Manager found guilty of sexual harassment let off with warning

A manager at the state-owned Hulhumalé Development Corporation (HDC) has been found guilty of sexually harassing a female employee, but has been spared with a warning.

The HDC’s human resources manager Mirshan Ahmed was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to an employee who had joined the company in March.

He had suggested she was hired for her looks and told her he would penalize her when she did not respond to his messages.

According to newspaper Haveeru, Mirshan admitted to sending the inappropriate texts at a review committee.

The HDC deputy managing director Mohamed Shahid told Minivan News today that Mirshan has been warned, and said the HDC has decided to renew the female employee’s contract.

Speaking to Minivan News previously, the employee said HDC had declined to renew her contract when she raised the allegations of sexual harassment.

She said she then sent an email to all HDC staff with proof of Mirshan’s inappropriate remarks. The HDC subsequently fired the assistant director of marketing and suspended an IT officer for a “security breach.”

Shahid today said the HDC has reinstated the marketing staff and cancelled the suspension of the IT staff.

According to a law passed in May 2014, government offices must set up internal committees to investigate complaints of workplace harassment within 60 days. The committee is authorized to warn, suspend or dismiss the perpetrator.

The HDC employee who had filed sexual harassment charges told Minivan News that Ahmed regularly commented on her clothes and her hair.

“He once messaged me saying I should thank him for this job. He said he saw my picture on my application form and hired me because I looked so pretty,” she said.

“Maybe because I am a single mother, he once told me that I am a ‘buy-one-get-one free’ deal.”

When she first complained to her colleagues about the harassment, she was advised to stay silent and warned that she may lose her job.

However, she lodged a complaint with the senior management after other female employees shared similar experiences of harassment from Mirshan.

Minivan News was unable to reach the employee for comment at the time of going to press.

Aerial photo of Hulhumalé by Nattu Adnan


‘Hired for my looks’: HDC employee alleges sexual harassment

This article is by Farah Ahmed

A former employee at the state-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has said she was subjected to sexual harassment by a senior staff who once allegedly told her she had been hired for her looks.

The employee, who had started work at the HDC’s legal department in March, said the company’s human resource manager Mirshan Ahmed had sent her inappropriate text messages and regularly commented on her clothes and her hair.

The harassment began the first week she started work.

“He once messaged me saying I should thank him for this job. He said he saw my picture on my application form and hired me because I looked so pretty.”

When she did not respond to his text messages, he allegedly threatened to muddy her work record.

“One of his messages said: “from now on I’ll only be there for you’. And when I didn’t respond, he sent a message saying ‘I’ll be bad to you only. I’ll put this on your profile’,” she told Minivan News.

“Maybe because I am a single mother, he once told me that I am a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ deal.”

HDC deputy managing director Mohamed Shahid said the issue is under investigation and declined to comment further.

Newspapers Haveeru and Vaguthu have meanwhile said the Economic and Youth Council at the president’s office has tabled the issue and discussed penalties.

Mirshan was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Inappropriate texts

When the female employee, who wished to remain anonymous, first complained to her colleagues about the harassment, she was advised to stay silent and warned she may lose her job.

However, other female employees soon began sharing their own experiences of harassment by Mirshan.

Some told her several had been fired before for raising the issue.

“Once, at a meeting with office staff, he told a woman who was about to sit, that she couldn’t fit in to the couch with her friend because her butt was too big – so it wasn’t just me who was being harassed. This has clearly been an on-going thing.”

She lodged a complaint with the senior management and an internal committee was set up to review her claim. But when her three-month probation expired on June 4, she was dismissed.

“I was told to go home. There were no formal letters at first. They told me my probation period was over and that I was just a replacement for someone who had to be moved to a different department – they didn’t tell me this when they employed me. Despite the harassment, I liked my job – I even told them I’d work for free.”

The committee has since decided to reinstate her job. But the HDC managing director Mohamed Simon has ignored the order, she alleged.

“When I finally got my termination letter, it said that they did not have the budget to keep an extra employee in my department and that’s why they were letting me go. I felt that I was being dismissed for personal reasons just because I actually spoke out about this,” she said.

She then sent an email from her work email account to all HDC employees with copes of her termination letter and chat-logs demonstrating Mirshan’s inappropriate comments.

HDC fired the assistant director of marketing and suspended an IT officer for “a security breach.”

Minivan News was not able to contact Simon at the time of going to press.

The parliament in May passed a law against sexual harassment, which mandates government offices to investigate complaints of workplace harassment within 60 days.

The review committee can warn, suspend or dismiss the perpetrator.

This article previously said an HDC assistant director of marketing was suspended for an alleged security breach. This is incorrect, he was dismissed.


HDC managing director Suhail resigns

The Housing Development Corporation’s (HDC) Managing Director Suhail Ahmed has resigned today, according to local media.

Speaking to Haveeru, Suhail said he had resigned for personal reasons, but refused to provide further details.

“I have worked in this post for a long time. I have also worked in the government. Now I want to do something of my own,” he said.

Suhail played a key part in the development of Malé’s suburb Hulhumalé, having worked at HDC for ten years and the government for over 30 years.


President Yameen calls on youth to relocate to Hulhumalé

President Abdulla Yameen has called on the residents of islands with small populations to migrate to the new youth city to be established in Hulhumalé, stating the government is unable to meet the socio-economic needs of small islands.

Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate the second reclamation phase of Hulhumalé on Thursday (January 15), Yameen assured youth the government would provide better living conditions and job ‎opportunities in Hulhumalé.

“The government is finding it difficult to cater to the economic and social needs of small islands. We have to meet human needs such as constructing harbours, establishing schools and hospitals, reclaiming land, transport systems, and so much more. It is not easy for the government to do this,” he said.

Although the government would facilitate relocation, migration would not be compulsory, he said.

“It may be a very beautiful island, but there is not much we can do for an island with 200 people, 300 people, or 400 people.”

In November the Majlis’ budget committee passed a proposal requiring the government to formulate a master plan for population consolidation, while the Maldives Monetary Authority recommended such a policy in order to “reduce state expenditure and provide services to the public in a sustainable way”.

With the completion of the second phase of Hulhumalé development, the government hoped to increase the population on the artificial island from 40,000 to 220,000, and increase the population of the Malé region to 400,000, the president said.

According to the 2014 census, the population of the Maldives stands at 341,256. Of this, 133,019 people live in Malé.

The second phase involved reclamation of 240 hectares of land and is expected to be completed within two months. The US$50 million project was awarded to Belgium’s Dredging International NV.

Yameen said on Thursday evening that the government would begin work on a bridge connecting Malé and Hulhumale this year, and will also improve ferry services.

The president has previously pledged to establish a ‘technopolis park’, entertainment, and sports facilities, and facilities for tourism and fisheries industries. Hulhumalé Development Corporation officials have also said phase two of the project will feature a monorail to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

Yameen said he had received a petition signed by 85 percent of residents in Vaavu Atoll Fulidhoo Island requesting relocation.

To facilitate economic activity and ease population pressure, the government will allow buildings to be built as high as 25 stories in Malé and Hulhumalé, the president added. Studies have shown the land in Malé to be strong enough, he said.

At present, buildings in Malé can be constructed to a maximum of 15 stories.

Yameen also pledged to ban traffic in narrow lanes in Malé in order to ease congestion and to allow space for children to play.

Speaking at the ceremony, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb said Yameen is the only political leader in the country with the courage to provide opportunities for youth.

The government will develop the northern and southern regions through the Special Economic Zone Act, pledged Adeeb.

The road development project in Laamu Atoll, the airport in Kulhudhuffishi and the I-Havan port in Haa Alif will create more opportunities for the youth, he said.

Related to this story

President reveals vision for foreign investment at Hulhumalé project launch

Tourism minister defends under-fire economic zones bill

China to “favorably consider” financing Malé-Hulhulé bridge if project proves feasible


Bank of Ceylon to provide loans for reclaiming land in Hulhumalé

Bank of Ceylon (BOC) has decided to provide a lon of US$30 million to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to reclaim land in the island of Hulhumalé.

HDC Chairman Hassan Ziyath has told local media that the agreement on the matter will be signed within the week.

He revealed that the loan will be paid back within a five year period at an interest rate of 8 percent. The bank is also offering a grace period of two years.

Ziyath stated that physical work to reclaim land in Hulhumalé will commence in early October. The work has been contracted to Belgian company Dredging International.


Construction begins on 300 flats for police

Construction work began last Thursday (August 21) on 300 flats for police officers in Hulhumalé.

According to police media, the project was inaugurated at a ceremony on Thursday by Assistant Commissioner of Police Mohamed Sodiq.

Award letters were presented to recipients of the flats last year, who have since been making down-payments.

Down-payments would have to be paid for two years, police explained, and ownership would be transferred to the selected officers after monthly rent is paid for 25 years.

Apartments were awarded to officers with at least 20 years of service and based on a points system used in other housing schemes.

In September 2013, the previous administration awarded 300 flats to police officers under a housing project to be carried out jointly by the government-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and the Police Cooperative Society (POLCO).

Under the MVR580 million (US$37.6 million) ‘Blue’s Housing Project,’ 210 three-bedroom and 90 two-bedroom apartments are to be constructed in Hulhumale’.

In addition to the housing project, then-President Dr Mohamed Waheed awarded 50 flats to senior police and military officers.

The awarding of 300 flats to police officers was criticised by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) as a continuation of the patronage system established during the 30-year reign of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“In the light of extensive exposes, such ‘patronage’ is familiar to voters from the single party dictatorship of Gayoom and I believe they will simply say to each other ‘I told you so’,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News at the time.

Ghafoor said it was “very concerning” that police should be given flats exclusively instead of teachers, doctors and other civil servants. He also questioned the selection process for awarding flats.

While some of the officers may have deserved the housing, there was concern that some officers involved in the alleged “coup d’etat” on February 7 had been rewarded with flats, Ghafoor claimed.

Since the controversial transfer of presidential power that brought Dr Waheed to office in February 2012 – in the wake of a violent police mutiny instigated by officers of the Special Operations (SO) command – more than 1000 police officers were promoted110 new police officers were hired, arrangements were made for cheap accommodation in Sri Lanka for police officers and their families and a loan scheme was set up for police officers.

In February, President Abdulla Yameen had assured police officers that the construction of the flats would begin in March.

In a visit to the police barracks at Iskandhar Koshi, Yameen said resolving housing issues for police personnel in Malé and the atolls was a high priority of his administration.

The president also said he has personally witnessed the “difficult conditions” that officers were working in the atolls, adding that the government would “prioritise finding an adequate solution” and would strengthen police welfare mechanisms.


Ferry tales – Managing the Hulhumalé commute

It was 23:30, a large number of people were gathered outside Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé, the kind of crowd that usually gathers around a crime scene. But no crime was committed there – no police lines visible.

The people were gathering there to board the ferry to Hulhumalé – an extension of Malé City separated by sea, one of the greater Malé islands. Ferry service staff in blue uniforms were guarding the entrance to three tightly packed terminal waiting areas, as those outside anxiously awaited news of an extra ferry that might shorten the otherwise two-hour wait.

Adam Humam, a tour guide who lives in Hulhumalé hears nothing but complains about the ferry service:

“Look at this ferry, this thing is like a sauna most of the time. One will need to take a shower after traveling on this. Just look at how they have arranged the seats, we have to sit so tightly packed” Humam said, leaning away from the chair to avoid bumping into the next passenger.

The ferry concerned was an average wooden Dhoni, furnished with ten rows of plastic chairs screwed to the floor. The gangway led to two rows of motorbikes at the rear of the boat. Most windows on both sides were shut by the people adjacent, to shelter from occasional splashes of water. A few travellers stood at the back of the ferry – unable to find a seat. The smell was a mix of sea, old wood, and bodily odors.

With few exceptions, almost everyone who were interviewed about the 20 minute ferry service was unhappy with the service. The conditions of the ferry, the terminal and timings – it was all unsatisfactory for most questioned. Just a few long- time residents of Hulhumalé recalled the ferry services having improved significantly in the past decade.

Hulhumalé – a reclaimed landmass measuring 2 square kilometers off the north-east coast of Malé City – is home to an estimated 20,000 people. First settled in May 2004 with just one thousand people, the population of Hulhumalé is expected to double to 60,000 by 2020. The ferry service, operated by the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC), is clearly finding it hard to cater to Hulhumalé’s population boom.

The MTCC has often said the ferry operation is not profitable at current rates, though Malé City Mayor Maizan Ali ‘Alibe’ Manik says that company can manage by investing in lands provided for them to subsidise the service. The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) – the government owned corporation mandated with the development and management of Hulhumalé – remains uninvolved in the MTCC’s operations. The transport authority, however, does have a mandate to monitor and regulate all ferry services in the country.

How is the service?

“What can I say? My wife and I moved to Hulhumalé three years back, and riding this ferry to and fro every day has been nothing but a pain. I developed a pilonidal sinus, and the doctor says it is sitting for such a long time and the terrible vibrations these boats give” said a young man in his late twenties.

Another couple who moved to Hulhumalé very recently had a different complaint, fearing the procedure of getting their motor bike on to the ferry – riding over a metal sheet placed against the ferry – could damage it over time.

Leevan Shareef, a vocal critic of the Hulhumalé ferry service on Twitter, sometimes has to spend two hours commuting between Hulhumalé and Malé. The MTCC does not increase ferry services during busy days – such as when political rallies are held in Malé – or on Friday evening, when a lot of people visit Hulhumalé, he complained.

“We complain to the ferry crew or staff at the counter, they will always say the issue will be brought to the attention of superiors. But there is no news of these superiors ever,” he said.

Mahdi Shahid, Deputy Principal of Lalé Youth International School, was among the first people to use the ferry service. His view was that the ferries have improved in the past ten years.

“Looking back, I would say it has actually improved a lot. Back then the ferry docked at the far north of the island, there were no trees, there was nothing over there. And we had to walk all the way from there to the school. It was a very small ferry then, but now the ferries are bigger and they travel more frequently,” Shahid explained.

“I think the current service would be okay, if the population wasn’t increasing so rapidly. but with the current population growth I think there should be an increase in number of ferries now. What I’m looking for is getting on the ferry and leaving without having to wait there for so long,” he added.

Currently the ferries operate between 05:30am and 02:30am, with eighty-two rounds between the two islands every day except for Fridays when ferries services are interrupted briefly for prayers.

Not profitable

Though the MTCC was unwilling to discuss the ferry service with the media, some ferry crew and staff noted that there were many challenges facing the company.

One such issue was that of Malé harbor, which they noted did not allow several ferries to operate simultaneously. “Sometimes we have to wait five minutes outside the harbor entrance, waiting for other ferries including those leaving for Hulhulé [the airport island] to leave,” said one crew member.

Four months ago, ferryboat owners – who lease their boats to the MTCC – went on strike after a failure to receive payments. The MTCC blamed this on delays in receiving payments from various government projects undertaken in various parts of the country. The company has often reiterated that its operations are not profitable at current rates. Ferry rates have risen at least twice since operations began in 2004, though other attempts to increase prices have been met with protests from Hulhumalé residents, usually ending with interventions from the city council and HDC.

In 2012, transport services in the Malé region contributed to thirteen percent of the MTCC’s operating profits, however the net loss in this sector has been gradually increasing over the past five years. The loss for transport services in the Male’ region in 2012 was reported to be MVR15.69 million (US$1 million).

Finding a solution

While accepting there are challenges in providing this service, Malé City Mayor “Maizan” Ali Manik (Alibe) said that a lack of profitability should not result in a bad service or higher fares.

“They always say they are operating ferries at loss. Yes, but services should be provided even at loss. All services provided by the state cannot be for profit,” Alibe said.

The MTCC could turn this around if they would invest in lands provided to them to subsidise these services, said the mayor. The ferry terminal land in both Malé and nearby Villingili islands were given to MTCC free of charge, and the plot for Hulhumalé terminal was given at ‘a very small rate’ according to HDC. The rent for businesses at ferry terminals – including the popular Sea House Cafe’ – goes to the MTCC.

“They can develop these land make profit in many ways” Alibe said, assuring that the city council was ready to help the MTCC in any such ventures.

Alibe stated his belief that the ferry service is gradually improving, and that some of the ferries were now of a high standard. However, if the MTCC is unable to fulfil its promises to improve the services by themselves, a second party might have be brought in, said the mayor.

The Housing Development Corporation

The MTCC has been providing public ferry and bus services for the Hulhumalé community since its inception, under an understanding with the HDC, which is currently in the process of formulating a formal agreement between the two companies. The services were provided for nearly ten years without any formal agreement.

Highlighting the HDC’s role in the ferry service, Deputy Managing Director Mohamed Shahid said the corporation does not get involved in business operations of some services such as the ferry operation in Hulhuamalé.

“We share [with MTCC] information regarding the population here and we try to provide adequate facilities for [serving] that [population]… we know that due to resources limitations there are some issues in both ferry and bus service,” he said.

According to Shahid, a set of standards and timings for operating bus and ferry services have been prepared and shared with the MTCC. The regulatory authority for travel operations of all ferry services, however, is the Transport Authority which has developed its own guidelines.

HDC Deputy Director Abdulla Fayaz said they were also looking into issues with ferry services, and communicating with the MTCC to resolve concerns raised by the public: “We do conduct surveys and maintain statistics regarding customers…this information is also shared with MTCC.”


Despite the optimism expressed by both the HDC and the city council with regards to improving the quality of  services, many people who frequent these ferries remained sceptical.

The current government has joined the prior three administrations in pledging to connect Hulhumalé and Malé  with a bridge. The government is currently in the process of reviewing proposals to build this bridge. Until then, thousands of people continue to dream of a better ferry service.


Land plots awarded under Veshi Fahi program

Fifteen land plots were awarded today to Maldivian citizens qualifying for housing under Category A of the Veshi Fahi Male’ housing program, a government initiative to decongest the capital Male’ by expanding residential and industrial infrastructure to surrounding islands.

The plots are part of a 250 land plot package currently being awarded to applicants, along with 1000 newly constructed flats with a capacity of 7,000. Although the 21,000 applications for the housing program exceed the government’s initial pledge to house 10,000 people by 2016, Veshi Fahi program officials indicate that the government steering committee is considering adding an extra 100 plots to the program.

Speaking at today’s inaugural ceremony on Hulhumale’, President Mohamed Nasheed pledged to provide housing to all applicants. “In the Maldives every citizen should be have the option of living in whichever part of the Maldives he or she wishes,” he said.

Connecting today’s event with the ongoing judicial crisis which has gripped the country since January 16, the President observed that “national development involves all parts of a system.” Veshi Fahi Program Director “Sarangu” Adam Manik elaborated that the housing project’s success leans heavily on a robust judiciary.

“What we need is a proper judiciary to interpret land and housing contracts,” he told Minivan News. “If a judge does not have the proper education, degree and qualifications to interpret such contracts as well as the law, how can the system work?”

Affordable housing is one of the five pledges which form the backbone of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) manifesto, along with pledges for a nation-wide transport system, affordable living costs, affordable quality healthcare, and the prevention of drugs and narcotics trafficking.

On January 1 2012, all Maldivian citizens became eligible for free health care. Ferry systems have gradually improved transportation and communication within atolls as well, while the southern island of Fuvahmulah opened a new airport last year.

In July 2011, the President awarded documents of guarantee to the recipients of ten flats on Hulhumale’.

Male’ is the most densely populated city in the world with approximately 50,000 people per square kilometre, eclipsing Mumbai. Approximately one-third of the national population of 350,000 live on the capital island. Manik claims the pressure is already being released.

Launched in November 2010, the Veshi Fahi program aims to combine the development of Malé, Vilingili, Guli Falhu, Thilafushi, Hulhumalé and Malé International Airport. Under the program, applicants are categorised according to need: those living in extremely overcrowded conditions, those with land in Male but an interest in living in Hulhumale’, and those interested in housing in any of the nearby islands.

Under the program Male’ residents are asked to trade their land on the capital island for land in the nearby developing suburb- allowing Male’ City Council to develop areas of Male’ for community needs such as parking, dust bins and small parks. However, given the dire conditions of some Male’ housing units 3,000 new units will be constructed on the capital.

“We are very much on track,” Manik said. “Some projects are even ahead of schedule, such as this one,” he added, gesturing to the construction site where the basic structures of 1,000 flats have already been raised by Chinese and Bangladeshi laborers.

“By 2016 there will be no problems with shelter on Male,” he claimed.

As the housing issue dissipates, rent costs are expected to drop. Rent in Male’ currently rivals rates in New York in London, however officials expect half that sum on Hulhumale’ will give a person the same facilities and even more space than a flat on the capital island.

While people are expected to begin moving into the new housing on Hulhumale’ in July of this year, land plot recipients have two years from the date they receive the land title to construct their new home and move across the water.

“Many people can’t afford the move right away, so they need time to get loans and make plans. The concern is not that land will be left untouched, but rather that people need the time to connect the dots and establish their home,” said an official from the Veshi Fahi office, who requested anonymity.

Minivan News understands that recipients of the 250 land plots on Hulhumale’ will also receive housing loans from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

Meanwhile, the program’s rapid progress has encouraged more Male’ residents to apply for new housing.

“The previous government didn’t give people hope for these things,” said the official. “Now, people are seeing titles and deeds being awarded, they are seeing the flats go up- I think more are interested in applying during the second round.”


HDC opens bids to develop Hulhumale apartment complex

Bids to develop and sell an apartment complex in Hulhumale are now being accepted by Hulhumale Development Corporation (HDC).

Bids will be accepted until Thursday, reports Haveeru. Documents are available for purchase until 2:30 pm today, January 8.

The apartment complex will be developed in two separate plots of 2,4500 feet squared each.

HDC requires that a five-storey complex be built on each plot, with 27 rooms in each complex.

Development of Hulhumale is part of the government’s plan to reduce the level of congestion in the capital Male’, which currently houses one-third of the Maldives population of 350,000.