Man arrested for keeping disabled son in chains

A 50-year-old man has been arrested for keeping his disabled son bound in chains at Baa Atoll Eydhafushi.

Haveeru reported that the case of the 23-year-old was brought to the attention of the relevant authorities by the Baa Atoll hospital after he was treated for a head injury, with police finding him bound in chains upon arriving at his house.

Meanwhile, the gender ministry and police have started investigating a case in Kaafu Atoll Guraidhoo involving the alleged abuse of 12 children.

According to information obtained by Haveeru, a gender ministry team has been deployed to the island to investigate the case, which was first brought to the attention of Guraidhoo School by a concerned parent.

“This involves children between grade 1 and 7. Some of the children have admitted to being abused. We have found out that these kids are being abused by the same group of people,” an unnamed source told the paper.

Last week, local child protection NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) said that the recent increase in reports of child abuse cases following the death of Rakeedhoo toddler Mohamed Ibthihaal was only the “tip of the iceberg”.

The high profile case of Ibthihaal resulted in a spike in reports of child abuse to the police and gender ministry as the public and media campaigned to raise awareness on the issue.

Source: Haveeru


Busting black magic on Guraidhoo

Aishath Moomina, a janitress at Kaafu Atoll Guraidhoo Island School, was attending to her usual early morning sweeping duties on September 3, when she found a kihaa (young coconut) with Arabic inscriptions buried outside the school gates.

Only a few days remained for the first round of presidential polls and ballot booths were to be set up at the school. That very same day, Moomina started to feel uncharacteristically tired and her skin started to burn.

“That’s when I knew it was black magic. This [black magic] happens every time there is an election,” she told Minivan News.

Guraidhoo, located 30 kilometers south of Malé and home to the country’s only home for people with special needs, is now at the centre of an election-related fanditha or black magic controversy. Since the discovery of the kihaa, various items with Qura’nic verses have been found in Guraidhoo School and throughout the island.

As a run-off election scheduled between the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) approaches on September 28, “cursed objects” have popped up in Fuvahmulah, Hithadhoo, Kudahuvadhoo and Velidhoo Islands.

Though the first round of polls went well, Moomina said that several students have had fainting spells, seizures, and have started to exhibit symptoms such as incoherent muttering, fainting, uncontrollable crying and tiredness.

On Sunday (September 22), Minivan News went to Guraidhoo Island to speak to residents on fanditha’s effect on the vote, finding a wide-spread deep belief in the supernatural, which combined with a tense presidential poll, has increased paranoia within the community.

This has spurred a group of men to actively patrol the two schools where polling booths will be placed and conduct a drive to undo the effects of fanditha.

Vote madness

The intense rivalry between political parties is evident on Guraidhoo’s narrow streets. The MDP’s yellow, the PPM’s pink and Jumhooree Party’s red flags fight for space, while political party campaign offices blast campaign songs at ear-drum shattering volume. Many islanders spoke of family members falling out and long-time neighbors refusing to speak to one another due to differences in political ideologies.

“There is a lot of turmoil in the island. People have gone mad for the vote,” said Faristha, a 47-year-old woman who discovered three Qurans buried in the lagoon. She believes the three Qurans buried in Guraidhoo’s lagoons are powerful black magic, as tradition dictates that the Quran only be disposed of in the open ocean or fast-flowing rivers.

“Black magic exists. If you believe in Allah and the prophet, then you must believe in djinns and black magic. The Quran says they exist. No man in their sane mind would throw away the Qurans like that,” she said waving her arms in anger.

Black magic is a crime punishable by death under the Islamic Shariah. While there are no legal sanctions or penalties against black magic in the written laws and regulations, the Maldives Police Services had arrested MDP activists and raided MDP protest camps on suspicion of black magic following the controversial transfer of power of February 2012.

With the proliferation of cursed objects, the Islamic Ministry released a sermon on Friday proclaiming black magic to be among the most evil of sins.

Black magic busters

Hassan Shuzeym, 35, is an artist, a caretaker at Guraidhoo’s Home for People with Special Needs, and now leader of the drive to undo black magic. Sitting at one of Guraidhoo’s newly opened guesthouses, the slim, dark-skinned Shuzeym told us how he organizes a 20-man patrol from dusk til dawn in order to ensure cursed objects are no longer buried at the schools.

A culture of performing black magic to coerce love or for personal gain had always existed on the island, Shuzeym told us over cigarettes and coffee. But black magic to influence votes on a large scale was new, he said.

“This magic is being done to change people’s hearts about their votes. But it’s only affecting the students who study at the school. We want to minimize the harm caused to people from the black magic.”

Shuzeym and his friends dig up objects and perform counter spells to cancel out their magic.

“In places where it is too dangerous to dig them out, we read surahs (chapters) of the Quran and sprinkle water on the area to cancel out their powers,” he said.

When asked how they knew where to look for cursed objects, Shuzeym told us with a mysterious look, “I can only tell you it is not with the help of humans.”

With their black-magic busting work, patrolling and observation teams, Shuzeym is confident the vote would be safe from all external influences.

As we left the guesthouse, we encountered a young MDP supporter who stopped us. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the young man told us he and his friends had performed one of the “black magic acts” that had created a furor in the island.

“I think the coconut is a fake, I believe black magic exists, but that coconut didn’t look real. I think it is by those who oppose us to intimidate us, so we spilled lots of water around all the entrances around both schools, just for a joke. We did not think anyone would take us seriously,” he said.

However, upon discovering water at the entrances, the janitors at Guraidhoo School stopped all students from entering the school premises until the school’s headmaster arrived and permitted them to do so.

“In the end, even if the coconut is fake, it has only been positive. We have more security for the vote,” the young man added.


TV cables worth MVR 50,000 (US$3242) vandalised on Guraidhoo

A group of people have vandalised TV cables worth MVR 50,000 (US$3242) on the island of Guraidhoo in Kaafu Atoll.

An islander who spoke to Minivan News on condition of anonymity told Minivan News the TV cables were set up on the island by the Guraidhoo Youth NGO to provide foreign channels to the islanders. The source alleged the cables were vandalised after members of the NGO refused to comply with a PPM request to join them.

‘’The young people in the NGO are very neutral and they do not want to get involved in to any political activities,’’ he said. ‘’A few days ago they were asked to join the PPM and they refused to do so.’’

He said the NGO had tried to fix the damage but said it was beyond repair.

‘’Today the NGO president will come to the island and when he comes he will bring parts we need to repair it,’’ the source said.


Guraidhoo Island Council stops ballot boxes inside schools citing “too much black magic”

The Guraidhoo Island Council has passed a motion against keeping any ballot boxes inside schools on the island after islanders complained about “too much black magic”, the President of the Island Council Hussain Yameen Mohamed has said.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Yameen said that the council have been receiving a lot of complaints from parents and local islanders regarding the issue.

“This time two parents and one man and a woman were affected by the black magic and had to be treated,’’ he said. “The islanders and parents are concerned that if the ballot boxes are kept inside the schools, the black magicians will target the schools and students will be affected.”

Yameen said that the council and the Elections Commission will discuss and decide upon a place to keep the ballot boxes for the second round of presidential election.

“Friday night there was unrest on this island where Maldivian Democratic Party [MDP] supporters confronted the police,’’ he said. “The MDP supporters thought that two spiritual healers on the island were casting spells on the island school and confronted them and police went to the area.”

He said that one person was arrested on charges of attacking a police officer at the scene but have been released now.

“The island council will try its best to make sure that the ballot boxes are not placed in any of the schools,” he added.

Voters on Guraidhoo were reported to have queued for over 17 hours in order to stand on the location of a black magic coconut, ensuring that all voters would choose the same candidate as the first in line.

Multiple reports of ‘fanditha’ (magic) have accompanied the election, ranging from cursed coconuts and witches to black magic dolls.

It was reported on social media today that police on Velidhoo Island, Noonu Atoll, were taking down MDP flags, alleging they had black magic symbols on them.

Minivan News has also learned of individuals in Male’ attempting to purchase conch shells – revered for their alleged magical properties – for large sums of money.

Spells and accusations cast

A MDP supporter on Guraidhoo, who spoke to Minivan News on condition of anonymity, said that the spiritual healers on the island were supporters of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the MDP supporters went against him when they saw him spilling water around the island school.

“The MDP supporters tried to stop him and the police came and tried to stop the MDP supporters, and then there was a little confrontation between the police and MDP supporters,” he said.

He said that the spiritual healers had left the island the same night.

However, Yameen told Minivan News that the spiritual healers were on the island for a completely unrelated purpose.

“They were here to take pictures of some Quran books that were buried on the beach,” he said.

On September 4, Guraidhoo police station summoned a white magic practitioner to evaluate a young coconut believed to have been cursed by a black magic spell, after it was found near the Guraidhoo school, where the presidential election polling was set up.

In July this year, a Guraidhoo islander said parents of the island have been refusing – and raising their voices against – keeping ballot boxes inside island schools because black magicians were casting spells on the school for election and later it affects the students.

“After the local council election,  the school students started fainting inside the classrooms and this became a huge issue,” the islander told Minivan News at the time. “The parents knew this was related to something like this and called in a group of spiritual healers.’’

He said the spiritual healers forced the spirits to talk to them through the body of the possessed students, who told the healers that they were unable to leave the students as long as the products of sorcery remained inside the school grounds. The spirits reportedly told the healers the exact locations where the sorceress had placed the spells.

Last week, a police team were sent to search for black magic practitioners on Thakandhoo Island in Haa Alif Atoll after MDP supporters were accused of being responsible for the possession of four local children by evil spirits.


Maldives’ police investigate suspected black magic doll at polling station

Police were summoned to investigate an alleged black magic doll after it was discovered at the Shaviyani Atoll School polling station during the presidential election vote counting.

The suspicious ‘fanditha’ (black magic) doll was first noticed on the school’s wall by an Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) election observer as well as polling station officials on Kanditheemu Island during the vote counting process Saturday (September 7). They contacted local police to investigate the suspicious doll.

“The police just checked whether the doll was real [fanditha],” MDP Kanditheemu Campaign Manager Mohamed ‘Mox’ Fahumee told Minivan News today (September 9). “They did not actually want to get involved in such [black magic related] things.”

After the police were called to the polling station they – and local islanders – asked community members, the Shaviyani Atoll School’s site supervisor, and Bangladeshi labourers working at the school to try and discover who made the doll and with what intention, explained Fahumee.

“One of the laborers told us he made it ‘just for fun’ to pass the time, since they do not have very much work to do,” said Fahumee. “He made the doll from wool, putty, and wall paint and then placed it on the wall to dry.”

The Maldives Police Service had not responded to enquiries at time of press.

Fanditha fear

“On this island [Kanditheemu] people always talk about black magic during elections. They claim that government aligned parties – the Political Party of the Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), etc – practice fanditha to gain votes,” said Fahumee.

“When people talk about fanditha they become afraid,” noted Fahumee.

“Black magic might work, there are so many stories of people dying because of fanditha. During elections people talk about that and it spreads [around the island] very quickly, but they talk in secret,” he continued.

Swing voters who are not strongly in favor one candidate or political party versus another are particularly susceptible to fearing black magic will influence their vote, he explained.

“If they are finding it difficult to select a candidate and they are afraid [of black magic influence], they might vote for someone who does not represent their best interests,” he added.

Fahumee explained that while most island residents talk about possible incidents of fanditha, the discussions are conducted in secret, out of fear the island’s black magic practitioner will “come after” the person(s) talking about him.

Although not everyone believes in the power of fanditha, or “accepts those kinds of things”, it is still an issue – and precautions are taken – because it sows fear and uncertainty about the impartiality of the voting process, noted Fahumee.

More cursed coconuts

Concerns of black magic being used for election vote tampering have been raised on several islands in the Maldives.

MDP supporters on Guraidhoo Island in Kaafu Atoll reportedly began lining up to vote at 2:00pm Friday (September 6), after rumours began circulating of a black magic coconut buried at the front of the queue.

It is thought the candidate chosen by the first person in line standing over the coconut would then be the candidate picked by all remaining voters.

“We don’t believe in these things, but some MDP supporters waited just in case,” 25 year-old Guraidhoo resident Hussain Nadheef told Minivan News. “We will never let PPM [use black magic].”

Last week, police summoned a white magic practitioner to evaluate a young coconut believed to have been cursed by a black magic spell, after it was found near the Guraidhoo Island presidential election polling station.

Coconuts with black magic spells were allegedly being used to sway voters’ political party allegiance and incite confrontations between MDP supporters and police on Fuvahmulah, ahead of Saturday’s Presidential Election.

Given the widespread reporting of black magic election tampering and the cursed coconut issues on Guraidhoo and Fuvahmulah, Minivan News asked Elections Commission Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz whether the issue was raised by any election observers.

Fayaz noted that he had not discussed the issue with any of the observers, and had first read about the story on the UK’s Guardian website.

Asked if he felt that the additional international media spotlight on the election triggered by the coconut may have had a positive impact on the election process, Fayaz laughed and said “maybe”.


Court releases 47 year-old arrested for molesting two minors

The island court of Thimarafushi in Thaa Atoll has released a 47 year-old man arrested on charges of molesting two minors aged 13 and 17.

Police confirmed that the man had been released by the court after he was taken to court for the extension of his detention period

The local media reports state that the 47 year-old man was the manager of the state-owned utilities company, Fenaka, on Guraidhoo in Thaa Atoll.

Newspaper ‘Sun’ Online reported police as telling the paper that the two minors had testified against the accused.


Police arrest man for sexual abuse of two minors

Police have arrested a 47 year-old on multiple charges of sexual abuse against two minors over several days on Guraidhoo in Thaa Atoll.

Police said the man was arrested last night at around 9:30pm, under an arrest warrant.

According to the police investigation, the man was alleged to have been sexually abusing two girls aged 17 and 13 years-old.


Four allegedly arrested over sexual offences at mental health institution

Four men have allegedly been arrested in Kaafu Atoll over drug and sex offences related to their work at the Centre for People with Mental Disability on the island of Guraidhoo, sources with knowledge of the matter have claimed.

Speaking to Minivan News under condition of anonymity today, several sources from the island claimed the four suspects stood accused of giving hash oil cigarettes to women staying at the centre and then having sex with them.

One of the four suspects was said to have been charged with filming the alleged crimes, according to the sources. However the charges are not thought to relate to women suffering with mental health issues or physical disabilities.

Several sources on the island of Guraidhoo today claimed that the four men alleged to have been arrested as part of the case were all staff at the centre – one of whom was claimed to be an Imam.

The same sources confirmed to Minivan News that the alleged offences occurred last year.

The suspects are currently believed to still be detained while investigations into the matter continue.

”Their pretrial detention period was first extended to seven days, and when the seven days were over, the court extended the [suspect’s] detention to another 15 days three times,” a source on the island claimed today.

Minivan News understands that although the woman were staying at the Centre for People with Mental Disabilities, they were not thought at the time to suffer from any mental health issue or physical disorder.

“I have information that these girls were first kept at the orphanage in Villingili and when they were old enough to get out from the orphanage and had nowhere to go, the government sent them to the Centre,’’ a source claimed.

The women alleged to be involved with the case have also been summoned to court to testify in the hearing held to decide on the length of pretrial detention for the suspects, Minivan News was told.

According to the Act number 12/2009 relating to Special Measures Applicable to Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse, any persons suffering with a disability will be treated in the same manner as a minor in cases related to sexual abuse.

A senior staff member at the Guraidhoo Centre for People with Mental Disability confirmed to Minivan News today that an “issue” with certain members of staff had taken place at the centre and that police were informed at the time.

“There is an issue like this.  But I cannot give information because all the staff here have signed an agreement that we won’t give out information related to things that goes inside the centre,” the source said.

“The incident was reported to police when the girls one day got mad at the staff working here and told that they were in a relationship with some staffs and the things they have done to the girls. That’s how the centre came to know about this. But we have not heard of the drugging part,’’ the source added.

Minivan News was awaiting a response from the Maldives Police Service regarding the matter at time of press.


Plans to develop residential homes for the elderly stalled

The planned development of private residential homes for the elderly has been temporarily stalled, the Ministry of Health and Family said today.

Director of the Department of Gender and Family Hafeesa Ali confirmed that work on establishing private care homes for the elderly had currently been halted with the change of the government in February.

“There were plans last year to develop residential care homes due to the increasing number of requests to transfer old people to Guraidhoo center. But as you know, several projects from last year have come to a halt now [after the change of government on February 7]. The discussions are ongoing, but I can say it is not progressing as fast as we had hoped,” Ali told Minivan News.

The cabinet of former President Mohamed Nasheed decided in July 2011 to establish private residential homes under its Public Private Partnerships (PPP) scheme.  The pledge for residential homes was made owing to concerns over the increasing number of elderly people being transferred to the state-run Guraidhoo Special Care Centre, which was found by the government to have insufficient space and facilities to accept new charges.

The PPP scheme was shut down last month by the present government, reportedly over concerns sbout the legal processes behind certain privatisation projects.

Beyond the issue of setting up residential homes,  Hafeesa Ali noted that the gender and family department’s wider work to provide shelter and care to the elderly Maldivians had been further obstructed by a limited budget and resources.

“Several elderly people are wait listed to be accepted into the Guraidhoo centre even now. Some of them don’t have any relative or caregiver. But there is no space at the centre and we do not have the capacity to provide alternative housing,” she observed.

According to Health Ministry figures released on April 7 to mark the occasion of World Health Day, 49 people aged between 75 and 80 were found to be living at the Guradhoo center. Among the 49 residents at Guradhoo, eighteen are women and 31 men. Thirteen of them are bedridden, while another thirteen remain in wheelchairs, the statement read.

Most of residents do not have any legal guardian or have been neglected by relatives with no where to live, the ministry added.

According to the statement, only a few family members were reported to have visited elderly relatives at the centre or made attempts to check up on them by phone.

Hafeesa Ali says that the most challenging factor for the department is providing care to the old people under the same roof as people with disabilities or mental illnesses.  Over a 100 people with special needs are receiving treatment at the Guraidhoo facility.

According to recently released ministry figures, Rf12,000 is spent on every resident per month.

Minivan News reported in January of an increasing number of elderly people being abandoned or forced out of family homes to live on the streets.