A hundred Maldivians awaiting evacuation in Nepal

Nearly a hundred Maldivian students and their families are awaiting evacuation from Nepal after Saturday’s earthquake which has killed over 3000 people and left thousands more injured and homeless.

All Maldivians are safe, the foreign ministry has confirmed.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon says flights are on standby for clearance from India to use the country’s airspace, according to Haveeru. 

Majority of the Maldivians in Nepal are at the capital Kathmandu’s police academy grounds, and will be brought back within 48 hours, a senior official at the foreign ministry told Minivan News.

The Maldivian honorary consul in Nepal is providing food, water and blankets, the foreign ministry has said.

Some 14 Maldivians in south eastern Biratnagar have crossed over to India. The foreign ministry said it has faced some challenges in tracking down all Maldivians in Nepal, and said the consul is transporting Maldivians in other areas of the country to Kathmandu.

The Islamic ministry is also allocating funds from its Zakat fund for evacuation, the foreign ministry said.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz tweeted last night that the evacuation flight is sponsored by the tourism industry.

Nepal was struck with a 7.8 magnitude on April 25. Recent reports from the BBC suggest that the official death toll will climb as rescue efforts continue. Thousands of people are believed to be trapped under rubble. The earthquake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest and damaging its base camp. The quake has destroyed thousands of buildings and historic monuments.

The Maldivian red crescent and the Maldivian medical association have set up a Nepal relief fund to collect money for relief efforts. Many Maldivian medical students in Kathmandu are reported to be helping out at hospitals. 

Telecoms providers Ooredoo and Dhiraagu have announced they will not levy charges for calls to Nepal for the next three days to enable customers to get in touch with family members in Nepal.

President Abdulla Yameen on Saturday sent a message of sympathy to the Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, stating: “At this hour of deep distress, the people of the Maldives stand together with our Nepalese friends, while wishing the recovery efforts every success.”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said that the party was “profoundly saddened by the loss of lives, and great damages” caused by the earthquake.


Maldivian airlines to upgrade fleet

Maldives’ national carrier Maldivian has announced it will be expanding its operational fleet, with an Airbus A-321 due to arrive sometime this month, reports local media.

Speaking to Vaguthu, an official from the national carrier said that the new airliner will start its journey towards the Maldives on January 19, from Spain, adding that the plane will be able to make the journey in one day.

The official said that the Airbus will be capable of carrying 200 passengers and that the flight will be operated by Maldivian pilots and engineers.

The airplane will start operating flights into three new Chinese cities starting from next month, with the flight being projected to bring around 1000 tourists every week.

Source: Vaguthu


Maldivian to start flights to three new Chinese destinations

Maldives’ national carrier Maldivian has announced that it will be starting flights to three new Chinese destinations in February.

A tweet from the airline revealed that the it will be operating flights to Nanjing City, Xi’an, and Changsha.

Maldivian already operates two flights to the cities of Chengdu and Woohan, while also operating flights to Trivandrum and Chennai in India, and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

The Chinese tourism market is the fastest growing in the world, with Chinese tourists now representing over 30 percent of all visitors to the Maldives.


Maldives a target of regional terrorists, says Sri Lanka analyst

A Sri Lankan national arrested in Chennai on April 29 on terrorism charges was also targeting locations in the Maldives, terrorism expert Dr Rohan Gunaratna has told the New Indian Express (NIE).

The Tamil Nadu Police arrested Zakir Hussein, 37 years, in Chennai on suspicion of acting as an operative for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and planning attacks on diplomatic missions including the US consulate in Chennai. The police are now investigating if Hussein was involved in bomb blasts at the Chennai Central Railway Station on May 2. The twin blasts killed one woman and injured 14 people.

Gunaratna, who heads the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said Zakir Hussein was planning to launch attacks on locations in the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India.

Further, terror cells similar to Hussein’s are active in all three countries and pose a “severe threat” to the South Asia region, Rohan said. He declined to reveal further details, but told the NIE terror groups in the region are harder to track now as they are “becoming autonomous and developing a life of their own.”

According to NIE, Gunaratna predicts terrorists and extremists organisations will expand rapidly and become more active across South Asia due to the reduced US military presence in Afghanistan.

“It is, therefore, of critical importance for India, Lanka, and the Maldives to have a joint approach towards terrorism,” Gunaratna was quoted as saying. Considering the connections, Hussain’s arrest is “very significant” for the region, he added.

Home-made weapons

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General’s Office has confirmed receiving a case involving a Maldivian man who produced home-made weapons.

According to Haveeru, the weapons were discovered in a police raid in September 2013 in connection to reports of a person preparing to join the Syrian civil war.

Hand guns, sniper rifles and mines were discovered during the raid, but the man accused of producing these weapons has no connections to religious extremists, Haveeru said. The PG  office declined to comment on the matter.

Social media groups have cropped up to recruit Maldivians for the civil war in Syria, while pamphlets against Alawites and Shiah Muslims have been found at local mosques. Local NGOs  led a humanitarian fund-raising campaign dubbed ‘Help Syria Through Winter’ in January and raised US$39,294 in three weeks.

Links to global terrorism

In 2007, Maldives witnessed its first terror attack when a home-made IED was detonated remotely at the Sultan Park, a popular tourist attraction in Malé. Twelve tourists were injured in the attack.

Prior to the attack, the Indian State police in 2005 arrested a Maldivian named Ibrahim Asif who tried to procure arms from Kerala to use it in the Maldives. He was suspected to be member of a UK-based Islamist group with a “dormant unit” in the Maldives.

In May 2009, Ali Jaleel, who is suspected of links with Sultan Park attack suspects, died in a suicide attack at the ISI headquarters in Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistani government suspect the Taliban to be behind the attack which left 30 people dead and 300 injured. It was later revealed that Jaleel also had connections with the Al Qaida.

Just a month before Jaleel’s attack, nine Maldivians were arrested by Pakistani security forces in the Wazaristan region for suspected involvement with militants. One of the nine was a suspect in the Sultan Park case. All nine of them were later repatriated and released by the Maldivian government.

The same year, former President Mohamed Nasheed told the CNN IBN in an interview that local religious extremists were being recruited by foreign groups particularly in Pakistan, where Ali Jaleel was also recruited.

Nasheed’s VP Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan also expressed similar concerns, but on assuming power in February 2012, Waheed’s administration denied existence of religious extremism in the country.

In late 2010, a leaked diplomatic cable revealed US diplomats were concerned of activities of “al-Qaida associates” in the Maldives in 2008 and alleged that Maldivians participate in online recruitment forums to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

US State Department’s 2013 “Country Report on Terrorism” stated that Maldivian authorities believed that funds are being raised locally to support terrorism abroad.


Maldivian student killed in Afghan blast

A Maldivian student, Amir Moosa, 31 from G.A Dhaandhoo was recently killed in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, the Island council has said today.

President of the Council Shuaib Abdulla said a family member of the deceased had reported his death in an Afghanistan bomb blast, although the incident is yet to be officially reported to the Council by his immediate family.

Shuaib said Amir has been studying in Pakistan for the past six years and many locals believe he was involved with Jihadi operations there. “According to a family members, when he calls home he would talk about Jihad and Independence of Palestine” Shuaib said.

The deceased’s sister told Sun Online that Amir had been killed two months ago, though the family themselves only received the news yesterday (December 14). She also denied that Amir held any extremist views.

However, local news website CNM quoted Amir’s mother as saying that he was living in Pakistan with his wife and four children (who are still in Pakistan) for higher education.

Amir’s family confirmed to CNM that he was visiting Afghanistan when the blast killed him. Maldives Police Service have not yet received any such reports.

Foreign Ministry officials were not available for comment at the time of press.

Maldives has been hit by a wave of religious extremism in the past few years. In September 2007 a home made IED was set off at popular tourist attraction in capital Male’, injuring 12 tourists.

Common threats against voices critical of radical Islamism were actualized with a brutal attempt on a journalist’s life in 2012. Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed came just millimetres from death when assailants he would later allege to be Islamists slashed his throat just yards from his home.

This incident happened just a few months after a mob of religious extremists destroyed priceless Buddhist statues in the National Museum.

In early 2010, then-Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik expressed concern about young Maldivians being recruited by militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan to wage ‘jihad’, a claim reiterated by top level officials including former President Mohamed Nasheed.


MDP files motion calling government to address judicial issues highlighted by Special Rapporteur

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has filed a motion calling the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to address issues highlighted in the report by United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, concerning the country’s judiciary.

Knaul’s final report to the UN Human Rights Council extensively outlined the political, budgetary and societal challenges facing the judiciary and wider legal community, as well as the politicisation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and its failure to appoint qualified judges under Article 285 of the constitution.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed “deep concern” over the failure of the judicial system to address “serious violations of human rights” during the Maldives’ 30 year dictatorship, warning of “more instability and unrest” should this continue to be neglected.

“It is indeed difficult to understand why one former President is being tried for an act he took outside of his prerogative, while another has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years,” Knaul wrote.

The motion, filed by MDP MP Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy, was debated during the parliamentary session held on Monday. The motion was passed by 23 out of 34 members present during the session, while nine members voted against it.

Presenting the motion, Fahmy said the judiciary was impaired after it appointed the judges for life, without considering the constitutional provisions specified in article 285 of the constitution.

He contested that the JSC, instead of ensuring that the judges met the required standards befitting an independent judiciary, had lowered the standards to ensure all existing judges were qualified to sit on the bench for life, plunging the whole judicial system into chaos.

Due to the JSC’s decision to lower the standards, judges accused and in some cases convicted of criminal wrongdoing had been reinstated, he contended.

Fahmy further contested that every citizen of the country was entitled to the right to get a fair hearing and that not even the Supreme Court could undermine such a fundamental right.

He noted that the judiciary disregards any remark made that highlight its own flaws, dismissing them as attempts to tarnish the image of the judiciary and lower its image among the public.

Parliamentary debate

Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla raised doubts over the legitimacy of the current membership of the JSC, highlighting that current Attorney General Aishath Bisham – who by virtue of her position is also a member of JSC – is yet to be endorsed by the parliament.

Local media alleged that Aishath Bisham had taken part in the vote taken during the JSC meeting in which it decided to indefinitely suspend the Chief Judge of High Court over a complaint filed a year ago.

Abdul Raheem Abdulla also questioned the legitimacy of the position of Civil Service Commission (CSC) President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, who was removed from his post by parliament reinstated after the Supreme Court overturned parliament’s decision.

In March, the Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Mohamed Fahmy Hassan would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was convicted at court following his dismissal by parliament (double jeopardy).

The doubts surrounding the legality of these people sitting in the JSC posed questions over how just a decision by JSC could be, Abdulla Abdul Raheem said.

He further contended that the JSC had been overpowered by political influence both internal and external, however maintained that no one should meddle with the affairs of the court.

JP’s own leader, resort tycoon and MP Gasim Ibrahim, also sits on the commission.

However, tourism magnate Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam’s Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) MP Ahmed ‘Aims’ Amir spoke in favour of JSC, stating that he saluted the commission for completing the appointment of judges within the time frame required by the constitution.

Amir claimed that the two parties had agreed with the appointment of the permanent Supreme Court bench, but were now criticising the bench because it did not work to their pleasure.

Government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Parliamentary Group Leader, Ahmed Mausoom, said Special Rapporteur Knaul had asked to resolve the issues through dialog between the authorities, and noted that her recommendations included amending the constitution.

Other recommendations, Mausoom said, included changing the composition of the JSC, and calling on political parties to work on creating awareness among the public of the laws of the country and its constitution, and speeding up the legislative process.

Opposition MDP Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ali Waheed meanwhile accused the JSC Chair Justice Adam Mohamed of being a “gang leader”, and said the only way to reform the judiciary was through direct action by the people.

Another MDP MP, Abdul Ghafoor Moosa, claimed that presidential candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdulla Yameen, and JP MP Gasim Ibrahim were key conspirators behind the sabotage of the judiciary.

Government’s response

Following Knaul’s report, the government of President Waheed responded with a statement that “international actors should not undermine national jurisdiction and the court system of any country”.

The statement was issued on May 28 via Permanent Representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Iruthisham Adam, who further said that the Maldivian delegation, in light of the report, “wishes to discuss specific matters contained in the report with the Rapporteur”.

At the same time the statement “welcomed” the UN Rapporteur’s report and “fully acknowledge[s] that the various challenges she has identified and raised in her report are in fact the residue challenges present in a system in the midst of democratic consolidation.The Maldives judicial system continues to be hampered by structural deficiencies and resource constraints in addressing the difficult challenges facing the country in general.”


Police arrest two men and a Maldivian woman engaged in sexual activity

Police have arrested a Maldivian woman and two men engaged in sexual activity in a guest house raid on Thursday night (March 28).

A further two intoxicated individuals were arrested during the raid at Dulcet Stay Guesthouse in H. Lhareethige, local media reported.

According to police, three out of the five people had been arrested while “engaged” in sexual activity, and that the men involved had told police that the woman “did it for money”.

Local media reported that two Maldivians, a woman and a man were also arrested for using drugs in another room in the guesthouse.


Sri Lankan govt distances itself from minister’s “deportation” comments

The government of Sri Lanka has distanced itself from the comments of a Sri Lankan minister who called for the deportation of Maldivian asylum seekers.

On Friday (March 15), Minister of Technology, Research and Atomic Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka called on the Sri Lankan government to take action against Maldivians who are converging in areas in the country.

Sri Lanka’s Presidential Spokesperson Mohan Samaranayake told local media on Tuesday (March 19) that Minister Champika’s comments had been made in the minister’s own personal capacity, and did not reflect the views of the government.

The Presidential Spokesperson added that Maldivians living in the country did not pose a problem for the government and had yet to cause any difficulties.

Sri Lankan media reported last week that Champika had called for the government to carry out a census of all Maldivians living in the country and subsequently arrange for the deportation of those seeking asylum.

Speaking to Minivan News on Monday (March 18), Minister Champika attempted to clarify his previous comments, claiming that he was only referring to Maldivians living in Sri Lanka illegally.

“There are roughly 18,000 students studying in Sri Lanka and they pose no problem. However the guardians of the students then decide to come over too, their parents and brothers are now residing here.

“The problem is when these guardians start trying to permanently settle down within this country illegally,” Champika claimed.

According to Sri Lankan media, minister Champika alleged that “thousands” of Maldivians were seeking political protection within the country due to internal tension within the Maldives.

“Thousands of its citizens are now in areas such as Dehiwela, Ratmalana, Nugegoda, and they are seeking political protection and [it] would be a tremendous problem to Sri Lanka in the near future,” the Minister was quoted as saying by Sri Lankan-based publication the ‘Mirror’.

Despite the Minister’s comments, Maldives High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Hussain Shihab told local newspaper Haveeru that relations between the two countries were at an “all time high”.

Furthermore, Shihab claimed Sri Lanka was receiving large economic benefits from Maldivians living in the country, stating “[Sri] Lanka acknowledges the benefits they get from Maldivians.”

In regard to Minister Champika’s comments, the High Commissioner claimed that they could have been based on some “wrong” information, further stressing that the sentiment was not shared by the Sri Lankan government.

“If the Sri Lanka government was concerned, why would they ease the visa process for Maldivians? [Sri] Lanka has facilitated the visa of Maldivians coming here for medical treatment. So there is no policy to implement any restrictions on Maldivians,” he was quoted as saying.

Minister Champika’s comments were made in light of proliferation of Saudi ‘madrassas’ – religious teachers – who are accused of propagating extremist Islamic ideas in Sri Lanka.

The minister stated that there are roughly 700 madrassas currently teaching in religious schools in the country, and it had been established that the religious teachers had been connected to recent disputes within Sri Lanka.


Two men deny forcing 14 year-old girl into child prostitution

Two men have denied charges of forcing a 14 year-old girl into child prostitution, the Criminal Court heard on Monday (March 11).

Ibrahim Manik of Heylhi, South Hulhudhoo and Hussain Manik of Hikiunimaage, S. Hulhudhoo in Addu Atoll, were accused of forcing the girl to “attend” to one Maldivian and four foreign men, local media reported.

The penalty for a person convicted of sexually abusing a child is 20 to 25 years imprisonment.