Maldivian charged with murder of undocumented Bangladeshi worker

The Prosecutor General (PG) office has filed murder charges against a Maldivian man of accused of killing a Bangladeshi expatriate on the island of Gan in Laamu atoll last month.

The PG office filed the case at the criminal court yesterday, but has not revealed the identity of the accused.

The undocumented worker, known locally as Bassan, was discovered dead with severe head injuries at an uninhabited house on June 11.

The caretaker of the house who discovered the body said Bassan had told him that the owner of the house had given him permission to sleep on the veranda. But the owner, Thoha Waheed, denied that Bassan had asked for permission.

The right side of Bassan’s face was smashed in and blood was splattered over the wall. Bassan’s murder is the third killing of a migrant worker this year.

The police had arrested a Maldivian man and a woman in connection to the murder. But the PG office has not pressed charges against the female suspect.

Speaking to Minivan News, Jasim Uddin from the welfare department of the Bangladeshi High Commission condemned the brutal killing and called on the Maldivian government to provide justice for the family of Bassan.

Jasim also raised concern over the burial of Bassam’s body in Laamu Gan even after repeated pleas to bring the body to the capital.

“The police said the body was decaying and they need to bury it. We told them to bring the body to Malé City as a decision has to be made whether the body was will be sent to Bangladesh or not. But they buried him anyway,” he said.

Some 124,000 expatriates reside in the Maldives, according to the immigration department, of which more than 30,000 are undocumented migrant workers.

The former Bangladeshi High Commissioner for Maldives Selina Mohsin has described the situation of Bangladeshi workers in the country as “bizarre and horrifying.”

In 2014, the police rescued a Bangladeshi held captive in an accommodation block for migrant workers.

In April this year, two migrant workers were kidnapped, robbed and beaten in a recruitment and employment agency in Malé.

A Bangladeshi worker was discovered in chains in 2009.


Bangladeshi worker found dead with face smashed in

An undocumented Bangladeshi national has been discovered dead with severe head injuries at an uninhabited house in Laamu Atoll Gan Island today.

Ishag Yoosuf, the 65-year-old caretaker of the house, said he discovered the farmworker’s body at 7:00am. He is known as Bassan.

“I went to pick up some tools to paint my house. Bassan was lying face up on the veranda. His face was covered with a pillow. The pillow was all bloodied. The right side of his face was smashed in. Blood was splattered all over the walls up to 8 feet,” he said.

Bassan, a tall dark man in his late twenties, has worked in the Maldives for ten years, Ishag said.

The caretaker had last spoken to Bassan on Tuesday, but said he had not reported any problems.

“He told me he had asked the owner who is living in Malé if he could sleep in the house. There is no toilet there. Only the veranda he could sleep in. He said he was eating fine. Apparently he had paid a company to get food,” Ishag said.

The owner of the house, Thoha Waheed, denied Bassan had asked for permission to sleep at the vacant house.

“I don’t know how he came to live there. I know the man, but he never asked me to let him stay at the house,” he said.

The police said the murder occurred 24 hours before the body was discovered. The serious and organized crime department is investigating the case.

Bassan’s death is the third apparent murder of Bangladeshi workers this year. In March 22, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi named Shaheen Mia was stabbed to death in a Malé café.

Two days later, the naked body of a young man named Kazi Bilal was found with a piece of cloth around his neck in Alif Alif Atoll Thoddoo.

The vice president of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), Ahmed Tholal expressed concern over the Maldives’ failure to protect migrant workers.

“We have been and still are unable to provide protection for expatriates,” he said.

Some 124,000 immigrant workers live in Maldives, the immigration department has said. Some 30,000 are not documented.

The former Bangladeshi High Commissioner for Maldives Selina Mohsin has described the situation of Bangladeshi workers in the country as “bizarre and horrifying.”

In 2014, the police rescued a Bangladeshi held captive in an accommodation block for migrant workers.

In April two migrant workers were kidnapped, robbed and beaten in a recruitment and employment agency in the capital Male’ City.

Another Bangladeshi was discovered in chains in 2009.


Police find handmade gun in Gan woods

The Maldives Police Services have uncovered a handmade gun hidden in the woods of Laamu Atoll Gan Island.

The improvised firearm was found on February 12, the police said in a statement last night. No arrests have been made yet.

Gan is the largest island in the Maldives, but has a population of only 3,543 people. Large areas of the island remain uninhabited.

In Septmber 2013, two men were charged with terrorism over handmade weapons found in a Malé workshop. The Criminal Court has held a first hearing into the case, the Prosecutor General’s office confirmed today.

According to Haveeru, the police had found an improvised pistol, a sniper rifle and a mine during the raid. The operation was carried out on a tipoff that residents of the house were planning to depart on jihad to Syria. But Haveeru claims there is no evidence to suggest the suspects were attempting to leave the country.

The Anti- Terrorism Act bars Maldivians from possessing firearms and explosive devices. The offense carries a jail term between 10 and 15 years.

In January, Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed said there were over 50 Maldivians fighting in foreign wars.

In 2007, a home made bomb was set off at Sultan Park injuring twelve tourists, including eight from China, two from Britain and two from Japan. The blast was triggered using a mobile phone and washing machine motor attached to a gas cylinder.

Former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim is currently in jail on suspicion of terrorism and treason after the police discovered a pistol and live bullets during a midnight raid on January 18.

Nazim was subsequently dismissed from his ministerial post. The police later claimed to also have found an improvised explosive device at Nazim’s house.

He was arrested on midnight on February 10. The Criminal Court the next day extended his remand for 15 days.

The police have since accused Nazim of plotting to overthrow the government and harm senior government officials.

Nazim’s lawyers claim the former minister is being framed and have said the firearms were planted.

Related to this story

PIC investigating Nazim’s complaint against Police Commissioner

Police accuse Nazim of plotting coup, planning to harm senior government officials

Suspect in 2007 Sultan Park bombing arrested after arriving from Pakistan


China dismisses Nasheed’s claim of military base in Laamu Atoll

China has denied former President Mohamed Nasheed’s suggestions that the Maldivian government is planning to hand over large parts of Laamu Atoll to China for a military base.

A Chinese embassy press statement released yesterday described Nasheed’s allegations as “completely false”.

“It is a common knowledge that China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature”, read the press release. “China does not maintain any military in any foreign country”.

“China always upholds the five principles of peaceful coexistence in its foreign relations, and believes in peace, development, and win-win cooperation. This is also the foundation for China-Maldives relations which are not only mutually beneficial but also transparent to the outside world,” it continued.

While speaking to the press after returning from a trip to Abu Dhabi last week (January 22), Nasheed had alleged that the Maldives was to hand over large parts of the southern atoll to China for a military base on a 99-year lease, in exchange for US$2 billion.

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

Following the Chinese response, Nasheed today (January 25) tweeted: “it is encouraging to see the Chinese Government reconsidering their strategic plans in the Indian Ocean”.

Regional presence

China’s rising economic presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that China is creating a ‘string of pearls’ to encircle India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Last month, the Maldives officially agreed to participate in China’s Silk Road trade route, becoming the third country to do so, while also revealing that the two countries have agreed to engage upon free trade in the future.

Chinese state media has connected the Maritime Silk Road Project, which which will link China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean, to the proposed ‘iHavan’ transshipment port – one of five mega-projects designed to take advantage of the US$18 trillion worth of goods transported across the seven degree channel annually.

The British armed forces maintained a base in Addu Atoll between the Second World War until 1976, while a leaked Status of Forces Agreement with the US in 2013 prompted speculation about a new military base, though this was subsequently denied by US officials.

President Abdulla Yameen was reported to have said, during a visit to Sri Lanka last year, that he had decided against pursuing the SOFA deal for fear of upsetting regional neighbours.

President Xi monitoring progress

The Chinese press release noted today that China had been a close neighbour of the Maldives for centuries, and that bilateral relations had “expanded greatly in recent years”.

“We hope that Maldivian politicians can conduct more dialogues that are conducive to China-Maldives friendly relations, and engage in more actions that could promote the mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries.”

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also reported today as saying that President Xi Jinpeng was closely monitoring the progress of the Hulhulé bridge project and development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) – both of which China has expressed an interest in.

An agreement for a feasibility study into the bridge linking the airport island of Hulhulé with the capital Malé was signed with China late last year, while financial arrangements for the development of INIA are said to be under discussion with China’s Exim Bank.

A preliminary contract agreement for the airport’s development was signed during President Xi’s visit to the Maldives in September – the first by a Chinese head of state to the Indian Ocean nation. President Xi expressed hope at the time that the bridge might be named the Maldives-China friendship bridge.

President Yameen has made clear his intention to further pursue already rapidly expanding ties with China, announcing a policy shift to the east while criticising the interference of western powers.

China also accounts for one third of all tourists visiting the Maldives.

Related to this story

Nasheed urges President Yameen to convene all-party talk

Maldives backs new Chinese investment bank, pursues free trade deal

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

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

Defence Minister signs military aid agreement with China


Laamu Atoll identified as potential SEZ as Yameen inaugurates link road

President Abdulla Yameen yesterday inaugurated the Laamu Atoll link road, revealing that the area has also been identified as a potential special economic zone.

The president stated that the road – to be built and and financed by the Chinese government – was symbolic of the close ‎friendship between the two nations.

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

The agreement will allow the Maldives to take an “active role” in the construction of the project as well as sharing information on national economic development plans, explained the foreign ministry.

Chinese state media have previously reported that the route will pass the intended site of the Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project – or ‘iHavan’ – in the Maldives northernmost atoll.

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

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

The Laamu link road project was also unveiled during Xi’s visit. The 15.1km road will become the longest in the country, linking four of the atoll’s 13 administrative islands.

President Yameen said yesterday that the ‎road development project was integral to realising the developmental ‎aspirations of the atoll. He also announced that the area may be selected as a special economic zone.

Facilitated by the government’s flagship Special Economic Zones Act, the proposed deregulated areas have provoked criticism on grounds of transparency and the disempowerment of local authorities.

A minimum investment of US$150 million is required for SEZ developments, with no zones having been announced since the act was passed in August.

The president also noted during yesterday’s inauguration ceremony that the government’s Thumburi ‘Integrated Resort Development’ project – touted as a ‘responsible’ way to expand mid-market tourism – was also located in the atoll.

Signs of burgeoning China-Maldives ties were evident elsewhere yesterday as representatives of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army met with Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim to discuss the acquisition of sea ambulances.

After pledging to provide ambulances in all 26 of the country’s atolls, the government has this year introduced services in six. Local media reported that additional vessels will be purchased with Chinese assistance.

As well as pledges to assist with the redevelopment of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport and construction of the Malé-Hulhulé bridge, in the past two months China has gifted the Maldives 200,000 energy efficient lights, 200 waste bins, fresh water during the recent water crisis, and US$500,000 towards the subsequent relief fund.

Related to this story

President Yameen hails passage of SEZ bill

Tourism minister defends under-fire economic zones bill


Man feared missing found asleep under palm tree

A 50-year-old who went missing on the island of Gan in Laamu atoll last night (October 7) was found asleep under a palm tree this morning, reports local media.

Police launched a search operation for Abdulla Naseer, from Galolhu Waterloo in Malé, after he was reported missing by his family around 11:24pm on Tuesday night.

He was found sleeping on a palm frond near the beach on the eastern side of the island by a search group of police officers and members of the public.

Naseer is reportedly married to a woman from Gan and was visiting the island for Eid holidays.


Laamu Gan residents hold demonstrations over inadequate sewage system

Residents of  Laamu Gan demonstrated today over the island’s damaged sewage system which has remained unfixed for the past two months.

The system at fault is located in the new settlement of the tsunami-displaced population that moved to Gan from Mundoo and Kalhaidhoo islands in 2007.

It was funded and established by the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC) as part of their tsunami recovery work before being handed over to the government of Maldives upon completion.

According to the council, no one has since taken ownership of the system and it has remained abandoned and without any maintenance. The Ministry of Housing has earlier said the damages to the system was caused by vandals.

The damaged system has been causing sewage waste to spill into the island,  particularly during wet weather. In June the council expressed concern over the issue, alerting authorities and the media.

“The pumps in the system are not working, and the [septic] tank is also damaged. So when sewage effluent gathers in the tank it overflows and spills out. But this has got worse with the rainy season, the waste is being carried across the island through the puddles,” Council President Ahmed Salah told Minivan News at the time.

“Sometimes it is overflowing from the toilets, leaving houses and rooms filled with waste.”

The council had proposed to join the system with a new MVR85 million sanitation facility being established in Gan for areas which previously did not have any such facilities. However, experts said it was not possible as the two systems are incompatible.

Gan council subsequently managed the situation by using a mobile tank, donated with the sewage system, to drain the waste into the sea. The process takes around 20-30 rounds to drain it to a usable level after each spill, explained the council at the time.

After repeated requests from the government and ministries, including a special visit to Malé to meet the heads of institutions, the Ministry of Environment and Energy awarded the operation and maintenance of the sewerage system to FENAKA Corporation Ltd on July 21.

The US$1.8 million project will be implemented under International Federation of Red cross and Red Crescent Societies loan, Minivan News was unable to contact FENAKA at the time of publication


Immigration detains 58 migrant workers in Laamu Gan

58 people were detained from Laamu Gan by the Department of Immigration and Emigration (DIE) yesterday as the government’s special operation to deport undocumented migrant workers continues.

“This operation will continue, that was the number of people we could transport yesterday. As soon as we get seats from a boat travelling to Malé, more people will be taken in,” said Laamu Gan Council President Ahmed Salah.

The council led the operation alongside the DIE, the Maldives Police Services (MPS), and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

“This [the operation] is good for the island and for the country as well. This will create a lot of job opportunities for Maldivians,” said Salah.

While the most common type of work conducted by immigrants on the island is agriculture and fisheries, some are engaged in other occupations such as masonry, odd jobbing, and working in restaurants. Maldivian laws prohibits both fisheries work and self-employment for expatriates.

Salah estimated there would be around five hundred migrant workers on the 5000-strong island, most of whom he suggested were undocumented, and some of whom had fled the island during the operation.

He also noted that some of the workers taken in during the operation had valid visas but were considered undocumented as they were either not doing the work their visas were issued for, or were working for a different employer.


The main reason for having such a large migrant worker population on the island was their low wage demands compared to what is expected by locals, explained Salah.

“People give them around MVR2000 [per month] and an additional MVR500 for food and provide them with accommodation. There are so many of them on fishing boats and doing agricultural work,” he added.

According to the council president, migrant workers rent houses with each of them paying around MVR150 each day – agricultural workers live in small huts built on their fields, and fishermen live on their boats.

Following the council’s recommendations on behalf of the public, DIE has agreed not to take any action against locals who employ undocumented workers, Solah said.

“People are employing migrant workers like this because the implementation authorities have allowed them to do so. So we are requesting immigration to at least not to fine them [local employers], and let this time be a warning and show some leniency. So no fine have been imposed on the employers,” he explained.

Prior to the current operation, the immigration department conducted a  voluntary repatriation program, offering leniency for undocumented migrant workers who wished to return to their home countries voluntarily at their own expense.

The current programme was announced in April by the Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim – also head of the Immigration Department – who promised that “within three to four months the whole Malé will be cleaned”.

According to Nazim the priority would be to deport those detained in the operation as soon as possible.

Earlier this month 33 undocumented workers were detained as part of this nationwide action, although Minivan News was unable to obtain a comment from the immigration department regarding the operation’s specifics.

Human Trafficking

The Maldives was recently removed from the US State Department’s tier two watch-list for human trafficking after remaining on it for four consecutive years, narrowly avoiding international sanctions.

While the 2014 US State Department’s Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report highlighted the recently enacted anti-trafficking law and the opening of a shelter for victims of trafficking, the report noted that there are “serious problems” in enforcing the law protecting victims.

Some of these problems highlighted in the report include lack of procedures to identify victims among vulnerable populations, and inadequate training for officials.

The report further stated that “the government penalized some victims for offenses committed as a result of being trafficked and also deported thousands of migrants without adequately screening for indications of forced labor.”

These concerns were echoed by Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Jeehan Mahmood.

“In the absence of victim identification guidelines it is very likely that victims of human trafficking would be taken in during such operations, because there is no clear way to identify if such a person is a victim or not,” she said.

Jeehan did, however, note that the anti-trafficking steering committee established under the new counter trafficking act had already drafted a national guideline of internationally accepted standards.

She highlighted the need to criminalise human smuggling along with trafficking, explaining that the HRCM has proposed to amend the law for this purpose.

“The two are very different, it is an issue of consent. So there should be a specific definition for this. It is very important for the State to understand this. And without a clear definition a victim of trafficking could be prosecuted for that,” she said.


Criminal Court frees murder suspect due to lack of evidence

The Criminal Court has released Ahmed Niyaz, 28 of Gan in Laamu Atoll, a murder suspect arrested in connection with the death of 51 year-old man in Gan in Laamu Atoll, citing lack of evidence.

Criminal Court Media Official Ahmed Mohamed Manik today told Minivan News that the court released him because it’s been nine months since he was arrested and the police were unable to collect enough evidence to charge him.

‘’The court repeatedly asked the police to decide on charging him with the case and to try and collect more evidence to charge him,’’ Manik said.

Manik said that the court released him on 26 December.

On March 13, Mohamed Hassan, 51, died in the ICU of Indira Gandi memorial Hospital (IGMH) with injuries to the right side of his head which caused serious injuries to his skull.

His condition was critical and doctors did not allow him to be transferred abroad for further treatment.

The Laamu Gan Regional Hospital Manager told local media at the time that that the victim’s nose and ears were bleeding continuously when he was admitted to hospital

Sources from the island told Minivan News that the victim was having an affair with a woman living in the house he was sleeping in.

The source said one of the woman’s sons was arrested in connection with the case.

In 2010, the Criminal Court released Ibrahim Shahum Adam, who had been arrested in connection with a murder case, citing lack of cooperation from the government before the same man was arrested six months later in connection with another murder case.