Alhan wins MDP Vice Presidency while Dr Ibrahim Didi in line for top post

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has announced the preliminary results of the party’s elections for its President and Vice President.

The results currently show that former Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi has won the presidency of the party with 6909 votes, in close competition with the President’s Special Envoy Ibrahim Zak (6554 votes).

Meanwhile former Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP Alhan Fahmy has beaten Hussein Adam and Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam for the MDP Vice-Presidency with 7709 votes. Aslam received 5421 votes while Adam received 71 votes.

Fahmy changed sides to the ruling party in early 2010 after he was brought before the DRP’s disciplinary committee for voting against its party line on a motion to dismiss then-Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed for opening relations with Israel.

Housing Minister Aslam has congratulated Alhan for his victory, following the release of the preliminary results. 121 ballot boxes of 218 have been counted so far, with official results to be announced in three days.

Aslam has also congratulated MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi on running a successful election.

Alhan did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

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MDP dismisses rumours of DRP MP Mahlouf defecting to MDP

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi has denied that leader of the opposition’s Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Youth Wing, MP Ahmed Mahlouf, has signed to join MDP, after rumours to that effect began circulating yesterday.

Mahlouf yesterday broke the three line whip of his party and voted with MDP, sparking rumors that Mahlouf had signed with the ruling party. Former DRP MP Alhan Fahmy controversially switched to the MDP last year prior to facing his party’s disciplinary committee over voting against the party line on the dismissal of then Foreign Minister, Dr Ahmed Shaheed.

The Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) yesterday reported that Mahlouf had signed to MDP, after the incident.

MDP’s official website quoted Mariya as saying that the rumor was spread by DRP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali’s faction after Mahlouf broke the party’s three line whip in a vote taken by the parliamentarians to appoint members for the Broadcasting Commission.

”Mahlouf has always had a close relationship with some of the senior members of the MDP. But the news that he had signed to join MDP is just a rumor,” Mariya said according to MDP website.

Mariya said that Mahlouf broke the three-line whip during the vote to appoint his aunt for the Broadcasting Commission, whose name was proposed to the parliament and supported by MDP.

Mahlouf has told Haveeru that he will join MDP only if former President Maummon Abdul Gayoom joined MDP.

After yesterday’s parliament session speaking to the press outside the parliament DRP Deputy Leader MP Ali Waheed has called on DRP Council to terminate the coalition agreement with Peoples Alliance Party (PA).

Waheed claimed that during all the recent votes PA had discussed with the government and voted according to how it will benefit both the government and the PA, ignoring DRP’s side.

He also heavily criticized Mahlouf for voting on MDP’s side.

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Government attempting to implement agenda “of Zionist Jews”, alleges PA

The opposition’s coalition partner, the People’s Alliance (PA), has publicly accused the Maldivian government of trying to implement the agenda of “Zionist Jews”.

In a statement published in Dhivehi on the party’s website, the PA, led by the half brother of the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Abdulla Yameen, claimed that “the UK, France and the US are selecting individuals from Islamic countries, whom they want to be the ruler, and are training them to implement Jewish policy.”

The PA claimed that “many influential figures in the current government are irreligious people and have shown ideas and actions that prove they were trained in the UK.

“This government commenced the work to pave way for other religions to disrupt religious unity,” alleged the PA. “When the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) came in to administration, they brought in foreign persons previously deported for conducting Christian missionary work, and gave them high positions in government.”

The PA also accused the government of attacking judges, disregarding the judiciary, trying to permit the sale of pork and alcohol on inhabited islands, introduce co-education, teach other religions, and attempting to build a church in the Maldives.

President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair condemned the party’s misuse of Islam for political purposes.

“Their remarks suggest that the PA interprets the government’s refrain from Jew-bashing as an agenda of hatred,” he said. “If they see the moderate Islamic policies of this government as anti-Islamic, then I have no further comment.”

He noted that the PA had boycotted the President’s address on the opening of Parliament, “but was then concerned enough about it to issue a statement in response.”

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Complex election and “appallingly low” voter education could mean many invalid ballots

Local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) has expressed “deep concern” at low levels of voter education and “backtracking of transparency standards” set by the Elections Commission after previous elections.

“Appallingly low levels of voter education combined with persistent media bias/propaganda, use of state resources by the ruling party, and backtracking of transparency and accessibility standards previously set by the interim Elections Commission in the presidential and parliamentary elections are issues of concern,” the NGO said.

TM is coordinating the national domestic observation of the local council elections, covering Male’, Hulhumale’, Villingili and 38 other islands across 14 atolls. Together with 20 partner NGOs, the observers will cover two-thirds of the country’s ballot boxes.

The TM team will also be scrutinising three main TV stations, four radio stations and three print media “for bias, objectivity and quality of reporting during the election.”

In a pre-election statement, the NGO commented that “an environment of mistrust between the election administration, the government, political parties, candidates and the media has contributed to a decline of trust in electoral systems.”

“Given the complexity of the election and the low level of voter education, Transparency Maldives anticipates a high percentage of invalid ballots. Transparency Maldives also believes that this will contribute to raising tensions as the margin for winning and losing will be low due to the small number of eligible voters spread over a high number of candidates.”

™ however commended the EC for “spearheading a meaningful, although a limited and delayed, voter education program in Male’ and the atolls.”

“Transparency Maldives also appreciates the readiness of the Elections Commission in preparing for the Election Day.”

A small team of international observers from the Commonwealth are also present in the Maldives, but are not formally monitoring the election.

“We don’t normally observe local council elections, but the Elections Commission asked us. We’re not formally monitoring the election – we won’t be doing press releases or making public announcements, but we will produce a report for the Commonwealth Secretary General and this will like by passed to the Elections Commission,” explained Alison Pearman, Policy Officer with the Political Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Besides Pearman, the Commonwealth team includes Commissioner Florence Kebbie (National Election Commission of Sierra Leone), Zenaida Moya-Flowers (Chairperson of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and Mayor, Belize City Council), Anuya Kuwar (Project Officer – Asia region, Commonwealth Local Government Forum).

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MPs deny involvement following rumours of DRP-PA plan to oust Speaker

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader and MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik has denied rumours the MDP is planning forward a no-confidence motion against Speaker of the Parliament, DRP MP Abdulla Shahid.

Late last week, opposition leader of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali alleged that some DRP and coalition partner People’s Alliance (PA) MPs were plotting with MDP MPs to forward a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.

‘’MDP MPs will always, always vote according to the party line,” claimed Moosa, dismissing rumours of a planned no-confidence motion against Shahid.

“MDP is not a party divided into factions and groups,’’ he added, in reference to the recent factional turmoil within the opposition.

He claimed the intention of the rumours was to divide the MDP parliamentary group, “because DRP has already been split,’’ he claimed. “MDP will never fall into factions, no matter how much the opposition tries.’’

Thasmeen last week told the media he would not support such a vote, and assurances that “most” of the DRP MPs would not vote against Shahid.

The PA Secretary General Ahmed Shareef told Minivan News that no information on the accusations raised last week by Thasmeen.

“Nothing has been done to forward a no-confidence motion [against the Speaker],” said Shareef.

DRP MP Ahmed Nihan also dismissed rumours of the joint no-confidence motion against the Speaker as false.

”There are a few who are trying to split our party and they are taking advantage of this,” said Nihan. ”They are circulating this rumor through the media, and as far as I am concerned, it has never been discussed.”

He said that no DRP MPs had informed him of a potential no-confidence motion.

Meanwhile, DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom emphasised that DRP MPs “will not join the no-confidence motion against Shahid and have not even discussed anything like that.”

Dr Mausoom said he could confirm that DRP MPs had not planned to put the motion forward.

”There maybe someone bitter about Shahid who wishes to do so, but he is the best Speaker of parliament I have ever seen,” Dr Mausoom said. ”He has worked in a very volatile environment, but he has handled the situation well as a smooth operator.”

Dr Mausoom said he was ready to breach the party’s three-line whip in the event the DRP did decided to put forward a motion to dismiss the Speaker.

However, daily newspaper Haveeru has quoted a DRP MP anonymously that discussions about forwarding a motion to dismiss Shahid have been going on for two months, along with potential candidates for the speaker position.

Leader of the DRP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali originally raised the matter when he told the media that he had information that a no-confidence motion against Shahid was to be filed in parliament in what would be rare cooperation between DRP, MDP and PA MPs.

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Mission to save a Kimboo

As 30 odd students from Billabong High EPSS International school traipsed to Kudakudhinge Bageecha (children’s park) on the southeast side of Male, one might have thought they were on an outing for enjoyment.

But these students were on a mission. To save the crocodile, or ‘kimboo’ as they say in Dhivehi.

Grade eight student Shiman Shiyam had come to see the kimboo before. It is one of the major attractions at the park along with some birds in cages, and tortoises.

“It was sad to see it before also like that, but we never got a chance to do anything about it,” she says.

Shiman is busy painting a banner on the grounds of the park along with five other students, calling for the freedom of the kimboo.

Here and there pockets of students milling about preparing banners. From time to time, some go to take a peek at the kimboo.

The kimboo was caught off an island in Maldives in 1998. When it was first displayed in the little enclosure at the park, you could sometimes barely see it as it was so small the water at the enclosure could completely cover it.

But after 12 years in captivity it has grown to nine feet in length, and the water in the enclosure no longer even covers it. It can stretch its body, but the enclosure is too small for it now.

Billabong High School’s Biology Teacher, Kate Wilson, was out running with a friend when a detour in the park led them to discovering the crocodile.

Billabong students are on a mission to save the Kimboo, a nine foot crocodile
Billabong students are on a mission to save the Kimboo, a nine foot crocodile

“We were horrified by the size of the enclosure,” she says.

Calls were placed to Environmental protection Agency (EPA). The EPA told them that they had already tried to rescue the crocodile in conjunction with a Sri lankan outfit, to try and send it to a better place, “but for some reason it didn’t work out.”

Kimboo occasionally makes it into local media and even has his own Facebook page calling for his release, but so far nothing has eventuated.

Kate shared the story with her students, who were very keen to help and do what they could to begin the process of finding the crocodile a better home.

“We got in touch with an international agency in Australia, which rescues crocodiles that are injured or in bad conditions,” she says.  The agency is currently holding discussions to see if it is feasible to rescue the crocodile.

To encourage the agency to take action, today the students were making banners and producing a video with messages calling for support.

Shiman is confident kimboo will be rescued.

Aishath Suha, also in grade eight, says she volunteered for the operation ‘because I don’t want to see kimboo suffer.”

She points out the lack of space and says “it will be better off somewhere else in a better habitat.”

Like Shiman, Suha had also come to see the crocodile before and been concerned.

“This is all part of marking  World Environment Day, albeit belatedly,” says Billabong’s Principal, David Key.

Billabong High could not mark the day, as it fell on a holiday.

But now, as part of the activities, groups of students are planting 30 trees along the beach front area, and the beach near the tsunami monument.

“This is to create awareness among students about what they can do, and how they can help in contributing positively to preserving the environment,” says David.

Reasons for rescuing kimboo

Banners completed, the students gathered on the steps in the park. Each group of students gave the message they wanted to say for the video.

A group of young boys likened the kimboo’s captivity to “holding a person in a cage, through no fault of his own.”

Most students mentioned the small enclosure as the prime reason for wanting it to be rescued.

“It would be better off in a better home with others of its kind,” was another reason.

Sadly, after 12 years in captivity, the kimboo can most likely never be set free. But for the grade 7, 8, 9 and 10 students of Billabong, the fact it might get a better home is reason enough to try.

Meanwhile the kimboo lies in its enclosure, its powerful jaws wide open, oblivious to the fact that its future might soon change dramatically for the better.

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