Businessman to sue state over discriminatory electricity prices

A businessman in the northern hub of Kulhudhuffushi has lodged a complaint with a magistrate court over alleged discrimination in electricity prices.

Adam Shareef says prices in the northern Haa Alif, Haa Dhaal, and Shaviyani atolls are 72 percent higher than in the capital Malé.

Businessmen from Ihavandhoo in Haa Alif atoll and Fuvahmulah in the south have also submitted petitions to the government over the doubling of their electricity bills.

As the constitution entitles all citizens to economic and social rights without discrimination of any kind, Shareef said the state-owned Fenaka Corporation is obliged to provide electricity at equal rates throughout the country.

Fenaka is the main electricity provider in the atolls and operates in 151 of the 188 inhabited islands of the Maldives.

The Kulhudhuffushi magistrate court rejected Shareef’s case today saying it has no jurisdiction. Shareef says he is now preparing to file the case at Malé’s civil court.

The government has previously said that the large distances between the Maldives’ remote islands mean that services such as electricity will inevitably be more expensive in the atolls.

Businesses across the Maldives protested by closing shops last month after the government’s decision to cut electricity subsidies left more than 5,700 businesses facing millions extra between them in electricity charges.

Fenaka has 46,590 meters in 151 islands, of which 5,765 meters were registered as business consumers.

Electricity bills for businesses doubled, and in some case tripled, when the subsidy was discontinued in March.

Fenaka officials previously said bills in Kulhudhufushi are higher than other islands because businesses were charged a much lower rate than the tariff structure approved by the energy authority in 2009, leading to a threefold increase when the subsidy was removed.

While the actual rate was 7.50 laari per unit for usage above 400 units, the now-defunct upper north utility corporation charged 2.75 laari per unit for Kulhudhufushi businesses.

Addu City mayor Abdulla ‘Sobe’ Sodiq has also urged Fenaka to levy equal fees, saying higher prices affect investments in the southernmost city.

“Electricity is a basic right. The service must be provided equally to everyone. There cannot be any discrimination,” he told the press yesterday

Prices in Addu City and Fuvahmulah are up to 37 per cent higher than in Malé, according to figures from Fenaka.

But Fenaka says its hands are tied as the company is only implementing government policies, which are intended to curb rising expenditure. The International Monetary Fund had urged the government to move its subsidies to a targeted system, rather than blanket payments.

Meanwhile, grocery shops have increased prices of goods in Ihavandhoo due to higher electricity prices.

Owners have also decided to keep shops closed from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

“Almost all businesses in Ihavandhoo have decided to raise the prices of goods, as the electricity expenses cost approximately 60 percent more now,” said Abdul Mueed Ibrahim, vice president of the Ihavandhoo council

Profits are considerably lower due to the higher electricity bills, said a local Ihavandhoo shop owner, Ahmed ‘Jizuvan’ Rilwan.

Businessmen in Ihavandhoo had submitted a petition regarding the issue to the island council and Fenaka, he said, but was yet to receive a response.

Jizuvan said that the shops had raised the prices of 118 varieties of goods.

“Nobody likes to raise the prices of products as it only burdens the local citizens. However, most of us do not have any other choice,” he said.

Jizuan suggested that Fenaka earned enough income to charge lower rates, but says it’s decision to increase mangers from two to five – each with a monthly salalry of about MVR 12,000 – might have led to higher operating costs.

“I believe the providers are taking more than what is necessary,” he said.

Jizuvan said he had received text messages accusing him of trying to defame the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Ihavandhoo, Mohamed Abdulla, and warning him that he could be jailed.

The government previously provided Fenaka with about MVR11 million (US$713,359) a month to subsidise electricity for atoll businesses, but this cost must now be borne by the companies themselves.




Man found dead in Haa Alif Ihavandhoo

A 67-years-old man was found dead today on Ihavandhoo island in Haa Alif Atoll.

Abdullah Abubakr had been reported as missing yesterday evening (September 17).

Speaking to local news outlet, Ihavanndhoo Atoll council member Abdullah Husain said that the man had been missing since 5pm yesterday.

“After an extensive search he was found inside a well at an abandoned house. He was already dead by the time we found him,” said Husain.

The man was found by his son at around 6:30am after a search coordinated by Ihavandoo police station and the island council.

Police said that they did not notice any physical harm to the body.


Heritage department to hold coral mosque exhibition

The Department of Heritage has announced it will hold a special exhibition to raise public awareness of six coral stone mosques currently being considered for UNESCO world heritage site status.

“The purpose of hosting an exhibition for this theme is because recently 6 coral stone mosques of Maldives have been inscribed on the tentative list of world heritage sites and now we are trying to inscribe the mosques on the permanent list,” said the department’s Director Ali Waheed.

The exhibition for the mosques – two in Malé, and one in Ihavandhoo, Meedhoo, Isdhoo, and Fenfushi – will run between April 21 and April 30 at the National Museum.

“By arranging such an exhibition will give the opportunity to raise awareness among students and the public about this nomination,” said Waheed in a press release today.

Potential world heritage sites must be listed on the tentative list at least one year prior to their nomination for the full list.

Successful nominations must include meet at least one of UNESCO’s ten selection criteria. The coral mosques will be nominated as meeting four of the cultural criteria points, which include:

  • sites that exhibit an important interchange of human values on developments in architecture
  • sites that bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition
  • sites considered to be outstanding examples of a type of building which illustrates a significant stage in human history
  • sites which are directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance

Waheed explained that further detailed evidence was needed before the final submission could be completed, in particular work to prove that the lacquer work exhibited in the mosques is unique to the Maldives.

Admission onto the world heritage site would bring the benefits of cultural tourism and maintenance funds to the sites.

The submission to UNESCO’s tentative list – made in February 2013 – described the mosques as a unique fusion of the Indian sub-continental, the Swahili, Malayan, and the Arab cultures.

“The ensemble of coral stone architecture and a building typology of such a representation of many maritime cultures of Indian Ocean are altogether unique, rare and cannot be found in any other part of the world,” read the submitted documents.

The submission explained that coral – taken from live boulder on the seabed – became the primary building material from the Maldives’ pre-Islamic era (prior to 1153) until the late 18th century.

Being further refined during the Islamic period, east African Swahili techniques were used to complement those of the Buddhist era, read the submission, which details the features of each mosque.

“These mosques as living mosques also embody the intangible and spiritual values of the communities and bear witness to the spread of Islam in the Indian Ocean region.”

Friday Mosque, Ihavandhoo, Haa Alifu atoll

Built during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Muzhiruddin, the mosque remains in use today. The mosque’s cemetery contains the tombstones of many famous figures from the country’s history, including the independence hero Mohamed Thakurufaanu.

The mosque is described as being the finest example of a coral stone mosque with ‘Dhaala’ (verandah like antechambers). “The mosque has got great potential to be restored to its original state and regain its position as the best coral stone mosque in the north of Maldives,” read the submission.

Friday Mosque, Meedhoo, Raa atoll

Meedhoo’s Friday Mosque is believed to have been built under the reign of the first Sultan from Dhiyamigili Dynasty, Sultan Muzaffar Mohamed Imaduddin II around 1705. The mosque is unique as the only surviving example of clay roof tiling.

“The fact that the mosque is still being used by communities far away from the mosque proves the high ancestral values placed to this mosque by local communities,” commented the Department of Heritage.

Friday Mosque, Malé, Kaafu atoll

First submitted for heritage status in 1987, Malé’s friday mosque is considered the country’s most important heritage site. Built in 1658 during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar I on the site of the first mosque built after conversion, the mosque is considered to be the one of the finest coral stone buildings in the world.

“The architecture, construction and accompanying artistry of the mosque and its other structures represent the creative excellence and achievement of the Maldivian people,” the Heritage Department has said.

Eid Mosque, Malé, Kaafu atoll

The Eid Mosque was built during the time of Al-Sultan Mohamed Muinuddin in 1815, and rests on a highly decorated coral stone platform with carved coral stone walls and a timber roof structure.

“It is the last of the coral stone mosques and has the best ornamentation and craftsmanship of all the mosques in the country and is in good condition,” explained the department.

Friday Mosque, Fenfushi, Alifu Dhaalu atoll

Built between 1692-1701, during the reign of Sultan Mohamed of Dhevvadhu, the Fenfushi mosque features a unique coral stone bathing tank, coral stone wells, a sun-dial, and a large cemetery.

The designs on the steps to the pool suggest it had been built during the Buddhist era.

Isdhoo Old Mosque, Isdhoo, Laamu atoll

Dating from the reign of Sultan Ali VII in 1701, the coral mosque in Isdhoo is where the copper chronicles ‘Isdhoo Loamaafaanu’ (1195) – the oldest historical writings found in the Maldives – were once kept.

It is believed that the mosque was built from materials left over after the construction of Malé’s Friday Mosque.

“The existence of Isdhoo copper plate with much important historical written information, serves as a support for the authenticity of this mosque. Due to this historical significance for this mosque, the mosque is highly protected and valued,” said the department’s UNESCO submission.