Comment: ‘Deal’ or ‘no deal’, that’s not a question

With former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed walking out of the Indian High Commission (IHC) in Male’ as voluntarily as he entered, political tensions within the country and bilateral relations with New Delhi have eased. Hopes and expectations are that domestic stakeholders would use the coming weeks to create a violence-free, atmosphere conducive to ensuring ‘free, fair and inclusive elections’. The presidential election is tentatively scheduled for September 7, with a run-off second round, if necessary, later that month.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has argued that any election without him as its nominee could not be free and fair. They fear his possible disqualification, if the pending ‘Judge Abdulla abduction’ case results in Nasheed serving a prison term exceeding one year. As the single largest political party on record – going by the number of members registered with the Election Commission and given the party’s penchant for taking to the streets – the MDP cannot not be over-looked, or left unheard.

At the same time, questions also remain if political parties can circumvent legal and judicial processes considering Nasheed faces criminal charges. The argument could apply to the presidential hopefuls of a few other existing and active political parties in the country. ‘Criminality in politics’ seemed to have preceded democracy in the country.

The current government could thus be charged with ‘selective’ application of criminal law. The MDP calls it ‘politically-motivated’. While in power, Nasheed’s Government resorted to similar tactics ad infinitum. No one had talked about ‘disqualification’ when cases did not proceed. There were charges the MDP had laid against former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as well, in its formative days as a ‘pro-democracy movement’ in Maldives.

On the political plane, the reverse could be equally true. What is applicable to others should be applicable to Nasheed. Or, what is applicable to Nasheed (whatever the criminal charges) should be applicable to the rest of them as well. It would then be a question of non-sinners alone being allowed to stone a sinner! Yet, sooner or later, the Maldives as a nation will have to decide its legal position and judicial process regarding ‘accountability issues’.


A national commitment to addressing ‘accountability issues’ in civilian matters, however, may have to wait until after the presidential polls this year and the subsequent parliamentary elections in May 2014. Political clarity is expected to emerge along with parliamentary stability. The ‘Judge Abdulla abduction case, in which Nasheed is accused number-one, has taken center-stage in the political campaign in the run-up to the presidential polls. Like all issues Nasheed-centric, it remains personality-driven, not probity-driven.

The 2008 Constitution, provides for multi-party elections as well as gives former presidents immunity from political decisions and criminal acts that they could otherwise be charged with during their days in office. In a grand gesture aimed at national reconciliation after a no-holds-barred poll campaign, President-elect Nasheed met with his outgoing predecessor, Gayoom, without any delay whatsoever, and promised similar immunity. President Gayoom, despite motivated speculation to the contrary, arranged for the power-transition without any hiccups.

The perceived dithering by Nasheed’s government in ensuring immunity for Gayoom through appropriate laws and procedures meant that the latter would still need a political party to flag his personal concerns. The government and the MDP argued that the immunity guarantees wouldn’t be matched by similar promises. Gayoom would stay away from active politics for good, so that it could be a one-off affair as part of the ‘transitional justice process’, which was deemed as inactive by some, but pragmatic by most.

Today, Gayoom has the immunity, and a political outfit to call his own. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), a distant second to the MDP in terms of parliamentary and membership shares, is expected to provide the challenger to Nasheed in the presidential polls, if he is not disqualified prior to the election. Given that Nasheed was still a pro-active politician when the ‘Judge Abdulla case’ was initiated could be an explanation.

In this crude and curious way, there is a ‘level-playing field’, however the equilibrium could get upset. The question is whether the Maldives deserves and wants political equilibrium or stability of this kind. The sub-text would be to ensure and social peace and political stability between now and the twin polls, where policies, and not personalities are discussed. What then are the alternatives for any future government, in the overall context of policies and programmes for the future? While personality-driven in the electoral context, these things need universal application.

Various political parties now in the long drawn-out electoral race, will be called upon to define, redefine and clarity their positions on issues of national concern, which could upset the Maldivian socio-political peace in more way than one. There could be ‘accountability’ of a different but universal kind. Making political parties to stick to their electoral commitments is an art Maldivians will have to master, an art that their fellow South Asian nations have miserably failed to master.

Reviving the dialogue

The forced Indian interest in current Maldivian affairs has provided twin-opportunities for the islands-nation to move forward on the chosen path of multilateral, multi-layered, multi-party democracy. India has helped diffuse the politico-legal situation created by Nasheed’s unilateral 11 day sit-in in the Indian High Commission. With Nasheed in the Indian High Commission, the judicial processes in Maldives were coming under strain. He and his MDP were losing valuable time during the long run-up to the twin-elections, both of which they would have to win to avoid post-2008 history from repeating itself.

The episode would have once again proved to the MDP and its leadership that it does not have friends in the Maldivian political establishment, which alone mattered. The sympathy and support given by the international community, evident through favorable reactions to his sit-in from the UN, the US and the UK, among others, could only do so much. In an election year, the party and the leader needed votes nearer home, not just words from afar. Despite being the largest political party, the MDP’s political and electoral limitations stand exposed.

On another front, too, the MDP has lessons to learn. Throughout the past months, the Government Oversight Committee of Parliament, dominated by the MDP, has taken up issues of concerns that are closer to its heart and that of its leader, providing them with alibi that would not stick, otherwise. The Committee thus has come to challenge the findings of the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI), which was an international jury expanded to meet the MDP’s concerns regarding the February 7 power-transfer last year, when Nasheed was replaced by his Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, now President.

It has become increasingly clear that Nasheed’s sit-in and street-protests by the party ongoing throughout much of the past year, has not brought in a substantial number of new converts to the cause, other than those who may have signed in at the time of power-transfer. The party needs more votes, which some of the government coalition parties at this point in time may have had already in their pool. By making things difficult for intended allies through acts like public protests and the contestable sit-in, the MDP may not be able to achieve what it ultimately intends to despite the element of ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ too underlying their actions.

The reverse is true of the government leadership, and all non-MDP parties that otherwise form part of the Waheed dispensation. They need to ask themselves if by barring Nasheed from candidacy, they could marginalize the ‘MDP mind-set’ overall, or would they be buying more trouble without them in the mainstream. They also need to acknowledge that without the IHC sit-in, Nasheed could still have generated the same issue and concern in the international community, perhaps through an indefinite fast, the Gandhian-way. Doing so would have flummoxed the government for a solution and avoided direct involvement by India. Subsequently, India was blamed for interfering in Maldivian national politics by certain circles in Male’, but without their engagement, the current crisis could not have been solved in the first place.
In the final analysis, the sit-in may have delayed the judicial process in Maldives, but has not prevented it. Waheed’s government has said it did not strike a political deal to facilitate Nasheed’s reviving his normal social and political life by letting himself out of the IHC. In context, India had only extended basic courtesies of the kind that former Heads of State have had the habit of receiving, but usually under less imaginative and less strenuous circumstances.

New Delhi still understood the limitations and accompanying strains. In dispatching a high-level team under Joint Secretary Harsh Varshan Shringla, from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), to try and diffuse the situation, India seemed to be looking at the possibilities of reviving the forgotten ‘leaders’ dialogue’ that President Waheed had purportedly initiated but did not continue. With able assistance from outgoing Indian High Commissioner Dyaneshwar Mulay and company, the Indian delegation has been able to diffuse the current situation. The rest is left to Maldives and Maldivians to take forward.

The forgotten ‘leaders’ dialogue’ was a take-off from the more successful ‘roadmap talks’, which coincidentally Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai was facilitating, after the power-transfer controversy this time last year. While coincidental in every way, the Indian engagement this time round should help the domestic stake-holders to revive the political processes aimed at national reconciliation.

India has clearly stated that it has not had a role in any dialogue of the kind, nor is it interested in directing the dialogue in a particular direction. They have also denied that a deal has been struck over Nasheed ending his IHC sit-in and re-entering Maldivian mainstream, as well as his social and political life. In his early media reactions after walking out of the IHC, Nasheed has at best been vague about any deal, linking his exit from the IHC to a commitment about his being able to contest elections.

Any initiative for reviving the Maldivian political dialogue now should rest with President Waheed, whose office gives him the authority to attempt national reconciliation of the kind. The MDP can be expected to insist on linking Nasheed’s disqualification to participation in any process of the kind, but the judicial process could be expected to have a impact, adding social pressures to the party’s own political compulsions.

Courts and the case

A lot however will depend on the course of the judicial process that the ‘Judge Abdulla abduction case’ has set in motion. A day after Nasheed exited the Indian High Commission, Brig-Gen Ibrahim Didi (retired), who is co-accused in the case, told the suburban Hulhumale’ court that President Nasheed had ‘ordered’ the arrest. Defence Minister Thol’hath Ibrahim Kaleygefaan ‘executed’ the order given by Nasheed, as he was then Male’ Area commander of the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).

Didi’s defence team questioned the ‘innocence’ of Judge Abdulla, and contested the prosecution’s claim that there are precedents to Article-81 Penal Code prosecution against government officials for illegal detention of the kind. According to media reports, the prosecution argued that Judge Abdulla was ‘innocent’ until proven guilty, and promised to produce details of precedents from 1979 and 1980, at the next hearing of the case against Didi, now set for March 20.
At the height of the ‘Nasheed sit-in’, the three-Judge Hulhumale’ court heard Thol’hath’s defence argue against his ordering the illegal detention of Judge Abdulla, saying that as Minister, he was not in a position to either order or execute any order in the matter. The defence seemed to be arguing that the legal responsibility, accountability or liability for the same lies elsewhere. The court will now hear the evidence against him on March 13.

President Nasheed, the former MNDF chief, Maj-Gen Moosal Ali Jaleel, and Col Mohammed Ziyad are others accused in the case. Of them, Col Ziyad’s case is being taken up along with that against Thol'[hath and Didi. Like Nasheed did before emplaning to India for a week, Gen Jaleel had also obtained court’s permission to travel abroad. It remains to be seen how fast the cases would proceed, how fast the appeals court will become involved, and whether the pronouncements of the trial court will reach a finality ahead of the presidential polls.

It is unclear if Nasheed’s defence team has exhausted all opportunities for interlocutory petitions, going up to the Supreme Court through the High Court or, if it has further ammunition of the kind in its legal armor. Inadvertently, Nasheed’s staying away from the court on three occasions over the past four months, the last two in quick succession, and his seeking court’s permission to go overseas twice in as many months may have had the effect of buying him and his defence the much-needed time. They have delayed Nasheed having to face the politico-legal consequences flowing from the trial court verdict in the ‘Judge Abdulla case’.

For his part, independent Prosecutor-General (PG) Ahmed Muizzu clarified after meeting with the visiting Indian officials that there was no question of his office seeking to delay the pending prosecution against Nasheed. The PG’s office was among the first to criticize the Nasheed Government on Judge Abdulla’s arrest in January 2012. President Waheed’s Office, and other relevant departments of the government, too has now indicated that the dispute is between Nasheed and the judiciary so they have no role to play, nor do they have any way of stalling the proceedings if the courts decided otherwise. It is a fair assessment of the legal and judicial situation, as in any democracy.

For India, the sit-in may have provided an unintended and possibly unprepared-for occasion to re-establish contacts with the Maldivian government and political leadership after the ‘GMR issue’, however tense and unpredictable the current circumstances. It possibly would have given both sides the occasion and opportunity to understand and appreciate that there is much more to bilateral relations than might have been particularly understood, particularly by the media.

Otherwise, with the Indian media noticing the Maldives more over the past year than any time in the past, the pressures on the Government in New Delhi are real. In the context of recent domestic developments like the ‘2-G scam expose’, ‘Lokpal Bill’, ‘Team Anna movement’ and the ‘Delhi rape-case’, the Indian media has come to play an increasing role in influencing the Government, along with partisan sections of the nation’s polity in the ‘coalition era’, after decades of lull. This is reality New Delhi is learning to work with. This is a reality that India’s friends, starting with immediate neighbors, must also to learn to live with.

The coming days are going to be crucial. The Hulhumale’ court’s decision on summoning Nasheed will be watched with interest by some and with concern by some others. Parliament is scheduled to commence its first session for the current year on March 4, when President Waheed will deliver the customary address to the nation. At the height of the controversy regarding the power-transfer February 7, 2012 last year, MDP members protested so heavily that President Waheed had to return despite Speaker Abdulla Shahid’s repeated attempts to convene the House. The House heard President Waheed on March 19, instead of on the originally fixed date of March 1. A combination of these two factors could set the tone for the political engagement within the country and thus the mood and methods of political stakeholders on the one hand and the election campaigns on the other.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Government-aligned parties condemn India for hosting “cowardly” Nasheed

Political parties supporting the current government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan have criticised both former President Mohamed Nasheed and the Indian High Commission after Nasheed sought refuge inside.

Former President Nasheed entered the Indian High Commission on Wednesday ahead of a scheduled court hearing, to which he was to be produced under police detention.

Government aligned parties including the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) have all claimed accused Nasheed of being “cowardly”.

Leader of the DRP and presidential candidate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told local newspaper Haveeru he was “disappointed” over former President Nasheed’s decision.

He claimed that the decision by the high commission to provide refuge for Nasheed meant the embassy was meddling in the domestic affairs of the country, and said the issue was too complex for India to resolve.

“When a former President shows up in an embassy and claims he was there for protection, it is not an easy matter to solve. A quick solution should be sought through dialogue,” he said.

Thasmeen claimed that there was no need for Nasheed to seek refuge from the Indian High Commission.

He also contended that no political figure could force the Prosecutor General (PG) to withdraw the charges levied against the former President, and that it was solely at the discretion of the PG to decide the matter.

Nasheed is being tried for his controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during his last days in office.

“Appoint a better high commissioner”, Adhaalath party tells India

In a statement released on Saturday, the Adhaalath Party accused Nasheed of using the Indian diplomatic office as a shield to protect himself from being summoned to court.

“The Adhaalath Party believes that this cowardly act by Nasheed is a huge crime and an attempt to destroy the country’s legal system. Instead of working on proving his innocence, Nasheed is continuously harassing the legal system, defaming security services, showing disobedience and attempting to create chaos,” read the statement.

The party also condemned the Indian High Commission and the Indian government “for assisting a criminal fleeing from trial”.

“Making the Indian High Commission a political camp of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and [letting Nasheed] hold discussions with MDP activists on the premises and encouraging them to create chaos and unrest among society lowers the respect of Maldivian people towards India,” read the statement.

The Adhaalath Party told the Indian government “to appoint a high commissioner who is professional and capable of mending the deteriorating bilateral relationship between the two countries”.

“The worsening of bilateral ties between the Maldives and India is not at all something which this party wants to happen,” it added.

The Adhaalath Party was a vocal opponent of India’s GMR Group, and its US$511 million concession agreement to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. During on of the party’s rallies, several senior government figures mocked and insulted Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay calling him a “traitor to the Maldives”.

During a PPM press conference held on Thursday, party spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof claimed Nasheed was “coward” on the run knowing that his crime would invalidate his candidacy in the presidential election.

Mahloof said Nasheed did not have the patience to remain inside the high commission and that he would come out “very soon”.

“What is actually happening to Nasheed is that after resigning on February 7, 2012, he claims he will the MDP protests even if the police shoot him. But when the protests begin he is nowhere to be seen and is either at his home or on an island. Now we know Nasheed is a big coward,” he said.

He further said that Nasheed should be proving his innocence in court instead of hiding in the Indian High Commission.

Mahlouf said Nasheed’s decision to remain in the high commission until the elections would be costly to his party, as he would not have the opportunity to campaign as much as his rivals.

MDP response

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy dismissed the remarks made by the government-aligned parties, claiming that their respective leaders were desperate to eliminate Nasheed from the upcoming presidential election.

“Why are they condemning Indian High Commission’s hosting of Nasheed when there are graver issues to be concerned about? Our judiciary is failing. The Commonwealth, the European Union (EU), UN and even the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report highlights the flaws within Judiciary. Why are they silent on that?” Fahmy questioned.

He further reiterated that India was observing the situation in the Maldives and were wary of the situation with the judiciary.

Fahmy also condemned the Adhaalath Party’s derogatory remarks towards Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay.

In a statement, the MDP said the party’s comments were “unacceptable” and would “mindlessly”  impact the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

“President Nasheed has sought protection from the Indian High Commission after the Prosecutor General levied politically-motivated charges against him which lacked any legal grounds, and is concerned for his security,” the party said.

The party further contended that the Hulhumale Magistrate Court – which has been hearing the Nasheed trial – was illegitimate was therefore it unlikely that the former president would get a fair hearing.


India grants further US$25million to Maldives

India has granted a further US$25million to the Maldives as part of the $US100million standby credit facility agreed during last November’s official visit from Prime Minister Manmoham Singh.

Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay signed the agreement with Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad at the Indian High Commission, local media reported.

Mulay, who was not responding to calls at the time of press, said that the deal represented the third instalment of the credit facility, with the previous two instalments having amounted to US$50million.

The previous tranche of US$30 million was released following President Waheed’s first official visit to India in May.

Mulay is also reported to have said that the rest of the promised credit will soon be handed to the Maldivian government:  “The paperwork on the agreement is being processed now, the amount will soon be awarded to the Maldives,” Haveeru quoted Mulay.

A standby line of credit is normally forwarded to countries which have reached macroeconomic sustainability but experience short term financing issues.

The release of this credit comes just days after Waheed completed his first official state visit to China.

During this trip, Waheed finalised agreements for a US$500 million Chinese loan with the assurance of more aid available when needed.

The loans, equal to nearly one quarter of the Maldives’ GDP, are said to include $150 million (MVR2.3billion) for housing and infrastructure, with another $350million (MVR5.4billion) from the Export-Import Bank of China, reported Reuters.

Jihad told Minivan News last week that, despite securing this money from China, the government would still be considering austerity measures which are being considered in order to reduce the state’s budget deficit.

With income lower and expenditure higher than predicted, this year’s budget deficit had been forecast to reach MVR9.1billion (US$590million), equivalent to around 28 percent of nominal GDP.

India has traditionally enjoyed close ties with the Maldives, although there have been increasingly strong links between the Maldives and China, largely due to the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Indian Ocean nation.

A Chinese embassy opened in Male’ in time for the opening of the SAARC summit last November, reciprocating the opening of a Maldivian mission in Beijing in 2007.

Indian officials were reported at the time as having concern that the move was part of China’s “string of pearls” policy which supposedly involves Chinese attempts at naval expansion into the Indian Ocean.

After the awarding of the Chinese loan, however, former Foreign Minister and current UN Special Rapporteur to Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed was keen to play down any suggestions that the Maldives was about to significantly change its foreign policy priorities.

“This is very much in keeping with past policy. The lines so far drawn have demonstrated that the Maldives remains primarily SAARC focused, followed by trading partners in the EU and Singapore. China has moved into this second category,” he added.

“Nothing will change the fact that we are only 200 miles from Trivandrum,” said Shaheed.

When asked upon his recent return from Sri Lanka what the Maldives’ policy was regarding Sino-Indian competition in the region, President Waheed is said to have responded that the policy of a small nation like the Maldives ought to be to avoid too great an involvement in geopolitics.


Indian High Commission slams Education Ministry over stranded expatriate teachers

The Indian High Commission in the Maldives has claimed skilled expatriate workers such as teachers employed in Maldives continue to be “penalised” due to government and private sector employers failing to fulfil their responsibilities.

First Secretary of the Indian High Commission in the Maldives S. C. Agarwal has said he continues this week to receive complaints from expatriate teachers unable to return home as a result of education authorities failing to reissue visa documentation.

The Department of Immigration and Emigration, whilst under former controller Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim, claimed last week that a solution had been reached to allow the state-employed Indian teachers affected by the visa renewal issue to return home.  A spokesperson for the immigration body added that the issues regarding the teachers’ out of date visas were the result of an “administrative problem” that had now been resolved.

However, First Secretary Agarwal maintains that teachers from India continue to be penalised under the present system for no fault of their own.

More than 30 teachers during the last week were said to have been unable to reclaim their passports from authorities after their visas were found to not have been renewed.

According to the Indian High Commission, the teachers, who are said to work at various public schools across the country, had effectively been left stranded in the Maldives after they were not permitted to leave the country.

In some cases, teachers are believed to have only discovered their visa documents had not been renewed by their employers after reaching Male’ to return home temporarily.

Agarwal said that although some teachers had returned to India on an emergency basis, others were still waiting on authorities to regularise their visas before being allowed to leave the country.

“Two teachers came to see me this morning after being in Male’ for more than a week now. They were told that they will not be able to leave at least before Tuesday until their visas are renewed. They have spent about Rf5,000 to stay here in Male,’” he said.

“I will not consider this issue resolved until all expatriates, whether from India or elsewhere, have their visas renewed or are sent home. Either expatriates are provided with the documentation they are promised by the government or their employers, or they should be sent home. There is no third option.”

Agarwal stressed that many of the teachers, whose passports are routinely taken from them by the Ministry, were being punished for mistakes made by the Ministry of Education, as well as immigration officials.

“My problem is we are getting teachers coming to us who have been stranded here in Male’ unable to return home. In many cases they are trying to return for emergency reasons and are unable to do so,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the employer – in this case the government – to ensure work visas are renewed on time.”

Agarwal said that he was concerned that a much larger number of teachers from India could have been affected by the visa renewal issue beyond the 30 cases brought to the attention of the high commission.

“I believe most of the workers affected will have gone to the Ministry of Education or the Immigration Department first to try and resolve the issue. The most desperate people will have come to us directly for assistance,” he said.

Complaints from the Indian High Commission about poor treatment of their nationals echo those made by the Bangladeshi High Commission on May 9.

Earlier this month, High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Rear Admiral Abu Saeed Mohamed Abdul Awal claimed workers were being brought to the Maldives to perform unskilled work, and often suffered from the practices of ”bad employers”.

“This is a real problem that is happening here, there have been many raids over the last year on unskilled [expatriate] workers who are suffering because of the companies employing them. They are not being given proper salaries and are paying the price for some of these employers,” he said at the time.

In line with concerns raised by counterparts within the High Commission of Bangladesh, Agarwal claimed that the Indian High Commission had also been speaking out about private sector employers who have left their foreign workers “in the lurch”.

“We have been made aware of cases where Indian workers are not being provided with the visas they are promised or, in some cases, even their salaries.  My concerns today for these teachers is that they are trained professionals working in the government sector,” he said. “These workers are  following the legal procedures here, but they are being penalised for it. There is even more concern for teachers based out in the islands, who may not know what is going on. The police will still be entitled to arrest them as illegal immigrants.”

Immigration solution

Former Controller of Immigration and Emigration Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim told Minivan News on Thursday – prior to his replacement by Dr Mohamed Ali – that the visa issues affecting the Indian teachers had been resolved.

“Now they can fly, but when they return they have to complete their visa document. I issued an order to our chief in that section to handle this as soon as possible,” he said at the time.

A spokesperson overseeing the visa issue for the Department of Immigration said that the difficulties in returning the Indian teachers home had been the result of an “administrative problem” that had since been solved.

“The problem had been that their visas had not been regularised by the Ministry of Education,” he said.  The spokesperson claimed that the problems in regularising the teachers’ visas had been solved by allowing the workers to renew their documentation once they returned to the Maldives for work.

Deputy Education Minister Anthu Ali  forwarded Minivan News to State Minister of Education Imad Solih. Solih was not responding to calls from Minivan News at  time of press.

Regional concerns

Last month Indian High Commissioner Dynaneshwar Mulay raised concerns over the treatment of expatriates from across the South Asia region – particularly by the country’s police and judiciary.

Mulay claimed that alongside concerns about the treatment of some Indian expatriates in relation to the law, there were significant issues relating to “basic human rights” that needed to be addressed concerning expatriates from countries including Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Mulay’s comments were made following an alleged attack on a Indian resort worker, who was reported to have been struck with a hammer and mugged while staying in a hotel in Male’. The attack was allegedly committed by a former employee of the same resort.

Big business

Beyond concerns about the basic human rights of foreign employees in the country, labour trafficking is also represents a significant national economic issue.

An ongoing police investigation into labour trafficking in the Maldives last year uncovered an industry worth an estimated US$123 million, eclipsing fishing (US$46 million in 2007) as the second greatest contributor of foreign currency to the Maldivian economy after tourism.

The authorities’ findings echo concerns first raised by former Bangladeshi High Commissioner Dr Selina Muhsin, reported by Minivan News in August 2010. The comments by Mushin were made shortly after the country was placed on the US State Department’s Tier 2 watchlist for human trafficking.


Police investigating staff death at W Retreat and Spa property

Police have confirmed investigations are continuing into the death of a male member of staff at the W Retreat and Spa Maldives resort this morning – with preliminary findings suggesting the man passed away of natural causes.

Police Spokesperson Hassan Haneef confirmed that police were notified by the resort this morning that a 55 year-old Indian national who worked as a chef at the North Ari Atoll property had been found dead.

”His body was found dead inside his room at about 3:45am,” Haneef said. ”The body was then taken to South Ari Atoll Mahibadhoo Hospital.”

Haneef added that according to the doctor on duty at the hospital, the chef appeared to have died of natural causes.  Haneef stressed that police were still investigating the case before confirming the cause of death.

W Maldives

In a statement, W Retreat and Spa Maldives, which is operated by the Starwood Hotels brand, confirmed that a male staff member had passed away today.

“The hotel team immediately contacted emergency services and local authorities requesting assistance at the resort. Local authorities are investigating the case currently,” the company stated.

“W Retreat & Spa Maldives is extremely saddened by what has transpired and would like to express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the deceased.”

As resort management were continuing to work with local authorities over the case, W said it was not able to comment further at present over the possible cause of death.

“The safety and security of our staff and guests continues to be a priority at all times,” the company added.

While unrelated to today’s incident,  Indian nationals working in the country have been at the forefront of several high-profile police investigations over the last two weeks.

High profile cases

Late last month, an Indian national working in a local resort was attacked with a hammer and mugged while in Male’ city – allegedly by a former employee of the resort he worked in.

The victim, identified by India’s Express News Service as 24 year-old Ramakrishnan Sadanandan from Thiruvananthapuram, was reportedly attacked at 2:30pm on March 31 while staying in a local guest house.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, police confirmed investigations were taking place into the suicide of a 39 year-old Indian national whilst he was in custody at Dhoonidhoo.  The exact details of the suicide were being looked into by police.

However, the case prompted Indian High Commissioner Dynaneshwar Mulay on Friday to raise concerns over the general treatment of Indian expatriates in the Maldives by the country’s police and judiciary in particular.