Man found dead in Haa Alif Ihavandhoo

A 67-years-old man was found dead today on Ihavandhoo island in Haa Alif Atoll.

Abdullah Abubakr had been reported as missing yesterday evening (September 17).

Speaking to local news outlet, Ihavanndhoo Atoll council member Abdullah Husain said that the man had been missing since 5pm yesterday.

“After an extensive search he was found inside a well at an abandoned house. He was already dead by the time we found him,” said Husain.

The man was found by his son at around 6:30am after a search coordinated by Ihavandoo police station and the island council.

Police said that they did not notice any physical harm to the body.


Masked men break into school to cut down cursed ‘Jinn tree’

Last night group of masked men broke into Thakandhoo School in Haa Alif atoll after threatening the security guard with a knife in order to cut down what they claimed was a ‘Jinn Tree’ with evil spirits.

Thakandhoo Island Council Vice President Ibrahim Saeed said the incident happened around 3am this morning.

“Three masked men jumped over the school wall last night and one of them threatened the security guard with a knife. And while he held the security guard, the other two went in with a hand saw and cut down the tree,” he said.

The Maldives Police Service confirmed that the incident is currently under investigation and that a police team from Ihavandhoo arrived on the island within an hour of the incident.

Local media outlet CNM has reported that the tree is approximately 13 years old and was planted by the school staff.

“It was a beautiful tree planted to give a good look to the school compound. Sometimes students try to climb it, and last year three students were possessed by Jinns,” CNM was told by the school staff member.

“People say it is because of that tree, so we even brought five people to look into the matter. But even they didn’t recommend to cut down the tree.”

CNM also quoted the staff member as saying that the Jinns [of the tree] had already “stabilised” when it was cut down last night.

Fanditha politics

Speaking to Minivan News, a local who supported the cutting down of the tree said that many believed the tree was connected to the jinn possession of children last year.

“Thing went really bad last December,” explained the local man. “Many of those children have recovered now but there is a child who is still possessed. And there is young girl who loses consciousness whenever she walks past by this tree.”

“Even when things are like this, the island is so politically divided that these issues are politicised and an agreement is not reached as to how it should be dealt with.”

He said the rivalry between two group of islanders dates back to the pre-democracy era and that issues have further polarised with party politics.

“Fanditha practice is very common here. The island is divided into two rival groups even before party politics.”

“But now it [the divide] is [politically] colored, and represented by supporters of PPM [ruling Progressive Party of Maldives] aligned with the former island chief’s family and friends, and those supporting MDP [opposition Maldivian Democratic Party]. There are magicians on both sides,” he explained.

Last September a group of ‘Islamic exorcists’ uncovered ‘hexed clay tablets’ buried near the school compound following a series of ‘jinn possession’ incidents. A police team went to the island with a court warrant and searched all the houses for black magicians and traditional fanditha magic related objects.

The incident, which took place as the whole country was preparing for the second (cancelled) round of presidential election, left the island community in shock and fear.

MDP supporters from the island claimed it was a political plot to frame their members for practicing black magic as reports of black magic emerged across the country during the 2013 election period.

Practice of black magic is a criminal offense under Shariah Law, which it is punishable by death – a sentence still handed down for the offence in countries like Saudi Arabia.

In 1953 local black magician Hakim Didi was sentenced to death in the Maldives for practicing magic which eventually lead to the murder of an atoll chief by poisoning and use of black magic in a plot to kill President Mohamed Ameen Didi.

Along with a group of magicians and other co-conspirators, Hakeem Didi is said to have confessed to carrying out many disturbing black magic practices. These include the brewing of a magic poisonous fish potion, the extraction of liver oil from corpses of children, and eating them along with flour dough effigies of the president.

Didi was executed by a firing squad, after which there has been an unofficial moratorium on death penalty in the Maldives.

The permitted forms of white fanditha magic are also regulated by the government and can be legally practiced only with a written permission from the Ministry of Health according to the Traditional Medicine, Fanditha (Magic), Circumcision and Midwifery Services Act of 1978.


Q&A: MP Mohamed ‘Shippe’ Shifaz – Baarah constituency

In a series of interviews to lead into the the 2014 parliamentary elections – scheduled for March 22nd – Minivan News will be conducting interviews with incumbent MPs.

All 77 sitting members have been contacted, from across the political spectrum, to be asked a standardised set of questions with additional topicals. The interviews will be published as and when they are received.

As part of the series, Minivan News interviewed MP Mohamed ‘Shippe’ Shifaz.

MP Shifaz represents the Baarah constituency in Haa Alif Atoll, and is a member of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Daniel Bosley: What made you enter the political arena and how?

Mohamed Shifaz: In my constituency there are about four islands – during Gayoom’s regime there was no development in my area, there was no sewerage, no proper education, there was no harbour, there was nothing. That’s what most of the people are demanding for – their needs. But during our previous term, we didn’t provide these things – in our government, the MDP government.

DB: Based on your attendance and work in this ending term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?

MS: Very few sessions missed – my attendance is good. Also I am working in the parliamentary group – I am also one of the top level. So, I can be there. I think my constituents like me. There are not questions about my performance in parliament.

DB: What are the main committees you were acting on? What particular bills did you focus on?

MS: The General Committee and also the Government Responsibility Committee. [I worked on] freedom of media, and right to information and also the establishment of the broadcasting corporation.

DB: What would you say are the biggest achievements within your term; in terms of what you have accomplished for your constituency and the country as a whole?

MS: I think the achievement is we are establishing a new system – our democracy is very young, and also our parliament is very young, MPs also young. I believe the achievement is to change from dictatorship to democracy and also we got a lot to the people. Now they have the right to a demonstration, they have the right to media, the have many rights through the parliament, through the MDP government. So they are out achievements for the people.

DB: What would you say is the biggest mistake or worst step you have taken in your career? Why?

MS: Most of our parliamentary group MPs they have personal events, so in my career also there was something, but I think it’s not an issue. It is through the blackmailing from these coup government peoples.

DB: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR 20,000? Why or why not?

MS: Yeah – I didn’t vote for that.  I’m also taking but I didn’t vote for it. Also my constituents, they don’t have any problems with it – nobody calling. But I didn’t vote for it.

I think, in my constituencies, all these people are demanding for their own development. They are always demanding for proper education, water, sewerage – these things. They don’t care about the committee allowance, because we are spending it all to them. I think it’s separate, in my own view. It’s not a good thing, but we don’t have another choice.

DB: What is your view about parliamentarians and other public servants declaring their financial assets publicly for the electorate to be able to refer to?

MS: I don’t have any business other than this, I’m not doing anything to raise finance. So, I can do everything they need and I show statements and everything. Every year I submit to Majlis so they can collect it from me. I think it’s not a problem also.

DB: Are you re-contesting in the next elections? What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected for a new term?

MS: Yes. I think I can do it. I can do it and my constituents also, they want – because I didn’t fulfil their needs this term. I believe my job is not finished, not done yet. That’s why I need next term.

I am going achieve the water, sewerage, also the harbour, education, health sector. There are major issues, most of the people are jobless – we need to create more jobs. I think my main goal is to achieve that, jobs for them. Also the drug issues, the child abuses – this is also a very serious issue in the constituency, especially the drug issues. Most of our youngsters are the victims of these things.

DB: What improvements do you feel the 18th parliament will need to make to improve as an institution?

MS: From government, we need more support from them. They are favouring their few members – this is not the way I think. We must have these immunities, the privileges. If they want to arrest, they can arrest – anytime. We don’t have any independence to work here. I think this is from government we need support.

DB: What are your thoughts on party switching – do you think it undermines the party system?

MS: I think the party system is the only think we’ve got. Without the party system we couldn’t get anything for the people. The party is very important for the Maldives, these small nations. But I think most people that because of the party system we have some social issues, but after five or ten years everything will be fine.

DB: What do you feel the major issues of concern will be for you constituents over the next five years?

MS: The situation has not changed, several needs they are demanding so I think I am always representing from them. If they don’t want me to do something, I’m sure I will not do that. If they don’t want me to be in parliament, I will not be there.

I think the most important thing is to establish rehabilitation for the youth, I mean for drug victims. Next five years, my target is to establish a rehabilitation centre in my constituency for the drug victims.


STO plans new storage facility in Haa Alif atoll

The National Planning Council has approved the State Trading Organisation (STO)’s plan to build an oil storage facility on an unidentified island in the north’s Haa Alif atoll.

The facility would cover 600 square metres and contain over 200 tons of oil, reports Haveeru. It is said to be 10 times the size of a similar facility at Funadhoo.

STO’s Managing Director, Shahid Ali said studies show the project would benefit the Maldivian economy. He said it has already drawn the interest of foreign investors.

The project is awaiting approval from the Cabinet.