“We will celebrate liberation of airport on February 7”: Sheikh Imran

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Adbulla has said that the people of the Maldives will celebrate the liberation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on the first anniversary of the resignation of the previous government – February 7, 2013, local media has reported.

The comments were made at a press conference held by a coalition of NGOs and political parties opposed to the deal with the Indian infrastructure company GMR – signed by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration – to develop and manage the country’s international airport.

Imran predicted there would be “some unrest and damage” on the day the deal is annulled, but urged people to come out and support the calls for nationalisation  – although the GMR deal is actually a 25 year lease arrangement and the airport still belongs to the government.

Minivan News was unable to gain further comment from the Adhaalath Party members at the time of press.

Imran said the Maldivian population would be able to endure economic hardship should the deal be annulled, before threatening “a completely different activity” should the government fail to resolve the issue to the coalition’s satisfaction.

“February 7 this year should suffice to make this clear [to the government],” Imran was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

“We were talking about a particular thing and a particular person completed it. Therefore, when the Maldivian people carry out these activities, too, in a certain way, the people who completes it will decide it a certain way. I hope the President has the courage, ability and steadfastness to take such a measure on behalf of the people,” he continued.

Imran’s comments are symptomatic of the incendiary rhetoric surrounding the airport, the nationalisation of which the Adhaalath Party has previously described as a “national jihad”.

The Civil Coalition of NGOs joined with the seven now-government aligned parties to campaign against the former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led administration, most famously gathering on December 23 last year to defend Islam against what it perceived as irreligious tendencies in the Nasheed government.

The Coalition explained that it was to conduct a week of activities between November 3 – 9 in opposition to the deal, referred to as “airport week”, rather than the mass protest that had previously been planned.

Sun Online reported that the decision had been made owing to clashes with school exams and the government’s plans to celebrate the anniversary of 1988’s attempted coup on November 3.

The paper also reported that the week would be accompanied by the launching of songs and a special logo in support of the movement.

A large balloon has appeared in recent days over the skies of Male’ reading “GMR go home.”

However, previous attempts to organise demonstrations in opposition to the development met with disappointing results when a September protest was poorly attended.

One government-aligned party, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), refused to join the September protest, arguing that the dispute ought to be resolved through the courts.

DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has previously expressed his concerns that reneging on the GMR deal might have detrimental effects on investor confidence in what is already a perilous financial situation for the Maldives.

Abdulla Jabir, Deputy Leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP), has also been vocal about the economic impact of politicising the deal, criticising the Adhaalath Party.

“Sometimes they are religious experts, sometimes they are financial experts. But everyone loves Islam here. Right now, foreign investors are finding it difficult to understand the climate here,” Jabir told Minivan News earlier this month.

“This is not a perfect time for this issue to be happening with GMR,” he added. “I think these protests [against GMR] are unrealistic.”

The JP were, however, represented at the press conference, with State Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture Fuad Gasim reportedly suggesting that senior government figures were being pressured into silence over the deal.

Official government opposition to the deal is currently taking the form of investigations of the $511million deal via the country’s Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) as well as through a Singapore court of arbitration as agreed in the original contract.

However, the Attorney General has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the matter might be dealt with within the Maldivian court system.

Earlier this month, INIA CEO Andrew Harrison told Indian media that the company had received no official word from the Maldivian government concerning a resolution to the dispute.


JP MP Alhan Fahmy to initiate no-confidence vote against President and Vice President

Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Alhan Fahmy has said today that he is in discussions with MPs from other parties to submit a motion to take a no confidence vote against both President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen.

Fahmy was initially elected to parliament as an MP representing the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP). He then transferred to the Maldivain Democratic Party (MDP), before signing with JP earlier this year. He was elected as Vice President of MDP during his time in the party.

Fahmy told local media today that he was initiating this vote for two specific reasons:  the first being Waheed’s negative remarks about the Majlis in his last trip to Sri Lanka, and secondly, that in Fahmy’s view neither Waheed nor Deen were fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities.

“[Waheed] has said that MPs just stay home without doing any work. That we take our salary and yet are always on leave. Waheed cannot make a statement like that,” Fahmy told Haveeru.

“That is encroachment on the privileges of MPs. This is a very worrying matter. What is going to happen if while staying as the highest authority in the state, he treats the parliament like sh*t?” Fahmy was quoted as saying.

He furthermore stated that both Waheed and Waheed Deen had failed to perform up to the responsibilities of the post detailed in article 100(a) of the Constitution of the Maldives.

Article 100(a) states the Majlis can remove a President or Vice President on grounds of violating a tenet of Islam or the constitution, conduct unsuited to the office, or an inability to carry out the office’s duties.

Removal of both President and Vice President simultaneously would trigger constitutional clauses requiring the Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid to assume office and to organise elections within 60 days.

According to Fahmy, his initiative was getting support from the opposition MDP, and he specifically noted the work of the party’s Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

Fahmy said he is now in the process of drafting the motion, expressing confidence that he would be able to obtain signatures from 25 MPs to submit the motion as per the regulations.

According to article 100 (e) of the constitution, a no confidence vote can be passed with votes from two-thirds of the total numbers of MPs in parliament, which amounts to 52 votes.

The constitution also requires 14 days notice to be given before the matter is voted upon, as well as providing both the President and Vice President with the opportunity to defend themselves against their respective charges.

Meanwhile, President of Jumhoree Party Ibrahim Didi, who formerly served in the same position at MDP, expressed concern over Fahmy’s statement.

Didi told local media that being part of the coalition, JP would offer full support to the coalition government. He said Fahmy had made the statement of his own accord, and that the party had no knowledge of the matter.

However, Didi has said that the party has not yet decided if it would take action against Fahmy for speaking against the party’s stance.

During Wednesday’s parliament session, Fahmy also called for the resignation of the Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz and Minister of Home Affairs Dr Mohamed Jameel.

MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik confirmed to Minivan News today that he supported Fahmy’s initiative to take the no-confidence vote.

“Since Alhan has taken the initiative, I will support him. I will do what needs to be done to bring the MDP Parliamentary Group on board,” Manik said.


Felivaru Fisheries Maldives Chairman sacked over allegations of corruption

Chairman of Felivaru Fisheries Maldives Ltd (FFM), Mohamed ‘Inthi’ Imthiyaz was yesterday sacked from his position over allegations of corruption.

Spokesperson of Presidents Office Abbas Adil Riza told local media that Imthiyaz was removed from his position following an investigation of corruption by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), allegations which included issuing of several cases of canned tuna on credit to a paper company under his name.

Imthiyaz is also the Registrar General of the Jumhoree Party (JP), led by business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim.

“The government’s view is that when a person is alleged to be involved in corruption he should be removed from his position in government or government affiliated company. Such cases will be investigated by independent institutions and being in such a position may hinder the investigation. So that was the principle that the government viewed,” said Riza, who is also a fellow JP council member.

President of ACC Hassan Luthfee confirmed to Minivan News that the case was filed and the investigation completed.

Imthiyaz, who is currently on a trip to Dubai, told local media he was not aware of the government’s decision to remove him from his position and rebutted the allegations, claiming that he had not done anything corrupt for government to remove him from the position.

“This case is about an allegation that one of the shops that I run took canned tuna cases on credit. Following the allegations I checked the transactions of the shops to confirm whether such a request was carried out but I didn’t find any. Also the board of FFM had not approved any such transaction,” he said earlier.

He further stated that he was giving full cooperation to ACC and added that he had been away from his business following his involvement in politics. Imthiyaz alleged the case was filed in ACC by political opponents to tarnish his image.

Minivan News tried contacting Imthiyaz but his phone was switched off.

Imthiyaz was the former Deputy Chairperson (Administrative) of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) but changes sides to the JP in February 2012 following the transfer of power. He was later nominated to the position of chairman of FFM by JP under its coalition agreement with the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

FFM is a government owned company formed during President Mohamed Nasheed’s tenure, after the splitting of the Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO). Factories in Felivaru Island and Kooddoo Island were separated from MIFCO and made as into two different government companies: FFM and Kooddoo Fisheries Maldives (KFM) respectively. FFM specialises in producing high quality canned tuna and cooked loins for local and export markets.

Meanwhile corruption allegations have been levied up against several other appointees to the government companies.

Yesterday, Managing Director of MIFCO Hassan Shafiu and board members Ali Saifuddeen and Mohamed Wajeeh Ibrahim were also sacked from their positions over allegation of corruption.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported that the three were removed from their positions.

Minivan News tried contacting Shafiu but did not respond at time of press.

Speaking to Minivan News, ACC President Hassan Luthfee confirmed both cases had been filed.

He further added that Imthiyaz’s case had been finished and had sent a letter to Presidents Office regarding its findings. However he said that the MIFCO board members case is still under investigation and declined to provide any details.

Minivan News tried contacting Presidents’ Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza but he did not respond at time of press.


Waheed’s lack of solid policies led to increase in state expenditure: MP Jabir

Amid rising concerns about state expenditure, debt and the economic stability of the country, some political actors who are part of the unity government coalition have started expressing concern about the government’s actions publicly.

The government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) earlier this month expressed concern over Waheed’s handling of the coalition’s dispute with the GMR contract to develop the airport, while one of the party’s MPs called for his resignation should he be unable to settle the matter.

More recently, Jumhoree Party Deputy Leader and MP Abdulla Jabir on Sunday criticised President Waheed’s commitment to bring down state expenditure.

“Spending money he does not have”

MP Jabir said Sunday that President Waheed was acting with no consideration for the extremely high levels of state expenditure.

Jabir claimed that while the norm elsewhere in similar circumstances was that the president would work to cut down on spending, Waheed was continuing to appoint people to new political posts and campaign with “money he does not have”.

“He picks people off the streets and gives them posts,” Jabir said. “Why hold on to such a pointless formula?”

Jabir asked Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad if Waheed had discussed his pledges with him prior to making them public, speaking at the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Sunday. Jihad responded that he had no documents detailing Waheed’s presidential pledges and only become aware of them as they were reported in local media.

Jihad also stated that Waheed mostly consulted the leaders of the coalition parties when appointing people to head the state companies, although he said he had been consulted about a few appointments.

The Finance Minister on Monday revealed that the country’s budget deficit for 2012 was set to reach MVR 6 billion, (US$390 million), MVR 3 billion (US$195 million) over estimates.

In addition to Jabir, DRP MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed also expressed his disapprovement of government actions.

“The government does not seem to be serious in its efforts to bring down expenditure,” Maseeh said. “Some ministers just make bold statements without even considering the budget. These statements lead to fancy headlines. This needs to be stopped.”

Interference in parliamentary duties

Meanwhile President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, himself a member of Jumhoree Party, denied the allegations. He is reported in local media as saying Jabir was disappointed regarding ongoing issues with the government concerning the lease of his personal restaurant business, West Park. Riza claimed this is the reason why Jabir was critical of the government.

“We are seeing members of the government coalition criticising the government because some personal interests cannot be gained. This itself shows that the government will not be involved in any unconstitutional actions,” Riza has been quoted as saying.

“Jabir has expressed disappointment over the West Park issue many times, but this government will not make any decisions which are not aligned with the values of equality and justice,” he said.

In response to the government’s statement, Jabir spoke to Minivan News today.

“Of course I am disappointed over the West Park issue. It is part of my personal business. But I am questioning the state and its ministers in my capacity as a member of parliament, in the best interests of the country. My personal disappointment does not cloud my seeing Waheed constantly making trips to islands and making pledges. Even the Finance Minister has said he has seen these on media,” he said.

“I am saddened that such an incompetent man is using the resources of the President’s Office to make such unfounded claims,” Jabir said. “I am not sure that man was in his right senses when he said that.”

Jabir stated that according to the regulations of the parliament, no one could raise questions or take action against statements made by a member through the work of the legislative as long as it conformed to constitutional and islamic principles.

“The three powers of the state are separated. The president’s spokesperson seems unaware of even this. By making such a statement, he is interfering with another branch of the state, and is breaching democratic norms,” he further said.

Jabir said that it was his duty as a member of parliament to make the government and the president accountable. He pledged to continue with the work and condemned what he said was the government’s attempts to inhibit it.

However, Jumhooree Party’s Chief Spokesperson Moosa Rameez told Minivan News today that the party did not share Jabir’s opinion of the government.

“This party is part of Waheed’s government. We have not noticed any instance where Waheed has spent money he does not have for campaigning,” Rameez said.

“We are very concerned about Jabir having made such a statement. He did not discuss this in the party’s council. Our concern is that this might create problems within the unity government.”

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was not responding to calls at the time of press.


Gasim Ibrahim undecided on whether to contest presidency in 2013

Maamigili MP Gasim Ibrahim, leader of the Jumhooree Party, has said he does not intend to back or become running mate of any candidate in the 2013 presidential elections, though he has not ruled out standing for the country’s top political position himself.

Speaking to Haveeru, the former Finance Minister explained that he had opted not to back any candidate for the presidency in 2013 after taking criticism for supporting President Mohamed Nasheed’s ultimately successful campaign in 2008.

“The people are blaming me [for Nasheed’s election]; that this and that happened because of what I did. A large number of people are putting the blame on me,” he told the paper.  “How can I be sure of what would happen to me when I try to bring another person to power? I can only do something for my own self.”

After reportedly supporting Nasheed’s candidacy on the back of the “good things” the president said during campaigning, Gasim said that he had resigned as Home Minister after just 21 days into the new administration.