President appoints finance minister as acting tourism minister

President Mohamed Nasheed has appointed Finance Minister Ali Hashim as the acting tourism minister.

Former Tourism Minister Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad was appointed Attorney General when former Attorney General Husnu Suood resigned, claiming his job was untenable because of parliamentary obstruction. The appointment is awaiting approval of parliament.

President Nasheed has said he will appoint a new tourism minister shortly.


Attorney General resigns claiming job untenable in parliament-caused “constitutional void”

Attorney General (AG) Husnu Suood has resigned claiming his position is untenable in the “constitutional void” triggered by parliament’s failure to enact legislation ensuring the continuation of state institutions such as the judiciary after the interim period.
Suood publicly called for Speaker Abdulla Shahid to follow his lead, after the Speaker cancelled a special session of parliament yesterday intended to resolve interim matters – such as the appointment of Supreme Court judges – before the deadline yesterday.

Following initial reports in the media from opposition MPs, the president’s office issued a statement confirming it had received a letter of resignation from the AG.

In his resignation letter, Suood stated that he had resigned because he did not believe that the state could be operated according to the constitution, because he had noted that state institutions had failed to fulfil their responsibilities as obliged by the constitution.

As a consequence, Suood wrote he did not have the opportunity to perform his own duties and responsibilities under article 133 of the constitution, prompting his resignation.

“His legal opinion is that his job is no longer tenable until the Majlis enacts the appropriate legislation,” said Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair.

Suood appeared on Television Maldives (TVM) this around noon blasting parliament for failing to legislate the continuation of state institutions by the interim period’s deadline yesterday.

Opposition DRP MP Ali Waheed meanwhile stated that the resignation of the AG “proves the disobedience of the executive to the laws.”


AG Suood ‘finds’ letter from speaker of parliament requesting former AG to dissolve a case of MP Nazim

Attorney General (AG) Husnu Suood has claimed to have discovered a letter signed by the Speaker of the Parliament and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Shahid requesting a former attorney general dissolve a case against Deputy Speaker and Deputy Leader of the People’s Alliance (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim, who has recently been charged for corruption and bribery.

Suood revealed he had the letter at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) event at Dharubaaruge last night.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair explained that Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid was the executive secretary for the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom when he sent the letter.

“The letter was sent to the former attorney general, and Suood managed to find it in his office,” said Zuhair. “It was a case related to 500 [electricity] house meters and one other case, both related to the State Electric Company (STELCO).”

Zuhair further said that People’s Alliance party (PA) leader and MP Abdulla Yamin was the Chairman of STELCO at the time.

“The government will investigate all cases of corruption and will send the matter to the Prosecutor General’s office and present those people before the judges,” he said. “If the lower courts find them innocent, we will take it to the higher courts, to the Supreme Court and if necessary, to the international courts.”

Shahid denied the claims and said he had never sent such a letter to a former attorney general.

“I was not even in a position to send a letter to the former attorney general requesting someone’s case be dissolved,” he said. “When people make allegations like this, they should define it so the accused knows how to respond.”

Nazim did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


MNDF refuses to present Yameen on court order

The Maldives National Defece Force (MNDF) has today declined to obey a court warrant issued by the Criminal Court to summon People’s Alliance (PA) Leader and MP Abdulla Yameen, who was taken to Aarah island this morning at dawn by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) reportedly “for his own protection”.

Police were compelled to used force to restrain ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists outside Yameen’s house last night. Shortly afterwards, both police and protesters were showered with rocks an other projectiles by people from nearby buildings, injuring many. Police used tear gas while the MNDF deployed an armoured car to contain the incident.

Yameen was taken to the Presidential Retreat ‘Aarah’ to provide assistance and protection to him upon his request, according to the MNDF.

The MP and high-profile businessman was recently summoned for questioning by police concerning charges of bribery and treason. After a series of court hearings regarding the legality of his arrest and detention, along with Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim, the Supreme Court ruled he be released from house arrest.

However the government yesterday indicated that it was unwilling to drop the matter, and was monitoring judges for signs of corruption.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said the MNDF had refused to the court warrant to summon Yamin “because the MNDF does not believe it was a lawful order issued by the court.’’

‘’He requested the MNDF provide security and protection for him,’’ said Zuhair. “He told the MNDF that he wished to leave Male’ and stay on another island.’’

Zuhair said Yameen had attempted to stay on an island in Alifu Atoll but the MNDF took him to Aarah island “because MNDF knows where they can provide him best protection.”

‘’It was the [opposition] who sparked the riot last night,” Zuhair claimed. “At first it was just a peaceful assembly, but some people tried to attack the president. A group of people ran towards him to attack him, but his bodyguards confronted them.’’

Zuhair said MDP supporters gathered outside Yameen’s house following the attack, alleging he was the person behind the attack.

‘’When MDP supported gathered near Yameen’s house, people in the nearby buildings threw pavement blocks down at them. It proves that they were ready for violence,’’ he said.

PA Secretary General Ibrahim Shareef said everyone should follow an order of the court.

‘’We will not accept this,’’ Shareef said. ‘’If everyone uses their power anyway they want, there is no use for laws and regulations.’’

Shareef claimed that the MNDF took Yameen against his will, and not by request.

‘’They took him after the riot was controlled and when everything was over,’’ Shareef claimed.

Major Abdul Raheem said he did not have detailed information regarding the case, and recommended Minivan News contact Attorney General Husnu Suood.

Suood did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


We will uphold the constitution and rights of the people: Supreme Court

Regarding the political chaos that has developed in the Maldives, the Supreme court has issued a statement assuring the people that the judicial system will maintain the power of the constitution and rights of the people for every individual without discrimination.

The judicial system is one of the basic elements of democracy and the most important institution for maintaining freedom and rights, says the Supreme Court.

”We appeal to the beloved people to maintain law and order,” said the statement. ”We are one nation, we speak one language, and our religion is Islam.”

The people had established a democratic policy to obtain economic development and a better life, says the Court.

”The basis of this policy is for the people, the executive and the institutions to obey the constitution and laws, and for the three powers of state to fulfil their obligations within the law,” the statement said. ”and for those powers to co-operate together to achieve national goals without impeding each other.”

However, former attorney-general Husnu Suood has said recently that he did not believe that the Supreme Court can make judgments fairly.

The government could not resort to the Supreme Court to overturn parliamentary decisions, “because we filed two cases in the Supreme Court, and they ruled it was not the right of the government to file such cases.”

State institutions had failed, Suood said, and senior officials of the judiciary were “irresponsible”, and the independent commissions were operating like “small governments”. “All this has brought the government to a standstill,” he said.

Meanwhile, opposition MP Ali Waheed has claimed that the government is trying to declare a state of emergency to gain more powers.


Malaysia Airlines withdraws lawsuit following out-of-court settlement

Malaysia Airlines has withdrawn a long-running US$35.5 million lawsuit against Air Maldives in the Malaysian High Court, after the Maldivian government withdrew a US$90 million counter-claim in the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama reported that an out-of-court settlement had been reached between the two parties after discussions on 14 February. The Maldivian cabinet held a meeting to discuss such a settlement in late December.

According to Bernama, the agreement was reached after “intense negotiations” between Malaysian Airline Systems (MAS) executives Dr Mohd Amin Khan (General Manager of Network and Revenue) and Dr Wafi Nazrin Abdul Hamid (General Manager of Corporate and Legal Services), and State Finance Minister Ahmed Assad and Attorney General Husnu Suood representing the Maldives.

Last week Suood told parliament that the Air Maldives case presented “legal challenges” and there was little documentation in favour of Air Maldives.

Neither Assad nor Suood were responding to enquiries at time of press.

Failed airline

Air Maldives went international in 1994 in a joint venture between Maldivian government and Naluri (then Malaysian Helicopter Services Berhad), a holding company owned by the chairman of Malaysia Airlines, Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli.

Naluri paid $8 million for a 49 per cent stake in the national carrier, according to a report by Alkman Granitsas in the Far Eastern Economic Review. The plan was to run short-haul flights connecting the Maldives to major regional hubs, including Colombo, Trivandrum and Kuala Lumpur.

But despite a burgeoning tourism industry the airline met an inglorious fate in 2000, spiralling into bankruptcy amid ambitious expansion into long-haul routes and allegations of mismanagement under the directorship of Anbaree Abdul Satter, also the controversial head of the National Security Service (NSS).

Initally a short-haul carrier, the airline leased three aircraft and started running long-haul routes, including Gatwick, and quickly found itself facing losses somewhere between US$50 to US$70 million. Granitsas noted at the time that the airline’s collapse in April 2000 met with little comment from the Maldives government or media, and suggested that the resultant plunge in business confidence led to a run on the rufiyaa and a dollar shortage that crippled the economy.

He quoted Husnu Suood, then a lawyer representing Airbus, as saying “the current economic crisis can be party attributed to the collapse of Air Maldives.”

A former member of the Air Maldives cabin crew told Minivan News that news of the company’s collapse was dropped “very suddenly”.

“I was on board the last flight between Male’ and Dubai when we were told,” she said. “We landed in Dubai at 8:30pm carrying a load of Hajj pilgrims from Colombo, and somebody came on board to tell us to stop any flights.  We were flown back [to Male’] and two sets of crew in Dubai were recalled.”

She added that while there had been rumours that the company was facing financial difficulty, “we’d started picking up really full flights to London Gatwick and were already planning the roster for Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Johannesburg South Africa.”