” Imran said.

The MDP’s national council adopted a resolution this week to work together with the AP after Imran called for the formation of a “national unity alliance” against the government.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said today that the opposition alliance would form a steering committee to organise its activities and invited the public to attend the rally at the carnival area at 9:00pm.

“We need to put our clashing opinions aside and work together for national interest,” Waheed said.

Jumhooree Party (JP) Deputy Leaders Ameen Ibrahim and Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan meanwhile told the press that they were working with the movement in their “personal capacity” as the JP’s council has not officially joined the movement.

Ameen said the party decided against formally joining the alliance as the public might perceive that the party was working to protect its leader’s business interests. Last month, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group was ordered to pay the state US$100 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines in 30 days.

United front

Imran contended that the two people suffering the most under Yameen’s government was ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, along with Gasim, listing former President Mohamed Nasheed as the third.

He further claimed that the target of an amendment proposed by a pro-government MP for discontinuing state benefits for convicted ex-presidents was Gayoom.

Former President Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison last Friday (March 13).

Imran also alleged that a PPM member offered him a bribe today to scuttle the opposition alliance and claimed he could have accepted US$10 million in bribes from Indian infrastructure giant GMR to cease protests calling for the termination of the airport development deal in late 2012.

“I would like to tell all of Maldives that I would not sell my principles for money,” he said.

He further alleged that the AP chose to back Gasim in the presidential election despite the PPM offering large amounts of money in exchange for the religious conservative party’s endorsement.

Imran said the decision to form an alliance with the MDP has led to differences of opinion within the party, stating that the AP was the “most democratic” party in the country.

Imran played a pivotal role in the downfall of the Nasheed administration in February 2012, spearheading anti-government demonstrations against the MDP government’s allegedly anti-Islamic policies in 2011 and the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

After backing Gasim in the 2013 presidential election, the AP later endorsed PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen against Nasheed in the second round run-off.

A “career” of toppling governments

Asked at a press conference yesterday whether the government was facing domestic and international pressure due to the opposition alliance’s activities, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb insisted that the government was stable with a strong parliamentary majority.

“We are not surprised. It’s always the same people. Whenever a new government comes, they will be with the government. But before too long, they would say ‘[the government] did this or that’ and [should be] toppled,” he said in an apparent reference to the AP.

“Their whole career is bringing a government and overthrowing the government. This has become the same career for them.”

The PPM deputy leader contended that the opposition was unable to back up its allegation of the government violating the constitution and has now ceased that line of attack.

Those who protested against Nasheed “for the sake of Islam and the nation” were currently working with a party they alleged had “sold off the nation,” he said.

The current administration has neither sold off state assets nor carried out any anti-Islamic activities, Adeeb said, adding, however, that some religious scholars considered music shows a serious “wrongdoing”.

If the religious scholars believed in Islamic principles “with such harshness”, Adeeb argued that earning money from the sale of alcohol and pork should be forbidden.

“But it was these religious people who took the hands of such a person and ran with him twice to make him president. I don’t want to name names,” he said.

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Villa Group ordered to pay US$100million in 30 days

Opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group has been ordered to pay the state US$100million within 30 days.

The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) today said Villa Group owed the state US$100million in rent and fines for several islands and lagoons leased to the company.

However, upon his return to Malé this afternoon Gasim brushed off the claim stating: “I don’t owe MIRA anything.”

The opposition has claimed the government is targeting Gasim’s businesses following his split with the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and subsequent alliance with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

State prosecutors last week claimed former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim had conspired with the Villa Group to harm senior state officials, according to documents in a pen drive confiscated from the retired Colonel’s home during a midnight raid on January 18.

Nazim is currently in police custody until a trial on illegal weapons possession concludes at the Criminal Court. The police found a pistol and three live bullets along with the pen drive during the controversial raid.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed is also in police custody amidst a surprise terrorism trial over the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Speaking to reporters at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Gasim said the international community was closely monitoring the government’s “unjust prosecution of opposition leaders.”

“The international community takes the prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed, retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim and current Defense Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel and other politically motivated prosecutions as a joke. They believe that political prisoners are being framed,” Gasim said.

Gasim had departed to Colombo on Wednesday to meet with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and a European Union (EU) delegation, ahead of a mass opposition protest scheduled for February 27.

“The Sri Lankan President expressed concern over the situation in Maldives and has promised that he would speak with the Prime Minister and send a senior Sri Lankan delegation to Maldives,” Gasim told reporters.

“My main reason for this trip was to prevent any economic sanctions against Maldives, if political prisoners are sentenced. If that happens people of this country will starve, and no good would come out of it.”

Fearing international economic sanctions if the current political crisis deepens, Gasim urged President Abdulla Yameen to withdraw charges against all political prisoners.

The PPM maintains it has no influence over Nasheed and Nazim’s trials, claiming the charges were initiated by the independent Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and tried through independent courts.

However, pointing to a PPM majority in the People’s Majlis, Gasim implied the state’s independent institutions did as President Yameen instructed for fear of retaliation.

“The President might say that it’s not in his power to withdraw the charges against the political prisoners. It is true, but the fact is government has the majority of the Peoples Majlis therefore members of independent institutions will fear government retaliation if they do anything against them.”

The opposition leader’s absence at the mass February 27 rally left many supporters dissatisfied, but Gasim said he was “watching the protest from Sri Lanka.”

“The huge number of protesters shows that Maldivians despise a dictatorship. This shows that Maldivians want justice,” he said.

Asked if he fears arrest, Gasim said the police could only arrest him if he had committed any crime.

“I haven’t committed any crime. I have heard that government is framing people such as colonel Nazim. I have not committed any crime and won’t commit one even in the future.”

The Tourism Ministry in early February moved to seize several islands and lagoons granted to Villa Group in a settlement agreement, but was stalled following a Civil Court injunction. The High Court last week overturned the stay order, paving the way for state appropriation.

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Security services threaten legal action against protesters converging on Male’

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) have threatened legal action against protesters converging on Malé from the atolls today for a mass rally organised by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-Jumhooree Party (MDP-JP) alliance.

“Even if people come from the atolls, creating turmoil in Malé and participating in disrupting the peace would infringe on the rights of people who reside in Malé,” reads a joint statement released by the security services last night.

“We notify that we will find those who come to participate in the protest to disrupt the peace of Malé and take legal action against them. Therefore, the security services appeal to those coming to Malé from the atolls to act in accordance with the Freedom of Assembly Act, Anti-Social Behaviour Act and in a way that does not infringe on the rights of people who reside in Malé.”

Earlier this month, the MDP and former government coalition partner JP signed an agreement to “defend the constitution” against alleged breaches by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration and announced a mass rally for February 27.

At an MDP-JP march on February 20, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed suggested the demonstration would usher in “a second February 7,” referring to the day when former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned in the wake of a police and army mutiny.

The opposition alliance predicts 20,000 people would participate in the demonstration today. Boatloads of supporters began arriving in Malé this morning. While police reportedly boarded some boats for inspection, there have been no reports so far of the security services obstructing vessels en route to the capital.

Police and MNDF meanwhile warned that protests would be broken up if any criminal or unlawful activity occurs.

“If police believe that tomorrow’s protest is not peaceful, we notify that the gathering will be disbanded in accordance with legal norms,” the statement added.

The security services appealed to the media to take national interest and security into consideration while reporting the mass rally.

The joint statement also alleged that politicians were inviting police and army officers to join anti-government activities and calling on the security services to interfere in politics.

Moreover, the statement alleged, individual police and army officers were offered bribes and other inducements in “acts of corruption”.

“We believe these are efforts intended to divide the ranks of police and the military,” it added.

The statement also warned against involving foreigners in the demonstration and assured protection for expatriates.

While the security services would not allow either unrest or damage to private and public property, the statement noted that the security services would not obstruct peaceful assembly or free expression within the bounds of the law.

Police meanwhile conducted an ‘operational and tactical exercise’ yesterday in preparation for the mass rally with instructions provided to officers from the Specialist Operations (SO) department and Malé city police.

“And the extent to which weapons would be needed by the police officers involved in the operation was determined and [the weapons] were brought to a state of readiness,” stated police media.

Non-lethal weapons such as stun guns and grenades brought for use in the police operation were tested at Feydhoo Finolhu, police revealed.

A representative from the JP meanwhile met Chief Superintendent of Police Ismail Naveen at the Iskandharu Koshi barracks last night for a discussion regarding the mass rally.

According to police media, Naveen, head of the Central Operations Command, assured cooperation from police to ensure that the protest remains peaceful.

The JP representative also assured cooperation from the party and pledged to keep police informed of the activities.

Police also revealed that Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed met Chief of Defence Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam at the military headquarters yesterday to discuss efforts to maintain peace and security in the capital.

“At the meeting, the chief of defence forces said weapons requested by police for use in operations have been provided in full,” police media stated.

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MDP, JP rally supporters ahead of mass February 27 march

Additional reporting by Ismail Humaam Hamid and Mohamed Saif Fathih

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) marched in Malé last night in a bid to rally supporters for a massive demonstration on February 27.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said the February 27 gathering would usher in “a second February 7,” referring to the day former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned in 2012 following a police and army mutiny.

The allied opposition parties claim the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has repeatedly violated the constitution. They have held nightly protests since February 11 calling on President Abdulla Yameen to resign. The PPM has described the protests as an attempt to disrupt the peace and dismissed the opposition’s claims as baseless.

“When a government oversteps its bounds, the public must stand up. We must come out tomorrow night as well. Especially on February 27, the second February 7, everyone must come out onto the streets, with their families, as if it were an Eid,” Waheed told reporters.

Opposition supporters, led by MDP’s Nasheed and JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, set out from Usfasgandu at 8:30 pm, circled the city of Malé and stopped at police barricades in front of the Maldives Monetary Authority building.

Four opposition supporters carrying MDP flags were arrested from the Republican Square after the march ended at 1:00am.

Speaking to reporters last night, Nasheed said Yameen’s administration had lost all legitimacy with the JP’s recent split from the coalition.

“There is no support for President Yameen. We believe Maldives needs fresh elections,” he said.

Gasim told reporters the JP had been forced to the streets to establish justice and end executive influence on independent institutions.

“I believe in a government of the people by the people,” he said.

As the opposition marched, the PPM held a rally at the Alimas Carnival in support of President Yameen and announced two MPs and 15 councilors had defected from the JP to the ruling party.

In the crowd

Businessmen Ali Hussein, 49, said he was protesting to prevent a slide into authoritarianism: “If we do not protest now, Yameen will do whatever he can to stay in power.”

Aishath Ismail, 32, concurred, saying “We have to get rid of the government for the sake of our children.” The opposition rallies represented the real public, she said, alleging a PPM march on Thursday evening had been attended by “paid thugs.”

The PPM’s 400-strong march prior to its evening rally, consisted mostly of young men wearing pink head bands. Some had their faces covered. Tourism Minister Adeeb said MDP labeled young men as thugs, and said only the elderly supported the opposition.

An Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital worker at the opposition rally who wished to remain anonymous said she was a loyal MDP supporter and had no issues working with JP supporters, despite their key role in Nasheed’s ouster in 2012.

“We can stomach it. Yameen’s government has no principles. They are robbing the people, they are all thieves,” she said.

Meanwhile, Latheef, a loyal supporter of Gasim said the “MDP and JP are the same, with similar ideologies, even if they fight from time to time.”

“The whole country is in ruins. How can Yameen rule when he is so frequently out of the country?”

MDP Chairperson Waheed described the turnout as “an encouragement” to all citizens and said 20,000 people would participate in the Feb 27 rally.

President Yameen last night called on Gasim to remember the events of February 7 and end his alliance with the MDP. He also warned Nasheed he would not hesitate to implement a jail sentence, referring to stalled criminal charges over the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Yameen’s former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim is currently in police custody on charges of treason and terrorism.

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Nasheed defends coalition with former rivals

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has defended the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) coalition with former opponents warning of a slide into authoritarianism without the MDP’s recent coalition with Jumhooree Party (JP).

“A lot of people would have been arrested – including myself, they would prevent the MDP parliamentary group from increasing beyond six or seven members, and media would not be allowed to cover news freely,” Nasheed told Rajje TV’s Fala Suruhee programme last night.

Claiming there was “no hope” with President Abdulla Yameen’s government, Nasheed said there were no job opportunities for the youth, and said that the country’s economy had slowed down due to decreasing tourist arrivals.

“I sincerely believe that the best course of action for the Maldives is to pave way for [JP leader] Gasim Ibrahim to become the president in 2015,” said Nasheed.

MDP and JP officially agreed to work together in defending the constitution last month, two days after JP split off from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). The two parties accused the government of repeatedly breaching the constitution by narrowing basic rights and freedoms, and undermining independent institutions and the judiciary.

Nasheed has come under fire from supporters for the MDP’s decision to ally with key figures responsible for his ouster in February 2012.

In response, Nasheed said: “Many things have happened which we did not want to see. If we were to keep it in our hearts all the time, it would prevent us from going forward.”

The MDP/JP coalition would gain a parliamentary majority in March, he continued. The two opposition parties have now begun nightly protests calling for President Yameen’s immediate resignation.

Protesters last night  held up placards which read, “Stop discrimination among citizens” and “We will not tolerate dictatorship.”


Nasheed also condemned the government’s arrest of former Defense Minister colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim last month, describing the move as an attempt to frame the minister.

“President Yameen has to back down, he cannot be allowed to frame Nazim,” he said.

Nazim was arrested on February 10 fter the police special operations officers allegedly found a pistol and an improvised explosive device during a raid on Nazim’s home in the early hours of January 18. He is now accused of plotting to overthrow the government and harming senior government officials.

“Nazim would clearly know that he would not able to change the government by keeping a pistol and three bullets under his pillow,” Nasheed said pointing to Nazim’s three year term as defense minister and longs service in the army.

The former defense minister’s legal team maintains there is no forensic evidence to implicate Nazim and has appealed the Criminals Court’s decision to detain the minister for 15 days on remand at the High Court.

Nasheed also spoke out against the government’s recent decision to take back plots of land awarded to Gasim and the Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb’s claim that Gasim owed the government US$ 100 million (MVR 1.5 billion) as rent and fines for islands.

“The state should not be able to unjustly take any businessman’s assets,” said Nasheed.

Gasim has denied the claims as well, stating at a february 16 protest: “Gasim Ibrahim does not owe them any money at all. So the tourism Minister is clearly lying.”

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Gasim denies claims he owed government US$100 million

Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and prominent businessman Gasim Ibrahim has rejected claims made by the tourism minister that he owes the government US$100 million (MVR 1.5 billion).

“Gasim Ibrahim does not owe them any money at all,” said the Maamigili MP while speaking at a street protest held last night. “So the Tourism Minister is clearly lying.”

Earlier this week, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb had alleged that Gasim’s Villa Group owes the government the money as rent and fines for islands leased to his businesses.

The Civil Court last week ordered the Ministry of Tourism to halt all proceedings regarding the seizure of uninhabited islands and lagoons granted to Villa Hotels and Resorts Private Limited.

According to the order, though the government has said Villa can be compensated for the seizure of the islands and lagoons, the areas had been handed over due to the government’s previous inability to bear the burden of financial or monetary compensation.

“It saddens me to see that the government has forgotten that it is not child’s play to seize and take away someone’s land and property,” said Gasim at the rally held alongside opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last night (February 16) .

In addition, Gasim called for the minister’s immediate resignation as well as questioning Adeeb’s sudden rise to power.

“When a man who, three years ago, didn’t have enough money to even settle the bill for a cup of coffee with a friend suddenly becomes a millionaire, a billionaire, we know very well what is behind this change,” remarked Gasim.

The government had previously taken Villa Group-owned Kaadedhoo airport and other inhabited islands from Gasim, after he attempted to block its flagship special economic zone (SEZ) bill in the Majlis last year.

After boycotting the committee reviewing the legislation, Gasim warned that SEZs would facilitate massive corruption, threaten independence, and authorise a board formed by the president – and now chaired by Adeeb – “to sell off the entire country in the name of economic zones”.

Gasim’s Villa Group is one of the largest companies in the Maldives with the holding company Villa Shipping and Trading Pvt Ltd conglomerate operating businesses in shipping, import and export, retail, tourism, fishing, media, communications, transport, and education.

Police cordoned off a large section of Malé for the protests last night – the sixth consecutive evening of protests by the MDP – JP coalition, which was formed last month in order to “defend the constitution” against alleged breaches by the government.

Leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said the opposition alliance is a “waste of time”, and that the JP’s exit from the Progressive Coalition is no loss to the government.

Protesters last night again called for the immediate resignation of President Abdulla Yameen and several prominent ministers in his cabinet, claiming that the government had failed its election pledges, such as providing fishermen with MVR10,000 regardless of catch, and promising incentives for agricultural workers.

Also speaking at the rally, Malé City Councilor Mohamed Rasheed called upon islanders to flock to the capital Malé on February 27 for mass protests which are planned to last over 48 hours.

MDP leaders have suggested that the opposition rally to be held at the end of the month will see prominent defectors from government aligned parties join its coalition.

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