Yameen inaugurated as President

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Abdulla Yameen has been inaugurated the sixth President of the Maldives at a People’s Majlis Sitting today, bringing to a close months of political uncertainty over delayed, annulled and obstructed presidential polls.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz administered the presidential oath in the presence of People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid during a red carpet ceremony held at 1:00 pm at Dharubaaruge.

After Yameen took the oath of office, the army fired a 21-gun salute. The ceremony was attended by Former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed who sat side by side, Members of Parliament, judges, high ranking police and military officers, foreign ambassadors and state dignitaries.

Addressing the nation, Yameen said the Maldives was in an economically vulnerable position due to sky high debt, extremely high budget spending and pledged to reduce state expenditure.

“Today the Maldives is in a deep economic pit, in an economically vulnerable position. State debt is sky high. The state budget’s expenses are extremely high. Hence, we have to prioritize reducing state expenditure. I will start work very soon to reduce state budget expenditure,” he said.

He vowed to increase revenue for fishermen and farmers, expand job opportunities for youth, improve social protection mechanisms, eradicate drug abuse, provide the opportunity for women to work from home, increase the role of youth and women in the public sector, and strengthen the education system with a particular emphasis on good behavior and respect for Islam.

Claiming his government will be “one of results,” Yameen said he would protect the country’s assets including the airport – the “the main economic door of the country.”

Yameen’s administration will “uphold Maldives’ honor with international organizations,” strengthen relationships with neighboring countries and Arab Muslim countries, he said.

He appealed to the People’s Majlis, state institutions, NGOs and industrial workers to help him realize his vision for the Maldives.

“I take over the presidency of the Maldives today with a vision of tomorrow and new dreams, heralding new thoughts, giving new hopes to the people,” he added.

Yameen, the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for 30 years, narrowly won yesterday’s run-off vote against President Mohamed Nasheed with 51.39 percent of the vote.

Yameen received 29.72 percent (61,278 votes) in the first round on November 9, compared to Nasheed’s 46.93 percent of votes (96,764).

However by refusing to sign the voter lists for the run-off scheduled for November 10 – a position backed by a Supreme Court ruling hours before polls opened – he gained time necessary to convince third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim to support him.

The resort tycoon initially remained neutral, briefly flirted with Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), but finally on Wednesday urged his 48,131 first round supporters to back the PPM, awarding Yameen a narrow coalition victory over the MDP.

Total voter turnout was 91.41 percent (218,621), the highest since 2008, up five percent from 208,504 (86 percent) in the first round – suggesting the coalition was also successful in persuading many recalcitrant voters to head to the polls.

Following his win, Yameen said he would draw half the Presidential salary and would prefer to live in his own home in Male, security permitting.

“God willing, just the way I have promised, I will not say no to the pledges I made. So my salary will start, just as I’ve said, from half the salary,” Yameen declared.

He speculated that it would take two years to return the country to a surplus.

Regarding his pledge to reduce the number of political appointees, he noted that “we still plan to reduce political posts. But along with that, when we have so many parties with us, we will try to do whatever we can to make sure they participate. But even with that, our main plan has not changed,” he said.

The Indian government extended “hearty congratulations” to President Yameen “and the people of Maldives for the successful conclusion of the Presidential elections process in a peaceful manner.”

“The high voter turn-out in every round of Presidential elections is indicative of the strong desire and determination of the people of Maldives to participate wholeheartedly in the process of choosing their President,” read a statement.

“We welcome the acceptance of the verdict of the people of Maldives by all sides and commitment expressed to take the country forward on the path of stability, progress and development.”


Independence Day celebrations: Nasheed vows to continue fight against corruption

The Maldives celebrated its 45th Independence Day on July 26th and 27th.

Following a special prayer conducted after the dawn prayer, President Mohamed Nasheed inaugurated and launched different government offices and institutions in Male’.

Flag Hoisting Ceremony

Following the dawn prayer, a flag hoisting ceremony was held at Jumhoory Maidhaan where the large national flag is located. Students at senior posts of different schools, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and police attended the ceremony.

Addressing the nation, President Nasheed promised to fulfill the mandate given him by the people to consolidate democracy and create the foundations of good governance in the Maldives.

Nasheed said the government would remain resolute in freeing the country from “the bondage of corruption”.

“As the flag of independence flies high, it is a greater national duty to free the country from suspicions in the hearts of the people that bribery and corruption have taken root in the legislature and the judiciary,” he said.

“Unlike previous regime changes, the replacement of government in 2008 did not completely end the power of those connected to the previous regime,” Nasheed said.

The same officials who worked in the previous regime remain active in the executive, courts, and other institutions, he said.

“If [after the presidential elections in 2008] any change came to the bond that existed between the previous leadership and the executive and the judicial branches over those 30 long years, such change was only small,” Nasheed said.

He said he did not want to accept that the government’s power lay in the use the force: “of guns, shackles, and the pillory.”

“The government’s power that we believe in is that of serving the people,” said the President.

Describing the reasons for the current political impasse, the President said “because of the restraint shown…against the influence from officials of previous government, their hopes for coming back to power have flared up.”

“As their pace to come back to power quickened, the constitutional framework was becoming unsettled, disrupting the provision of basic services to the people.”

The President said that to find a long term solution to the political impasse, it was essential to strengthen the constitution as it presently “does not allow an effective presidential system.”

“To my mind, if we want to find a [long term] solution to the current problems, we must amend some articles in the constitution.”

The President reiterated that he was “ready to give way for any elections required in order to bring about those amendments.”

“At no point will I hesitate to face the people and learn what they desire.”

Velaanage inauguration

State Dignitary Ibrahim Rasheed inaugurated Velaanaage, the office complex built on the housing compound of the residence of the Velaanaage family who had rendered invaluable services to the Maldives.

Ibrahim Nasir, the first President of the Second Republic of the Maldives, lived in Velaanaage.

Ibrahim Rasheed addressing the people, said the Maldives continue to receive the valuable services from members of Velaanaage family.

At the ceremony, President Mohamed Nasheed donated a historic shield to President Nasir’s Memorial Room in Velaanaage. The shield was sent to President Ibrahim Nasir on his inauguration as the first President of the Second Republic of the Maldives in November 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson of USA.

Fifteen years ago, President Nasir gave the shield to his youngest son Ismail Nasir, who later presented it to President Nasheed. He also spoke on the importance of the Memorial Room which will display manuscripts and some other memorabilia belonging to President Nasir and his family.

In his remarks at the ceremony, President Nasheed said the Velaanaage family was one of the oldest families in the Maldives.

Inauguration of Iskandhar Building

Vice president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik inaugurated the Maldives Police Service Iskandharu Building, a building to house the police forensic department and containing modern technologies for the forensic investigation of crimes.

Dr Waheed said that ensuring the rule of law and protecting the rights of the people were the primary duties of police.

He said that while the key to people’s happiness and society’s strength lay in their confidence in justice and the rule of law and justice, it was a responsibility of police to ensure the rule of law in the country.

In his remarks at the ceremony held at Iskandharu Koshi, to inaugurate the building, Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh said the building would ease the difficulties faced by lack of space and thus help improve the quality of services to the people.

Inauguration of National Museum

President Mohamed Nasheed inaugurated the new National Museum, which was built with the assistance of the Chinese government’s aid program, ‘China Aid’.

Speaking at the ceremony, Nasheed said the Maldives has a long history, with a written history of more than 1,000 years.

Nasheed said the lessons from history “teach us to respect and uphold human rights.” He said that Maldivians, today, would no longer tolerate any form of abuse or torture.

He thanked everyone involved in the Museum project.

“I would especially like to thank Chinese President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, the government and the people of China,” he said.

Parade and Guard of Honor

President Mohamed Nasheed and Madam Laila Ali attended a parade and route march held to celebrate the Independence Day.

Upon their arrival at Jumhooree Maidhaan, the President and the First Lady were greeted by Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Shihab and his wife Aminath Shimla.

The President was received a Presidential Salute, after which the brass band of the MNDF played the National Anthem. The Armed Forces Guard then trooped past the Presidential Stand.

Music Show

In the celebration of the independence day a music show was held at the main stage at Alimas Carnival in Male. Famous actor ‘Chilhiya’ Moosa Manik presented the show. Old traditional songs were performed at the show by different artists. More than 50 people attended to watch the show.

A special function by the President and First lady was held at Dharubaaruge last night. Senior government officials, independent commissions and diplomats attended the function.

Rain cancelled other events

On July 27, other events scheduled for Independence Day were cancelled due to bad weather. The parade of the Maldives National Cadet Corps and bands of students scheduled to be held yesterday evening were also cancelled, along with the other events.


New NGO ’39’ hopes to promote traditional Maldivian culture

The inauguration of new NGO Thirees Nuvaeh (‘thirty nine’), dedicated to promoting traditional Maldivian culture, has been postponed until next week because of rain in Male’.

The name ‘39′ is a reference to Article 39 of the Constitution, which states that all citizens will “participate in the cultural life of the nation.”

The organisation claims it will work towards “strengthening and consolidating democratic principles, human rights, gender equality and social justice; and, to lobby the government, the parliament, the judiciary, political parties, independent commissions, private agencies and individuals.”

One of the founding members of 39, Mohamed Nazim, said “we are losing cultural activities, because some groups and political parties are trying to push other ways of life.”

He said the purpose of the NGO was to bring back traditional Maldivian culture, and things people are no longer doing “because of political and other reasons.”

These include to traditional activities like thara jehun and bandiya jehun, traditional music and dance, both of which will be part of the inauguration ceremony tomorrow night.

Nazim said women in particular had stopped taking part in these activities “because they are not allowed or have been convinced it’s not good for them.”

“We are trying to tell people, ‘keep your eyes open, we are losing something valuable to us,’” Nazim said.

He noted they had approached most political parties, who have “indicated assistance and support” for the organisation.

Nazim said since “party politics are the main show of the town,” it was good to have close ties to the parties, but that while “we will take advice”, the NGO will not be a political organisation.

“We are trying to stay out of politics,” he said, adding that 39 has “members of all political parties” already signed up to the organisation.

Nazim said the NGO was founded after a group of 32 young Maldivians approached the president earlier this year to talk about Maldivian culture and moderate Islam.

He said there were currently no civil groups advocating for the strengthening of culture in the country, and “there was nothing they or the government could do.”

So they decided to found the NGO and lobby for cultural activities to be a more prominent part of Maldivian life.

“We want to bring these issues to the public,” he said.

The NGO will offer “seminars, functions and training sessions” to the public, and will bring professionals from overseas to help with the material.

“They will help us on how we’re going to survive and keep our rich culture growing,” he said.

Additionally, 39 has been contacted by many local NGOs from the islands and by foreign organisations who wish to assist them. The group said it hoped to work local organisations who are “like-minded” and promote their ideas.

Nazim explained that many of the local NGOs have “great ideas and objectives” and could do a lot for the country if they had better funding.

“Many NGOs are still not functioning because of lack of funding,” he said, noting that they already had pledges for funding from different people.

There are twelve founding members in Thirees Nuvaeh, but no full membership as of yet, “as we only received our registration from the Home Ministry yesterday,” Nazim said.

The inauguration was scheduled begin at 8.45pm on Friday night, but has been postponed due to the weather. Details about the new date will be available next week.