The Island President producer rubbishes claims of state expenditure for film crew

San Francisco based Actual Films has rubbished suggestions that its travel and accommodation expenses were paid for by the President’s Office when filming ‘The Island President’ in 2009.

Producer Richard Berge said the claims were “completely and categorically untrue”, describing them as “a thinly-veiled attempt to discredit the Island President”.

“Actual Films demands that President Yameen’s office makes a full and public apology for misleading the Maldivian and wider public,” he continued, in press statement from the film company.

The award-winning film was based around Nasheed’s presidency and his efforts to garner diplomatic support to combat climate change during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen.

In an article titled ‘Excessive government spending on President Nasheed’s film and media crew!’ published on January 14, Haveeru said it had obtained documents showing that the President’s Office had borne some expenses of the Actual Film crew during filming.

The paper claimed that the crew was included in the presidential delegation for three of Nasheed’s trips: a UN meeting at New York in February 2009, a high level climate change conference at New Dehli in October 2009, and the Copenhagen conference itself in December 2009.

The paper noted that the documents obtained did not reveal the amount spent on the crew.

The claims, in numerous media outlets, emerged shortly after Nasheed had demanded details regarding the expenses of President Abdulla Yameen’s frequent visits to Singapore, stating that the details were a public right under the Information Act.

Speaking to Minivan News last week, President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that he would gladly comply with the spirit of the Information Act: “even if President Nasheed’s travel expenses and information on how many foreigners he employed, by the state, was requested.”

The President’s Office was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Revealing details of the New York trip in February 2009, the company said that it had not entered into an understanding with Nasheed at the time of the New York trip in February 2009, and that the company did not meet Nasheed until late June that year.

Regarding the New Delhi trip in October 2009, Actual Films said that the plane was provided and paid for by the Indian Prime Minister’s Office, and that two Actual Film employees accompanied the delegation in seats that were otherwise empty, saying: “there was no cost to the Maldives government”.

Turning to the Copenhagen trip, the film company said its records showed it had paid approximately US$12,000 for all crew to travel to and from Copenhagen.

Furthermore, the film company said it had spent close to US$18,000 for hotel expenses during the trips. It also dismissed claims that Nasheed had travelled to the US on the Maldivian state’s budget to check and edit the documentary, adding that Nasheed first saw the film at its premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011.

Haveeru also reported that Nasheed’s government had spent excessively on PR during his term, claiming the President’s Office had spent MVR2.86 million (US$185,000) on three British employees.

However, members of the team defended the expenses, saying that during Nasheed’s term the Maldives had enjoyed an enviable international reputation on democracy, human rights and the environment.

Related to this story

Former Nasheed employees deny media claims of excessive PR spending

Details of President’s trips to Singapore a public right, says Nasheed

MDP requests details on President Yameen’s health, visits to Singapore

Public should be informed about president’s health, says Nasheed


Male’ surfers dump garbage outside city hall in protest over night market trash

A group of local surfers dumped a pile of garbage outside the entrance to Male’ City Hall today in a second protest aimed at preventing the waste generated by a night market held this month from polluting the Maldives’ capital city.

The rubbish pile was dumped at the MCC today (June 19) in an effort to pressure city councilors to organise a formal meeting with the group, so they can collaboratively prevent refuse from the ongoing night market event from polluting the area, the group claimed.

The rubbish was collected from roads around the market, known as the ‘Ungulhey Bazaar’, as well as the small park area local surfers refer to as ‘the garden’ located next to the capital’s ‘raalhugandu’ surf point in Henveiru ward.

Appalled by the excessive amounts of garbage littering the nearby streets, parks and sea due to the Male’ night market, last week the group of surfers staged a creative protest using the rubbish to try and pressure the city council into action.

Although the first protest did prompt responses from the Male’ City Council (MCC) and Go Media – the private company commissioned to organise the market – no formal meetings have yet been conducted to resolve the issue, Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) President Ahmed Fauzan ‘Karo’ Abbas told Minivan News today.

“We have tried to meet someone [from MCC and Go Media] and they have sent different representatives [to raalhugandu] to discuss the night market litter problem, but no one with decision making authority,” said Abbas. “Random people come but we don’t know who they are.”

“We have also previously sent complaint letters but no one has responded,” he added.

“I was [previously] told things would get better, but it’s getting worse,” he said.

The surfers today claimed that their second protest appeared to have been more successful.

“MCC has arranged an official meeting for Sunday (June 23), which will be attended by MSA as well as the Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA),” said Abbas.

He added that although tonight marked the last night of the market, another event had been scheduled for October this year.

“We have told the city council we do not want the bazaar to be held here again. What the public is doing [throwing waste all over the area] is affecting our sport,” said Abbas.

Abbas explained that the raalhugandu area had a long association with surfing, adding that the excessive garbage – as well as advertising billboards erected in the area without consulting the community – all negatively impacted surf competitions held in the area.

“This is a public space and the public should be consulted before holding a big event [like the night market],” he said.

The MCC confirmed today that a first formal meeting with the MSA and MBBA is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

“We scheduled the formal meeting to solve all the [garbage] problems and to discuss what difficulties they are facing due to the night market,” MCC Councillor Mohamed Falah told Minivan News today.

“I know that we have to solve the garbage problems very carefully,” said Falah. “I agree with their demands and that environmental problems are very important.”

“We will solve these waste issues at any cost,” he declared.

Raising awareness about the link between human and environmental health is necessary to stop people from haphazardly throwing their garbage everywhere, which is why the surfers are leading by example, local surfer Hamid Abdul Hadhi previously told Minivan News.

“Most of the pollution from the market ends up in the sea,” Hadhi explained. “The trash hurts the fishes and corals, plus when we’re surfing and get a plastic bag stuck to our faces then we’re in trouble.”


Guesthouse potential thrusts Maldives mid-market tourism into political fray

This story was originally published on travel review site,

Since the inception of Maldives tourism over 40 years ago, the country has seen the development of more than 100 islands into exclusive resorts which – by focusing on secluded luxury – are almost entirely cut off from local laws and politics.

The potential for expanding mid-market tourism in the Maldives through the “niche” guesthouse segment may emerge as an early election issue after senior opposition and government figures clashed over how best the country’s inhabited islands can profit from visitors.

While the present government has boasted of nearly doubling the number guesthouse business since coming to power in February last year, the country’s opposition unveiled plans to address what it called a “total disconnect” between the lucrative island resort model and local people.

‘Real Maldives’

Beyond the political rhetoric, a growing number of specialist operators have emerged trying to cater to the mid-market demand from tourists looking to experience the ‘real Maldives’ –  a side of the country often unseen due to the prevalence of the lucrative ‘one island, one resort model’.

One such group is Secret Paradise, which this year began offering tourists special packages in North Male’ Atoll and South Male’ Atoll aiming to combine the traditional tourist staples of sunbathing, water sports and diving with authentic Maldives experiences like cooking and eating with local families, or assisting at island schools.

Ruth Franklin, a senior UK business figure who helped develop Secret Paradise with a local partner, said that aside from providing a more authentic travel experience, a key selling point for the business was to provide more affordable holidays for tourists concerned the Maldives was out of their price range.

Franklin added that trying to realise the full potential for mid-market tourism was not without challenges, especially in terms of a tourist’s perception of budget.

“To many travellers, ‘budget’ means a room for US$20 or less a night in many Asian destinations. In the Maldives, budget should be interpreted in relation to the cost of a night on a resort for bed and breakfast. Guesthouses on average start at US$50 verses the cheapest resort at US$250,” she said.

Franklin identified another hurdle in the general lack of information available to tourists about life outside the country’s resorts; from the cost of transportation and the availability of local ferries – which are further limited on Fridays and public holidays – to adhering with local laws and culture on ‘inhabited’ islands. On these islands, drinking alcohol and wearing bikinis are not permitted.

“Our packages are designed to take this into account so that travellers have the option of day visits to resorts, sandbanks and picnic islands where the restrictions do not apply,” Franklin added.

Franklin said that compared to the country’s resort and even safari boat industries, the niche status of guesthouse tourism did grant the segment a unique appeal in the region.

“Independent travel will never be in my opinion as it is in Thailand for example and quite frankly I wouldn’t want it to be. My belief is that local islands should have a set number of tourist beds available that is governed by the Tourism Ministry,” she said.

“Whilst I think it is right to open up the island to tourists to allow travellers to experience local customs and traditions and to help support local economy I would not want to see islands inundated with travellers to the point that the best of the Maldives customs and traditions disappear.”

Franklin suggested that wider success for the guesthouse industry could eventually lead to growing pressure to amend laws relating to alcohol and allowing women to wear bikinis on local beaches as part of a potential trade off for greater economic viability of mid-market tourism.

“Whilst my belief is that alcohol will not and should not be available on local islands there is definitely already a keen interest by guesthouse owners to provide private beach areas for tourists,” she added. “I am not in support of this as I think those guests who stay on a local island should do so to also experience culture and tradition and as ‘guests’ should respect a country’s law and regulations.”

Compromise calls

In December last year, the author of the latest Lonely Planet travel book to focus on the Maldives told Dhonisaurus that compromise would be needed by authorities should they wish to ensure independent travel was viable for a wider number of businesses going forward.

Lonely Planet author Tom Masters said he ultimately believed that local islands could still provide independent travellers with “sufficient attractions”, even within the strictly conservative laws practices outside of the country’s resort islands.

“However, I think only a tiny proportion of potential visitors would be happy to accept such a number of restrictions on their annual holiday, and so if some degree of compromise could be reached on issues such as alcohol or sunbathing, then the number of travellers opting for island tourism over that in an expensive resort would rise enormously,” he said at the time.

“A weakling in need of love and nurturing”

Adrian Neville, a veteran of travel writing in the Maldives previously told Dhonisaurus that beyond the recent political arguments, guest-houses had played a major role in the development of the tourism industry, dating back to their foundation in 1972. However, such properties were abruptly closed for many years as of May 1, 1984.

“This was pretty much directly at the behest of the resort owners for obvious reasons and on the spurious grounds of social problems and the wrong type of tourists,” he said. “Of course, now those wrong types are just fine – now they are not ‘hippies’ but ‘independent travellers’.”

While guest-houses had been reintroduced back in 2008, Neville contended that he was not sure whether the general attitudes of resort owners in the country would have changed much, particularly in terms of supporting the fledgling industry.

“The sector is up and running, but it is a weakling in need of love and nurturing,” he said.

Neville claimed that while there was clear interest in the further development of a guest-house sector to allow independent travellers to take in the Maldives, the country’s long-term segregation of tourists from local communities may also serve to limit the potential.

“There is sufficient interest but it won’t grow quickly until the issue of separation or, most unlikely for the foreseeable future, co-habitation with different lifestyles, is resolved,” he said.

Quality standards

Tourism authorities last year noted that guesthouse demand would likely remain “quite insignificant” when compared to demand for the country’s island resorts.

However, speaking to Minivan News in March this year, Deputy Tourism Mohamed Maleeh Jamal praised the industry as a “phenomenon” that the present administration would look to continue to support.

“The industry is doing well right now in Hulhumale’ [an island situated ten minutes from the capital by speedboat]. I understand major operators are already coming out with their own brochures,” he added.

Despite pledging government support for the industry, Maleeh claimed that it would be vital to ensure that quality standards were maintained across the industry in line with the reputation built up by the Maldives resort industry over the last forty years.

“We don’t want anything unexpected to happen,” he added. With a growing number of domestic airports anticipated to be developed across the country in the coming years, Maleeh said he expected a growing number of guesthouses would be established to meet demand .

“Where there are transports hubs, there will of course be more guesthouses appearing,” he said.

However, Maleeh stressed that the success of mid-market tourism was dependent on making sure that infrastructure was in place to welcome tourists.

“In some of these islands, the infrastructure is just not there; sewerage, drinking water, garbage disposal and 24 hour electricity supplies are needed,” he said. “My main interest is that while any Maldvian can open a guest-housem can we make sure that the customers are there?”

Ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September this year, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed has pledged to promote and support wider guesthouse development as part of efforts to try and aid wider economic growth.

“Having tourists on inhabited islands is not going to result in the community facing any additional detrimental effects that do not already exist. On the contrary, having tourists will empower the islanders to overcome whatever objectionable issues that they may face,” the former president claimed.

“Maldivians will have to open their eyes to outside cultures, and allow for the increase in opportunities for development. In addition to direct employment and income generated by guesthouses, it will also boost other existing island businesses.”

Despite guesthouses seemingly being in vogue as a topic for electioneering, Raki Bench, founder of the guest-houses in Maldives website last year said he was  critical of the role played by the present and former government to develop the industry.

Bench added in recent years, despite previous government commitments to provide more mid-market accommodation for visitors wanting to explore the country’s inhabited islands, further support had been lacking.

“The government has not really been helping guest-houses at all. It is a small sector, but it is showing growth within the wider tourism industry. I don’t see any promotion from authorities,” added Bench.

“I do understand why this is the case. After all what is the point in promoting an industry with a value of US$50 a night when you compare that to what resorts can make.”


“The Island President” DVD released with Dhivehi subtitles

Former President Mohamed Nasheed launched “The Island President” DVD with Dhivehi subtitles at an event organised by Raajje TV at Nasandhuraa Palace on Monday night.

The grant-funded documentary by Oscar- and Emmy- winning American company Actual Films depicted President Nasheed’s first year in office culminating with his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009.

The DVD with Dhivehi subtitles is to be sold for MVR 150.

In September 2011, “The Island President” was awarded the Cadillac People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the world’s five most prestigious films festivals. It also won the “Pare Lorentz Award” from the International Documentary Association.

In an interview with Minivan News in November 2011, the film’s producer, Richard Berge, explained how the producers approached President Nasheed with the idea in early 2009.


“Weakening faith” opportunity for foreign powers to influence Maldives: President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has today spoken of his concern that the “weakening faith” of Maldivians was allowing unspecified “foreign powers” to increase their influence over the country’s  internal affairs.

Despite the number of differing political beliefs currently held by Maldivians, president Waheed called on the public to ensure that Islam and “national interest” were always their foremost priorities.

“Our national anthem, national flag, and national colours that symbolize the country should come first,” read an official statement quoting Dr Waheed that was posted on the President’s Office website today.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile questioned President Waheed’s religious convictions, accusing him of being “double-faced” by trying to appeal to Islamists in the country for political gain, while claiming his comments more resembled the words of a “dictator”.

President Waheed made the comments today as he visited the island of Alifushi in North Maalhosmadulu Atoll as part of a tour to survey and break ground on a number of development projects in the area such as school and hospital constructions.

Speaking to local people on the island, President Waheed said that foreign powers would always seek to try and influence the country during times of conflict and instability.

Stressing the need for unity at both a national and community level, he therefore urged the public to try to prevent political views from coming between families.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad, who had not travelled with the president to Alifushi today, said he was not aware of the nature of the president’s comments when contacted this afternoon. Masood was not responding to calls for further clarification at time of press.

Unifying force

Meanwhile, MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor today rejected suggestions that President Waheed stood as a unifying force for Islam in the Maldives, accusing him of politicising the nation’s faith for his own gain.

“It is the mark of his total weakness in politics that [President Waheed] has put himself in this position,” he said. “There is no currency among the public in what he says.”

Hamid claimed that many Maldivians were aware that the president had sought to “play Islam” for political gain since he took office following the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

President Waheed, who served as vice president under the former government, came to power after the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed following a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

Nasheed later alleged he had resigned under duress in what both himself and the MDP contend was a “coup d’etat”, despite a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) later concluding that President Waheed had come to power constitutionally.

Hamid alleged that President Waheed remained a “coup leader”, who had been backed by key businessmen in the country linked to its lucrative tourism industry.

“What is most bizarre is that it was certain tourism oligarchs who brought him to power.”

Coalition agreement

Just last month, President Waheed announced he would be forming a coalition between his Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) ahead of presidential elections scheduled for later this year.

The AP, one of five parties in the country meeting a recently approved regulation requiring any registered political body to have 10,000 registered members, is part of the coalition government of President Waheed following last year’s change in government.

Both Adhalaath and GIP do not presently have any elected members in parliament.

The religious conservative party was previously a coalition partner in the government of former President Nasheed, later leaving the government citing concerns at what it alleged were the irreligious practices of the administration.

This led the AP in December 2011 to join then fellow opposition parties – now members of Waheed’s unity government – and a number of NGOs to gather in Male’ with thousands of people to “defend Islam”.

During the same day, Nasheed’s MDP held their own rally held at the artificial beach area in Male’ claiming his government would continue to practice a “tolerant form” of Islam, reminding listeners that Islam in the Maldives has traditionally been tolerant.

“We can’t achieve development by going backwards to the Stone Age or being ignorant,” Nasheed said at the time.

Shortly after coming to power in February 2012, flanked by members of the new government’s coalition, President Waheed gave a speech calling on supporters to “Be courageous; today you are all mujaheddin”.

“Extremism” fears

Earlier this week, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, former Foreign Minister under both the governments of former Presidents Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, alleged that anti-semitism, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance were “deeply entrenched” in political parties currently opposed to the MDP.

Dr Shaheed’s comments followed reports in local media summarising US Embassy cables first published by Wikileaks in 2009, and discussed during the then-opposition parliament’s efforts to impeach the foreign minister.

In particular, the Maldivian government’s engagement with Israel was the subject of a parliamentary debate November 9, 2009, in which Shaheed narrowly avoided impeachment following a no-confidence motion.

Opposition to the Maldives’ recognition of Israel was seized by then opposition groups in December 2011 as a sign of the Nasheed government’s “anti-Islamic” policies.

However, Dr Shaheed claimed that “Growing extremism hurts the Maldives rather than anybody else, because whenever a state is unable to deliver what is in the public interest due to intimidation from others, it is the state that suffers.”

Meanwhile, a recent report on extremism in the Maldives published in US West Point military academy’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel has warned that growing religious extremism and political uncertainty in the country risk negatively affecting the country’s tourism industry.

“Despite its reputation as an idyllic paradise popular among Western tourists, political and religious developments in the Maldives should be monitored closely,” the report concluded.


Court commences police chief’s ‘baaghee’ defamation case against former president

The Civil Court yesterday ( April 8 ) began hearing statements in a defamation case filed by Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Riyaz is seeking MVR3.75 million (US$243,506) in damages from Nasheed, who is accused of labelling the commissioner a ‘baaghee’ (traitor) following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, which saw sections of the police and military mutiny against the former government.

Nasheed is accused of continuing to call the commissioner a ‘baaghee’ even after a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) later concluded the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed came to power constitutionally.

A Civil Court spokesperson confirmed to Minivan News that lawyers representing both Riyaz and Nasheed were present yesterday during the first of five hearings anticipated to determine the charges against the former president.

During the hearing, the presiding judge asked the defence to answer the allegations against Nasheed. The next hearing of the case is expected to allow Nadheed’s representatives to present a statement in his defence, according to a spokesperson for the Civil Court.

No date was set for the next hearing, the court claimed.

Riyaz’s defamation case had been scheduled to begin last year, but was later postponed upon request of the commissioner himself.

MDP MP and lawyer Mariya Ahmed Didi said the party has previously issued a statement following the postponement of the hearings, claiming that Nasheed was “anxious to proceed with the case”.

Mariya alleged that Commissioner Riyaz was hesitant to proceed with the defamation case for fear that he would not be able to prove that his standing in society or his wider reputation had suffered as a result of the former president’s comments.

“There are hundreds of witnesses just waiting to give their evidence in court. In addition, senior police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers including [former] commissioner of Police Faseeh and Defence Force chief Moosa Jaleel have testified to the relevant committee of parliament that the events of February 7 and February 8 were indeed a coup,” she claimed. “We are confident that if we get a free and fair trial we will get a judgement in our favour.”

“Undermining” commisioner’s esteem

Riyaz’s lawyers have previously accused Nasheed of undermining the esteem and respect of the police commissioner by labelling him as a “traitor.”

The legal team also argued at the time that Nasheed’s words had compromised the safety of Riyaz, requiring security at his residence to be strengthened.

Commissioner Riyaz and Police Spokesperson Chief Inspetor Hassan Haneef were not responding to calls at time of press.

Meanwhile, MVR3.75 million in damages are being sought from Nasheed by serving Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, who has also accused the former president of damaging his reputation by labelling a traitor during a public address last year.

Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported at the time that following a speech by Nasheed attacking the defence minister, a group of protesters came outside Nazim’s house, “leaving Nazim’s family in fear”.

Former Youth Minister Dr Hassan Latheef, who defended Nasheed at a Civil Court hearing held in October 2012, told the presiding judge at the time that the former president denied the charges against him.

Nasheed’s legal team has previously contended that Riyaz had filed the defamation case in the civil court at a time when the police were continuously arresting people for calling them ‘baaghee’ on the streets. The same representatives also accused the country’s criminal court of continuing to provide extensions of detention periods for people arrested under the charges.

Further charges

Nasheed is also currently in the process of being tried on charges that  he illegally detained a senior judge during the end of his presidency.

However, all trials concerning the judge’s detention were suspended earlier this month pending a High Court ruling on the legitimacy of the bench of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court conducting Nasheed’s case.


Hundreds demonstrate in capital after former president placed in detention

Additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed and Daniel Bosley

Hundreds of protesters gathered near the President’s Office in Male’ on Monday night as close family and legal representatives of former President Mohamed Nasheed left to visit him at the Dhoonidhoo detention facility, where he is being kept ahead of his trial on Tuesday afternoon.

The country’s first democratically elected president was taken into police custody yesterday on the island of Fares-Mathoda in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll after the Hulhumale Magistrate Court issued a warrant for his arrest and presentation in court on Tuesday October 9.

The issuing of the warrant – exactly seven months after Nasheed’s ousting – follows his defiance of a court-ordered travel ban outside the capital Male’, and two court summons.

The Maldives Police Service confirmed to Minivan News that it had been ordered to detain Nasheed and present him at his trial in Male’ at 4:00pm today, but added that no order had been received to keep him in custody beyond the hearing so far.

Leaving to meet Nasheed last night, his wife Laila Ali, several close family members, and a handful of legal advisers travelled to Dhoonidhoo  at 10:15pm to cheers and chanting from a vocal group of around 500 to 600 supporters. The demonstrators had gathered behind temporary police barricades set up by the main Bank of Maldives building in the capital.

Demonstrators had been gathering since about 9:30pm as police set up blockades around the roads surrounding the President’s Office building on Boduthakurufaanu Magu.

Tensions during the evening were mostly evident in vocal exchanges between protesters on the front line and the 20 to 30 police officers assigned to man the blockades, who faced heckling and jeering from the crowds.

“You are only protecting certain individuals in this country,” one protester shouted angrily.

An police officer on the front lines responded that he was there to protect everyone. The jeering and chanting continued throughout the evening.

By 10:30pm, Minivan News observed some minor scuffles as police attempted to force the several hundred demonstrators back behind temporary barriers to chants of “free Nasheed” by the gathered crowd.  However, violent clashes with authorities were minimal during the gathering.

Senior officials of MDP were among the demonstrators, with MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on the front-lines of the gathering.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said the demonstrations, which concluded at around midnight, were conducted peacefully and without any arrests.

“There were three barricades that were thrown into the water by the Bank of Maldives building, but no one had been arrested as a result,” he said.

Minivan News observed a small number of riot police in helmets later gathering behind police lines, but these officers were not deployed, as protests died down soon after midnight.

Also present earlier in the evening was former Minister of Environment Mohamed Aslam, who had travelled with Nasheed during the day after he had been detained by police.

Speaking to Minivan News, Aslam said Nasheed had requested he be returned to his home in Male’ under police custody ahead of his trial, rather than the detention centre at Dhoonidhoo.

The request was rejected by authorities, with Nasheed being dropped off at Dhoonidhoo, where representatives from the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) were said to be present.

While being returned to the capital yesterday, Aslam alleged that a foreign national, whom he believed to be from the India, was also travelling with police, saying he had requested to be transported back to Male’.

“I would say it is highly irregular to have a foreign person on a police boat in such a situation,” he claimed.

Discussing Nasheed’s arrest, Aslam said that after meeting with members of the public on Fares-Mathoda, Nasheed and his entourage returned to the former environment chief’s home on the island after it had been confirmed that a police force had landed nearby.

“These were police armed with riot guns gathered by my home,” he said.

Upon requesting entry to the building and showing an arrest warrant for Nasheed, Aslam said he had asked officers for a few minutes to discuss the situation with the former president.

“As soon as I turned around they had forced their way into the building and begun shoving us around,” he said. “As they forced there way in they also pushed me onto a glass table that broke, fortunately I wasn’t badly hurt from this.”

As police forced themselves into several rooms before locating Nasheed, Aslam claimed that the former president did not resist arrest. The former environment minister said that he was however unable to confirm reports that Nasheed had been pepper sprayed by officers, adding that he did not see such an incident at the time. He claimed to have seen some form of unidentified firearms being packed away by police after they left Fares-Mathoda.

Aslam said he had opted to travel with Nasheed they were transported to larger boat off the island to return to Male’. Along the way he added they had stopped for lunch, at which point it was announced that Nasheed was to be taken to the Dhoonidhoo detention facility.

Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said the government had wished to avoid any direct involvement in Nasheed’s detention and trial, referring any requests on the matter to police and judicial authorities.

“We have asked the Maldives Police Service to notify media of any developments.  The President’s Office wishes to stay clear of this matter,” he said at the time. ”We know as much as the [media] about developments right now.”

Masood added that, despite allegations raised by the MDP concerning alleged use of excessive force to seize the former president, police authorities had insisted officers had acted with restraint.

“I’m told [Nasheed] asked for a box of cigarettes, a request that [officers] granted.  He was given Benson and Hedges as I understand,” Masood said.


Island President “a depressing reminder of world’s vested interests”: Jon Shenk

Filming primarily during the former president’s first year in office, Director of the Island President Jon Shenk and his team trailed him around the globe, filming everything from the underwater cabinet meetings – where Nasheed conducted with ministers all wearing scuba gear to highlight the problems of rising water levels – to his trip to the UN, Westminster and Copenhagen’s Environment Summit to beseech Western diplomats to act quickly in the name of global environmental protection, writes Caroline Frost for the Huffington Post.

Shenk had different problems from those of Nasheed, but equal challenges:

“I think he had an amazing amount of trust, but we quickly learned that there’s a reason why a film about this state’s leader had never been made before. It’s just so difficult to get access to everything, whether it’s cabinet meetings, or family life, and then it becomes 1000 times more difficult once you leave that country, and you’re dealing bilaterally with other leaders, other heads of state, it was pretty much a constant battle.”

Unfortunately, Shenk stopped filming shortly before Nasheed was ousted from office in a coup orchestrated by the tyrannous regime his government had replaced. As events raced ahead of him, Shenk added an end card to his film so viewers were kept updated:

“The film ended on a high with him still president, then by the film was released in cinemas in the US and UK, the coup had happened, and it changes the way that the film affects people.

“In a way, the film is completely unchanged by events because so much about his first year in office and the drama of him fighting that struggle at Copenhagen, but in other ways, it’s a depressing reminder of the vested interests that exist in the world, in keeping things the way they are, money interests controlling the day, even in countries where there is a strong independent national propensity to move towards democracy.”

Read more


Island President inadvertently records a bygone era in the Maldives: Village Voice

Blessed – or maybe cursed – with fortuitous timing, Jon Shenk’s lionising documentary of Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the Republic of Maldives, closely follows the charming president from 2008 to 2009, his first year in office, writes Melissa Anderson, in a review for The Village Voice.

The film, a hopeful portrait of a crusader that premiered at Telluride last September, is now inadvertently a record of a bygone era: Nasheed was forced to leave office February 7, the result of a coup by loyalists to his predecessor, the dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Although obviously unable to include the tumultuous events of the past seven weeks beyond a closing intertitle, The Island President briskly presents the broader history of this country of 400,000. As in his previous doc, Lost Boys of Sudan (2003), Shenk forgoes voiceover, the salient facts of this country, best-known as a luxury-resort destination, relayed via the sit-downs with Nasheed and members of his team that dominate the first third of the film.

As Nasheed wryly points out, the beaches where celebrities and aristos have romped were also—quite literally—the same spots where the torture sanctioned by Gayoom, who ruled from 1978 to 2008, occurred.

The thoughts Nasheed shared with Shenk post-Copenhagen now ring as foreboding: “Coming back to Maldives, you realize how impossible the whole situation is.” After the chaos that erupted in this island paradise two months ago, Nasheed’s vice president, Mohamed Waheed Hassan – a seemingly benign talking head seen briefly in the doc – is now the country’s leader.

Read more