Comment: Waheed flees with MVR 500,000 in cash and no dignity

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has fled the Maldives with MVR500,000 (US$34,000) in cash and no dignity. Last night, at around 10:30 pm while opposing candidates and their supporters were busy holding their last campaign rallies ahead of tomorrow’s vote, Waheed hastily got into a speedboat waiting at the jetty straight in front of his Office and beat a retreat.

Dr Manik, was the Vice President in the first democratically elected government of the Maldives but betrayed President Mohamed Nasheed on 7 February 2012 as the facade that portrayed the day’s coup as ‘a legitimate transfer of power’. He ran for President in September this year but managed to garner only 5% of the vote. He remained as ‘President’ for 21 months, the last three days of which were beyond the presidential term he illegally occupied.

He recorded a ‘farewell speech’ aired this morning on all television channels some 12 hours after his departure. He spent his last words on defending his decision to side with the coup-makers – “I was treated very badly as a VP!”; on insisting that the Supreme Court is the final authority on the Constitution – “we have to obey the Supreme Court, no matter what!”; on boasting about how he maintained peace and stability in the Maldives – “I did that under so many difficulties!”; and on praising the security forces for their “defence of the Maldives and our people.”

He sounded bitter, and was determined, even at the last minute, to attack his former President.

While hiding in whatever glorious mansion of Macau that he is in, he told anyone watching Maldivian television that Nasheed had ordered the military to use rubber bullets against the mutinying police on 7 February. Retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi appeared on television this afternoon to refute Waheed: “How would he know? He was not there.”

Waheed spent the night of the worst crisis in recent Maldivian history hiding inside the official residence while his wife Ilham dolled herself up for the presidential oath taking ceremony planned for later in the day.

Without Waheed, the coup-makers would not have been able to legitimise their illegal overthrow of the first democratically elected government of the Maldives, of which he was the Vice President. Without Waheed, the traitors would not have been able to hold on to power for 21 months, and without Waheed as a fig leaf, they would not have been able to drain public coffers of all money, renege on international agreements, destroy Maldives’ relations with the international community and allow Adhaalath Party’s Islamists to gain such traction in our socio-political affairs.

“I will have to consider what the atmosphere is like in Maldives,” he told Haveeru yesterday when asked if he plans to return. Waheed has a reputation for fleeing – when things got tough back in the 1990s when he was an MP, he ran off abroad for a job in the United Nations. He has boasted that he provided education for millions of women in Afghanistan when he was posted there after the American invasion. In the lead up to these presidential elections, he was asked on TVM’s RiyaaC programme if he would stay or flee should he lose: “I will stay,” he lied.

Waheed is one of the biggest traitors in the history of the Maldives. He is also one of its biggest cowards.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Government-aligned parties condemn India for hosting “cowardly” Nasheed

Political parties supporting the current government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan have criticised both former President Mohamed Nasheed and the Indian High Commission after Nasheed sought refuge inside.

Former President Nasheed entered the Indian High Commission on Wednesday ahead of a scheduled court hearing, to which he was to be produced under police detention.

Government aligned parties including the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) have all claimed accused Nasheed of being “cowardly”.

Leader of the DRP and presidential candidate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told local newspaper Haveeru he was “disappointed” over former President Nasheed’s decision.

He claimed that the decision by the high commission to provide refuge for Nasheed meant the embassy was meddling in the domestic affairs of the country, and said the issue was too complex for India to resolve.

“When a former President shows up in an embassy and claims he was there for protection, it is not an easy matter to solve. A quick solution should be sought through dialogue,” he said.

Thasmeen claimed that there was no need for Nasheed to seek refuge from the Indian High Commission.

He also contended that no political figure could force the Prosecutor General (PG) to withdraw the charges levied against the former President, and that it was solely at the discretion of the PG to decide the matter.

Nasheed is being tried for his controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during his last days in office.

“Appoint a better high commissioner”, Adhaalath party tells India

In a statement released on Saturday, the Adhaalath Party accused Nasheed of using the Indian diplomatic office as a shield to protect himself from being summoned to court.

“The Adhaalath Party believes that this cowardly act by Nasheed is a huge crime and an attempt to destroy the country’s legal system. Instead of working on proving his innocence, Nasheed is continuously harassing the legal system, defaming security services, showing disobedience and attempting to create chaos,” read the statement.

The party also condemned the Indian High Commission and the Indian government “for assisting a criminal fleeing from trial”.

“Making the Indian High Commission a political camp of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and [letting Nasheed] hold discussions with MDP activists on the premises and encouraging them to create chaos and unrest among society lowers the respect of Maldivian people towards India,” read the statement.

The Adhaalath Party told the Indian government “to appoint a high commissioner who is professional and capable of mending the deteriorating bilateral relationship between the two countries”.

“The worsening of bilateral ties between the Maldives and India is not at all something which this party wants to happen,” it added.

The Adhaalath Party was a vocal opponent of India’s GMR Group, and its US$511 million concession agreement to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. During on of the party’s rallies, several senior government figures mocked and insulted Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay calling him a “traitor to the Maldives”.

During a PPM press conference held on Thursday, party spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof claimed Nasheed was “coward” on the run knowing that his crime would invalidate his candidacy in the presidential election.

Mahloof said Nasheed did not have the patience to remain inside the high commission and that he would come out “very soon”.

“What is actually happening to Nasheed is that after resigning on February 7, 2012, he claims he will the MDP protests even if the police shoot him. But when the protests begin he is nowhere to be seen and is either at his home or on an island. Now we know Nasheed is a big coward,” he said.

He further said that Nasheed should be proving his innocence in court instead of hiding in the Indian High Commission.

Mahlouf said Nasheed’s decision to remain in the high commission until the elections would be costly to his party, as he would not have the opportunity to campaign as much as his rivals.

MDP response

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy dismissed the remarks made by the government-aligned parties, claiming that their respective leaders were desperate to eliminate Nasheed from the upcoming presidential election.

“Why are they condemning Indian High Commission’s hosting of Nasheed when there are graver issues to be concerned about? Our judiciary is failing. The Commonwealth, the European Union (EU), UN and even the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report highlights the flaws within Judiciary. Why are they silent on that?” Fahmy questioned.

He further reiterated that India was observing the situation in the Maldives and were wary of the situation with the judiciary.

Fahmy also condemned the Adhaalath Party’s derogatory remarks towards Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay.

In a statement, the MDP said the party’s comments were “unacceptable” and would “mindlessly”  impact the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

“President Nasheed has sought protection from the Indian High Commission after the Prosecutor General levied politically-motivated charges against him which lacked any legal grounds, and is concerned for his security,” the party said.

The party further contended that the Hulhumale Magistrate Court – which has been hearing the Nasheed trial – was illegitimate was therefore it unlikely that the former president would get a fair hearing.


India should stop meddling with Maldives’ domestic matters, says Home Minister Jameel

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has expressed his disappointment over the Indian government’s decision to provide refuge to former President Mohamed Nasheed in the Indian High Commission.

The former President was due to attend a hearing regarding his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Instead of appearing in court, Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission, claiming his trial was politically motivated and an attempt to bar him from running in presidential elections scheduled this year.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru, Jameel said that attempts by any country to prevent a person from facing charges pressed by an independent Prosecutor General (PG), could be described as interfering domestic matters of a sovereign state.

He said the charges levied against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate were serious as they involved the “abduction of a senior judge”.

In January 2012 while in power, Nasheed’s Home Minister Hassan Afeef wrote to the Defense Ministry requesting the judge be detained as he posed a threat to both the country’s national security and the criminal justice system.

The judge had previously obtained an injunction from the Civil Court against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog, which had complied.

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) subsequently arrested Judge Abdulla and placed him in military detention on Girifushi – a military training centre near Male’, also used for Nasheed’s famous underwater cabinet meeting in 2009.

In an attempt to give a legal justification for the involvement of the armed forces during the arrest, the former Home Minister alleged the judge had “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist”, and posed a threat to “public order, safety and national security”.

After his sudden resignation on February 2012, Nasheed is now facing criminal charges for violating Article 81 of the Penal Code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal.

Jameel – a former Justice Minister under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 year autocracy – has previously said it was “crucial to conclude the case against Nasheed before the approaching presidential elections, in the interests of the nation and to maintain peace in it.”

“Every single day that goes by without the case being concluded contributes to creating doubt in the Maldivian people’s minds about the judiciary,” the home minister said at the time.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s contended that the charge against its presidential candidate was a desperate attempt by the government to destroy its political opponents and bar Nasheed from contesting the scheduled elections.

The UK Bar Human Rights Commission – which is has been observing Nasheed’s trial – concurred in its recent report, agreeing that the trial was politically motivated.

“BHRC is concerned that a primary motivation behind the present trial is a desire by those in power to exclude Mr Nasheed from standing in the 2013 elections, and notes international opinion that this would not be a positive outcome for the Maldives,” the report stated.

However Home Minister Jameel has disputed the MDP’s claims, arguing that the trial was not politically motivated but a sincere attempt by the current government to uphold the rule of law.

Expressing his frustration over Nasheed’s presence in the Indian High Commission, Jameel said he had “never previously seen the international community trying to protect a convict or an individual who is being tried in a court of law”.

“I describe this action [by Indian High commission] as very unusual,” he said. “For example, it would be very unusual for a murderer to seek refuge in a diplomatic office.”

Jameel said the country needed assistance from the international community to look into the arrest of the judge, and “not to protect an individual who stands charged with a serious crime”.

Tweeting last night, the Home Minister implied that India was meddling in the Maldives’ internal affairs: “What’s happening now gives us an indication of the extent and level of interest some countries prepared to take in our internal matters,” he said.

“I would strongly urge everyone to let our institutions deal with the challenges, and allow the Maldives to uphold rule of law,” he tweeted.

Jameel was not responding to calls at time of press.

In a statement released by Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian government called on its regional counterpart to strictly adhere to “democratic principles and the rule of law, thereby paving the way for free, fair, credible and inclusive elections”.

“Following the arrest warrant issued against him by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, the former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who is a candidate for the Presidential elections in Maldives scheduled for September 2013, is in the Indian High Commission and has sought India’s assistance. We are in touch with the relevant Maldivian authorities to resolve the situation,” the statement read.

“Now that the President of the Election Commission of Maldives has announced that Presidential elections would be held on 7 September 2013, it is necessary that the Presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance.

“Prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives,” it added.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs concluded its statement by contending it was “not in the interest” of the Maldives or the region to prevent any candidate from contesting the country’s presidential elections later this year.

“India would call upon the government and all political parties in Maldives to avoid any actions that would vitiate the political atmosphere in the Maldives,” its statement read.

In a statement released by the office of the former President, Nasheed welcomed the Indian statement.

“The events of the past year – the mass arrests, the police brutality, the politically motivated trials – demonstrate that Dr Waheed cannot be trusted to hold a free and fair election. Waheed should do the right thing and resign from office. An interim, caretaker government should be established that can lead the Maldives to genuinely free and fair elections, in which all candidates are freely able to compete,” he said.

Nasheed in the statement also reiterated his belief that that his trial was “a politically motivated sham” and said the Hulhumale Magistrate Court – established to hear his case – was illegal and created “with the sole purpose of disqualifying me from standing in the presidential elections”.


Parliament schedules first parliamentary session of 2013 for March 4

Parliament has announced that it will hold the first parliamentary session of the year on March 4.

The session will commence with the annual presidential address as per article 84 of the Constitution, where the President will highlight the state of the country, as well as measures taken to resolve the country’s difficulties.

Last year, the first Majlis opening session ended in turmoil, following rigorous protests by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs.

A parliament spokesperson said parliament has made all the necessary preparations for the session.

Despite the chaos during the opening of last year’s session, the official said no additional security arrangements are being made.

MDP Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ali Waheed told local newspaper Haveeru that the parliamentary group had not decided on whether to allow or disallow President Waheed from giving his presidential address.

“We will hold a parliamentary group meeting on March. A decision on the matter will be made on that meeting,” he said.

Waheed was not responding to calls at time of press.

Last year in March, members of MDP parliamentary group sabotaged President Mohamed Waheed’s address, claiming his ascension to power was illegitimate.

The session had to be called off after MPs blocked Speaker of Parliament, Abdulla Shahid, from entering the parliament floor. MPs barricaded the doors and removed chairs intended for the Speaker and President Waheed.

In a press conference that followed, Speaker Shahid said he was unable enter the chamber despite several attempts, and on one occasion had fallen and injured himself.

Given the political tensions at the time, Shahid said he was unable to guarantee the safety of members and had decided to proceed through negotiation, rather than force.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed condemned the actions of MPs and described the event as a “dark day in constitutional and parliamentary history” of the Maldives, and acknowledged the patience and determination of the security forces in handling the situation.

“Security forces [police and MNDF] handled the situation with great patience and determination. Many officers sustained various degrees of injuries while controlling the protesters,” Jameel said at the time.

However on March 19, 2012 President Waheed gave a shortened speech after several unsuccessful attempts during a heated session. The MDP MPs continued their protests, heckling Waheed and labelling him a ‘traitor’ as he gave the speech.

Several MDP MPs were injured during minor scuffles that broke out in the Majlis chamber as protesters faced expulsion for continuing to block Waheed. MDP party members alleged that the MNDF was responsible, a claim refuted by military officials.

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News at the time that the party did not take pride in obstructing parliament, but had felt forced to do so due to its dissatisfaction with the nature of Waheed’s accession to the presidency.

According to parliamentary regulations, the inaugural meeting of parliament’s first session each year should be held either on the first Monday or Thursday of March.


31,000 new voters eligible to vote in upcoming presidential elections: Elections Commission

The Elections Commission (EC) has revealed that approximately 31,000 new voters will be eligible to cast their vote in the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled to be held on September 7.

Speaking to Minivan News on Sunday, Vice President of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz said that the number of eligible voters currently stands at 240,302 – 31,008 more than the number of eligible voters in the 2008 presidential elections (209,294).

“We are currently working on the voters list and it will be announced next month,” he said.

Fayaz said that the commission will in March also open registration for voters who are currently not residing on the island where they are initially registered to vote.

“This is a very large election. Usually, people are unable to register when the period given for registration is too short. That is why we decided to open registration in March,” he said.

According to President of Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq, eligible voters include 123,565 male voters and 116,737 female voters, however this was subject to change, he said.

The commission will formally declare the start of campaign season in July. However, all major political parties including the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and government-aligned parties such as the Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and current President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Ithiaad Party (GIP)  have all begun their presidential campaign. The PPM is meanwhile scheduled to hold its primaries by the end of February.

Previously, the Elections Commission expressed concern over the lack of sufficient funding given to the Elections Commission and warned that if additional funds are not made available, it will be unable to hold a presidential election this year.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, Thaufeeq said holding the nationwide elections would cost between MVR 55-60 million (US$3.57-3.89 million). However, he expressed concern that the commission’s current budget would be insufficient.

“With the current budget given to the Elections Commission, I am afraid we may not be able to hold the elections. The commission has raised concerns with the Finance Minister, the President’s Office and Parliament’s Public Finance Committee,” he said.

EC president added that Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad had told the commission to carry out its work with the current budget allocated, claiming that the government would “somehow find a way” to provide financial support to the commission.

Thaufeeq also said a budget shortfall may “slightly impact” the fairness of the elections, but said the commission would do everything it could to ensure the elections were free and fair.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad also said that the government would provide assistance to the commission in facilitating the elections.

“We will provide sufficient funds to hold elections. There is no question about it,” he said at the time.

In April 2012, the US government pledged to provide US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) as assistance for an elections program intended to support Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.

Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Colombo, Valerie Fowler, said at the time that the funding would be made available from July 2012.

The US would lend any support, including technical assistance, to ensure the next presidential election in the Maldives is conducted “smoothly and observed the rule of law”, Fowler said.

“Through USAID we are in the process of starting an election program that will assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election. We have allocated US$500,000 to start that process and anticipate that we can begin as soon as July 2012,” she noted at the time.


PPM MP Ilham Ahmed to contest primary: “human nature to seek top office”

Vice President of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and recently elected President of Football Association of Maldives (FAM), MP Ilham Ahmed, has said he may consider competing in the party’s upcoming presidential primary.

The Gemanafushi constituency MP told Minivan News he was considering contesting in the primary, but declined to give any details claiming that he had already given information to media.

Ilham told local media Haveeru that several supporters had called him and requested he contest.

Other candidates for the party’s presidential candidate include former Vice President of PPM Umar Naseer and PPM Parliamentary Group Leader MP Abdulla Yameen – half brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The PPM has previously said the primary will  take place at the end of February although a specific date is yet to be announced.

“I am very seriously considering all the possibilities,” Ilham told Haveeru.

He also said his decision to potentially contest the primaries was not intended to split votes and defeat another candidate, as his competing would not disadvantage other contenders, he claimed.

“If a three candidate formula comes up in the primaries, it will be the ordinary party members who will make a decision,” he said.

He added that his presidential slogan would be “100 percent islanders’ presidency” or “vote for the 100 percent island man”, should he contest.

“When I compete for the presidential primary, people will consider whether to vote for candidates belonging to the capital Male’, or an islander,” he said.

Ilham further claimed it was a trait of “human nature” to always seek higher positions, and that he was no different.

“I also have the right to contest the primary. I am the Vice President of one of the largest political parties in the country. The largest association in the country is FAM. I have been elected the FAM president. Therefore I also have that interest to go for a higher post. That is human nature,” he said.

“When I am already elected as Vice President of PPM and President of FAM, people will obviously ask me to contest in the PPM primary and give me their support,” he added.

Ilham said it is very important that a presidential candidate of PPM maintain a good relationship with other government-aligned parties, suggesting that it was very difficult to predict who those parties would support in the event of a run-off election.

He added that the only way for PPM to win the election in the first round was to seek the support of other government-aligned parties including business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP), Dr Hassan Saeed’s Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).

“We need to have a very good relationship with [other coalition parties]. It is important not to attack them on podiums and other political platforms. A coalition agreement is only possible if we have a good working relationship [with them]. I refuse to rule out the possibility that any of them may join forces with former President Mohamed Nasheed,” he said.

He also contended that his age and lack of experience were not a challenge to a government, should he be elected as president.

“I believe that being 36 years-old means I am very young. But, by the will of Allah, if I get elected as president, I would not be alone. I would also have a very tough team. That means, when I become president, current Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim would remain in his position. Current Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb will be given the same position. Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad will also stay in his position,” Ilham said.

Team Umar welcomes Ilham as a contender

Speaking to Minivan News, Senior member of Team Umar and PPM Youth Wing President Ibrahim Nazim said Umar’s team would welcome Ilham as a challenge should he decide to contest in the primaries.

“The PPM is a very open and a democratic party. We welcome any potential contenders. It shows the strength of the party’s internal democracy,” he said.

However, Nazim said that according to feedback from party members, Umar Naseer is the only candidate who would be able to win the primaries and that his team was expecting a “landslide” victory.

“The only person who can beat Umar Naseer is former President Gayoom. Even Ilham has his supporters too, but he will not be able to beat Umar Naseer,” he said.

According to Nazim, Umar Naseer is backed by a large majority of grass root members and members who have backed former President Gayoom since the formation of political parties in the country.

Nazim also alleged that some people are joining PPM with the sole intention of electing a certain candidate, but said that those tactics would be useless given Umar’s support base.

MP Yameen Abdul Gayoom – who is also contesting the primaries – was not responding to calls at time of press.


Presidential prospect Gasim Ibrahim also backs drilling for oil

Leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, has vowed to find oil in the Maldives should he be elected president of the country later this year.

Gasim – who owns television station VTV and the Villa group of companies and resorts – has already announced that he would be contesting in 2013 presidential elections. The Presidential candidate is also a member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), responsible for appointing a three-member panel of judges to oversee the criminal trial of fellow presidential candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Gasim is currently campaigning under the slogan ‘Tharaggee Gaimu’ (‘Development Guaranteed’).

Oil exploration has emerged as a key policy for several candidates aligned with the current government, including Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential prospect, Abdulla Yameen.

Gasim unsuccessfully contested in the 2008 presidential elections finishing the race in fourth place with 15.2 percent of the total vote. He finished behind candidates including then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, eventual winner former President Mohamed Nasheed and political advisor of President Dr Mohamed Waheed, Dr Hassan Saeed.

Gasim announced his plans to try and uncover oil during a press briefing held Sunday (February 3), after concluding a trip to France to buy a new aircraft for his company, Villa Air.

Speaking to the media, he claimed there was evidence to suggest oil could be located in Maldives and that technology was now sufficient to make drilling for fuel financially viable.

The chairman of Villa Group added that previous oil expeditions ended in failure because of “lack of technology” at the time and it would still be impossible if Maldivians tried to dig for oil “eighties style”.

“I was the first one who brought the idea to the government. I even spoke of this during the 2008 presidential elections,” Gasim said.


Gasim, stressing the importance of seeking oil in the Maldives, said it was wrong to turn away from a blessing given by Allah.

He went on to dismiss claims made by former Deputy Leader and a PPM presidential prospect Umar Naseer, who has claimed that digging for oil could destroy the tourism sector and the country’s economy.

“It is very wrong to turn ourselves away from a blessing given by Allah. On the other hand, with current technological advancements, that oil can be extracted safely without causing any harm to tourism sector,” he said.

During a PPM Rally, Umar Naseer claimed that digging for oil is “too risky” and it would take one oil leak into the sea to ruin the Maldives.

Gasim further said that it was a “baseless and irrational” to suggest that drilling for oil could harm the tourism sector. He added that if the drilling process is carried out within proper standards and with international expertise, such risks are unlikely to take place.

“There will always be a way to get things done. When you know that you have to get the technology to do that. We don’t have to use the technology that was used 70-100 years ago to find oil in the world,” he said.

“The way I see it, it is something we should pursue. If I get to be the President, it would be the first thing my government would turn towards,” he added.

Tested and trusted

Speaking to Minivan News, Spokesperson for the Jumhoree Party Moosa Rameez said his party’s presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim was a “tested and trusted” candidate and that he was “100 percent sure” Gasim would be successful in seeking oil.

“Gasim Ibrahim is very experienced in the field of business. He is very familiar with almost all kinds of industries in the world including the oil industry. He was the first one who pledged to find oil in the country in 2008,” Rameez said.

With the announcement, Gasim becomes the second presidential hopeful who has expressed desires to search for oil within the country.

Earlier, PPM Parliamentary Group Leader and contender in the party’s presidential primary Abdulla Yameen also announced that he would attempt to seek oil in the country if he gets elected.

During a rally held to kick off his presidential primary campaign, Yameen proclaimed that “when the PPM comes to power” it will conduct oil exploration, attract foreign investment and create 26,000 tourism jobs.

“It is very possible oil might be found in the Maldives,” Yameen said at the time.

Referring to Yameen’s pledge, JP’s Spokesperson said that when Gasim first announced that he would drill for oil, it was Yameen’s supporters who “mocked him” and made a joke out of it.

“Now when [Yameen] claims oil can be found in the country, it shows that Gasim was telling the truth from the very beginning,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb – who is backing Yameen in the primaries – has told Minivan News that Maldives’ environmental image and commitments are no obstacles to developing of an oil industry.

Adheeb told Minivan News last month the Maldives was “a big nation, and places not in marine protected zones or tourism areas could be explored for oil, like in the less developed north.”

“Oil exploration is a term and [we] cannot conclude something with out the details. Regulations and more planning need to be done,” he said.

Previous oil exploration attempts in 1980 found the cost of retrieving the oil was too high compared to the US$20 (MVR 308) price per barrel at the time. However the present price of US$125 (MVR 1925) per barrel made further exploration feasible.

Yameen was not responding to calls at time of press.


Bill for Nasheed govt’s investigation of STO-Burma oil trade US$10 million: AG

Attorney General Azima Shakoor yesterday revealed to local media that the government has to pay US$ 10 million (MVR 154.2 million) to forensic accounting firm Grant Thornton following the firm’s investigation of the State Trading Organisation (STO)’s international illegal oil trade allegedly worth up to US$800 million.

In a press conference following reports that President Mohamed Waheed’s government spent £75,000 (MVR 1.81 million) on advice from former UK Attorney General Baroness Patricia Scotland, Shakoor announced that the government had received invoices for US$10 million from Grant Thorton.

However former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed told Minivan News that the US$10 million was a ‘penalty’ fee that was only to be charged if the investigation was stopped.

“Grant Thorton was working on a contingency basis. Besides hard costs such as flights the investigation itself was free, and we only had to pay a percentage of the assets recovered. However if the government stopped the investigation – say if it made a political deal – then Grant Thorton would impose a penalty,” Dr Shaheed explained.

“As of February, Grant Thorton were ready with a criminal complaint, having obtained a number of documents relating to financial dealings from Singapore banks through court orders issued by Singapore courts. The documents revealed at least US$140 million defrauded between 2002-2004. There would of course be no penalty if the government suspended the investigation due to lack of evidence or progress,” Dr Shaheed said.

Following the controversial transfer of power on February 7 2012 that saw the ousting of President Nasheed’s government, the case fell silent – despite the matter having been forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s office a week earlier.

Nasheed’s Presidential Commission on corruption, which had been charged with investigating the STO case and of which Dr Shaheed was appointed a member, was disbanded – one of incoming President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s first acts in power.

Burma oil trade expose

The oil trade first came into the limelight following an explosive article in India’s The Week magazine by Sumon K Chakrabarti, Chief National Correspondent of CNN-IBN, which accused former STO head Abdulla Yameen – Gayoom’s half-brother – of being “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through the State Trading Organisation’s branch in Singapore and sell it on through an entity called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta, at a black market premium.

“The Maldives receives subsidised oil from OPEC nations, thanks to its 100 percent Sunni Muslim population. The Gayooms bought oil, saying it was for the Maldives, and sold it to Myanmar on the international black market. As Myanmar is facing international sanctions, the junta secretly sold the Burmese and ‘Maldivian’ oil to certain Asian countries, including a wannabe superpower,” alleged Chakrabarti.

“Sources in the Singapore Police said their investigation has confirmed ‘shipping fraud through the diversion of chartered vessels where oil cargo intended for the Maldives was sold on the black market creating a super profit for many years,’” the report added.

Quoting an unnamed Maldivian cabinet Minister, The Week stated that: “what is becoming clear is that oil tankers regularly left Singapore for the Maldives, but never arrived here.”

The article drew heavily on the investigation report by Grant Thorton, commissioned by the Maldives government in March 2010, which obtained three hard drives containing financial information detailing transactions from 2002 to 2008. No digital data was available before 2002, and the paper trail “was hazy”.

According to The Week, Grant Thorton’s report identifies Myanmar businessman and head of the Kanbawza Bank and Kanbawza Football Club, Aung Ko Win, as the middleman acting between the Maldivian connection and Vice-Senior General Maung Aye, the second highest-ranking member of the Burmese junta – one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.


According to The Week article, the engine of the operation was the Singaporean branch of the government-owned State Trading Organisation (STO), of which Yameen was the board chairman until 2005.

Fuel was purchased by STO Singapore from companies including Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte) Ltd, Singapore Petroleum Company and Petronas, and sold mostly to the STO (for Maldivian consumption) and Myanmar, “except in 2002, when the bulk of the revenue came from Malaysia.”

The “first red flag” appeared in an audit report on the STO by KPMG, one of the four major international auditing firms which took over the STO’s audits in 2004 from Price WaterhouseCoopers.

The firm noted: “A company incorporated in Singapore by the name of Mocom Trading Pte Ltd in 2004 has not been discluded under Note No. 30 to the Financial Statements. There was no evidence available with regard to approval of the incorporation. Further, we are unable to establish the volume and the nature of the company with the group.”

In a subsequent report, KMPG noted: “The name of the company has been struck off on 20th April 2006.”

Investigators learned that Mocom Trading was set up in February 2004 as a joint venture between STO Singapore and a Malaysian company called ‘Mocom Corporation Sdn Bhd’, with the purpose of selling oil to Myanmar and an authorised capital of US$1 million.

According to The Week, the company had four shareholders: Kamal Bin Rashid, a Burmese national, two Maldivians: Fathimath Ashan and Sana Mansoor, and a Malaysian man named Raja Abdul Rashid Bin Raja Badiozaman. Badiozaman was the Chief of Intelligence for the Malaysian armed forces for seven years and a 34 year veteran of the military, prior to his retirement in 1995 at the rank of Lieutenant General.

As well as the four shareholders, former Managing Director of STO Singapore Ahmed Muneez served as director. The Week reported that Muneez informed investigators that Mocom Corportation was one of four companies with a tender to sell oil to the Burmese junta, alongside Daewoo, Petrocom Energy and Hyundai.

Under the contract, wrote The Week, “STO Singapore was to supply Mocom Trading with diesel. But since Mocom Corporation held the original contact, the company was entitled to commission of nearly 40 percent of the profits.”

That commission was to be deposited in an United Overseas Bank account in Singapore, “a US dollar account held solely by Rashid. So, the books would show that the commission was being paid to Mocom, but Rashid would pocket it.”

In a second example cited by The Week, investigators discovered that “STO Singapore and Mocom Trading duplicated sales invoices to Myanmar. The invoices showed the number of barrels delivered and the unit price. Both sets of invoices were identical, except for the price per barrel. The unit price on the STO Singapore invoices was US$5 more than the unit price of the Mocom Trading invoice. This was done to confuse auditors.”

As a result, “the sum total of all Mocom Trading invoices to Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprises was US$45,751,423, while the sum total of the invoices raised by STO Singapore was US$51,423,523 – a difference of US$5,672,100.”

Furthermore, “investigators found instances where bills of lading (indicating receipt of consignment) were unsigned by the ship’s master.”

Money from the Maldives

Despite his officially stepping down from the STO in 2005, The Week referenced the report as saying that debit notes in Singapore “show payments made on account of Yameen in 2007 and 2008.”

Citing the report directly, The Week wrote: “The debit notes were created as a result of receiving funds from Mr Yameen deposited at the STO head office, which were then transferred to STO Singapore’s bank accounts. This corresponded with a document received from STO head office confirming the payments were deposited by Yameen into STO’s bank accounts via cheque.

The Week claimed that Yameen was aided by Muneez on the STO Singapore side, and by Mohamed Hussain Maniku, former STO managing director, on the Maldivian end until 2008.

“In conversation with Mr Muneez, this was to provide monies for the living expenses of his [Yameen’s] son and daughter, both studying in Singapore. Their living expenses were distributed by Mr Muneez,” the Grant Thorton report stated, according to The Week.

In a previous interview with Minivan News, Yameen confirmed that he had used the STO’s accounts to send money to his children in Singapore, “and I have all the receipts.”

He described the then STO head in Singapore as “a personal friend”, and said “I always paid the STO in advance. It was a legitimate way of avoiding foreign exchange [fees]. The STO was not lending me money.”

He denied sending money following his departure from the organisation: “After I left, I did not do it. In fact I did not do it 3 to4 years before leaving the STO. I used telegraphic transfer.”

Yameen described the wider allegations contained in The Week article as “absolute rubbish”, and denied being under investigation by the Singaporean police, saying that he had friends in Singapore who would have informed him if that were the case.

The article, he said, was part of a smear campaign orchestrated by then President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, a freelance writer and the dismissed Auditor General “now in London”, who he claimed had hired the audit team – “they spent two weeks in the STO in Singapore conducting an investigation.”

Yameen said he did not have a hand in any of the STO’s operations in Singapore, and that if Muneez was managing director at the time of any alleged wrong-doing, “any allegations should carry his name.”

He denied any knowledge or affiliation with Steven Law or Lo Hsing Han, and said that as for Mocom Trading, “if that company is registered, Maniku would know about it.”

Asked to confirm whether the STO Singapore had been supplying fuel to Myanmar during his time as chair of the board, “it could have been – Myanmar, Vietnam, the STO is an entrepreneurial trade organisation. It trades [commodities like] oil, cement, sugar, rice to places in need. It’s perfectly legitimate. “

Asked whether it was appropriate to trade goods to a country ostracised by the international community, Yameen observed that the trading had “nothing to do with the moral high-ground, at least at that time. Even even now the STO buys from one country and sells to those in need.”

Asked why the President would hire a freelance writer to smear his reputation after the local council elections, “that’s because Nasheed would like to hold me in captivity.”

The only way Nasheed could exert political control, Yameen claimed, “was to resort to this kind of political blackmail”.

“Unfortunately he has not been able to do that with me. I was a perfectly clean minister while in Gayoom’s cabinet. They have nothing on me.”

On February 1, 2012, the Presidential Commission set up during Nasheed’s administration to look into the malpractices of his predecessor Gayoom’s administration, sent the case to Prosecutor General for prosecution.

Parliament resolution

However, in June 2011, former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa presented a resolution to the parliament demanding the investigation by the parliament.

In the motion, Musthafa claimed that the article in the week magazine had outlined how the fraud was conducted to local media, and provided evidence.

His resolution requests an investigation into what it describes as “the biggest corruption case in the history of the Maldives”.

Issues relating to the Singapore-based joint venture that allegedly carried out the deal, Mocom Trading Pvt Ltd, which was used established to carry out this fraud, were first raised by audit firm KPMG, Musthafa noted in the resolution.

The resolution stated that later in 2004, audit firm Price Water House Coopers also audited the STO.

“This year the government handed the auditing to [forensic accountancy firm] Grant Thornton which found that the two audit reports contained legitimate concerns in their reports,’’ the resolution said.

Yameen dismissed the allegations and called on the government of Nasheed to investigate the allegations during the debate on the resolution.

He conceded that the STO did sell oil to Burma “but if you claim that the trade was illegal, you have to prove it first.”

Yameen added that STO senior officials alleged to be involved in the oil trade were still employed by the government: “They are now in high posts in the MDP,” he said.

“So if you dare to investigate this, by all means go ahead,” he continued. “I encourage that this be investigated. The other thing I want to say is that I have now become impatient. Even if they stack US$800 million worth of documents on one end of the scale, there is no way they would be able to prove [any wrongdoing].

“The documents are with the government. We did not take documents home with us when we left office,” he said.

Yameen claimed at the time that the Nasheed administration possessed a list of senior officials of the previous government who had purchased assets overseas.

“The government will have that list now,” he said. “Why is it that they won’t make it public? I know that this work was done under the World Bank’s stolen assets recovery programme [StAR]. This list will have people who are now helping this government, not anyone else. Why don’t you release the list?”

The MP for Mulaku claimed that the government had paid “over a million dollars” to Grant Thornton, without uncovering any evidence to implicate him..

“In such investigations, forensic accountants are given two or three weeks to complete their work,” he said. “[But] this has now been dragged out for over a year.”

Yameen said that he was “ready to sue” for defamation if a final report “under seal and signature of Grant Thornton” was made public.

“But there’s no way to file this suit because no official document has been released,” he continued. “All that’s been released are draft reports without any signature or seal that can be taken to court.”

Yameen added that “the US$800 million worth of trade was done with back-to-back LCs (lines of credit) in Singapore based on trust between one bank and another.”

“All the bank documentation is there,” he said, claiming that Grant Thornton had cleared out all the “invoices and documents” from STO Singapore so that “there’s not even one photocopy left.”

“How can eight or nine years worth of documents of a government company be taken like this?” he asked. “I know this for a fact.”

The right of individuals to be considered innocent until proven guilty was “a sacred provision” in the Maldivian constitution, he said.

The resolution was later sent to a committee to investigate by an approval of 52 – 11.

In his closing statement, Musthafa said that MP Yameen’s conceding during the debate that US$800 million worth of trade in oil did take place had “fulfilled the main purpose of my resolution.”

Counter claim?

The Attorney General’s revealing of the expenses of the Grant Thornton investigation comes a day after it was revealed that President Waheed’s government spent £75,000 (MVR 1.81 million) on advice from former UK Attorney General and member of the House of Lords, Baroness Patricia Scotland, in a bid to challenge the Commonwealth’s “biased” stance on the Maldives.

The Maldives was suspended from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – the Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm – and placed on its formal agenda after former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged that his resignation on February 7 had taken place under duress.  Nasheed contended he was forced out of office amid a mutiny by police and armed forces, orchestrated by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and funded by several local wealthy resort businessmen.

CMAG swiftly challenged the impartiality of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) established by incoming President Mohamed Waheed to examine the circumstances of his own succession, and called on Waheed to hold early elections to restore the country’s democratic legitimacy.

After a number of countries – including the UK and EU – backed the Commonwealth’s stance, the government was pressured into reforming the CNI to include a member of Nasheed’s choosing and a retired judge from Singapore, GP Selvam. The reformed Commission is due to publish its findings in late August.

“The Maldives government is of the view that the Maldives has been placed on the [CMAG] agenda unfairly, and there is a general feeling that the Commonwealth and the CMAG view points are biased in favour of President Nasheed’s allegation of a coup,” the Attorney General’s office, stated in the terms of reference.

The terms of reference document for the contract, obtained by Minivan News, is dated May 28, 2012 and is signed by Scotland and the Maldives’ Deputy Attorney General, Aishath Bisham.  It also carries the official stamp of the Attorney General’s Office.

The story first emerged in the Daily Mail, a UK newspaper based in London.  The Mail established that the peer and former Attorney General had not listed the payment from the Maldives on the House of Lords’ register of members’ interests.

“Her entry says she has set up a firm to provide ‘private consultancy services’ but says it is ‘not trading at present’,” the Daily Mail reported.

In a statement, Baroness Scotland confirmed she had been “instructed by the Attorney General of the Maldives to give legal advice”, and slammed the leak of the terms of reference and “all communications passing between myself and the Attorney General, whether written or oral, pertaining to the nature and extent of that advice, as confidential and legally privileged.”

She additionally claimed to have been approached by both the government and the opposition (MDP), and said she had accepted an invitation to chair a roundtable “at which all parties are to be invited.”

“I am a senior barrister with specific expertise in the area of constitutional law, criminal and civil law reform, and am skilled in mediation,” she explained.

Baroness Scotland was previously scrutinised by the UK press in 2009 after she was found to have been employing an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper in her London home.

As the story emerged, MPs from the UK’s Conservative Party – which has long backed Nasheed and the MDP – seized the opportunity to attack the former UK Labour Party Cabinet Minister.

Conservative MP Karen Lumley told the Daily Mail that is was “disgusting that a former British attorney-general should take a well-paid job advising the new regime, which has no democratic mandate. President Nasheed was overthrown in a coup and the Maldives is now very unstable. Many of my friends there have been arrested by the new regime.”

Conservative MP John Glen told the paper that Baroness Scotland should “hang her head in shame”.

“What happened in the Maldives was a military coup,” he said, adding that it was “outrageous” that the former AG should be “advising a regime responsible for ousting a democratically-elected president.”

Former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Farahanaz Faizal, described the government’s employment of Baroness Scotland as “absolutely shocking. If the government wanted legal advice to support the AG’s Office, the proper way is to request the UK government bilaterally.”

“To think that someone of her calibre would undertake an assignment to check if Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Jamaica, and others of CMAG had acted against their mandate is disgraceful,” Dr Faizal said.

Following the reports, President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza in an interview given to local TV station VTV denied the allegations.

“It is not true that the government spent 75,000 pounds on a former British attorney general. It is part of the lies that the Maldivian Democratic Party is spreading,” Riza was reported as stating in Haama Daily.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad meanwhile told Minivan News “I think that case was handled by [President Waheed’s Special Advisor] Dr Hassan Saeed.”

“[Baroness Scotland] did consult with us during the time CMAG was pressuring us, and we sought legal advice as to how to proceed,” Masood added.

In today’s press conference, in contrast to Riza, Shakoor conceded that the claims made in Daily Mail were true and that It was normal for the government to seek legal advice on international matters.

“The government has previously sought international legal advice on several other issues including the Air Maldives case and GMR’s lawsuit against Maldives government in Singapore arbitration court over the Airport Development Charge (ADC),” she said.

Shakoor said that the case of Scotland was carried out similarly.

“We believe that the CMAG has put the Maldives in its agenda not in accordance with their own procedures and also their calls for an early election reflects that they did not do proper research on the Maldivian Constitutional mechanism, therefore we had to seek legal advice from Baroness Scotland,” he added.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor was not responding at time of press.


GMR announces dollar payments to employees as ruling parties continue call for nationalisation

Additional reporting by JJ Robinson

Despite recent government assurances that Indian investments in the Maldives would be protected, parties in the now ruling coalition have renewed calls for the airport to be nationalised.

Indian infrastructure company GMR has meanwhile informed staff that it will pay 50 percent of employee salaries in US dollars from July onwards, as part of the new employee benefits scheme. Further benefits announced include the payment of Ramadan bonuses in US dollars, and a profit-sharing scheme awarding employees a one percent share of the company’s profits from 2011.

The decision follows a week in which former opposition parties – now in a coalition government following the controversial transfer of power of February 7 – sent replies to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s request for opinions on the airport, the development and management of which was taken over by GMR in 2010 in a 25 year concession agreement signed with the now-opposition government.

The pro-government parties – including the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), People’s Alliance (PA) and Jumhoree Party (JP) – advised Waheed that they continued to endorse an agreement signed in June 2010 calling for the airport to be taken back from GMR and nationalised – the  ‘Joint Statement by political parties opposing government’s efforts to hand over the Male’ International Airport to a foreign party’.

The agreement endorsed six main points which included taking legal action to prevent the government’s decision to award the contract to GMR.

GMR’s contract is currently under scrutiny by a committee appointed by President Waheed, which includes the Attorney General, the Finance Minister and the CEO of Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL).

A delegation from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank group and the largest global institution focused on private sector in developing countries,  which brokered the deal between GMR and the government of Maldives – recently addressed the government’s concerns over the concession agreement in a meeting with senior government officials.

The DQP – a small but extremely vocal party which has consistently opposed the airport deal and filed court cases against it – today accused the IFC of mishandling the bid evaluation report of the airport privatisation agreement. A 24-page book released by the DQP while it was in opposition presents the government’s lease of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) to developer GMR as a threat to local industry that will “enslave the nation and its economy”.

“IFC is a company associated with GMR in many other projects. It is clear that IFC had issued loans to GMR on other projects. We believe that the government selected IFC to facilitate GMR for the airport project,” an anonymous party source told newspaper Haveeru.

President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza said the airport contract is “an important national issue” which “must be dealt with after discussions with coalition partners.”

However, speaking at the ceremony to mark the 100th day of his administration, President Waheed said he did not wish to involve “political disputes” in reviewing the GMR contract and that foreign investments must be handled as business dealings.

“I do not believe bringing in our political quarrels into the GMR issue will be good for our future and our economy,” said the President.

During President Waheed’s recent trip to India, he also assured Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the Maldives government would adhere to all agreements between Indian and Maldivian businesses and expressed the Maldives’ desire for further Indian investment in the country.

“My government is a continuation of the previous government under then President Nasheed, and hence there should be no doubt on this score,” he was quoted as telling Manmohan Singh in the Daily News.

In addition, during the India trip, Maldives Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla assured his Indian counterpart that all existing investment agreements would be honoured despite the change of government on February 7.

According to Indian newspaper The Hindu, Samad assured Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that the government’s policy was unchanged, after his counterpart expressed the desire that the Maldives remained friendly to outside investors.

Hostile politics

Despite these assurances, the revelation that major political parties now in government continue their endorsement of airport nationalisation, and challenging of the IFC’s competency, could increase tensions between the government and GMR and weaken investor confidence in the Maldives – at nearly US$500 million, the airport concession agreement is the country’s single largest foreign investment.

Declining to comment on the official standing of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) on the GMR deal, the party’s Deputy Leader Dr Abdulla Mausoom said the DRP was against privatising “assets of national importance”.

Jumhoree Party (JP) Spokeman Moosa Rameez said the party had written to the President stating their wish to adhere to the agreement signed between the then opposition parties.

Although the parties in the government had expressed several concerns including “threats to national security” in “giving away the airport to foreigners”, the government’s current concerns are focused on the disputed concession fees in the agreement.

Under the concession agreement in the GMR contract, a US$25 charge was to be levied as an airport development charge (ADC) on all outgoing passengers to part-fund the infrastructure project.

However, while in opposition, the DQP – which today forms part of Waheed’s national unity government – filed a successful case in the Civil Court in December 2011 to block the payment of the charge, on the grounds that it was effectively a tax not approved by parliament.

Nasheed’s government had agreed to deduct the ADC from the concession fees payable by GMR while it sought to appeal to verdict. As a result, Dr Waheed’s government received only US$525,355 from the airport for the first quarter of 2012, compared to the US$8.7 million it was expecting.

In April, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad declared that the Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) would be unable to continuing paying the ADC without risking bankruptcy.

The Transport Ministry has since ordered GMR to pay the shortfall in concession fees. In response, GMR in early May “expressed a desire to exempt Maldivian citizens from the ADC”, as “the majority of Maldivians travel abroad for the purposes for healthcare and education.”

“The ADC was conceptualised and incorporated into the concession agreement by the government to yield a maximum return to the Maldives while ensuring development of the airport and a reasonable return to the successful bidder,” GMR said, in a statement at the time.

“We are sensitive to the apprehensions expressed regarding ADC; and would like to assure all concerned that the management of GMR Male International Airport is doing everything possible by offering viable options to reduce the impact on the Maldivians, thereby helping the government for the ADC implementation.”

GMR has expressed confidence in the strength of its contract, which has a facility for dispute arbitration in Singapore, as well as an option for the government to buy out the agreement – a cost likely to reach several hundred million dollars.

However the country is already facing a crippling budget deficit of 27 percent, a plunge in expected revenue of 23 percent and an increase in spending of almost 24 percent, a time when investor confidence has been impacted by repeated challenges to the government’s legitimacy by the MDP.

Earlier this week the government refused to comment on claims made in local media by JP Gasim Ibrahim that the Maldives was now bankrupt and already unable to pay some civil servants.