Vice President told to return home, answer charges

President Abdulla Yameen has asked vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed to cut short an unauthorised trip to London and return to the Maldives.

A Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP told Minivan News today that the president asked Jameel to return and answer to the ruling party’s parliamentary group over his imminent impeachment.

But president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has said that “the president did not in any way ask the vice president to return to the Maldives.”

Muaz was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Dr Jameel left to Sri Lanka last week after President Yameen authorised a medical leave.

The senior PPM MP said Jameel was due to return two days ago, but instead departed for the UK without informing the president’s office.

“We have tried contacting him repeatedly to ask him to meet with the parliamentary group. But he has not responded. We are trying to bring our problems to him and trying to find a mutual solution,” said the PPM MP.

An anonymous senior government official has meanwhile told Haveeru that Jameel phoned President Yameen yesterday and asked for an extended leave of absence.

However, the president reportedly told his deputy that he could take a holiday after answering to the PPM parliamentary group.

Meanwhile, the parliament today approved changes to its rules of procedure to fast-track the process of impeaching the vice president.

The new rules state the parliament can vote on removing the vice president without an investigation. The rules previously stated that a committee must investigate allegations against the vice president before a vote.

The amendment to the standing orders was passed with 52 votes in favour and 14 against.

Several opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Nazim voted in favour of the change.

The PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) are preparing to file a no-confidence motion against Jameel this week.

A two-third majority or 57 votes will be needed to remove the vice president. The ruling coalition controls 48 seats in the 85-member house and appears to have secured the opposition’s backing.

Five MPs each from the JP and MDP have signed the no-confidence motion, the PPM has said.

The vice president must be given a 14-day notice ahead of the parliamentary debate on the resolution, according to the constitution.

Pro-government MPs have publicly accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty. PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said pro-government MPs are unhappy with Jameel over his alleged failure to defend the government during an opposition mass protest in the capital Malé in May 1.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Some opposition politicians have claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery, but Nihan has dismissed rumours over the president’s health.

PPM MP Mohamed Musthafa and MDA MP Mohamed Ismail meanwhile condemned the vice president’s departure on social media yesterday.

Musthafa said that the president did not authorise Jameel’s trip while Ismail said the vice president had “fled” the country.

Ismail said in a Facebook post today that Jameel’s exit lends credence to the allegations against him.

He suggested that Jameel was planning to bring the Maldives into disrepute in interviews with international media outlets.

Last week, the parliament passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to lower the age limit for the presidency from 35 to 30 years. Adeeb is now 33.

The opposition’s backing for the constitutional amendment was widely perceived to be part of a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.


Low voter registration by Maldivians abroad could mean no voting in London, New Delhi and Singapore

Not sure where you are registered to vote? Check here online

The Elections Commission has warned it may not be able to place ballot boxes in London, Singapore and New Delhi for the upcoming presidential elections September 7, as current figures from the commission suggest that the number of registered voters is trailing below the required minimum 100 registered voters.

Speaking to Minivan News on Thursday, Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz said that with the deadline for voter registration expiring on August 7, the current rate of registration could mean Maldivians residing in London, New Delhi and Singapore may not be able to cast their vote in the elections.

“However, we can only say that for sure after the deadline expires,” he said.

Fayaz said other regions outside the country where large number of Maldivians currently reside are doing well in terms of registration. So far, the commission confirmed that it will be able to place ballot boxes in Trivandrum, Colombo and Malaysia.

According to Fayaz, 652 Maldivians have registered to vote in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 225 have registered to vote in Trivandrum, India and 302 people have registered to vote in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He also said the commission is currently working to get the figures from Singapore, London and Delhi.

Despite fears expatriate Maldivians would be unable to vote, the Chair of Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek – who is currently on the island of Fuahmulah conducting voter education programs – appeared confident that the commission could still place ballot boxes in the affected regions as past experience suggested Maldivians tend to register “at the last minute”.

“Even during the last elections, people registered to vote in the last week of registration. This is the last week. So I believe people will register and we will be able to place ballot boxes in all regions,” Thowfeek said.

Fuwad said the Elections Commission had been collaborating with respective Maldivian High Commissions in the regions to register voters for the upcoming elections.

“We have placed a focal point for the Elections Commission in all the High Commissions including Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India and UK. This has been done on the recommendations of the High Commissions as well,” he explained.

Thowfeek said that High Commissions will help register votes during normal working hours of the respective countries, according to a  procedure is similar to that carried out in the Maldives.

“The process is similar to [registration in] Male. A person who is, say for example, living in Ahmedabad in India can register to vote at Trivandrum through a friend. All he would need to do is to send a copy of his national ID card via fax or email. Likewise, a person living abroad can even register to vote in Male, by doing the same process. It is very similar to the procedure going on in Male,” he explained.

As in the Maldives, Thowfeek also said that political parties can assist in the registration of voters abroad.

“They will have to submit the registration forms to our focal points in the respective High Commissions. Registration can then be done from the High Commissions,” he said.

The Elections Commission has meanwhile established an online mechanism through its website for people to check the ballot box where they are registered to vote.

By entering a national ID card number, the website will display the name of the voter, the permanent address of the voter and the ballot box and the location where the voter is eligible to vote.

For Maldivians residing abroad, details can also be checked at focal points established in the High Commissions, Thowfeek added.

The Elections Commission have previously announced that the Presidential Elections are scheduled to take place on September 7. If no candidate attains the required 50 percent plus one vote to secure a first round election victory a run-off election is to take place 20 days after the first election.

The commission has announced that four candidates will be competing in the elections.

The candidates are leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim (running mate Dr Hassan Saeed), Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed (running mate Dr Musthafa Luthfy), incumbent President and independent candidate Dr Mohamed Waheed (running mate DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali) and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen (running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel.

Check the voter registry and registered place of voting

Download registration form (Dhivehi)

In the Maldives? Check your details via SMS

To check where/if you are registered to vote, SMS 1414 ‘VIS(space)(National ID#)’

To check political party registration, SMS 1414 ‘PPR(space)(National ID#)’

Elections Commission hotline: 1414


GMR-Maldives arbitration to begin mid 2014: Attorney General’s Office

The Attorney General’s (AG’s) Office has confirmed that an arbitration case concerning the government’s decision to void its concession agreement with Indian Infrastructure giant GMR will begin by the middle of next year.

Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham today told Minivan News that both parties had agreed to commence proceedings by the middle of 2014 and were now waiting on arbitrators to confirm the exact schedule for when their respective cases would be presented.

The initial agreement was reached after representatives for the state and GMR met in London, England on April 10 for a preliminary procedural meeting.  A timetable was agreed upon for holding hearings over the cancellation of a US$511 million contract to develop and manage a new terminal at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Usham said that the hearing in London last week had been focused solely on establishing a timetable for when arbitration will begin proper in Singapore.

“It is quite straight forward in these procedural hearings.  We discussed the schedule for hearings, such as when cases would be presented, as well as when parties can reply and make counter claims,” he said. “These arbitrators are quite busy, so it can be difficult to manage time in their schedules.”

The AG’s Office has previously claimed that the Maldives will be represented by Singapore National University Professor M Sonaraja, while former Chief Justice of the UK, Lord Nicholas Addison Phillips, will represent GMR.

The arbitrator mutually agreed by both GMR and the government is retired senior UK Judge, Lord Leonard Hubert Hoffman.

Concession agreement

In 2010, GMR-Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) consortium, the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed and Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) entered into a 25-year concession agreement worth US$511 million (MVR 7.787 billion). The agreement charged the GMR-MAHB Consortium with the management and upgrading of INIA within the 25 year contract period.

However, in November 2012, the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik declared the developer’s concession agreement void and ordered it to leave the country within seven days.

A last minute injunction from the Singapore High Court during arbitration proceedings was overturned on December 6, after Singapore’s Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon declared that “the Maldives government has the power to do what it wants, including expropriating the airport.”

GMR is seeking US$800 million in compensation for the sudden termination, while the Maldivian government is contending that it owes nothing as the contract was void ab initio – meaning the contract was invalid from the outset.

Should the argument of void ab initio fail, the government has claimed the second legal grounds on which it would argue in favour of termination of the contract would be that the contract had been ‘frustrated’.

‘Frustration of a contract’ is an English contract law doctrine which acts as a device to set aside contracts where an unforeseen event either renders contractual obligations impossible, or radically changes the party’s principle purpose for entering into the contract.

“The government has given a seven day notice to GMR to leave the airport. The agreement states that GMR should be given a 30 day notice but the government believes that since the contract is void, it need not be followed,” said then Attorney General Azima Shukoor.

The awarding of the bid in 2010 was overseen by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), which the Waheed government has accused of being “negligent” and “irresponsible”.

Should the matter be decided in the government’s favour, uncertainty remains as to the potential impact on foreign investor sentiment given the prospect of sudden asset seizure under the ‘void ab initio’ precedent.

If decided in GMR’s favour, the outcome of the case could potentially see the Maldives facing sovereign bankruptcy, with millions of dollars in additional debt emptying the state’s already dwindling reserves, crippling the country’s ability to obtain further credit, and potentially sparking an economic or currency crisis.


CMAG will not remove Maldives from agenda without guarantees: Dr Shaheed

“If the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) agrees to remove the Maldives from its agenda – and it’s a big ‘if’ – it will be based on guarantees of free and fair elections next year in which Nasheed could participate,“ said former Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Dr Ahmed Shaheed.

Shaheed explained that he had been in contact with a number of ministerial delegations from the group, receiving assurances that the Maldives would not be removed from the agenda without “very good assurances” that human rights norms would be adhered to.

Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has today said that any direct conditions set by CMAG could infringe upon the sovereignty of the Maldives, telling Minivan News that nothing along these lines had been conveyed to the government by CMAG.

After the release of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) ruled that February’s transfer of power was constitutional, prominent members of the government have argued that the country be removed from CMAG’s investigative agenda.

Conversely, members of the now-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have been lobbying for the Maldives to stay on the group’s agenda, arguing that questions still remain over the country’s ability to adequately observe the values of the Commonwealth.

This campaigning has taken former President – and current MDP presidential nominee – Mohamed Nasheed, to the UK this week, where he met with Foreign Secretary William Hague and asked him to back calls to ensure continued Commonwealth oversight of the Maldives.

“We want to be on someone’s agenda until the elections are through. That’s what we’re trying to do now. I have known William Hague for some time. I know they have difficulties as a government. They have to take on board everything and give proper consideration to the regional sensibilities of British intervention in the Maldives,” the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported Nasheed as saying.

“But we feel now that they have an avenue to help the Maldives through the Commonwealth. What we are asking for is not the sun, the moon and the stars. What we are asking for is very natural and it can be done.”

Nasheed also spoke at the Royal Commonwealth Society on Wednesday, where he pushed for the Maldives to remain on the CMAG agenda, despite the CNI report’s findings.

“I am not for one second suggesting the transfer [of power] was legal… but we don’t have to go there to keep us on the CMAG agenda,” he continued, arguing that the persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s values was ample grounds to keep the country on the CMAG agenda, according to its revised mandate.

Jameel remained confident, however, that CMAG’s role in the this year’s political crisis ended with the CNI’s legitimisation of the current government: “We do not believe that CMAG will take any steps to exceed its mandate as it exercises a defined function.”

Shaheed’s comments regarding Nasheed’s ability to run in next year’s elections come as the government continues to pursue him through the courts, with prominent politicians stating a desire to see the former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience back behind bars.

On Wednesday evening, Nasheed acknowledged his fears of returning to prison.

“I don’t want to be there but we have to face reality of consequences and I don’t see the international community as robust enough to stop that happening – this is very sad… I might not be with you for the next few years but, rest assured, we will come back and democracy will reign in the Maldives again.”

Jameel today argued CMAG could not override domestic legal proceedings.

“The people have decided the criminal justice system of the Maldives. So no foreign party has the authority to dictate or ask to revise that process,” he told Haveeru, referring to charges against Nasheed in relation to the detention of Judge Abdullah Mohamed in January this year.

During his time in London, Nasheed also met with Richard Ottaway MP – Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Alistair Burt MP – Parliamentary under-secretary of state at the FCO as well as MPs John Glen MP, Mark Menzies, and Karen Lumley.

A Spokesperson from John Glen’s office said that discussions had included the Commonwealth’s procedures in such cases as well as Britain’s role in dealing with the CNI report.

Dr. Shaheed spoke to Minivan News from London just before boarding a plane to New York, where he will be lecturing on human rights.

He has recently accepted a position at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom as visiting professor of human rights practice for the coming academic year. He will continue his work for the United Nations.

President Dr. Mohamed Waheed Hassan also left for the United States yesterday morning, where he will reportedly be attending the next meeting of CMAG on September 28, at which a decision on the removal of the country from the agenda is expected to be made.

Waheed will also be attending the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) which opened last Tuesday.

Despite the Commonwealth Secretariat being based in London, for logistical reasons CMAG also meets annually in New York alongside the UNGA.

The previous teleconference meeting, earlier this month, was expected to produce a decision on whether to remove the Maldives from the agenda.

After an inquiry as to why no decision was made at the teleconference, following local media reporting technical problems, the MDP was informed that the CMAG ministers preferred to conclude such discussions face to face.

Shaheed suggested that Waheed’s attendance at the meeting could be taken advantage of by CMAG members to “wrest concessions” from the president.

He added that sending the president himself was a far better idea than sending other members of his cabinet who had “waged war” on CMAG.

No spokesperson from the President’s Office was responding to calls at time of press.


Will accept “cover up” with CMAG as price for progress, Nasheed tells Royal Commonwealth Society

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahee and Kylie Broomhall

“I beg the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) not to deliberate on how power was transferred in the Maldives,” former President Mohamed Nasheed told the Royal Commonwealth Society yesterday.

“I will be party to the cover up because we want a better life. Because we want to move forward. Because we want development,” he said.

Nasheed addressed an audience at the Commonwealth Club in central London during his visit to the United Kingdom.

Despite his reservations regarding the decision of Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), whose report ruled the transfer of power to have been in line with the constitution, Nasheed said that he no longer expected the international community to say it was a coup or to attempt his reinstatement.

“I will not rely anymore upon international engagement in consolidating democracy. I have no antagonism or outrage towards the international community – nothing like that – it’s practically not possible for them to do it,” he said.

He told the audience that he had sent a letter to the Secretary General before the coup, asking for assistance in consolidating a democracy which he felt was “under stress”.

“I am not for one second suggesting the transfer was legal…but we don’t have to go there to keep us on the CMAG agenda,” he argued. “I am willing to cover up the coup with the CMAG, I am willing to be party to it. But I’m not willing to be a party to doing the same thing to another country.”

The former president expressed his view that the revised mandate of CMAG allowed it to work more pro-actively, and that the Maldives case represented a “golden opportunity” to deal with issues other than merely violent overthrows of governments.

He argued that the new mandate, agreed upon in Perth in 2011, gives the body scope to keep countries on the agenda if there are persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s core values or severe deficiencies in democratic institutions.

Nasheed, therefore, stated his belief that it was “rather silly that we are talking about being removed from agenda”.

He also pointed out to the UK government that there was nothing in the Commonwealth’s regulations that requires a nation to be a member CMAG in order to lobby for keeping others on the CMAG agenda.

“I believe most of you pay your taxes believing your governments will do something about these things,” he told the audience.

“Unfortunately, after the coup, the Commonwealth appears to have forgotten that it is a new Commonwealth, that it is a new CMAG.”

Speaking at a press conference this morning, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon expressed her confidence that the Maldives would be removed from the CMAG agenda at the group’s next meeting on September 28th.

She had previously joined fellow senior politicians in suggesting that the the Maldives should leave the Commonwealth if it was not promptly removed from the agenda.

Climate change, the judge, and Islamic radicalism

Before taking questions from the floor, Nasheed took some time to discuss the issue that brought him to the world’s attention before his ousting – climate change.

“Coup or no coup – I hope to continue talking on these subjects,” he said. “Small countries must focus again and again on climate change – that is the principle issue of the 21st century.”

Nasheed stated his belief that development could be achieved without increasing carbon emissions, arguing that advances in technology meant that it was still be possible for the Maldives to reach carbon neutrality by 2020.

The Maldives’ most ambitious renewable energy project, the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) was due to be finalised on the day Nasheed resigned. The ensuing political instability in the country deterred potential investors, causing the deal to fall through.

The new government has continued to pledge its commitment to the environmental projects and yesterday received contributions from its international partners for three new schemes under the Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF)

Pre-empting anticipated questions about the arrest of Judge Abdullah Mohamed, Nasheed expressed his regret but argued that he had no other options.

“[In response to questions] I would say it’s complicated – we’ve done it. This was the only gentleman that I ever arrested,” he said.

“That’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to do as a president and that’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to do in consolidated democracy but I thought that people would also try to understand what happened there,” he continued.

When asked about potential action against those implicated in a coup, should he return to power, Nasheed reiterated his commitment to searching for amicable ways of “settling scores”.

“We are not going to go for a witch hunt. If you want that, the people of Maldives must find someone else to do that,” he said.

One member of the audience asked Nasheed when he felt his former Vice President, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, turned against him.

Nasheed responded that he felt Waheed had switched sides very early on in his presidency: “It’s a beautiful way of becoming president and you must give credit to that”.

When the same person asked about Islamic fundamentalism in the Maldives, Nasheed expressed his fears that the country was becoming more radicalised every day.

“When you have weak government, they are having to rely on any bit of support they can get from any quarters. So, unlike us, this government seems to entertain the radicals,” he said.

“In fact,” continued Nasheed, “the core of the renegade soldiers in the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were radicals. They came and joined the mutinying police, chanting ‘God is great’.”

“They are requesting for the military to grow their beards – I hope our military isn’t the biggest Al Qaeda cell in the Indian Ocean.”

Concluding his speech, Nasheed said that he expected he would be arrested in the near future.

“I don’t want to be there but we have to face reality of consequences and I don’t see the international community as robust enough to stop that happening – this is very sad… I might not be with you for the next few years but, rest assured, we will come back and democracy will reign in the Maldives again.”


Trouncing worth every minute for Maldives player: Reuters

“So how does it feel flying halfway round the world from the Maldives and losing your Badminton debut at the Olympics in straight sets?” Paul Majendie, writing for Reuters, catches up with the progress of the Maldives’ Olympians during the London 2012 games.
“The reaction from Mohamed Ajfan Rasheed was remarkably upbeat, especially as he had fulfilled a boyhood dream only hours earlier by carrying the flag for his tiny Indian Ocean island state at the spectacular opening ceremony.
‘Basically I am thrilled to be here. I take it as a positive experience,’ he told Reuters.
For the ebullient and eloquent 22-year-old, invited to the London Games as part of an International Olympic Committee scheme to encourage sport around the globe, just being there is what the Olympics is all about.
The tourist paradise of the Maldives, famed for its sun-kissed atolls that face the ever present threat of global warming and rising sea levels, has sent five athletes to London 2012. He is still pinching himself at being one of them.
‘It is difficult to explain in words. It is a great excitement for us,’ he said, still pouring with sweat after his first-round 21-9 21-6 trouncing in the humid Wembley Arena by European champion Marc Zwiebler.
The German was 14th seed. Rasheed is ranked 209 in the world.
His only moment of glory came in the first set when the scoreboard showed he was leading 7-1. Hasty electronic adjustments by the umpire returned the harsh reality to 1-7.
‘He knows how to keep the rallies going and is very experienced,’ Rasheed said. ‘It is my first time playing a European player.’
‘The Maldives is a small country. We don’t have many players. We don’t get the best coaching and I have been training in Malaysia for the past year,’ he added.
His Olympic memories, though, will be cherished for a lifetime.
‘I was flag bearer for my country. It was a big thing for me. It has been my dream since I was very small. Now that I have achieved my dream, I am very happy,’ he said.

‘Island Ex-President’ debuts in UK

Thursday night saw the UK Premier of “The Island President” as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London. After the screening Mark Lynas, former Climate Advisor to the previous President Mohamed Nasheed, helped make up a panel of experts who fielded questions from the audience.

“The debate was very much focused around what has happened since the film was made, with the coup and the new government being installed. People were very concerned about the former president’s welfare, and what it means for him to be back in opposition fighting for democracy after having apparently won the battle earlier in the film,” said Mr Lynas.

Human Rights Watch, the independent human rights organisation describes its film festival thusly: “Through our Human Rights Watch Film Festival we bear witness to human rights violations and create a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.”

The personal commitment on display was that of former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose efforts to win the Presidency and to raise international awareness of climate change were documented in the critically acclaimed film.

The film debuted to packed audiences in the Maldives in November and is scheduled for showings across the United States throughout March and April.

The expert panel also included the former Envoy for Science and Technology, Ahmed Moosa; and the Guardian’s Head of Environment, Damien Carrington.

Renewable commitment?

As with most public events concerning the Maldives recently, home and abroad, the event was accompanied by opposition lobbyists who dispensed pro-democracy literature outside the theatre.

After the sold-out audience had seen the film, the ensuing discussion revealed their concerns about the effects that political turmoil would have on the Maldives’ environmental ambitions.

Current President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan recently reaffirmed his commitment to environmental projects during his opening of the People’s Majlis, and also at a ceremony celebrating a renewable energy project supported by the Japanese government.

“We have been campaigning for the last couple of years that we would like the world community to come to an understanding, an agreement, to reduce emissions so that the CO2 levels in the atmosphere would be reduced to 350 parts per million,” said President Waheed.

“We will work with other small island countries, and low lying countries, to keep the low carbon development agenda at the forefront of the international developmental discourse over the next years as well. Our commitment to this will continue to be strong and unwavering.”

Lynas however expressed great concern to Minivan News about the likelihood of similar investments in the Maldives continuing to flourish in the current political climate: “Donors will turn away because of the political instability, and investors likewise.”

Such opinions appear to be supported by the Economic Ministry’s unexplained decision to halt any new Public Private Partnership (PPP) schemes one week ago.

Lynas lamented the negative effects the change of political power has had on such projects.

“Back in February we were literally days from signing a major investment plan with the World Bank before the coup happened – this would have leveraged potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, and we were about the begin the process of transforming several islands towards renewable power from the sun,” said Mr Lynas.

“This whole unfortunate saga could set the country back 10 years or more, and undo most of the work that we have all devoted years of our lives trying to pursue.”

Nasheed is hortly to head to the United States, where the film’s release is sure to draw significant media attention to the Maldives political problems as much as its environmental ones.

In an article posted on the website of the NGO Responding to Climate Change, the author posits the question, “Could they have chosen a better time to release this film?”