India rejects “baseless” media claims regarding defence cooperation

The Indian High Commission in Malé has issued a press release seeking to clarify what it argues are “baseless claims” in media reports regarding bilateral cooperation on defence.

“The High Commission of India notes with concern recent media reports about India-Maldives defence and security co-operation and other issues containing blatantly false information,” read this morning’s statement.

It follows a number of stories in Maldivian media which suggested India had refused to train Maldivians to pilot the helicopters, donated to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) in 2010 and 2013 .

It was also reported that the Indian pilots who currently man the Kurangi helicopter (meaning frigate-bird in Dhivehi) had conducted unauthorised flights.

Kurangi is currently stationed at Gan International Airport in the southernmost Seenu Atoll. The aircraft is intended for use for search and rescue operations and surveillance within the Maldives exclusive economic zone.

“The Indian crew members, who provide technical support, are under the operational control of MNDF and can fly Kurangi only on authorisation by MNDF,” said the Indian High Commission.

“Hence, the accusations made in media reports that the crew of Kurangi flew across some areas of Maldives without orders are totally baseless and completely false.”

Maldivian news outlets had attempted to link alleged requests for more Indian pilots – for the second helicopter, currently still in India – to accusations of an attempted coup by former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The High Commission said today that the second helicopter – accepted by Nazim during an official visit in December 2013 – has been painted in Maldivian colours and is awaiting the establishment of necessary infrastructure.

In the months prior to his dismissal and subsequent arrest, Nazim had announced his intention to convert Kadhdhoo Airport in Laamu Atoll to a military facility.

Suggestions that Maldivians had not been given the opportunity to operate the helicopter in Gan were also rejected by Indian officials today, as were claims that no Maldivian officers were being trained.

“It has been India’s constant endeavour to ensure that Maldives is self-sufficient in operating these assets gifted by India and towards this end several training programs are offered for Maldivian defence personnel in India.”

Today’s statement explained that one flight engineer and one technician from the MNDF had completed ALH training in November 2014, while two more slots had been offered for 2015.

“In the preceding year, around 150 MNDF officers were trained in various defence institutions and colleges in India. Capacity building has been a key area of co-operation in India-Maldives bilateral relationship,” read the statement.

MNDF spokesmen were not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Today’s statement marks the second time in recent months that the High Commission has moved to correct reports regarding its affairs, with a press release in November denying suggestions made in the People’s Majlis that India had discussed joining China’s Maritime Silk Road project.

The ruling Progressive Part of Maldives subsequently blamed the opposition and associated media outlets for the confusion over the silk route issue.

Related to this story

MNDF gifted helicopter as ties with India continue to grow

Military consolidation expected to dominate Defence Minister Nazim’s India visit

Kadhdhoo to become military airport

India denies having discussed New Silk Road initiative with China


Rubeena’s mother travels to Malé as campaign grows in Kerala

The mother of Indian national Rubeena Buruhanudeen will travel to the Maldives where she will attempt to visit her daughter, who has been held in pre-trial detention for four and a half years.

Shafeeqa Beevi has asked Maldivian authorities permission to visit her 30-year-old daughter, who faces charges of infanticide and attempted suicide after the death of her ten-month-old son in 2010.

Despite local lawyers taking up Rubeena’s case in 2012, it has remained stalled, with the last scheduled hearing in December delayed as the court requested to hear from the doctor who initially examined the child’s body.

Her lawyers are seeking an additional hearing to claim their client’s diminished responsibility.

Meanwhile, a campaign to secure her release is gaining momentum in her home state of Kerala, with over 8,000 people having signed the ‘Save Rubeena’ petition, calling for the intervention of authorities in the case.

The petition is to be delivered to the Indian High Commission in Maldives, and the Chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy – who has already met with Rubeena’s parents, promising action.

India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj was handed the petition on Sunday (February 8), explained Anupama Mili, a journalist for the New Indian Express who is helping with the campaign.

“There is already an online campaign started on Facebook ‘Save Rubeena’. This is followed by the miraculous escape of another Indian, Jayachandran Mokeri, recently from Maldives,” explained Anupama.

Jayachandran had been imprisoned for 8 months on what he claimed were false child abuse charges, before being released on December 25 after the case became publicised through Indian media.

“His friends and relatives started the group ‘Save Jayachandran Mokeri’ in Facebook and started campaigning for him in all levels including media, bureaucracy, different political parties and even religious and business leaders,” said Anupama.

The same group is now campaigning for justice in a number of cases involving Keralites incarcerated in the Maldives, converting the Jayachandran Facebook page for the ‘Save Rubeena’ campaign.

“After [Jayachandran’s] return, he told me about many other Keralites with more or less similar plight,” she added. “I gave the report in my paper, and hit headlines here.”

Shafeeqa Beevi has not seen her daughter in five years

Renewed hope

Jayachandran has claimed he came into contact with around 21 Indian nationals while in Dhoonidhoo detention centre, though statistics provided to Minivan News by the Maldives Correctional Services show only seven Indian nationals – all male – being held in the country.

The New Indian Express has today reported that Kerala’s social justice minister Dr M.K. Muneer will seek the support of the External Affairs Ministry to keep better records and to offer assistance to Keralites detained abroad.

The case has also sparked debate in India over the practice of poor girls from Kerala being sold off to foreign nationals in return for money, with Rubeena’s mother saying her new husband had cleared the family’s crippling debts as part of the arrangement. He has since divorced her during her incarceration.

In an interview republished in Minivan News yesterday, Shafeeqa recalled the deterioration of her daughter’s marriage, and the confusion surrounding her grandson’s death.

Sources close to Rubeena’s case have learned that she confessed to the killing before having received any legal assistance, and has since said she was heavily medicated at the time of her child’s death, with only a vague recollection of events.

Shafeeqa also explained the renewed hope the campaign had given her after four years without progress.

“It was after the release of Jayachandran master, I renewed my hope. He had met Rubeena in jail and she had given him my number.”

“I had completely lost my hope. But now, things are apparently changing. My hope has been restored. Many people who have never seen me or are even connected to me are trying to bring my daughter out of that prison.”

The Kerala campaigners have also taken up the cause of Indian National Nabeesa Beevi, who had been left stranded in the Maldives after death of her husband last year.

Nabeesa – left partially paralysed, reportedly after complications during a caesarean birth – was returned to India yesterday (January 9) after social justice minister Muneer informed the Indian High Commission in Malé that Kerala state would be willing to pay for her care.

Related to this story

Q&A: Mother of Rubeena, held without trial for over four years

Indian national Rubeena held for four and a half years without charge

Kerala minister to look into Indian teacher’s incarceration in Maldives


Q&A: Mother of Rubeena, held without trial for over four years

Indian national Rubeena Buruhanudeen has been held in Dhoonidhoo detention centre for four and a half years on charges of murdering her ten-month-old child.

The 30-year-old is also facing charges related to attempted suicide – a criminal offence in the Maldives – but has been awaiting sentencing since late August 2010.

This interview with Rubeena’s mother, 58-year-old Shafeeqa Beevi, was conducted by KP Rasheed, and originally published (in Malayalam) on Asianet News – republished here with permission.

Four years have passed after Rubeena’s imprisonment. Why didn’t anybody take this case seriously?

There was no one to help us. We are a poor fishermen family of many difficulties. We struggle to make both ends meet by selling fish and helping others as housemaids. My husband cannot offer any help as he has fallen ill. Economically and socially, we come from the lowest strata.

We cannot speak or write English and we don’t know how to complete legal formalities. Yet, I have been walking to different government offices for the last four and half years. Nothing worked out.

I have three daughters and one son. The elder one Safeena was married to a fisherman called Shihabudheen. The second daughter was married to another fisherman. Rubeena is the third child. My only son, Sabeer Sha works in Saudi Arabia as a house driver. He has been there for seven months.

We managed to marry off our first two daughters with the help of relatives and residents of the locality. The dowry and the gold were a big burden on us. We had pawned the documents of the house and land for the marriage of our elder daughter. As we couldn’t return the money within time, we faced the threat of legal confiscation of our house. Had it not been for the  fisheries department’s waiver scheme, we would have lost our house and ended up in the street.

How did Rubeena’s marriage talks take place? Did no one protest marrying her off to Maldives?

There was one Naseema who would come to our house occasionally. She is from Bimapalli. Once I told her about my daughter. I asked her to look for a groom in her locality. She called me after some days and told there is one guy from Maldives. He is disciplined and rich, you can meet him if you come tomorrow.

The next day we set off to Bimapalli in a bid to meet that guy. We were going to Beemapalli for the first time. We met Naseema there, she took us for a walk through many corridors and reached a house. The guy was sitting there. He looked like a middle aged man in his 50s, not a young guy. He was limping on one leg. The very moment we saw him I told my daughter to forget about it. I told her that he is not suitable, he is very old. She resisted: “Mom, let’s see if it works out.”

Meanwhile, unfortunately, we met an acquaintance there. Her house was next to the premises. Once I returned from her house things had fallen apart. Raheem and Anwar who were the relatives of Naseema were also present there. Anwar used to visit Maldives. He talked to my daughter and convinced her. They made her agree to the marriage.

She didn’t listen to my protest. “Dear mom, I’m not going to get married unless you had to take care of me, you cannot look after me all the time. So this may be for good. They say he is a nice fellow”. This was her response.

We told the matter to her father after reaching home. “If it’s Male’ then let it be,” he responded. The next day I, her father, and others went to Beemapalli. His name was Hassan. He was 45-years-old. Some of his relatives were also present. Since the language was different neither we understood what they told nor did they understand what we told. Anwar and Raheem interpreted what was being spoken. From there Hassan put a ring on Rubeena’s hand.

How could the marriage be fixed without knowing the groom?

There was no other way. They had already convinced and brainwashed her. And if not this, I was incapable of thinking about arranging another marriage. Her father was also helpless. They told that he is a rich man in Maldives having seven houses to give out on rent. Naseema, Raheem and Anwar repeatedly said that he was good and will take care of her.

They told me that this is our good fortune. She had been trapped in their words. Though I had doubts, I didn’t get an opportunity to cross-check.

He gave us Rs15,000 for marriage expenses and told that there is no need of gold and dowry. One of his relatives named Thasleema begged me to go ahead with this marriage saying that he liked her very much. She promised that Hassan will pay our debts. All of his property will be going to Rubeena, she said.

Anwar translated these things as we don’t know her language. Then the things progressed in a hurry. Mahallu committee expressed their skepticism when I informed them. They asked, whether this marriage to Maldives is needed? When I said there is no other way, they agreed.

Marriage function was held at Rareeram Lodge, near Trivandrum Medical College on July 28, 2008. That is a lodge where Maldivian people come and stay. They stayed here for 8 days after the wedding. They stayed in Rareeram and his friends’ houses nearby Kumarapuram. He soon arranged her passport and other documents to take her to Maldives.

It looks strange! A wedding in such a hurry? That too without knowing the whereabouts of the groom…

The Maldivian weddings in this locality are usually done like this. They will marry the poor, destitute girls in these regions and take them away. The poor parents won’t have the chance to know the details and enquire about them.

There is a lot of such Malayali girls in Maldives. He spent around 30,000 for the wedding. He gave a small golden necklace as Mahar. It was the only thing to say as gold. He had told that he will help us to pay the debts. But it didn’t happen.

Did anyone of you go to Maldives with Rubeena? Did you know the situation there?

No one did. We had no money for that. We don’t have the passport either. Our situation is beyond your imagination. Everyone thought that she would be safe there. She called me after reaching there. She shared a shocking news. Hassan had betrayed us. She told me that his former wife had run away from him to rescue herself from the tortures.

That is why he came to Kerala in search of a new wife. In his first wife, he had six children and they were staying with him. I was shocked, I enquired this to the people who arranged this marriage. I was shocked to know that a document he brought for the marriage was his divorce certificate.

It was written in English, none of us were able to read it. It was written in that document that he had married a girl earlier and she eloped and then he divorced her. But nobody told us all these things during the time of marriage.

What else did she tell you on that day?

She told me that she was fine despite all these things and she told me to not be worried about her. When I called her later she told me the situation was better. She might have found it luxurious since she had experienced extreme poverty in our house. She tried to console me all the time. But I could understand she was not very happy there.

After one year she gave birth to her son Ahmed Sohaib in August 2009. After that she had never talked to me in a happy mood. She told me that her husband’s behavior has become worse. He started torturing her, he started neglecting her. My daughter started telling that she is fed up there. Every time she called, she cried a lot.

One day she asked me: “dear Mom, will you take care of me, if I come home?” It was disheartening, I cried. I told her to come back and I would look after her going for coolie jobs. I told her that we can live happily with whatever we have.

Did she call you after reaching Maldives?

Yes, she used to call. Every time she cried. When I started scolding her asking why she did go again, she became upset and said “Mom, at least you don’t abuse me”.

Rubeena told me about Hassan’s affair with one Malayali nurse who worked there. Earlier, she had a friendship with my daughter. Rubeena had told me about another girl who is a friend of the nurse who supported Hassan’s affair. I forgot her name.

It was on May 28 that she called me from their home for the last time. She said she would send me some money and call me on June 2. She didn’t call me on the day she said. It never happened before. So I was a bit scared. I told my son to call Habeeba in Male’. Habeeba is a relative of Hassan.

Habeeba told him about what had happened to my daughter. He told this to my elder children, not to me. They told it to me.

I heard that she killed her son and attempted to commit suicide. I was shattered. With the help of my son I called to several numbers there to know what really happened. But none of them received my call. After that nobody told me anything. Even Hassan didn’t call me nor did he pick my call.

I informed all the things to the relatives here as well as the Mahallu committee. I requested them to do something. I went in search of Naseema and Raheem many times. I couldn’t find them or get them on phone.

I was sure that she will never do such a horrible thing. She will not kill her son, because she loved him so much. And I know that she will not attempt to commit suicide. We have already suffered bigger hardships than this. We didn’t think of ending life at all those times. Though she was very fragile, she was mentally strong.

When did your daughter call again?

One day she called me. And she wept and cried telling me that she is in jail. I asked her what happened. She swore upon Allah that she didn’t kill her son. She told she was trapped and betrayed. She can speak only three minutes, then the phone will be disconnected. If we call back they won’t allow her to speak.

We were allowed to call her at least once in a month. She told all the things happened after many such short telephone conversations.

What did Rubeena say? And what happened?

My daughter repeatedly told me that the intimacy between Hassan and that nurse became strong, he kept her in one of his houses. She told me that she went there and questioned why she was staying there, to which the nurse replied saying: “Hassan told me to stay here”.

She [the nurse] closed the door when I started questioning her, explained Rubeena.

“Hassan was provoked when I reached home, he threatened to kill me. Afterwards he said you and your son can return to your home, I agreed to that, but suddenly he came up with a condition; that he won’t give his son, ‘you can go back to your house without our son’. I disagreed. He knows that I couldn’t live without my son, we quarreled with each other. He threatened me again.”

“It happened that a day later, he arranged a party for his friends at our home. I made Biriyani and juice for them. The nurses were also at the party, they gave me a juice, me and my son drunk the juice. Soon, my son fell asleep and I went to sleep with my son. Then I woke up at the hospital. I asked for my son, then the nurse and her friend told me that I killed my son by pressing a pillow on his face. I was shocked. I denied this. There were some policemen too, they handcuffed me. Only after many days they gave permission to call her mother from the jail.”

The fake charges against Rubeena are that she killed her 10-month-old baby by suffocating him with pillow, and attempted suicide on the same day. The nurse gave the witness statements.

What does Rubeena say about the murder?

She has no clear idea about who killed the boy. Rubeena says that she was asleep while the incident took place. However, from the later developments and the way Hassan behaved, she doubts his principal involvement in the heinous act. Rubeena is clueless who added poison to the juice and what happened thereafter.

What is the status of her marriage now?

Hassan visited the jail after two years; he said that she could go home and for that she has to sign some papers. He insisted she sign the divorce papers and promised it would enable him to complete the procedure to send her home.

She had called me asking what to do. I told her not to sign. He kept visiting her and insisting. She finally signed the divorce papers, dreaming about returning home. That was a trap, he didn’t make any attempt to get her out of jail, he cheated her once again.

As far as we are aware, Rubeena was trapped in the case. She is languishing in a foreign prison for four and half years. What did you do to save her?

From the very first day, I have been trying to contact people seeking help. I couldn’t find the Beemappalli guys who were involved in her marriage. Everybody asked to file a complaint. We don’t know English. One of my relatives prepared a complaint in English and I had met several leaders.

I have met Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, A Sampath MP, our MLA, the police DGP, district collector among others. They all promised to do the needful. Nothing has happened yet. I also went to the Maldives Consulate at Thiruvananthapuram. They informed me that they cant do anything about it.

They, however, gave me the address of the ministry and police department of Maldives. I sent the complaint to those addresses. I didn’t get even an acknowledgement. I met the chief minister with the same complaint once again. We are from a poor fishermen community; we don’t know how to get these things done. There was no one to help.

It was after the release of Jayachandran master, I renewed my hope. He had met Rubeena in jail and she had given him my number. He contacted me over phone and I explained everything I knew. He is now taking initiative, along with his friends, to save Rubeena and many other victims in Maldivian jails.

Are you optimistic about the latest developments?

I had completely lost my hope. But now, things are apparently changing. My hope has been restored. Many people who have never seen me or are even connected to me are trying to bring my daughter out of that prison. I heard that the effort could become successful only if the state and central governments effectively intervened.

If everyone tries together, I hope she might return home. I have explained about the developments to my daughter. She is also hopeful, now. In Maldives also, some people are trying to help her. I pray for her early release. I hope to see her before I close my eyes.

This interview was translated by Shahida A, Ayoob Rahman and Navas Machingal

Related to this story

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Kerala minister to look into Indian teacher’s incarceration in Maldives


Delhi police warned of potential threat to Obama from Maldivian nationals

Indian intelligence agencies have alerted Delhi police to potential attacks on US President Barack Obama by Maldivian or Sri Lankan nationals, reports the Hindustan Times.

The paper reported that “a close watch” is being kept on unidentified Sri Lankan and Maldivian nationals in India, as well as those whose visas have expired.

President Obama arrived in Delhi this morning to an unprecedented security operation which is reported to include 40,000 security personnel, 15,000 new security cameras, and door-to-door house checks.

As well as holding meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee, Obama will become the first US President to be chief guest during tomorrow’s Republic Day parade.

It is during the parade that Indian security agencies have been warned Obama may be targetted by anti-american elements from Sri Lanka and Maldives, as well as drawing black flag protest from Hindu nationalist groups.

“Being a high valued target, a high degree of threat is perceived to Obama from radical Islamist outfits like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed,” a senior Delhi police officer told the Hindustan Times.

Concerns about growing radicalism in the Maldives have grown over the past twelve months, with police confirming recently that over 50 Maldivians had travelled abroad for jihad.

The police do not yet know who the most vulnerable groups to radicalisation are in the Maldives, said Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed, pointing out recent jihadis included both genders, urban and rural areas, and people of all ages.

When asked if radicalised groups posed a domestic terrorist threat, Waheed said the police were tracking individuals associated with foreign militant groups.

“We know who the foreign militants are. We are monitoring their activities. My hope is, I believe we will be able to monitor them to the extent they are unable to [present a threat] in the Maldives.”

Last November, a jihadist group called Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) – which describes itself as ‘Maldivians in Syria’ – revealed that a fifth Maldivian had died in Syria.

BASM has claimed to be linked with the Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate group in Syria and Iraq.


India-Maldives Film Festival launched

The India-Maldives Film Festival was launched last night at Malé’s Olympus theatre as part of the ‘Love for Bollywood Festival’ being held to celebrate the Golden Jubilee anniversary of diplomatic relations.

The award winning comedy-drama ‘3 Idiots’ was shown yesterday after a cultural segment from the Indian Cultural Centre, while additional Indian and Dhivehi films will be show over the next two evenings. Entry is free.

Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal attended yesterday’s event, thanking the Indian government for its continued support, while the Indian High Commission announced that a grant of US$1000 has been provided to the Maldives Film Association to support this year’s activities.

The ‘Love for Bollywood’ festival also includes a Bollywood quiz, a cultural evening at the Alimas Carnival area on January 24, and a South Asian art exhibition between January 26 and 31.

The events are sponsored by the State Trading Organization, telecom provider Ooredoo, the State Bank of India, and Indian infrastructure giant Tata Housing.


Maldives backs new Chinese investment bank, pursues free trade deal

The Maldives is to back a Chinese-initiated international finance institution to be called the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) while ministers have confirmed a free trade agreement is being pursued.

At a press conference today, the economic council revealed that the Maldives had asked to be included as a founding member of the proposed bank alongside the existing 21 countries, which includes both China and India.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee also revealed that China was to become the Maldives first free trade partner, demonstrating the pair’s excellent bilateral relations.

The requests were put forward during a recent visit to China by the Economic Council where discussions were held on proceeding with Chinese-assisted projects, while the Maldives officially signed up to the Maritime Silk Road project.

The AIIB, which is to start up with a proposed US$100 billion capital, is purposed with financing infrastructure projects in the Asia Pacific region.

The bank has been described by some media outlets as having been set up with the intentions of increasing Chinese influence in Asia at the expense of the IMF, ADB, and the World Bank.

The economic council today confirmed that the Maldives has officially agreed to participate in China’s silk road trade route – the third country to do so, although Chinese state media has reported more than 50 states as expressing interest.

The two countries have also agreed to engage upon free trade in the future, explained the council.

“The biggest advantage of the free trade will go towards fishermen. With free trade and the 12 percent export duty will be gone, thus the 12 percent becomes profit for fishermen,” said Shainee.

When questioned about the potential economic disadvantages which might occur because of a free trade agreement, Minister at the President’s office Mohamed Shareef said that both governments will make sure that the agreement leads to a ‘win-win’ for the countries.

“I want to mention that the free trade talks were initiated by the Maldives,” said Shareef. “China is willing to give us a lot of leeway into how we structure the agreement.”

Shareef also said – citing Chinese sources – that the Maldives is the number one South Asian destination for Chinese tourists at the moment. Chinese tourists currently make up around one third of all tourist arrivals to the Maldives.

The economic council also stated that work on the proposed new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) is to begin in the next six to seven months and that the request for the loan to finance the project has been submitted to the Chinese Exim bank.

The council members also reiterated the importance of the proposed Malé-Hulhulé Bridge, saying that there is good progress and that the government is aiming to open it by the year 2017.

Related to this story

Silk road deal to be concluded in China-Maldives economic committee

Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for Maldives involvement in 21st century maritime silk road

President Yameen slams “Western colonial powers,” declares foreign policy shift to East

Agreements on bridge and airport penned during Chinese president’s visit


Four Maldivian policemen depart for fully funded training in India

Four Maldivian police officers have today left for a year’s training in Hyderabad, courtesy of the Indian government.

The officers – all chief inspectors – will conduct training at the National Police Academy, with all expenses covered by India, including air travel.

“Training of police officials is part of the capacity building initiatives of India and the Maldives, which is a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship between the two countries,” read a statement from the Indian High Commission today.

The statement pointed out that comprehensive training opportunities were also available for government departments as well as independent institutions, pointing out a recent MoU signed between the Maldives’ Civil Service Commission and the Administrative Staff College, also in Hyderabad.

“High Commission of India is encouraging similar MoUs between Indian and Maldivian organisations in the area of training and human resource development,” the statement continued.

Earlier this month, government and high commission officials held a ceremony to mark the conclusion of the country’s largest ever ICT training scheme. The ‘Technology for the Future of the Next Gen’ project was conducted with US$5.3 million in Indian aid and implemented by India’s NIIT Ltd educational services company.


Concessionary travel for Maldivian civil servants on way, reports Times of India

Maldivian civil servants are likely to be given concessionary travel status by India, reports the Times of India.

The Indian government is said to be considering granting leave travel concession (LTC) for government employees to Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives in order boost tourism.

Sources in India’s tourism ministry told the Times that 200,000 civil servants in the region could benefit from the arrangement.

“But there will have to be some reciprocal arrangement. We are working on that,” the paper quoted ministry sources as saying – adding that neighbouring governments had been contacted.

The theme of the Kathmandu Declaration – signed at the conclusion of last month’s SAARC summit in Nepal – was ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’.

“It is still harder to travel within our region than to Bangkok or Singapore, and more expensive to speak to each other,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reported to have told neighbouring heads of state during the summit.

The Times noted that travel between the Maldives and India had dropped by 10% between 2012 and 2013.

Indian visa regulations were tightened just weeks after the premature termination of a US$500 million airport development deal with Indian infrastructure giant GMR in late 2012. Indian authorities at the time claimed the decision to have been intended to draw attention to the Maldives’ treatment of expatriate workers.

Shortly after President Abdulla Yameen’s trip to Indian in January, the Indian High Commission in Malé announced that all restrictions had been lifted – with High Commissioner Rajeev Shahare noting that the Maldives now enjoyed visa privileges afforded to no other country.

Source: Times of India


Custom built MWSC panels to arrive in the Maldives

A Sri Lankan Air Force flight is currently on its way to the Maldives from Singapore with custom built panels to replace the damaged panel boards connecting electricity generators and desalination plants at the Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC).

The capital Malé was  plunged into crisis on Thursday (December 4) as a fire at MWSC gutted the desalination plant, leaving 130,000 people without running water, leading to the dwindling of bottled drinking water supplies.

Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim said the two boards will arrive in Malé tonight. Of the nine panel boards, five were functional on Monday and MWSC had started releasing water to households in two three-hour periods in the morning and at night.

However, residents living above the second floor of buildings have said they only receive water for a very short period of time. The MWSC has asked individuals to report issues with water leakages and booster pumps to send an SMS to 1050 with the client’s name and water meter number.

Previously, the government rejected an offer by the Indian government to provide technical assistance in fixing the panels, saying it is seeking assistance from countries that are more technologically advanced.

The government has today announced it has received US$ 5.5 (MVR 84 million) for the ‘Malé water crisis management fund.’

The crisis management fund – which has seen donations from several local corporations and foreigners – was set up by the government with an aim of collecting US$ 20 million (MVR 308 million) to repair the damages at the desalination plant and to fund relief efforts.

Notable local businesses such as Champa Group and Universal enterprises donated US$ 100,000 to the fund, while an unnamed Saudi Arabian donor provided US$ 1 million.

Telecomms company Ooredoo donated US$ 75,000 to the fund. Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) and State Trading Organization (STO) have also donated funds.

Anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives called on the government to display more transparency in order to avoid “economic and political repercussions stemming from the water crisis”.

In a press statement, the NGO urged the government to provide a breakdown of the estimated US$ 20 million needed to overcome the crisis and how the government intends to spend it.

“Furthermore, the decision to seek donations from the public raises questions given that MWSC ins a private profit-making corporation with 80 percent government shares,” said Transparency Maldives.

An Indian flight is also due to arrive today with 50 tons of water while the INS Deepak supplied 400 tons of water straight to MWSC tanks on top of the 1250 supplied two days ago.

Indian High Commission said today that the water relief operations resumed on the request of the Maldivian government.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also criticized the fund stating that the government should only demand US$ 20 million after they have decided how it is going to be spent.

“Where is the money going to go to? Why have we not seen a breakdown on how the money is going to be spent? Will this be a new ring in the chain of corruption by the government?” questioned party Vice Chairperson Ali Niyaz.

Former President and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has also called for an inquiry into the fire, suggesting that the Danish government previously recommended keeping 21 days of water reserves in the capital.

Transparency  Maldives noted that the crisis had demonstrated “the interminable relationship between good governance and citizens’ right to essential human needs,”  and called for greater regulation of state-owned enterprises.

With 130,000 citizens of the capital left without water, the government has said it could take up to two weeks to fully repair the damage. President Abdulla Yameen has said that there could have been no back up plan for a “disaster of this magnitude”.