MDA Leader Siyam acquitted of alcohol smuggling charges

Government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) Leader Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam Mohamed was acquitted of alcohol possession and smuggling charges by the Criminal Court on Thursday (December 4).

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed found the resort tycoon not guilty on the grounds that due process was not followed in accordance with the Maldives Customs Act.

The MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo was charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol in November 2013 after a ‘Johnny Walker Black’ bottle was found in his luggage at the airport upon returning from Sri Lanka in March 2012.

In June, two witnesses for the prosecution testified to finding a bottle of alcohol in Siyam’s luggage.

While the customs officers testified that they discovered the bottle when Siyam’s bag was screened, a Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) staff member who handled the luggage said they were unaware of its contents prior to screening.

However, Siyam’s lawyer argued that the MP was being framed, noting that according to the prosecution’s witnesses the luggage was not searched in his presence.

Following multiple delays and cancellations of hearings, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed took over the case from Judge Ahmed Sameer Abdul Aziz in May after Siyam claimed the latter’s “hand gestures and facial expressions” indicated a personal grudge against him which could lead to an unfair trial.

Siyam wrote to both the chief judge and the Supreme Court requesting the removal of Judge Sameer from his case.

Responding to criticism of the court for providing preferential treatment to the coalition leader, Judge Abdulla declared at a ceremony in September that the court would provide VIP treatment and escort persons facing trial in and out through the back door in circumstances where it sees fit.

Siyam was reportedly escorted in and out of the backdoor when he arrived at the court for a trial date and was also seated in a separate area.

The penalty for alcohol possession in the penal code is either a fine of between MVR1,000 to MVR3,000 or imprisonment, banishment or house arrest for up to three years.

Under Article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than one year in prison will lose his or her seat in parliament.

Siyam’s MDA formed an alliance with the now-ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in August to back PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

In March 2012, an audio clip of a conversation between Siyam and Yameen was leaked on social media, in which the pair aired grievances against PPM leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.



Related to this story

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed takes over Sun Siyam’s case

Sun Siyam’s alcohol possession trial delayed again

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Majlis elections: “The people trust us, despite being recently formed”, says MDA

The deputy leader of Progressive Coalition member Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) has stated that the provisional results of the parliamentary elections demonstrate the public’s trust in the relatively new party.

Ahmed Amir is reported in local media as saying that the results displayed that the citizens of the Maldives yearn to have a peaceful community.

Amir stated that although the official provisional results from the Elections Commission are currently pending, the results as announced by several media outlets showed that the MDA had won five out of the seven seats in which they had contested.

He expressed confidence that there is a “high probability” the final results will show the MDA to have won a sixth seat – the Velidhoo constituency.

Amir said that when viewing parties individually, he believed the MDA had received the maximum level of success, adding that this showed that the public invested high levels of trust in the party.

“If one works with sincerity, they will be accepted by the public. The fact that many popular existing parliamentarians failed to get re-elected shows that the public closely observes the work done in parliament. That the people will accept political parties if they too act accordingly with the laws and regulations,” Amir stated.

Amir stated that the party had only asked the coalition for slots in constituencies that they were confident of winning in. He further added that when the constituencies were being distributed between the coalition members, the MDA had given importance to settling matters via discussion and compromise.

The deputy leader then stated that the success in the parliamentary elections has given the party even greater inspiration to work to further broaden and strengthen itself.

“The elections were already overhead when the party was formed. This caused it to be difficult for us to do sufficient work to increase membership. However, in the next three years there won’t be any elections except if a by-election happens to be held. This will give us time to work to strengthen the party,” he stated.

Amir stated that the party’s main objective will be to work for the benefit of the people, noting that although the MDA is in the government coalition, it will not be in agreement with everything that the government proposes and it will only align with work beneficial to the public.

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Government coalition reveals Majlis election plan – Adhaalath excluded

The government’s coalition announced on Sunday that it had finished dividing seats for the upcoming parliamentary elections between the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), and the Jumhooree Party (JP).

According to the coalition, the PPM will be contesting in 49 areas, the JP in 28, and the MDA in 8.

PPM Deputy Leader Abdul Raheem stated that the division had gone according to the initial agreements made within the coalition during the presidential election.

He acknowledged that the parties had failed to get some of the seats that they requested, but affirmed that all seats had been allocated after much deliberation between party leaders.

He stated that special attention had been given to parties with incumbent parliamentarians in order that they could hold on to those constituencies.

“The areas have been decided upon as per the agreement of all three parties. To be honest, there wasn’t much debate. Everyone took care to make decisions in a manner that had least negative affect on the coalition, and would assist in getting us the most number of seats,” he is quoted as saying in local media.

Raheem had his phone switched off at the time of press.

Parties free to give seats to Adhaalath: PPM

The ruling party stated that, while religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) was excluded from the coalition’s Majlis plan, the parties are free to give the AP seats from those allocated to them.

Abdul Raheem informed local media that coalition parties will discuss the matter in the near future.

“In reality, Adhaalath is not an official part of this Progressive Coalition. So the parties’ idea is to give them what we can from the seats which have been allocated to us,” he stated.

He further stated that Adhaalath had made some requests of the coalition, adding that all of them cannot be fulfilled. He declined from providing details of the request.

“As far as I am aware, JP is considering giving some seats to the AP. The number of seats, or from where, has not been decided yet,” JP Secretary General Hassan Shah told Minivan News today.

JP acting secretary general Dr Mohamed Saud said that he was unable to talk at the time of press.

Adhaalath hopeful of inclusion

The Adhaalath Party, which has previously raised concerns of being excluded from the coalition’s plans, remained hopeful of inclusion – even if via separate parties in the coalition.

“We are still in the hope that the coalition will give us some seats. Now, it is true that we are not an official partner that joined the coalition under share agreements like the JP did. So it cannot be termed as contesting via a separate coalition party even if it is not the full coalition that is giving us seats,” AP Spokesperson Ali Zahir said.

“Of course, there is a limit to what we will accept. If it is way below expectations, then we will not accept it and will proceed to contest separately. I am hopeful that a reasonable solution can be found. We will only know this once the discussions are set into motion,” he explained.

The AP has previously announced that it has members possessing masters or doctorate level qualifications interested in running in 32 different constituencies.

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Adhaalath fears exclusion from coalition’s Majlis election plan

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has voiced concerns that, despite it’s assistance in the presidential elections of 2013, the government coalition is failing to include the party in its allocation of constituencies for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

A senior council member of Adhaalath Party (AP) – who wished to remain unnamed – told Minivan News that the party has been excluded from seat allocation discussions currently being held between the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and its coalition partners the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA).

A representative of the PPM has explained that discussions are first being held with those parties engaged in official agreements with President Yameen’s party before considering electoral arrangements with the religious party.

He alleged that the parties have been in discussions for the past two days while Adhaalath, despite having candidates interested in contesting for 32 constituencies, awaits a response from the group.

“Although there are candidates interested in running for 32 areas, we will understand if the coalition is able to give us somewhat fewer slots. While we are willing to come to an agreement with the coalition on the number of areas to run in, the coalition has so far not given us any opportunity to engage in such a discussion,” he stated.

According to the council member, should the coalition fail to leave sufficient time for campaigning before reaching a decision, the AP will contest separately in the polls.

He further opined that the AP “might be the single party that is bringing out the most number of extremely qualified candidates, with almost all of them having educational qualifications of Masters or Doctorate level”.

AP Spokesperson Ali Zahir confirmed to Minivan News that the party has so far not had any official communication from the coalition regarding the matter.

“We have not yet come to an absolute decision that the coalition is completely cutting us out. We are still awaiting a response from them, which I think will happen after they allocate seats to the parties with whom they already have written agreements. If, however, the coalition does not wish to cooperate with us, we will contest –  even if separately,” Zahir explained.

Will consider including AP: PPM

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan stated that he had learned of the AP’s interest in running in the parliamentary elections approximately a week ago, and that he had conveyed the message to decision makers within the party.

“The thing is, the PPM has official coalition agreements with the JP and MDA. The AP did not join us on an agreement basis. So we can only consider options of sharing seats with AP after we manage to come to an agreement with JP and MDA,” Nihan said.

“The AP usually just communicates with the ruling party through Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, who acts as a middleman. This should not remain so, there must be official communication between the two parties. I will need to check if they have even submitted an official letter asking for coalition cooperation in the parliamentary elections,” he continued.

“After the November 10 elections, the AP came to meet with our then presidential candidate, incumbent President Abdulla Yameen. They said then that they wished to back Yameen and that they would do so without setting any conditions for the agreement. This is why they are excluded from the agreements on the upcoming election,” Nihan said.

“So the thing is, we will first agree upon which seats will be divided between PPM, JP and MDA. As you know, the coalition agreement with JP agrees to give them 33% of the constituencies,” Nihan continued.

“As for the MDA, we have a far too close relationship with them. To use a metaphor, they are a party that married us without dowry. Due to the close nature of the relationship between MDA leader Siyam and Yameen, there are no written agreements between us. But they will be allocated seats as the two parties have never had any friction,” Nihan said.

AP Spokesperson Zahir said that he had no comments to make on the MDA getting seats despite not having a written agreement like the AP, saying “in any case, AP will never be treated like the MDA is treated. We will reveal our thoughts on the matter when the time comes”.

Nihan stated that he hoped the coalition would meet with the AP and come to an agreement, so as not to disadvantage the coalition.

President Yameen has previously called on the AP to contest alongside the coalition, as running separately may lead to vote splitting – benefiting the political opposition.

Earlier in January, the PPM had claimed discussions had been initiated with the AP regarding parliamentary elections, though the AP claims that no official talks have been held to date.

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MDA and PPM successfully conclude coalition talks

Coalition talks have been finalised between the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) ahead of next month’s presidential elections.

Following local media reports, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that, after many meetings regarding the proper alignment of the parties, the details of the arrangement had been successfully negotiated.

“We have no more details at the moment,” said Nihan. “There will be an official announcement soon.” He added that the details would also include plans for cooperation heading into next year’s parliamentary elections – scheduled for May.

The PPM and MDA currently have 22,660 and 7,904 members, respectively, whilst the former is currently the second largest party in the Majlis, behind the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The MDA’s decision to find a coalition partner was announced earlier this month. The party’s legitimacy has come under threat this year as the People’s Majlis passed legislation requiring all registered political parties to have a minimum of 10,000 members.

The MDA is the country’s newest political party having been founded last year by Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, Managing Director of both Sun Travel Investments Pvt and Sun Travel and Tours Pvt. Shiyam’s party will now throw its support behind PPM Presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

The news of an MDA-PPP alliance has prompted the resurfacing of documents on social media regarding transactions between the STO and Sun Investments between 2003 and 2005.

Yameen, half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was also head of the State Trading Organisation (STO) between 1990 and 2006. The state owned STO is charged with sustainably supplying food and fuel to the Maldives.

In 2010, an asset tracing investigation into the STO’s accounts by forensic accountancy firm Grant Thornton revealed the use of interest-free loans to Sun Investments, amongst others, in order to acquire foreign currency.

“Loans were granted in Maldivian Rufiyaa on the basis of loans being repaid in US dollars,” read the report.

“These loans were given by keeping as security post dated cheques dated up to three months in advance. However most of these cheques according to the STO audit report were replaced by other post dated cheques just before they fell due and continued to be rolled over in this manner.”

Whilst the report did note that the cheques worth MVR112,731,250  were eventually repaid, the cost to the STO in lost interest was estimated by Grant Thornton to have been up to US$1 million.

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MDA reaches 10,000 members

Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) has announced that it has reached 10,000 members, meaning it will be now recognised as an official party under the new political parties’ bill.

The recently-formed party, led by Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, submitted 4,900 membership forms yesterday (March 6) – the same day as parliament passed the political parties bill – bringing the party’s total membership over 10,000.

Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeg told local media that a further 1,000 were submitted on February 13, 536 on February 24 and 618 forms on February 25.

In addition to the pending forms, MDA has 3,354 official registered members, local media reported.

The political parties’ bill requires parties to have a minimum 10,000 members before they will be official recognised.

The same bill was passed by parliament in December 2012, however President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik returned the bill when it was presented to him to be ratified.

During Tuesday’s (March 5) session, the bill was again passed with 60 out of the 67 members present voting in favour of the bill.

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MDA interim leader promises pre-school construction during party membership drive

Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) interim Leader and tourism magnate MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam has pledged during a campaign to boost his party’s membership that he will build pre-schools on the islands of Landhoo and Fodhdhoo in Noonu Atoll.

Shiyam’s Sun Online news service reported today that he had promised that the foundations for at least one of the pre-school buildings was expected to be laid during the year.

Addressing the pledge today, a senior MDA member told Minivan News that all funding for the proposed school buildings would be provided by Shiyam himself in a “personal capacity”, adding that the decision was not politically motivated, but rather a service to the public.

Shiyam’s campaigning for the recently formed MDA follows the passing of a new bill in parliament requiring political parties in the country to have a minimum of 10,000 registered members.

Should the bill be signed into law, parties without the sufficient number of members would be given three months to meet the target or face being dissolved.

During campaigning yesterday, Shiyam said that despite Fodhdhoo being small in terms of population, all islands – regardless of their size – were entitled to fundamental rights.

“You are like any other people. You as well deserve the fundamental rights that the rest of the people enjoy. I will do whatever I can to ensure that fact stays that way,” he was reported as saying.

During a rally held later the same day on Landhoo Island, Shiyam said that the development of the nation required educated young people to come forth, adding that the country had fallen into a grave state due to a lack of honest political leaders.

“Those who come to power need to have a very strong understanding of the public sentiments and should have the quality to respect the views of the people. Leaders who lie and deceive should never come in front of the people,” he claimed.

“Immense Support”

Speaking to Minivan News today, MDA Deputy Leader Ali Mauroof claimed that the party was “receiving immense support” from Noonu Atoll and expressed confidence in reaching the 10,000 member limit as stipulated in the newly passed political parties bill.

“Noonu Atoll is the native Atoll of both me and our leader [Shiyam], so we are receiving immense support from the islands. You would know about this support if you see our Sun Online [news service]. We believe we could get 90 percent of the entire population of the Atoll,” he said.

Asked about the immediate aims of the MDA, Mauroof said that the party’s first target was to attain 10,000 members.  He claimed the MDA’s longer-term strategy was to become the “largest political party” in the country.

Mauroof also criticised the recently passed political parties’ bill, dismissing it as an attempt to “destroy” smaller political parties.

“The reality is that in a democracy, you would not see bills made to destroy smaller political parties. There are democracies which allow hundreds of political parties. That is what democracy is,” he said.

Mauroof also claimed that Shiyam’s pledge to build two pre-schools in Noonu Atoll had been made in a “personal capacity” rather than directly through the MDA.

“Our leader was the one who advocated for providing pre-schooling facilities in the islands. It was his proposed bill on pre-schools that were passed into legislation by the parliament and currently being enforced. This is not something new too. Our leader has built pre-schools in Dhaalu Atoll as well,” he explained.

He added that Shiyam was building pre-schools not as a “political motive” but as a social responsibility to “contribute to society”.

“We did not condition anyone to join the party. We did not give any reward or pay anybody to join the party. People are joining us willingly and voluntarily. Even the pre-schools are not built under the name of MDA,” he added.

“Not a cult-party”: MDA

Deputy Leader Mauroof also claimed that the MDA would display the “best internal democracy within the party” by adhering to democratic and transparent principles and best practices, adding that there would be no grounds to call them a “cult party”.

“We have our own party charter. Everything will be done in accordance with the party charter. This party will host the best internal democracy within the party. We would not have spiritual leaders,” he said.

Mauroof added that all decisions by the MDA were expected to be made by the party’s council, which he claimed would ultimately decide on its future political alignment.

“We are not enemies of any political party. We can work with any party for interests of the country. However, the decision to field or support a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections and making coalitions would be decided by the party’s council at the most appropriate time,” he added.

Mauroof added that their policies would reflect the needs of the people and their betterment.

“We will be a party that will work on strengthening democracy, bringing development and prosperity to the country,” he added.

Formation

MDA was officially given the permission to establish itself as a political party on June last year by the elections commission. The party officially held its inaugural convention on December 10, 2012.  It was at this convention where the party elected Shiyam as its interim leader along with appointing other key leadership positions.

The tourism magnate was elected interim leader with 335 votes out of 362 ballots cast.

According to Shiyam’s Sun Online news website, 362 members attended the meeting at Traders Hotel, which was authorised to proceed by the Elections Commission after it had verified the attendance registry.

Under the regulations governing political parties’ which is still in force, at least 300 members are required to attend an inaugural convention of a newly-formed political party, while 3,000 signatures are needed to form the party.

The MDA becomes the 16th political party to be registered in the Maldives since 2005.

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‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam elected interim leader of Maldives Development Alliance

Independent MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo, Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, was elected interim leader of the newly-formed Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) at an inaugural convention held in Male’ last night.

According to Shiyam’s Sun Online, 362 members attended the meeting at Traders Hotel, which was authorised to proceed by the Elections Commission (EC) after it had verified the attendance registry.

Under the regulations governing political parties, at least 300 members are required to attend an inaugural convention of a newly-formed political parties, while 3,000 signatures are needed to form the party.

The tourism magnate was elected interim leader with 335 votes out of 362 ballots cast.

Independent MP for Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo Ahmed Amir was elected as one of three interim deputy leaders, along with Ali Mauroof and Aishath Rafiyya.

In addition to the senior officials, 18 members were elected to the party’s interim council.

While orange was approved as the official colour of the party, members also passed the party’s logo, seal, manifesto and charter.

MDA becomes the 16th political party to be registered in the Maldives since 2005.

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