Nasheed urges President Yameen to convene all-party talks

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) President Mohamed Nasheed has called on President Abdulla Yameen to conduct official talks with all political parties.

“As soon as possible, even if possible tonight, I urge President Yameen to commence talks with all political parties, especially with the inclusion of President Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom] in the talks,” said the former president.

“I urge President Yameen to hold discussions with President Maumoon, Honourable Gasim, even us and leaders of Adhaalath Party. Also to move away from actions that will push Maldives into chaos.”

Speaking to journalists on his return from an official trip to Abu Dhabi, Nasheed urged Yameen to abandon his strict and arbitrary policies and actions against other political figures.

Nasheed also called on President Yameen to bring any necessary legal or constitutional changes through dialogue with political parties.

Earlier this week, the MDP held a rally in front of Maafannu Villa, the residence of Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, after reports that the Maamigili MP’s home was to be raided, as the now-dismissed defence minister’s was on Sunday morning (January 18).

Speaking at the rally, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said the MDP and JP were having informal talks to create a platform to defend the Constitution.

President Nasheed tweeted yesterday (January 21) that he had been informed of government plans to arrest him on his return, saying: “I have cut short my trip & will be back tomorrow. I’ll always stand up for democracy”.

While Nasheed was out of the country, his legal team was informed that the High Court was to resume the Hulhumalé Magistrates Court appeal case, the result of which could see Nasheed’s trial for the 2012 detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed resume.

Nasheed also claimed this afternoon that the government planned to sign the Maritime Silk Route agreement on January 25 and to hand over large parts of Laamu Atoll to China for the establishment of a military base for 99 years in return for US$2 billion.

“When such actions are taken, the relationship between some bigger neighbouring countries and Maldives will deteriorate significantly”, Nasheed stated.

Speaking last month at the inaugural ceremony of the Laamu Atoll link road – built and financed by the Chinese government – Yameen revealed that the government had identified the area as a potential special economic zone (SEZ).

Tourism minister and head of the SEZ investment board Ahmed Adeeb was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

On December 16, the Maldives officially signed up to China’s Maritime Silk Route project, with economic development minister Mohamed Saeed signing an MoU during the first meeting of the Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing.

President Xi Jinpeng has repeatedly called upon the Maldives to become involved in the project, which Xinhua has reported to have the support of over 50 countries.

One such urging came during Xi’s state visit to the Maldives in September 2014 – the first by a Chinese head of state, representing the rapidly expanding ties between the two countries.

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Defense minister returns from India with gifts and reassurances

Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim has returned from his five day official visit to India bearing gifts and reassurances of better defense cooperation and hope for improved bilateral relations.

A major highlight of the trip was India’s gift to Maldives military, a locally manufactured ‘Dhruv’ Advanced Lightweight Helicopter (ALH). The Helicopter the second India has gifted – will reach Maldives in two months.

India also assured the delivery of a landing craft within this period – promised during Nazim’s previous visit to India as President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Defence minister. During that visit, nine months ago, India promised seven new radar systems, in addition to three radar systems India had already gifted to the Maldives.

Nazim also addressed specific issues of concern that had emerged during the previous administration’s period of weakened ties with India.

The shortage of construction material imported from India following a special quota for Maldives being revoked in February 2013, and the difficulties in acquiring medical Visa for Maldivians traveling to India were discussed.

Both issues will be discussed further during President Yameen’s official visit to India early next year.

Nazim’s visit – from 11-15 December – was prompted by an invitation from his counterpart AK Anthony. During the visit, Nazim met many senior government officials, amongst them Minister of Home Affairs Sushilkumar Shinde, Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral DK Joshi and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne.

Nazim requested Indian assistance to acquire equipment and training for disaster management and fire and rescue services – a coast guard vessel for patrolling the Maldives’ EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and an auxiliary vessel to improve logistical support across the country.

Training opportunities were also sought in other areas such as aviation security, pilot training, air traffic control training, MBBS and specialist medical training.

During the visit, the Maldives defense minister informed Indian officials of the progress of the Composite Training Center being constructed at Maafilaafushi (Lhaviyani Atoll) with Indian financial assistance.  A ten-story building for the Coast Guard and the Ministry of Defense and National Security also is all set to be built at the current Coast Guard Building’s location with Indian grant aid.

Apart from improving the military, Nazim’s main focus during the visit was on health security, especially regarding the development of MNDF’s ‘Senahiya’ military hospital – officially inaugurated by Indian Defense minister in September 2012.

Nazim sought Indian assistance in getting medical equipment such as CT scan and MRI machines for the hospital. India also agreed to deputise Indian Armed Forces medical specialists to Senahiya and other regions of Maldives in a near future.

Training of MNDF medical specialists was also discussed, while the Indian defense minister announced the opportunity for MNDF personnel to be treated for major surgeries and serious illnesses at India’s armed forces medical institutions