Morning Star crew free to return to the Maldives after seven month wait

The crew of a Maldivian ship detained in the Indian port city of Kochi have been told they can finally return to the Maldives after a seven month wait.

The owner of the vessel, Managing Director of Mallinks Pvt Ltd Ibrahim Rasheed, had told crew members back in January that they must attempt to sell the ship or risk being stranded in India indefinitely.

MV Morning Star had been detained by Indian authorities in July 2012 after the vessel it had been towing from the Maldives sank in Indian waters.

Transport Authority Chairman Abdul Rasheed Nafiz said on Monday (March 18) that the ship had now been sold by the Indian courts and the crew will be able to return to the Maldives.

“The crew can return back any time now, but at present they are waiting to receive the money they are owed from the sale of MV Morning Star,” Nafiz said.

The Transport Authority Chairman told Minivan News earlier this year that the crew had gone without pay for over five months prior to January, and had been relying on a union in India to provide them with food.

“The same union is taking care of the crew at the moment whilst they wait for their pay,” Nafiz confirmed today.

Following the sinking of the vessel back in July, a ruling by the Indian Judiciary stated that the ship, along with the crew, would not be allowed to sail out of the port until the sunken vessel had been salvaged.

The ship’s crew had been advised by Rasheed in January to sell the vessel as he could not personally afford to pay for their return.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Rasheed confirmed that the Indian courts had reached a verdict to sell the vessel for US$165,000.

“The captain and crew of the ship can deduct their salaries from the sale of the ship. I spoke to the captain yesterday (March 17) and he told me he will pay the crew,” Rasheed said.

“The unions who helped support the crew will also be able to take their share of owed money,” he added.

Rasheed previously claimed that MV Morning Star would have been able to sail out of the port had the sunken vessel – MV Sea Angel – been salvaged.

According to Rasheed, both ships had been insured by Allied insurance and it had been the insurance company’s responsibility to salvage the sunken ship.

“We had fully insured both ships. The insurance company gave us a wage policy and in the policy they have written, ‘within 40 days we have to sail the vessels’, which we did.

“The insurance company needs to take responsibility, but they are saying no,” Rasheed said back in January.

MV Morning Star had been towing MV Sea Angel to a port in India for it to be scrapped, however just eight miles from Kochi, the 26 metre vessel began to sink.

Speaking today, Rasheed said that he had now filed a case against Allied Insurance, and is currently waiting for the next hearing to be scheduled in court.


Former President’s Office under-secretary placed under house arrest

Former President’s Office Under-Secretary Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Hoara’ Ibbe, who stands accused of sexual offences against a 17 year-old girl, has been placed under house arrest.

Rasheed, who served in the President’s Office under the previous government of Mohamed Nasheed, had been kept in pretrial detention until yesterday (January 5) over the allegations.  The Maldives Police Service today confirmed that his detention had been extended for an additional 15 days under house arrest.

Rasheed was arrested on December 6, 2012, after being discovered at a house in the Galolhu Ward  of Male’ with a seventeen year-old girl.

A Criminal Court Spokesperson had told local media that Rasheed was brought before a judge yesterday for a hearing on whether to extend the period of his detention. The presiding judge decided that the suspect was to be placed under house arrest for the next 15 days, according to reports.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef today confirmed to Minivan News that Rasheed was now placed under house arrest, but could not give further details of the case as it was related to a minor.

‘’In such cases related to minors we do not provide details,’’ he said.

Haneef also declined to confirm local media reports alleging Rasheed and the 17 year-old girl had been found naked when discovered together by police.

Ibrahim Rasheed is a well known politician and a senior figure within the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Legal grounds

According to Maldivian law, any person under 18 years of age is considered a minor.

Special provisions relating to child sex abuse cases state that “for the purpose of this law, unless proven otherwise, the courts shall not accept that the sexual activity was carried out with the consent of the minor, if the minor is between the ages of 13 to 18.”

Sexual offences involving minors is punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment.


Police send case concerning MDP MPs Hamid and Bonday to Prosecutor General

Police have sent cases concerning opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and Ibrahim ‘Bonday’ Rasheed to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

An official from the Prosecutor General’s Office has confirmed to matter to local media today and has said the PG Office was currently researching the case.

Local newspaper ‘Sun Online’ reported that police have requested to press charges against MP Hamid for obstructing police duty and requested MP Rasheed be charged for obstructing police duty, assaulting police officers, threatening and creating unrest.

On August 4, Ibrahim Rasheed was arrested and the Criminal Court placed him under house arrest for five days on charges of threatening and attacking a police officer and obstructing police duty.

According to a statement issued by the MDP, Rasheed was taken into custody at 12.30am from a popular cafe in the capital Male’ by “20 militarised police.”

“MP Ibrahim Rasheed was arrested under a warrant obtained by the police relating to an incident two days back on 30 July when it was reported that the MP was ‘bitten’ on his back by a policeman in the process of being arrested while participating in a protest rally,” the statement said.

Photos surfaced on social media showing bruises on the MPs’ back and the prescription letter from private hospital ADK where he was treated.

On July 22, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor was arrested after he broke through the police barricades near the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).

“We warned him and let him go as he first broke through the police barricades. We arrested him for obstruction of police duties after he broke through again,” police said in a statement.

In a statement following Hamid’s arrest, the MDP said Hamid and other protesters were arrested in violation of the laws stipulated under the constitution and international covenants Maldives is party to.


Police summon former Defence Minister and President’s Office Undersecretary for questioning

Police have summoned former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim to for questioning over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest of Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed.

Former Undersecretary of the President’s Office Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Hoara Ibee’ has also been summoned for questioning  to over alcohol bottles police reportedly discovered inside Presidential Residence Muleeage, on the day of the police mutiny.

Rasheed today told Minivan News that he was summoned to police and asked about the bottles, and that he answered the police questions.

‘’I told them that the area where they found the items can be accessed by anyone who enters Muleeage so nobody could be certain who they belonged to,’’ Rasheed said. ‘’We believe there was police mutiny in February 7 – the  day they claimed to have found those bottles – and we are not sure whether it was the police or the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) who were in control of Muleeage that day.’’

Rasheed said ‘’I think their main objective is to destroy our reputation, it’s what they have always been doing, so we expect more allegations.’’

Tholhath confirmed to Minivan News that he was questioned about the arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam also confirmed that the pair were summoned for questioning over some cases reported to police.

He said that as the investigation was still not concluded, police could not give further details.

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by the MNDF on the evening of Monday, January 16, in compliance with a police request.

The judge’s whereabouts were not revealed until January 18. The MNDF had acknowledged receipt but not replied to Supreme Court orders to release the judge.

Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz joined the High and Supreme Courts in condemning the MNDF’s role in the arrest as unlawful, and requesting that the judge be released. Former President Mohamed Nasheed has maintained that he was upholding the constitution in the arrest of the judge, following the failure of both parliament and the judicial services commission to adequately investigate him, after the Chief Judge in September 2011 had the civil court issue an injunction against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog.

Opposition political parties held a series of protests which culminated on the morning of February 7 with the resignation of Nasheed – allegedly under duress – and the handover of the presidency to Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

The same day, MNDF and police officers claimed to have found alcohol bottles and hash oil in the presidential residence.


Teachers’ Day tradition provokes financial dispute

Wednesday, October 4 will be celebrated as Teachers’ Day, however reports state that parents are objecting to some schools’ request for a Rf100 (US$6.50) donation towards the festivities.

Deputy Minister of Education Ibrahim Rasheed said that he had not received any complaints regarding the celebrations. Rasheed said Teachers’ Day celebrations were voluntary, and that it was up to the parents to contribute.

He expressly noted that donations were not required by the ministry.

“It’s up to the parents. If the parents organise an activity it’s up to them to decide how they will do it,” said Rasheed.

According to local media, all schools have asked for donations, but the request became an issue when some schools set a fixed amount. One parent allegedly said her child was asked to bring “good” gifts, and that she felt forced to donate to the celebrations because the school was keeping a record of contributors.

Rasheed said it was tradition for students to bring teachers cards and flowers in appreciation, and supposed that the request for donations had been organised by the school board or parent teacher associations (PTAs). He confirmed that no part of the school budget is set aside for Teachers’ Day.

PTAs play a significant role in school decisions. For many parents, education is important; one source indicated that parents have requested improvements beyond the state budget’s scope, and that they may be asked to supply the necessary financing to realise their demands.

The Principal of Ameeniya School, Athiya Naseer, had not heard of complaints at other schools but said state budgets are insufficient. “We can hold extra curricular activities, but depending on the type of activity we may have to fundraise,” she said. “Everyone shares in the fundraising though, parents and students and teachers.”

Teachers are important figures in the community “who are doing their jobs very well,” said Rasheed. However, some consider salaries proportionately low.

“The salaries are very low compared to the cost of living,” said Naseer. “Many teachers tutor on the side.” Naseer could not say if teachers felt pressed to tutor to make ends meet.

Rasheed did not wish to comment on matter.

“The whole world is undergoing a serious economic downturn at the moment,” said Deputy Director General of the Center for Continuing Education (CCE), Adam Sharaaf Umar. “It will certainly affect the education system and other sectors as well. But teachers are optimistic, and always working hard at their jobs.”

Tomorrow’s festivities will start in the morning with students and parents welcoming teachers to schools. The Teaching Excellence Award 2011 will be announced tomorrow evening at Dharubaaruge, an event which President Mohamed Nasheed is expected to attend.

On October 8, CCE will host a teacher conference “to share and contribute practices and exchange views on how to apply new ideas in the classroom,” said Umar.