Government should drop charges against Nasheed: PPM MP Mahloof

The new government should drop criminal charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed for the sake of national stability, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof has urged, according to local media.

Nasheed was facing controversial the court action ahead of his filing for candidacy in the 2013 presidential elections, which were eventually narrowly won by a coalition headed by PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen. The charges concerned his detention of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during the final days of his presidency in 2012, prior to his ousting by a mutinying defence force.

The charges, which Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintained were a politically-motivated attempt to prevent Nasheed contesting the election, led to international scrutiny and criticism over the politicisation of the judicary.


Parliament rejects motion to delay recess until bills passed on criminal justice proceedure

MPs have voted to reject a resolution submitted by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahlouf to delay parliament’s recess until necessary bills on criminal justice procedure have been passed.

During Tuesday’s parliament sitting 29 of the 57 MPs present voted against accepting the resolution submitted by Mahlouf, while 23 MPs supported accepting the resolution and delaying the recess.

Parliament will go to recess at the end of December.

Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam was reported as saying that it would have been easier to accept the resolution if it was submitted with sincerity, and alleged that Mahlouf was one of the MPs who took the most leave and holidays.

She said that while Mahlouf was only involved in one committee, he had no idea what was going on in it.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Dhaandhoo constituency, Mohamed Riyaz, said that crimes were uncontrollable because of problems with the judiciary and not because the country was lacking laws.


Waheed government submits bill to facilitate death penalty

The government has announced its intention to introduce a bill to the People’s Majlis in order to guide and govern the implementation of the death penalty in the country.

“It is currently a punishment passed by the judiciary and a form of punishment available within the penal system of the Maldives,” said Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

“But for full guidance and matters governing the matter, legislation is required,” he added.

A meeting of the cabinet yesterday strongly condemned last week’s murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and urged President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to start taking immediate measures to ensure safety and security in the country.

President’s Office spokesman Masood Imad said that the government had received a large number of calls for implementing the death penalty.

“We are having enormous pressure since these high profile murders,” he said. “We have indications – the talk around the town – that there will be more murders.”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has this week proposed a no-confidence motion against the home minister, citing the unprecedented instances of murder and assault in the country since he assumed office in February.

Afrasheem’s murder was the 10th in the small country this year, sparking much debate on the death penalty.

Following the murder of high profile lawyer Ahmed Najeeb on July 1, two people were sentenced to death after Najeeb’s heirs opted for qisas (equal retaliation) rather than blood money.

Public outcry over Najeeb’s murder prompted Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz to declare that full enforcement of the courts’ rulings is necessary to maintain the effectiveness of the judiciary.

A case was submitted to the High Court in August, requesting that it annul the President’s ability to commute death sentences to 25 years imprisonment, provided in the Clemency Act.

Similarly, in April Ahmed Mahloof – parliamentary group member from the government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) – proposed an amendment to the Clemency Act to ensure that the enforcement of the death penalty be mandatory in the event it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

In a comment piece written for Haveeru following Najeeb’s murder, however, Special Advisor to the President Dr Hassan Saeed warned that implementing the death penalty could be both arbitrary and prohibitively expensive.

Judiciary and human rights

The last execution in the Maldives came in 1953 when Hakim Didi was charged with attempting to assassinate President Ameen using black magic.

Since that time, the Maldives has retained the practice of the death penalty for murder although Islamic Shariah tenets also give the courts the power to pronounce capital punishment for offences such as sodomy, fornication, apostasy and other crimes against the community.

Statistics show that from January 2001 to December 2010, a total of 14 people were sentenced to death by Maldivian courts.

Jameel said that there was to be no re-consideration of the Clemency Act but that “necessary reform to legislation governing the criminal justice system will be undertaken by the government.”

Concerns over the judiciary were confirmed in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report which investigated the events surrounding the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed in February.

The final report recommended that immediate steps be taken to improve the performance of the judiciary.

“The judiciary must enjoy public confidence and where there are allegations about judges’ conduct, the Judicial Services Commission must act in a timely and definitive way and report,” read the report.

Aishath Velezinee, formerly Nasheed’s appointee to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), has said that corruption and an unreformed judiciary were the primary causes of crime in the country.

“Islam upholds justice, and not only has death penalty; it has very clear qualifications for judges too. Neither MP Mahloof, nor any of the Sheikhs, has expressed alarm that the judges are far below standard and some of them are convicted criminals themselves. This is pure politics and abuse of Islam,” she told Minivan News in a previous interview.

In July, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said it was “deeply concerned about the state of the judiciary in the Maldives,” as well as calling for the abolition of the death penalty, in order to ensure the Maldives’ compliance with International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

After speaking with a Maldivian delegation headed by Jameel, the council released a statement saying that the state had acknowledged both that the independence of the judiciary was severely compromised and that the death penalty did not deter crime.

Today marks World Day Against the Death Penalty – organised by an alliance of more than 135 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities and unions seeking the universal abolition of capital punishment.


PPM MP Mahlouf to donate committee allowance

Galolhu Dhekunu MP and spokesperson for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Ahmed Mahlouf has told local media of his intention to donate his parliamentary committee allowance to three civil society organisations.

“From October onwards, I plan to donate my committee allowance to Care Society, Tiny Hearts and Thalassaemia Society,” he told Sun Online.

He also announced that he would give a further MVR10,000 – earned from singing – to the Care Society.

Members of Parliament receive MVR20,000 (US$1,298) for committee work, plus MVR20,000 up front for general expenses, on top of their normal salaries of MVR42,500 (US$2,759).


PPM “will definitely win”: Mundhu

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has announced it will now contest in every upcoming election, and will be establishing party offices in atolls nation-wide.

Spokesperson for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and member of PPM’s interim counci, Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, told local media that although the party “did not contest in elections in order to draft the party’s charter and strengthen internal factors”, the party would now engage in campaigns “and will definitely win.”

PPM did contest in a December 31 council by-election in Shaviyani Atoll Milandhoo this year, however it lost to ruling Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Abdulla Athif.

In November, PPM member Abdulla Mohamed Didi won the mid-Fuvahmulah atoll council seat by running as an independent, as PPM had not completed the registration process. Didi received 52 percent of the votes while MDP candidate Mohamed Abdulla Didi received 46 percent.

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) received only eight percent of the votes.

PPM MP Ahmed Mahlouf noted that the Kaashidhoo seat in parliament may be vacated pending a ruling at the Supreme Court. Anticipating a ruling on the matter within a month, he said PPM would contest for the seat.

A win for the Kaashidhoo seat would allow PPM to be officially recognised by Parliament–according to Section 29(d) of the parliamentary rules of procedure, which states that “political parties in parliament shall be parties with a member or members that contested in the name of the party and was elected to parliament.” At the moment, the eight MPs who currently identify with PPM officially operate as independents within the Majlis.

PPM’s statement comes a year and a half in advance of the 2013 presidential elections, the first since President Mohamed Nasheed took office in 2008 in the country’s first multi-party elections that marked the end of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year dictatorship.

While the new government has been primarily challenged by DRP, the opposition appears to be shifting in sizeable strides toward PPM, which is headed by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Since PPM completed its registration process in late October with 3,600 membership forms submitted to the Elections Commission (EC), it has received 11,000 members directly from DRP, Mahlouf claims. He added that 1,800 had switched over from MDP, 1,000 had joined from other parties, and several thousand more who had not previously belonged to a political party had registered.

“Our first target was to get DRP members to join us,” Mahlouf explained. “Now I believe 90 percent of DRP members support Gayoom, so I expect most will join PPM.”

According to the party registry, however, DRP has only lost approximately 6,000 members since November.

Still, DRP’s current membership is lower than it was before an acrimonious split that saw the Z-faction breakaway in 2010 and go on to form PPM under the leadership of DRP ‘honorary leader’ former President Gayoom.

Meanwhile, PPM is currently facing tense relations with the EC.

“Of the 20,000 registration forms we’ve submitted, 6,000 have been rejected,” Mahlouf complained. “The EC is citing small mistakes like use of English instead of Dhivehi, the way fingerprints are done, whether we have two witnesses for the form, and they will only accept valid national ID cards, not passports or licenses.

“When MDP and DRP registered it was very easy,” he recalled.

Gayoom recently accused the EC of unfair procedures. “We know the state of affairs in the country right now – election results do not turn out the way people vote. So what are we going to do?” he said during a party rally. His statement elicited a condemnatory response from EC while the MDP suggested that his remarks were made because vote rigging was involved during his 30 years as president.

Eyeing the annual general assembly at the end of April, however, PPM has announced it will be campaigning in the atolls to “meet the islanders and raise our membership,” Mahlouf said, adding that the party’s target of 40,000–double it’s current alleged membership of 23,000– “is not a difficult target for us.”

As of January 8, the party registry recorded PPM as the nation’s third largest party with nearly 14,000 members, and 245 pending registration forms. DRP remains second largest on record, while MDP ranks first with upwards of 47,000 registered members.

While there are strong signs that DRP will indeed fade into the PPM ticket, Minivan News asked whether PPM anticipated a highly competitive presidential election in 2013.

“Thasmeen will run [for DRP], but I doubt he’ll received many votes given what happened in Fuvahmulah,” Mahlouf said. “I think it will be competitive and fruitful, I certainly hope for a free and fair election.”

DRP has said it will be addressing comments made by PPM’s Hussain ‘Munduh’ Shareef during a press conference tomorrow.

MDP officials could not be reached at time of press.


Petrol bombs launched into MDP Haruge

Two petrol bombs landed inside ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Haruge (headquarters) around midnight last night, January 7. MDP activists allege that the culprits were paid recruits of opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).

Police were called to the scene where they spoke to activists then inside the headquarters. Police officials today said the incident was minor, involving a few “bottles with petrol”, and that there was no confrontation.

No arrests have been made, and there is no investigation.

MDP activist Mohamed Areef described the incident to Minivan News.

“Some activists were just sitting near the wall of the haaruge, talking and playing chess. Then one bomb landed from over the wall, and I ran. Next another bomb was thrown just inches from my head.”

Areef said one man had sustained burns to his ankle, but that the injury was minor.

Areef noted that opposition PPM had held a gathering on January 5, and he was “quite sure [the attack] was planned by PPM. The party probably paid some people to do it.”

According to Areef, MDP will not retaliate.

PPM Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf denied that the party had any involvement in the matter.

“We have no interest in taking MDP Haruge, and we definitely do not support violence as a way of addressing issues,” he said.

Mahlouf added that the party had not held discussions regarding MDP “for two, three days”, and had no reason to launch petrol bombs into the ruling party’s headquarters.

“We are shocked to hear the news, and to hear that the blame has been put on us,” he said.

The incident follows several weeks of political controversy over demands made during a religious protest on December 23, in which PPM members and leaders joined six other opposition parties and religious NGOs in a call for stronger Islamic policies at the government level.

In response to these demands, the government ordered that all resort spas be closed and announced it was considering a ban on pork and alcohol. The first resorts to experience these effects were those owned by Jumhooree Party Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim, the owner of Villa Hotels. Gasim subsequently sued the government over the matter.

Meanwhile, PPM argued that the demands against the sale of alcohol did not refer to the 100-plus resorts currently operating in the Maldives. However, going along with the high-stakes game of chicken the party announced that it would support the government’s suggestion to ban pork and alcohol provided “it has the courage” to do so.

Last week, the government requested a “consultative opinion” from the Supreme Court over the legality of selling pork and alcohol in a nation whose constitution is based on Islamic Sharia. Twenty-four hours later the government announced it was lifting the ban on spa operations in order to protect business interests while the court deliberates the matter.

The Judicial branch of the Maldives has been widely labelled as a remnant of the former regime, which appointed all of the current judges. A majority of the judges have little or no legal training, and have not been educated beyond grade seven. This year, MDP activists requested international support over the “increasingly blatant collusion between politicians loyal to the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and senior members of the judiciary – most of whom were appointed by Gayoom during his thirty years of power.”

Speaking at a press conference last week, President Mohamed Nasheed credited the spa controversy for having “woke the nation from its slumber and sparked a healthy national debate about the future direction of the country”.


Mohamed Shihab appointed Minister of Finance and Treasury

Mohamed Shihab, a member of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), has been appointed as Minister of Finance and Treasury by President Mohamed Nasheed.

Shihab previously held the post of Political Advisor at the President’s Office. He has also served as Minister of Home Affairs under the current administration.

Presenting Shihab with his ‘Letter of Appointment’, President Nasheed emphasised his confidence in Shihab’s capability in executing the financial and economic reform policies of the country.

Mohamed Shihab assured the President that he would put forth his utmost effort as Finance Minister.

Parliament is expected to vote on the appointment when it returns from recess in March.

Previously a member of the MDP’s former coalition partner Jumhoree party, Shihab replaced Jumhoree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim as Home Minister 21 days into the Nasheed administration.

In late 2010 the cabinet resigned en masse to protest the “scorched earth politics” of the opposition-majority parliament, which it accused of obstruction and attempting to wrest executive control.

Shihab was among seven ministers whose reappointment was rejected by parliament in November 2010. He has since been serving as Political Advisor to Nasheed.

Opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf told Minivan News today the party would discuss the nomination in its parliamentary group before signalling its position.

“It is important to fill the post,” Mahlouf said, adding that “we don’t expect to have any difficulty discussing Shihab’s nomination.”

“I don’t think Shihab is coming from a background in finance, he has instead been Home Minister and an advisor,” Mahlouf explained. “But he is experienced in politics, he served in Parliament for 17 years, and he has been a speaker. I think we see him as someone we can communicate with easily.”

Mahlouf said Shihab’s communication skills were superior to those of former Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz, who he claimed did not have a good relationship with Parliament.

Calls to opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) were not answered at time of press.

Picture from

Shihab’s appointment as Finance Minister follows the resignation of Ahmed Inaz, whose credibility was compromised when MDP activists found him in covert conference with Mulaku MP Abdulla Yameen of opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in a non-residential poorly-lit area of Male’ at 12am.

Inaz was subsequently taken to MDP headquarters, where activists demanded his resignation. He resigned two days later along with the State Minister of Finance Ahmed Naseer.

Directly following the encounter MDP activists suggested that Yameen was attempting to bribe Inaz, while others believed it was a set-up.

In June 2010, Yameen was arrested on charges of bribery and attempting to topple the government. The Supreme Court however ordered his release.

Prior to the presentation of the Letter of Appointment, Mohamed Shihab took the oath of office of the members of the Cabinet before the Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Areef.


PPM MP Mahlouf’s shop vandalised

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahlouf’s clothes shop was vandalised last night by unknown assailants.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Mahlouf said he believed that the attack came in retaliation for the protest the opposition and coalition of religious NGOs have decided to conduct next Friday.

‘’It is in connection with the protest we have planned. Ever since we planned these protests I have been warned and threatened that if the protest is conducted I will suffer the consequences,’’ Mahlouf claimed.

Mahlouf said police attended the area would have collected video footage captured by the shop’s cameras.

‘’I think police will be able to find out the culprits using the footage,’’ he said. ‘’It is regrettable that those who oppose us have started vandalising property.’’

Mahlouf alleged that Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) officials and senior MPs had threatened him “with consequences” if the protest was conducted.PP

‘’They have sent me texts and threatened me that there will be consequences if the protest is conducted,’’ he claimed, further alleging that the MDP was “paying gangs” to disrupt the protest on Friday, but would not state which MPs he believed were involved.

‘’Not many gangs have cooperated with MDP because it is a religious thing this time,’’ Maulouf.

Minivan News sought response from MDP Parliamentary Group Media Coordinator MP Mohamed Shifaz, MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, MP Ahmed Easa and MP Ali Waheed, but none responded at time of press.

MDP MPs Mohamed Musthafa and Ahmed Hamza refused to comment on the matter.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that the incident had occurred and that police were investigating the case.

The religious NGO coalition and opposition political parties are planning a protest on Friday in which they claim 15,000 citizens will attend.


MNBC to report MP Mahlouf to police for alleged assault of journalist

A journalist at the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) has claimed that Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahlouf assaulted him after Tuesday’s night live coverage of the National Security Committee meeting.

”He came towards me while I was waiting in the corridor and asked me rudely why I was broadcasting the parliament live” said the MNBC reporter, who wished to remain anonymous. ”I said that decision was not up to me and he told me to inform all my superiors that any equipment brought inside the parliament will be destroyed.”

He said the Galolhu South MP then pushed him against the wall and elbowed him on the stomach.

”I told him to get off me, but he then again hit me in the chest,” he said. ”Then he left the area.”

Board members of the state broadcaster were considering reporting the case to police, he said.

Mahlouf however denies the allegations.

An MNBC journalist at the committee meeting suggested that the incident would have been caught on CCTV cameras inside the building.

Prior to the alleged assault, opposition MPs disrupted a National Security Committee meeting to object to live coverage by the state broadcaster.

The meeting was held to vote on a proposal to summon PPM Parliamentary Group Leader MP Abdulla Yameen for questioning.

Committee Chair MP Ali Waheed told press that the rules of procedure did not prohibit live telecasts or dictate terms for media coverage.

The disruption of the live broadcast saw MDP activists gather outside the parliament building to protest.

With opposition MPs still inside parliament over an hour and half after the meeting ended, a group of PPM supporters gathered for a counter-protest.

Riot police in the area separated the rival protesters and cordoned off the area shortly before midnight.