Indian Chief of Army Staff to visit Maldives

India’s Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh will arrive in Maldives tomorrow on a two-day official visit. During the visit he will hold official bilateral talks with Maldives’ Chief of Defence force Major General Ahmed Shiyam.

He is also expected to pay courtesy visits to President Abdulla Yameen and Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim.

General Singh’s  predecessor Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor also visited the Maldives in February 2010.


Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam, five MNDF officers dismissed

The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) has dismissed six soldiers including former head of military intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam.

In a statement on Tuesday, the MNDF said Nilam had been demoted from the post of Brigadier General and dismissed for “violating MNDF duties and disciplinary norms, repeating acts that should not be seen from an MNDF officer, revealing secret information against military regulations, diminishing the honor of the MNDF, and sowing discord in the military.”

Nilam was suspended in January after he told the People’s Majlis Government Oversight Committee that he believed the transfer of power in February 2012 had all the academic characteristics of a coup d’état.

A separate MNDF statement said First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef, Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed and Staff Sergeant Ibrahim Ali had been dismissed for breaching MNDF’s duties and responsibilities.

Further, Staff Sergeant Hassan Hameed had been dismissed for disciplinary offenses and Lance Corporal Shahrab Rashid for leaking secret MNDF documents.

All six soldiers had previously been suspended on charges of sowing discord in the military.

Speaking at a ceremony to unveil the MNDF’s strategic action plan held last night, Chief of Defense Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam called for “100 percent loyalty” from the MNDF.

“Soldiers must have absolute loyalty. Every single man and women working in this institution must have this characteristic. Otherwise, they are lacking the most important characteristic of a soldier,” Shiyam said.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ahmed Nazim appealed to all soldiers to stay away from ideological warfare and to remain steadfast in evading attempts to sow discord among soldiers.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the “unlawful” dismissal of the six officers “on baseless allegations.”

The party said it accepted the military’s work in upholding the constitution and working to resolve the political turmoil following the annulment, cancellations and delays in presidential polls.

Following the Supreme Court order to delay run-off polls pending a verdict in a case to annul the first round of presidential election held on September 7, 17 high ranking MNDF officers sent a letter expressing concern over politicization of the military and possible repercussions should a president-elect not be determined by the end of the presidential term.

The MNDF then amended its regulations to punish officers who promoted “upheaval and chaos” and Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal was subsequently removed from his position as the Commandant of Training and Doctrine.

Shareef, Waheed and Shahrab were suspended from service.

As the prospects of electing a president by the end of the presidential term on November 11 dimmed, 73 mid-ranking officers circulated an appeal calling on fellow soldiers not to obey any “unlawful” orders issued by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan or his political appointees.

Sergeant Hassan Hameed was then detained on the MNDF training facility at Girifushi Island.

The MDP has said the “politically motivated dismissal of soldiers who have served the state for long periods of time will only weaken the institution.”

According to local media reports, First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef had served in the MNDF for eight years, Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed for 30 years, Staff Sergeant Ibrahim Ali for 18 years, Staff Sergeant Hassan Hameed for 19 years and Lance Corporal Shahrab Rashid for 14 years.

Ali Ibrahim had served as body guard to former First Lady Laila Ali during President Mohamed Nasheed’s tenure and Shahrab Rashid had served as bodyguard to Nasheed’s running mate Dr Musthafa Luthfy in the 2013 presidential polls.


Chief of Defence Force warns of increasing risk of terrorist attacks, youth enrolling in terror training camps

Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam has warned of a rising risk of terrorist attack in the Maldives, during a joint local and US military inauguration to establish a level of alerts for terrorism in the country.

Shiyam cautioned against assuming the country was completely safe from terrorist attacks simply based on the fact that no major terrorist activities have been uncovered in the country to date, warning there was an increased risk of terrorist attacks stemming from “religious extremism and political turmoil.”

He added that while messages encouraging such activities are circulating via social media, these focused mainly against a certain group of people, or to encourage youth to partake in activities of ‘jihad’.

“Some [Maldivian] youth have already joined up with terrorist organisations. They are now travelling to various war zones and locations and enrolling in a number of terrorist training camps. Although some of these youth have managed to travel back to this country, the whereabouts of others remain unknown. This is a warning sign of how terrorism is spreading across our country,” Major General Shiyam stated.

He stated that it is immensely important for the security forces to be well-trained in counter-terrorism measures and to ensure the forces remain ready to respond should such an incident occur.

Speaking of the necessity to identify the challenges faced in counter-terrorism operations, Major General Shiyam emphasised the importance of reviewing and revising the country’s counter-terrorism policies.

Shiyam stated that terrorism is a danger that presents itself in many different forms, including but not limited to incidents which arise through political or social activities.

“Regardless of how these dangers come forth to us, ultimately the result is the same: that is the destruction of our nation’s social fabric,” Major General Shiyam said.

Increased pressure in 2012 to conform to stricter form of Islam: US

The US State Department’s 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom notes that, especially following the February 7 controversial transfer of power, there has been an increased pressure in the Maldives to conform to a “stricter interpretation of Islamic practices.”

The report highlighted that there have been increased reports of religious freedom abuses. Concerns were also raised over government restriction of religious freedom.

“There was an increasing use of religion in political rhetoric, which led to derogatory statements about Christianity and Judaism, and harassment of citizens calling for a more tolerant interpretation of Islam. Anti-Semitic rhetoric among conservative parties continued,” the report said.

The report also referred to statements made by President Waheed, who came to office following last year’s transfer of power.

“During the year, President Waheed warned the nation that foreign parties were attempting to influence the country’s ideology and promote secularism; he urged citizens to resist these impulses,” the report read.

The report further pointed out incidences of societal harassment and abuse targeted towards citizens, especially women, who do not conform to strict, narrow guidelines seen to acceptable in Islam.

No religious freedom, SOFA agreement: Islamic Minister

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed has meanwhile said that the Maldives will not grant religious freedom following the release of the US State Department’s report, and further declared that he will not allow the government to sign the proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States.

“Religious freedom cannot be granted in the Maldives, Insha Allah [God willing]. The Constitution of the Maldives itself restricts such a thing from being permitted, nor do our citizens want such a thing. It is the responsibility of our citizens to safeguard our military interests and Insha Allah they will uphold that,” Shaheem is quoted as saying in local media.

Furthermore, “There is no way that the SOFA agreement can be signed, allowing foreign forces to stay on our land. Nor can we allow them to make the Maldives a destination in which to refuel their ships,” Shaheem said.

“The reason is, the US might attempt to use the Maldives as a centre when they are attacking another Muslim state. There is no way we will let that happen,” he said, asserting that he “will not compromise on the matter at all”.

A leaked draft of a proposed SOFA with between the Maldives and the US “incorporates the principal provisions and necessary authorisations for the temporary presence and activities of United States forces in the Republic of Maldives and, in the specific situations indicated herein, the presence and activities of United States contractors in the Republic of Maldives.”

Under the proposed 10 year agreement outlined in the draft, the Maldives would “furnish, without charge” to the United States unspecified “Agreed Facilities and Areas”, and “such other facilities and areas in the territory and territorial seas of the Republic of Maldives as may be provided by the Republic of Maldives in the future.”

“The Republic of the Maldives authorises United States forces to exercise all rights and authorities with Agreed Facilities and Areas that are necessary for their use, operation, defense or control, including the right to undertake new construction works and make alterations and improvements,” the document states.

The US would be authorised to “control entry” to areas provided for its “exclusive use”, and would be permitted to operate its own telecommunications system and use the radio spectrum “free of cost to the United States”.

The US would also be granted access to and use of “aerial ports, sea ports and agreed facilities for transit, support and related activities; bunkering of ships, refueling of aircraft, maintenance of vessels, aircraft, vehicles and equipment, accommodation of personnel, communications, ship visits, training, exercises, humanitarian activities.”

Former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, now Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake, told the Press Trust of India that the agreement referred to joint military exercises and not a future base-building endeavor.

“We do not have any plans to have a military presence in Maldives,” Blake said, echoing an earlier statement from the US Embassy in Colombo.

“As I said, we have exercise programs very frequently and we anticipate that those would continue. But we do not anticipate any permanent military presence. Absolutely no bases of any kind,” Blake said.

“I want to reassure everybody that this SOFA does not imply some new uptake in military co-operation or certainly does not apply any new military presence. It would just be to support our ongoing activities,” he said.


MNDF chief visits Malaysian fire services

Head of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Major General Ahmed Shiyam has visited Malaysia in order to visit the country’s fire investigation laboratory, reports the New Straits Times.

Indonesian paper The Borneo Post reported that Shiyam was keen to send its own firemen – the Fire and Rescue service, which is a unit of the MNDF – to train in Malaysia.

“Shiyam was impressed with our forensic laboratory where we carried our investigation scientifically and professionally on fire occurrences,” said a Maldives Defence Team delegation made known such intention during its visit to the department in Bukit Jelutong here yesterday.

“During the visit, the five-member delegation headed by Defence Team chief Major-General Ahmad Shiyam was impressed with our forensic laboratory where we carried our investigation scientifically and professionally on fire occurrences,” Deputy Director Mohamed Tabot told the paper.

It was reported that the visitors also observed a rescue mission and inspect equipment.

The MNDF also announced the participation of its special forces troops in the multinational ‘Cormorant Strike III’ training exercises in eastern Sri Lanka.

It was revealed that these exercises included mock raids on boat yards,  the taking of high value targets, reconnaissance, seaborne operations, amphibious landing, ambushes as well as counter terrorist actions and hostage rescue missions.

The MNDF forces took part alongside soldiers from China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka.