Selfies and suspensions – The Weekly Review

May 17th – 23rd

The start of the AFC Challenge Cup and that selfie dominated headlines and twitter feeds this week.

Talk of national unity and a belief that the tournament could be a springboard for the advancement of the nation’s football will continue as the Maldives rode their luck to make it into next week’s semi-finals.

Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed’s luck also appeared to hold out this week as police announced investigations into the justice’s alleged appearance in a sex-tape were being suspended.

The Maldivian Democratic Party declared that this, along with the judicial watchdog’s failure to make headway with its own investigation, to be evidence of a justice system unable to deliver justice.

With criticism also coming from President Abdulla Yameen regarding the Judicial Services Commission’s failure to conclude cases in a timely fashion, the JSC stated that all procedures were being followed.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continued to strengthen its grip on judicial administration with new regulations. The court was also said to have played a leading role in the decision to change the judge in the alcohol smuggling trial of governing coalition leader Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.

Despite only one hearing having been held regarding the two-year-old charges, Shiyam had expressed concern that the presiding judge’s demeanour had indicated a personal grudge against him. Judge Abdulla Mohamed has taken over the case.

The Family Court was said to have ejected two representatives of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) this week, though the court itself denied the claims. A regional report from Transparency International urged the government to further empower the commission in order to fight graft.

The ACC received a case last week accusing Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb of using state-owned companies to withdraw millions of dollars which has not been repaid – charges Adeeb has refuted.

The government announced this week that it will soon empower one company to build the fabled Malé–Hulhulé bridge, with bidding set to open early next month. While plans for the US$7 million renovation of IGMH were also revealed.

With three minors convicted this week in relation to a fatal stabbing, the recent decision to facilitate the reintroduction of the death penalty again made international headlines. Former Home Minister Hassan Afeef, however, questioned the government’s sincerity in moving to end the sixty year moratorium.

Speaking at the country’s third Finance Forum this week, Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Dr Azeema Adam called for the government to work in concert with society to cut expenditure before a panel of experts discussed how to attract foreign investment.

The investments of the Foreign Ministry during 2011 were questioned by the auditor general this week, while the mayor of Malé City Council questioned the Finance Ministry’s assistance in the capital’s growing waste management problems.

The details of the deputy mayor’s run-in with a fellow council member – since suspended – were caught on tape. Progressive Party of Maldives councillor Ahmed Mamnoon bragged to Shifa Mohamed that he was a ‘gunda’ – thug/gangster.

Working alongside their Sri Lankan counterparts, the police this week returned convicted drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak to the Maldives after he overstayed his medical leave.

Meanwhile, seven former employees of Sheraton’s Full Moon resort were escorted from the island by police, alleging that their dismissal was linked to their union activities.

Police also dismantled a youth hangout in Villimalé, leading to criticism from local MP Ahmed Nihan who questioned the police’s approach to dealing with the youth.

In the atolls this week, a “benchmark” low carbon emission project was launched in Laamu while a continuing drought in Haa Alif atoll caused the islanders on Ihavandhoo to pray for rain.


Convicted drug kingpin Shafa caught in Colombo

Convicted drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak has been caught in Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo in a joint operation by the Maldivian and Sri Lankan security services.

Shafaz, commonly known as Shafa, was temporarily released in February for three months to seek medical treatment said to be unavailable in the Maldives.

However, he failed to return during the allocated time period and did not ask for an extension.

“He will be brought back to the Maldives on the next flight. His failure to return in the designated time period is an offense,” Home Ministry’s media coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad told Minivan News.

The Criminal Court in November 2013 sentenced the 30-year-old to 18 years in prison and levied a fine of MVR75,000 (US$4,860) for drug trafficking.

Shafaz’s temporary release has garnered controversy, with news agency Haveeru claiming the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) violated procedures in authorising his release.

The newspaper said it has documents suggesting widespread corruption and negligence by the medical board at the MCS and doctors at state owned Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Shafaz’s release.

Regulations require inmates to obtain signatures from two specialists to leave the country for medical treatment abroad, but only one doctor had signed the forms, Haveeru said.

The other individual who signed the document was not a doctor, but a prosthetist and orthotist – an individual who provides care for people requiring artificial limbs.

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) issued a warrant in April prohibiting the doctor from leaving the country. Haveeru has identified the doctor to be Indian national Dr Ganga Raju.

Although doctors at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) are required to hold discussions on cases where inmates need to seek medical care abroad, no such discussions took place, the newspaper alleged.

Further, although the MCS medical board noted the lack of two doctors’ signatures on the form, the board still authorised the release.

Moreover, the documents presented to the board did not contain details of why Shafaz required “urgent” medical care abroad for pain in his neck, and did not say that treatment was unavailable in the Maldives, the newspaper added.

Only two of the four members on the board authorised the release. They were representatives of the Maldives Police Services Dr Mohamed Fazneen and the Home Ministry’s Ishaq Mohamed. IGMH’s Dr Moosa Murad and MCS’ Deputy Commissioner of Prisons Hassan Zilal were on leave at the time.

Dr Mohamed Fazneen resigned from the board in mid March.

Commissioner of Prisons Moosa Azim has previously told Minivan News all due procedures were followed in the case.

When inmates are released for medical treatment abroad they are not accompanied by MCS employees and are not subject to any restrictions, the MCS has said.

“A medical officer does not have to accompany the inmate. He was allowed to leave under an agreement with his family. Family members will be held accountable for his actions, including failure to return,” Azim told Minivan News at the time.

Shortly after his departure to Sri Lanka, local media revealed that Shafaz had appealed his sentence at the High Court.

Shafaz was arrested on June 24, 2011, with 896 grams of heroin from a rented apartment in a building owned by ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem.

Former head of the Drug Enforcement Department, Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, told the press at the time that police had raided Henveiru Fashan based on intelligence information gathered in the two-year long ‘Operation Challenge’.

Jinah labeled Shafaz a high-profile drug dealer suspected of smuggling and supplying drugs since 2006.

He claimed that the network had smuggled drugs worth MVR1.3 million (US$84,306) to the Maldives between February and April 2011.