Security services to receive medals on Independence Day

The government will award a medal to all police and military officers to mark their services to the state on the occasion of 50 years of independence .

“Officers from both the military and the police will be given medals. This a common practice all around the world, as they protect the country’s independence in the front lines,” the home ministry’s Thazmeel Abdul Samad said.

In an interview with Dhi TV on Monday, commissioner of police Hussein Waheed said the medals will be worn with police uniforms.

The Maldives’ Independence Day falls on July 26.

President Abdulla Yameen officially launched the “Minivan 50” or “Independence 50” celebrations on March 12 with a music show.

Since then, the government has slaughtered 150 goats, brought out tens of thousands of students for a parade, organized football competitions, a sky-diving event and a swim between capital Malé and suburb Villimalé.

The government plans to unveil new currency notes and has commissioned a replica of an ancient Maldivian village and a legendary boat used by three Maldivian brothers in the sixteenth century in the guerrilla war against the Portuguese occupation.

The home ministry is expected to announce more events in the coming weeks.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget. However, the ‘Independence 50′ office under the home ministry has said that most of the work is done by volunteers.

The opposition has also criticised the government for holding independence celebrations soon after jailing opposition leaders including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The opposition had held daily protests and two mass demonstrations on February 27 and May 1. Nearly 200 people were arrested from the May Day protest.

The local government authority has meanwhile suspended two councillors three councillors of the Alif Alif atoll council over a resolution declaring they will not participate in activities organised by the government to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

Photo from Commissioner of Police’s official Facebook Page


Home minister claims 100,000 participated in independence parade

Home minister Umar Naseer has claimed that more than 100,000 students and teachers participated in a parade held yesterday to celebrate the upcoming golden jubilee of independence.

Naseer’s claim was met with skepticism on social media as the number of students in government, community and private schools in the Maldives is 86,799, according to official figures.

Thousands of students, teachers and parents across the country joined the parade on Saturday in what the home ministry said was the “biggest event” held so far with the participation of students.

Students from the atolls marched on the main street of their island while the parade took place on Majeedhee Magu and Ameenee Magu in Malé.

“We can say with a lot of certainty that over 100,000 students participated in the event,” said home ministry’s media coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad.

Social media users have questioned the accuracy of the figure, with one user calling the claim a “joke.”

The parade in the capital started from the Maafannu stadium, went through the city’s main thoroughfare, and ended back at the stadium.

Home minister Naseer, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, education minister Dr Aishath Shiham, and other high-ranking officials took part in the parade, wearing national colours.

The parade concluded with a skydiving event at the Maafanu stadium with the four foreign skydivers signing autographs and taking photos with participants.

The skydivers are due to conduct a training exercise for 15 locals for a skydiving event planned as part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of independence on July 26.

Other events planned by the home ministry to mark the golden jubilee include a swimming competition, a sea sports festival, a world record attempt, float parades, an international football tournament, a police tournament, several music shows and the unveiling of the new currency design.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags and sacrificed 150 goats in a public ceremony in April.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget. However, the ‘Independence 50’ office under the home ministry has said that most of the work is done by volunteers.


Home ministry to bring out 100,000 students for parade

More than 100,000 students will take part in a parade in Malé and other islands on Saturday as part of Independence Day celebrations, the home ministry has said.

The ‘Independence 50 office’ under the home ministry revealed today that schools from all 20 atolls and the capital will join the parade to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

“We estimate than more than 100,000 students will participate in the parade. A total of 22 schools in Malé will join the parade,” state minister for home affairs Ahmed ‘Maaz’ Saleem said at a press conference this morning.

However, according to statistics from the education ministry, the number of students in government, community and private schools in the Maldives is 86,799.

The home ministry’s spokesperson Thazmeel Abdul Samad said the students will be dressed in colours of the national flag. In Malé, the parade will be held on the two largest streets – Majeedhee Magu and Ameenee Magu.

Students from the atolls will march in the biggest street of their island, he said.

The government has organised numerous events ahead of the upcoming 50th anniversary of independence on July 26.

Several events have taken place in recent weeks and the home ministry has said it will announce more events in the future.

The events include skydiving, swimming competitions, a sea sports festival, a world record attempt, parades, float parades, an international football tournament, a police football tournament, several music shows and the unveiling of new currency designs.

The government has also started decorating the streets of Malé with national flags and sacrificed 150 goats in a public ceremony in April.

The Independence Day celebrations have drawn criticism over the lack of transparency of expenses made out of the state budget.

However, Saleem said most of the work is done by volunteers.

“We organised the events in a way so that we can enlist volunteers in helping us. But we are handing out material costs and also wages for professional workers,” Saleem said.

Thazmeel also insisted that the expenses were legal and made in accordance with public finance regulations, but did not offer details.

The opposition has criticised the government for holding independence celebrations soon after jailing opposition leaders including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The opposition had held daily protests and two mass demonstrations on February 27 and May 1. Nearly 200 people were arrested from the May Day protest.

The opposition halted its weekly protest march on Saturday to make way for a float parade.

“How can they stop our protest for a float parade? That’s depriving us of our rights. Any way no one had bothered to come and look at some floats,” MP Rozaina Adam said at a Maldivian Democratic Party national council meeting yesterday.

This article previously stated the parade will take place on Thursday. This is incorrect. The parade is to take place on Saturday. 


Home ministry to create replica of ancient island village

The home ministry is planning to create a replica of an ancient island village on the eastern side of Malé to mark the upcoming golden jubilee of independence from the British.

Various cultural activities as well as arts and handicraft will be presented to the public during a three-day event. The home ministry has not announced a date for the exhibition.

Deputy home minister Abdulla Mohamed told the press today that small thatch houses, swings, and huts made of coconut palm trunks, will be built in the area stretching from Usfasgandu to the carnival area.

Small boats will be docked at the artificial beach while 20 halls will be set up for the 20 atolls of the Maldives to showcase the country’s history and culture.

The Maldives gained independence from the British on July 26, 1965.

The ‘Minivan 50’ office (Independence 50) set up to plan and oversee celebratory activities also plans to hold cultural events across the country.

A team of judges from the ministry will select the best presentation, after which it will be featured at the event in the capital.

Other activities to mark the golden jubilee include a skydiving event and a sea sports festival.



Jailed ex-minister Nazim to travel abroad for treatment

Jailed former defense minister Mohamed Nazim has been authorised to travel overseas for medical treatment for a potentially life threatening condition.

He will be allowed to leave the country for a set period of time, a media official from the Maldives Correctional Service said.

However, the jailed politician’s family said they had not yet been told about his permission to leave.

“The family has not been officially informed of the [authorisation] to leave the country. We are working on it,” said Adam Azim, Nazim’s brother.

The family declined to reveal details of Nazim’s medical condition, but said it needs to be monitored and treated.

“We are very concerned. But the government doesn’t seem to feel any urgency at all,” he said.

Nazim was arrested and fired from the cabinet in January after police found a gun during a controversial raid on his home, and in March was handed an 11-year jail sentence for smuggling illegal weapons.

After the midnight police raid in January, officers said they had confiscated a pistol, bullets and a pen drive containing information that Nazim was plotting a coup d’etat and planning to harm the president, police commissioner and tourism minister.

Nazim says the items were planted, and the opposition has been campaigning for his release.

He requested permission to travel overseas three weeks ago after his doctor advised him to undergo some tests unavailable in the Maldives.

Nazim’s lawyers are meanwhile compiling their appeal against his sentence.

“Lawyers are working on the appeal round the clock, listening to recordings, and hoping to file by Thursday or Sunday,” said Azim.

The correctional service said Nazim’s family would need to notify them of which country he plans to travel to so that they can check it is a country approved for Maldivian prisoner visits.

No prison guards will travel with him, but the correctional service and a guardian from the family will come to an agreement under which the guardian will be responsible for the inmate.

The spokesman said that inmates are usually allotted three months for overseas treatment, but that the medical board can extend the period if treatment is taking longer.

Nazim’s family had a monthly visit with him on Monday at Humafushi jail for two hours and reported he was in “high spirits”.


First batch of Faaragema dogs arrive in Maldives

Five of the 16 sniffer dogs for the newly established “Faaragema” dog squad arrived in the Maldives last night.

According to the Maldives Police Services, a Dutch and a British dog trainer accompanied the first batch of dogs and will train police officers in handling the dogs.

The dogs were due to arrive the previous night, but their arrival was delayed after the handlers deemed the journey from the Netherlands was too long for the puppies. They were then quarantined in Malaysia.

Faaragema dog squad

Five more puppies will arrive tonight and the remaining six are to arrive tomorrow night.

The dogs were brought in to tackle drug trafficking in the Maldives, and are going to be kept in custom made kennels at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

Speaking to local media, Home Ministry’s spokersperson Thazmeel Abdul Samad said that the dogs and the kennel had cost the government US$ 80,000.

The Home Ministry has meanwhile requested the Dhivehi Language Academy to come up with 16 Dhivehi names for the puppies.


Two detention officers seriously injured after attacks at Maafushi Prison

Two Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) detention officers have been seriously injured after they were assaulted by Maafushi Prison inmates while trying to conduct a routine head count last night (December 1).

Ministry of Home affairs spokesperson Thazmeel Abdul Samad told Minivan News that the officers have been brought to the capital and are being treated for head injuries.

“An officer went in to unit 3 at 10pm to conduct a routine head count and requested assistance after the inmates refused to cooperate, four officers went into the unit to assist him and then they were attacked by the inmates,” explained Thazmeel.

All four officers suffered head injuries with one officer getting bruised on the arm.

Maafushi Prison has been at the centre of a number of incidents this year, including escaped prisoners and deadly assaults on an inmate.

The head count was one of six conducted throughout the day and night, part of recently altered security measures following the escape of two dangerous convicts in October, who had broken through a ventilation shaft and left dummies in their beds to deceive the guards.

“The new security measures state that the detention officers have to enter the cells and check the identity of the inmates even if they are sleeping,” said Thazmeel.

While speaking about the escaped convicts, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer accepted that there were loopholes in the prison system, that the necessary changes to the procedure have been identified and that they would now be implemented.

“There is no prison in the world from which someone or the other has not escaped from. The strength of a prison system is in how quickly we recapture escapees and return them to their cells,” said Naseer in an interview to Television Maldives.

The escapees in question were Ibrahim Shahum Adam and Fariyash Ahmed – both serving life sentences for separate murder incidents – were soon recaptured in the capital Malé.

While speaking at a ceremony in Maafushi Naseer said he would use a dog squad periodically in preventing the entry of illicit drugs into Maafushi Jail.

In addition to the 20-foot wall, surveillance cameras, increased lighting and automatic locks will be used to strengthen security at the jail, he added.

Last month, correctional services seized large amounts of illegal contraband from jails under its custody, including Maafushi. MCS confiscated 32 phone chargers, 33 SIM cards, and 200 packets of illicit narcotics from the high security facility.

Speaking at a press briefing on November 2, Superintendent of Prisons Mohamed Asif said MCS has been “continuously searching” jails for contraband as part of wider efforts to improve security.

Earlier this year, Maafushi inmate Ibrahim Azar died from serious head injuries he suffered following an attack by two of his cell mates.

A one page MCS report to the Parliament’s oversight committee stated that Azar had requested a transfer to another cell shortly before he was fatally assaulted.

Related to this story

Hospitalised Maafushi inmate requested transfer from cell before assault

Drugs, mobile phones seized from jail

Manhunt underway for escaped convicts

Escaped convicts were on hunt for murder, theft deal, says home minister


Advance payment of €40,000 for police dog squad

The Maldives government has made a €40,000 (US$50,000) advance payment to a Netherlands-based company for the delivery of a dog squad to combat drug trafficking.

A police media statement explained that the payment was made to the Dutch company yesterday which is to be called ‘Faara Gema’.

Police also announced employment opportunities working at the ‘Faara Gema’ dog squad kennel which is to be located in Hulhumalé.

Police give the utmost importance and high priority towards fighting against drug use and trafficking and also establishing the ‘Faara Gema’ dog squad, read the press statement.

While speaking at a press conference last week, Police Drug Enforcement Department head, Chief Inspector Ahmed Shifan revealed plans to use the dog squad in the atolls during special operations, but refused to provide any further details.

Minister of Home Affairs, Umaru Naseer flew to the Netherlands in June to finalise arrangements for the dogs, which the ministry has said will first be transported to Sri Lanka.

“The dogs will be trained in Sri Lanka for three months. After that the Maldivian police team will travel to Sri Lanka and train with the dogs for another three months and the dogs will be brought to the Maldives for the first time to form the squad,” explained media officer Thazmeel Abdul Samad.

A total of 15 police officers are to be given training to work with the animals, local media have reported.

The Maldives has previously employed dogs for drugs and security, with the most recent example being the use of dogs for security operations at the 2011 SAARC Summit in Addu City. On that occasion, the dogs were handled by a special Sri Lankan task force.

In October 2002 two sniffer dogs were brought to the Maldives from Sri Lanka, and were used at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport under the supervision of National Security Service – and later the Maldives National Defence Force.

In 2008, the chair of the parliamentary committee on narcotics, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said that no drugs were ever confiscated with the help of the two dogs. The committee’s investigations found that the dogs were in fact unable to recognize drugs, said Solih.

The home minister has pledged to focus his efforts on the battle against drugs while in office, noting that illegal narcotics were overloading the criminal justice system and fuelling gang crime.

He has identified stricter control of the country’s borders, a crack down on large-scale drug dealers, and rehabilitation of drug users as the key ways in which to tackle the problem.

Related to this story

Police to form a ‘K-9 dog squad’ to combat drug trafficking

Q&A: Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer

Maldives to buy 15 sniffer dogs


NGOs suggest government’s failure to engage is damaging civil society

As last week’s NGO conference came to close, the award ceremony – with Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim acting as chief guest – suggested strained relations between government and civil society.

Of the 22 organisations taking part in the conference organised by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives – 12 from Malé and 10 from the atolls – not all stepped up to receive certificates from the minister.

“I believe there are more relevant figures to be the chief guest at an NGO conference the country’s defense minister,” explained one NGO representative who boycotted the ceremony.

The main aim of the conference, in addition to providing networking opportunities, was to create a forum in which the participants could share the scope of the work done by the NGOs as well as discussing greater issues faced by civil society.

NGOs involved suggest that many of those issues involved the government’s lack of effective engagement, perhaps typified by the recent decision of the immigration department – headed by minister Nazim – to introduce exit permits for migrant workers.

The controversial scheme was reversed less than two weeks after being introduced after complaints from NGOs, who had not been consulted adequately prior to its introduction.

Groups present at the conference listed migrant workers rights as one of their main areas of interest, alongside health rights, children’s rights, women’s rights, and disability rights.

Lack of support

Discussing concerns raised during the conference, Maldivian Democracy Network’s (MDN) Shahinda identified the government’s lack of financial support for NGOs as the most pressing issue facing civil society.

“For several years, the government has allotted financial support for NGOs in the state budget. However, we have never seen the support being fully realizsed even though it is stated in the budget,” said Shahinda.

HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal noted that, although financial support for NGOs is included in the state budget, a lot of the expenditure is spent on sports association rather than NGOs working for human rights.

“Given the lack of state financial support, NGOs often have to resort to individuals and donors,” continued Tholal. “The current public perception is that if an NGO has a donor, then it must be one sided or politically motivated. This is not true in most cases.”

A general lack of perception or an understanding of the work civil society is doing was another key issue raised during the three-day conference.

While speaking at the closing ceremony, one participant representing Muraidhoo Ekuveringe Jamiyya from Haa Alif Muraidhoo, said there was little appreciation of work done by NGOs from either the public or from government institutions.

Chairperson for the Maldives Association of Physical Disabilities, Ahmed Mohamed, commented that the general public remains unaware of disability rights.

“I think it is the duty of the government to increase awareness or work on empowering NGOs so that we can increase our outreach in spreading awareness,” said Ahmed.

MDN also suggested that the poor public appreciation of civil society and the lack of acknowledgement of NGO could be traced back to a lack of engagement from the government.

“Every year, our annual reports are sent to the home ministry which just files it. The reports detail what we do, our achievements and other relevant information. All of this is not acknowledged by the state so the general public is unaware of the work we do,” complained Shahinda.

Tholal also stressed the importance of state acknowledgment of NGO work, suggesting that public perception is shaped by the state’s response to work done by NGOs.

“NGOs are institutionalised and organised voices of the public. Government institutions have to respect statements and reports from NGOs whether they agree or disagree with the political ideology of the government,” noted Tholal.

Shahinda added that the public sometimes has unrealistic expectations of NGOs, saying that organisations do not have the capacity to deal with every single issue.

An intimidating future?

HRCM Vice President Tholal stressed that NGOs role as human rights defenders was being jeopardised as there was insufficient space and capacity to operate effectively and independently.

NGOs at the conference voiced concern over the prevalence of threats and measures made by the state to intimidate and silence civil society and other independent institutions.

“There have been numerous threats and attacks on civil society organisations and individuals. Government has done little to no work to address these threats,” said Shahinda.

Most recently, Supreme Court initiated a ‘suo moto’ proceeding against the HRCM for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission made to the UN, while denouncing the HRCM’s suggestions that the judiciary was controlled and influenced by the Supreme Court.

A similar proceeding – in which the court acts as both plaintiff and judge – was used in the ousting and prosecution of Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz in February.

In October 2013, the home ministry launched an investigation into comments made by Transparency Maldives and the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM), saying that it would not allow any organisation to challenge the law.

Staff at anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives have also been subject to death threats as well as one employee being physically assaulted during the recent Majlis elections.

Asked about the future of the civil society in the Maldives, Tholal reiterated the importance of state acknowledgement in order to improve the current atmosphere.

“I believe that the civil society is the most important voice in raising issues against the state in making it more responsible,” said Tholal.

While things may get difficult, Shahinda expressed confidence that important work carried out by civil society groups would continue.

“If things do not change, it is going to be more and more challenging. However, I am sure these challenges alone will not hinder the work of the civil society”.