MDP vows to continue protests until demands are met

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has vowed to continue protests until the opposition’s demands to release “political prisoners” are met after police cracked down on last night’s sit-in protest.

Some 12 protesters, including former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof and Adhaalath Party deputy secretary general Ahmed Shareef, were arrested from the protest. The MDP had said the sit-in on Malé main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu could last three days.

MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz told Minivan News today that the party organised the protest because President Abdulla Yameen’s administration was not heeding the opposition’s demands despite two previous mass protests.

“We will continue protesting till our demands are heard by the government. The purpose of our protest was to call to end to government tyranny. So we will protest till our purpose has been achieved,” he said.

Riot police dispersed the crowd of around 2,000 protesters after 12:00am last night. The police had declared the protest was not peaceful after organisers refused to stop using loudspeakers after 11:00pm.

Specialist Operations (SO) police officers chased protesters into side streets and cleared Majeedhee Magu, but protesters regrouped and continued protesting after 3:00am.

The protest ended after MP Mahloof and several others were arrested.

Meanwhile, home minister Umar Naseer said last night that the low turnout was a “clear indication that people prefer peace and stability.”

“Official estimates of less than 2000 [people] took part in the latest [demonstration]. A clear message to the opposition that their lies have failed them,” tweeted housing Dr Mohamed Muiz.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed announced that a fireworks display will take place tonight to celebrate the “MDP’s weakening” and the opening of two futsal pitches in Thaa atoll.

The government also held a fireworks display to celebrate the “failure” of the May Day mass anti-government demonstration.

PPM MP Nihan meanwhile suggested that opposition supporters from other islands had accepted Riyaz’s advice and decided not to travel to the capital for the June 12 protest. Riyaz’s tweets about not allowing “islanders” to come and protest in Malé stirred controversy last month.

“Assault on democracy”

The June 12 demonstration was the third mass protest calling for the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests in February triggered the ongoing political crisis.

The turnout at last night’s protest was significantly lower than the mass protests on February 27 and May 1. Some 20,000 people took to the streets on May Day and nearly 200 protesters were arrested in a police crackdown after protesters attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square.

The opposition is also demanding the withdrawal of terrorism charges against Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy Ameen Ibrahim, and JP council member Sobah Rasheed. All three were arrested after the May Day protest and accused of inciting violence.

Meanwhile, despite JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s tweets last night distancing the party from the sit-in protest, Shifaz said that the JP’s level of support and cooperation for the opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ campaign remains unchanged.

JP MP Ali Hussain and some senior members participated in last night’s protest.

Gasim has been out of the country since late April while Ameen and Sobah left shortly after their release from remand detention. In a video message this week, Sobah said he is seeking political asylum.

President Yameen had called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties after the May Day protest, but ruled out negotiations over the release of Nasheed and Nazim.

Talks with the JP began last week while the government rejected Nasheed and Imran, respectively, as the MDP and AP’s representatives.

The MDP meanwhile said in statement today that the jailing and prosecution of opposition leaders represented a “continuing and sustained assault on the Maldives’ democracy.”

“Many opposition politicians, including most of the JP leadership, have fled abroad to avoid arrest and the likelihood of a biased and politically-motived trial,” the statement added.

Ameen posted a video message on YouTube last night declaring solidarity with the opposition protesters.

“Rule of law has been abandoned in Maldives and we are now governed by rule by law,” MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said in the statement.


President sets terms for negotiations, rules out ex-president’s release

President Adbulla Yameen has set terms and representatives for talks with the opposition amidst growing domestic and international calls for dialogue.

Two teams of seven ministers will hold separate discussions with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and with the Jumhooree Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

President Yameen’s proposed agenda focuses on three aspects; political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and legal system and political party participation in economic and social development.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali, however, ruled out negotiations over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, insisting the president has no role in the pair’s release.

“The President’s Office has sent letters to the Maldivian Democratic Party, Adhaalath Party and Jumhoory Party today. In the letters, the government has officially requested for discussions,” he said.

“The discussions will proceed within legal limits. The problem before was the president does not have the legal means to meet the demands of the opposition,” Muaz said, referring to president Yameen’s earlier comments ruling out any dialogue with the opposition over jailed opposition leaders.

“Now, the president’s interest is to protect the country and its people. The president will consider the interest of the whole nation rather than that of individuals,” Muaz said.

The terms set by the president are:

  • Seek solutions within the perimeters of the Maldivian legal system to ‎resolve existing political tensions and differences of opinion towards ‎establishing political reconciliation, and to explore avenues to strengthen ‎national solidarity; ‎
  • Determine measures needed to further improve the constitutional, ‎legislative and judicial models within the country, for the purpose of ‎strengthening the Maldivian democratic system based on our own past ‎experiences and international best practices;‎
  • Encourage the cooperation of all political actors within the country ‎towards the nation building process, and in securing the social and economic ‎development of all Maldivian citizens

The opposition on Thursday welcomed President Yameen’s call for talks, but had separately demanded the release of leaders who were detained from the mass antigovernment rally on May 1.

MDP’s chairperson Ali Waheed and Adhaalath president Sheikh Imran Abdulla were remanded for an additional seven days and 10 days, respectively, by the criminal court yesterday.

JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim was released last week when the high court overturned the criminal court’s 15-day remand.

The government has proposed home minister Umar Naseer, fisheries finister Mohamed Shainee and minister of the president’s office Abdulla Ameen to hold talks with the MDP.

A team of four state officials including tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, minister of the president’s office Mohamed “Mundhu” Hussain Shareef, housing minister Mohamed Muiz and environment minister Thorig Ibrahim will participate in the talks with the JP and the Adhaalath Party.

The Adhaalath Party had previously stated they will not sit down with the tourism minister, who Imran has accused of corruption and illicit connections with criminal gangs.

But Muaz said no party has officially set any conditions for talks with the government yet.

Of the 193 people who were arrested from the May Day protest, only a few remain in police custody.

The prosecutor general Muhthaz Mushin yesterday said only 30 will be charged for now, and that a committee is reviewing charges against 98 protesters who are “first time offenders.”

The charges range from disobedience to order, obstructing police duty and assaulting police officers, and carry a penalty of MVR3000 or a six-month jail term.


Defence ministry sacks eight officers

The defence ministry has dismissed eight officers at the aviation security command claiming the military no longer trusted them.

But the dismissed officers, who are all members of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), told Minivan News they were fired because of their political views.

The dismissals come at a time of heightened political tension in Malé following the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The fired officers had served between 13 and 26 years at the aviation security command.

They include the head of security for Koodoo Domestic Airport, head of administration, head of cargo unit, head of human resources, supervisor of the Malé international airport’s international terminal, two outpost duty officers and a driver.

“We are all members of MDP and we will always remain so. But never in my 26 years of service have I ever betrayed the state. Now they see my political beliefs as a threat to them,” former head of Koodoo Airport Mohamed Nadeem told Minivan News today.

Hussain Nazeef, who was the head of cargo unit, said members of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had wanted them dismissed from their jobs.

“We were at a very senior level and the people working for us, who were also members of PPM, lacked proper qualification and the leadership to advance. So the only way for them to go ahead was to get us fired,” Nazeef said.

The ministry, citing budgetary constraints, had given the eight officers notice in early March, but the decision was not enforced until Wednesday. Two more officers who were given notice in March still remain at their jobs.

The dismissal notes said: “Based on the intelligence information gathered by the Ministry of Defence and National Security, you are no longer trusted to continue working in an environment related to the national security.”

At a press briefing today deputy defence minister Thorig Ali Lutfee dismissed the officer’s claims, but failed to reveal the reasons for dismissal.

“It is difficult to state the exact reason why we let go of any of our staff. We don’t want to reveal our reasons to the media,” he said.

Meanwhile, other employees of the Aviation Command say they “fear for their jobs” and have described their working environment as “tense.”

“There are many people who are depressed because they do not know what will happen to them eventually. People are scared of losing their jobs. It’s not easy to work in a place not knowing what accusations they are going to throw at you the next minute,” an employee who asked to remain anonymous said.

The defence ministry has previously brought changes to its ranks during Maldives’ frequent political crises.  In February, following the arrest of ex defence minister on weapons smuggling charges, the military dismissed the head of the armory and the head of the special protection group.

Several employees of state owned companies have also reported being dismissed for their participation in the opposition’s mass protests.

The defence ministry also dismissed several senior ranking officers from the military during the contested presidential elections of November 2013.

Nine soldiers including former head of military intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam, Brigadier General Abdulla Shamal, Captain Abdulla Muizz Musthafa and Sergeant Major Naushad Ali were dismissed in December 2013 after President Yameen assumed power.

Nilam and Muizz subsequently sued the state for unfair dismissal.

The Civil Court last Thursday threw out Nilam’s lawsuit, stating they were unable to summon Nilam to court as he had provided the wrong address on case documents.

Muizz’s case is ongoing.


Opposition invites civil society to join anti-government May Day rally

The opposition alliance has invited civil society groups and worker’s associations to join its anti-government May Day mass rally.

NGOs and civil society organisations have a responsibility to bring an end to the alleged injustices of the current administration, former deputy gender minister Sidhaatha Shareef told the press today.

“The civil society is the fourth power of the state. But today we see the government narrowing their rights to make them useless,” said Sidhatha, a senior member of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The ‘Maldivians against brutality’ alliance, made up of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Adhaalath Party (AP) and leaders of business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoory Party (JP) claims at least 25,000 people will take part in the May Day protest.

Leaders of the alliance have been traveling across the country to rally support ahead of the demonstration, issuing stern warnings to the government and urging opposition supporters to converge on the capital on May 1.

Political tensions have been running high since the sentencing of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence defence minister Mohamed Nazim to 13 years and 11 years in jail, respectively.

Earlier this week, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb challenged the opposition to a confrontation on May 1, prompting fears of a stand-off and civil unrest.

Mauroof Zakir, secretary general of the Tourism Employment Association of Maldives (TEAM), told Minivan News that the group will consider accepting the invitation after internal discussions.

“TEAM will analyse what would be the benefits of us joining in the rally. We will look into what the employees of the tourism industry will get from joining them,” he said.

“It is possible TEAM will decide on participating after discussions.”

The influential NGO is currently preparing a petition – with more than 5,000 signatures to date – demanding implementation of the government’s pledges to distribute resort shares to employees and establish a US$600 minimum wage.

Teachers Association of Maldives (TAM) said it will not participate in the opposition rally, stating it would affect their credibility as an association free of political influence.

“TAM is currently working on solving problems through negotiations. We wouldn’t want to be seen as an association sided with a political party or influenced by politicians,” said Ali Nazim, the secretary general of TAM.

Meanwhile, Sobah Rasheed, a senior JP member, said at today’s press conference that the political parties and the civil society are working towards a common goal.

“Today, both the civil society and the political parties are working to protect our human rights, to secure our civil rights which are increasingly being diminished by this dictatorial regime,” he said.

“This does not make the NGOs political but rather they are playing a crucial role in saving the nation.”

The government has been “brutal” in consolidating powers, contended former MDP MP Ahmed Easa, a former president of TEAM.

“Everyone knows that the civil service commission is ruled inside the president’s office. That is also brutality. Someone has to stand up for the rights of the civil servants. Trade unions, local NGOs and the political parties have a responsibility to fight for their rights,” he said.


MP’s police brutality hearing cancelled due to defendant’s absence

No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan

Today’s hearing into the alleged assault of Mahchangolhi Uthuru MP Mariya Didi has been cancelled after the defendant’s failure to attend court.

Police officer Ibrahim Faisal is accused of assaulting the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP during the demonstration held on February 8, 2012, following the controversial change of power on February 7.

The MDP maintains the transfer of power to was an illegal, with the resignation of former President Nasheed having come under duress.

The hearing was cancelled today (October 12) when the accused failed to attend despite having received a summons sent to police headquarters.

The Criminal Court has rescheduled the hearing to be held on October 19. Mariya Didi confirmed to Minivan News that she has received summons from the Criminal Court to be present at the newly scheduled hearing.

Faisal has previously denied the charges against him, although another police officer has given a witness statement supporting the assault claims against Faisal.

Following the cancellation of today’s hearing, Mariya Didi held a press conference during which she expressed concern that the accused is allowed to continue working without suspension despite the serious charges lodged against him.

She said that she was worried about her safety after having appeared in court to testify against the officer.

“The man that the prosecutor general is prosecuting with evidence still remains in his position at work. And as I saw on that day, it was not just one individual police officer who assaulted me,” Mariya told the press.

“On both February 7 and 8 they attacked me as a group. Based on this, I am worried about the fact that he [Faisal] gets to stay on in his job,” she added.

Previous investigations into the events of February 8 by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives stated that the police crackdown of MDP supporters marching on February 8 was “brutal” and “without prior warning”.

An HRCM team visiting the MP while in detention after the February 8 march observed “bruises all over [Mariya’s] body and her eyes bloodied and swollen”.

In its concluding observations, the commission concluded that police officers “acted very harshly” towards the politicians “in ways that could cause physical and psychological harm” despite their having been no resistance on the part of the politicians.

Amnesty International also documented the assaults on both Mariya and fellow MDP MP Eva Abdulla in its September 2012 report titled, ‘The Other side of Paradise: A Human Rights Crisis in the Maldives’.

The Criminal Court is also separately looking into a case of alleged brutality on MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik by police officer Mohamed Waheed of RosyVilla in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll Thinadhoo.

In 2013, Amnesty released a statement saying that failure to prosecute police officers accused of human rights abuses and serious failings in the justice system entrenched impunity.

Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry – established by then President Mohamed Waheed to investigate the transfer of power – had taken note of “allegations of police brutality and acts of intimidation”, calling for “investigations to proceed and to be brought to public knowledge with perpetrators held to account”.

Speaking in parliament on August 6, Attorney General Mohamed Anil stated that five cases involving four police officers accused of committing acts of brutality in February 2012 were ongoing at the Criminal Court.


Nasheed urges President Yameen to take charge of Rilwan investigation

Expressing concern over progress in police’s search for missing Minivan News journalist, former President Mohamed Nasheed has called on President Abdulla Yameen to take charge of the investigation.

Evidence suggests Ahmed Rilwan was abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment in Hulhumalé on the early morning of August 8. Today is the 41st day since Rilwan disappeared.

“I call on President Abdulla Yameen to have the case of Rilwan’s disappearance investigated under his direct oversight,” Nasheed told the media after a visit to Rilwan’s family on Wednesday.

“Neither Rilwan’s family, nor we, can accept that the government is conducting a thorough investigation into this matter,” the opposition leader said.

“I believe that the Maldives Police and MNDF have sufficient capability to conduct an investigation like this. They have the experience, and the skill support. And yet, as I see it, they are not conducting an acceptable level of investigation in this case.”

Rilwan’s disappearance has caused great distress to his family, Nasheed said.

“Over 40 days has passed since Rilwan was last seen, and there are certain rituals that we must complete even in the religious regard as we are Muslims. Rilwan’s mother is deeply concerned about not getting the chance to do that,” he said.

Increase in violent crime

Rilwan’s disappearance is the most crucial problem facing the Maldives now, he said and called on civil society organisations, political parties, media outlets, the  government, the justice sector and the whole state to put in a more concerted effort to find Rilwan.

“Abductions are on its way to becoming commonplace. Knife attacks are increasing day after day. Dr Afrasheem was murdered. Before that, Hilath Rasheed was attacked. We do not know the truth behind these and many other such attacks,” Nasheed continued.

Police failure to solve multiple cases of violent crime and murder leads to the perception that politicians are involved in violent crimes, Nasheed said.

“As I see it, the Maldives is getting a bad name in the international community due to such crimes, and it will affect the tourism sector in future. If we don’t take proper action immediately, our situation will drastically deteriorate in the coming days,” he said.

“None of us will cease our efforts to find Rilwan. And I personally will do all possible to assist their efforts,” he said.

Rilwan’s brother Moosa Rilwan said Nasheed’s visit had given the family additional strength.

“During his visit, President Nasheed spent a lot of time listening to the concerns that our parents have. His concerned has given us more strength. We are now even more determined to keep working until we get answers,” he told Minivan News.

Suvaalu March

Rilwan’s family and friends have announced plans to hold a “Suvaalu March” (Question March) on Friday, September 19, to call attention to police failure to answer key questions regarding Rilwan’s disappearance.

“We call on everyone to join us in our efforts. It is important for every individual in our society to stand up against the violence and injustice now rampant in our community,” Moosa Rilwan said.

Atleast 31 people have been killed in the Maldives since 2007. Three were killed in August alone.

Rilwan’s friend and member of the march organizing team, Yameen Rasheed, said the aim of the walk was to hold the police accountable over failures in the investigation.

“As citizens sharing this same community, we have to hold the state accountable,” Yameen said.

While the march focuses on shortcomings in the investigation to find Rilwan, it will also raise concern over increase in violent crimes in the Maldives and police’s failure to provide security for citizens, he added.


MDN to seek court order compelling JSC to reconsider Judge Hameed decision

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) is considering seeking a court order to compel the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to reconsider its decision to clear Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed Mohamed of misconduct over his alleged appearance in three sex tapes.

Citing lack of evidence and the police’s failure to identify the individual in the sex tapes, the judicial watchdog decided last week that disciplinary action could not be taken against Justice Hameed.

In a press release today, MDN expressed “surprise” at the JSC investigating the case as a criminal offence as the commission’s constitutional mandate was investigating complaints involving ethical misconduct.

MDN noted that the evidentiary requirements or standards applied for establishing guilt in a criminal case differed from cases of alleged ethical misconduct.

The JSC’s “confusion” on this legal principle “offers room for the public to question the competence of the commission,” the MDN stated, calling on the oversight body to reconsider the case.

In a press statement explaining its decision, the JSC had noted that the police had closed investigations until new evidence emerged and that the sex tapes had been collected during an investigation into an attempt to blackmail a judge.

Moreover, the tape may constitute an act of espionage as it appears to have been filmed by an unauthorised body and it is against the constitution to obtain evidence by unlawful means, the commission noted.

The JSC – chaired by Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla – also referred to a contentious Supreme Court’s ruling on former Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, which stated that disciplinary action could only be taken with sufficient evidence.

Local media has since reported that the decision to clear Justice Hameed was reached unanimously by six members on the 10-member commission after Shuaib Abdul Rahman – public representative on the JSC – walked out.

The six members were Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi, High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed, president’s member Mohamed Faisal and lawyers’ representative Ahmed Rasheed.

The two remaining members – CSC Chair Dr Mohamed Latheef and Attorney General Mohamed Anil – were reportedly on holiday.

“Permanent stain”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also put out a statement yesterday (June 29) condemning the JSC decision, characterising it as a “permanent stain” symbolising “serious wrongdoing”.

With the JSC decision, the statement added, Maldivian citizens expecting judicial reform have “lost all hope” along with any confidence in the judiciary.

The JSC decision has set a precedent suggesting that engaging in sexual relations with prostitutes, which is then made public in a sex tape, “is not a problem at all,” the opposition party stated.

“Therefore, we note with serious concern that this country’s judiciary would henceforth be shaped by those standards.”

The MDP statement also referred to a JSC subcommittee recommending suspending Ali Hameed, which the party stated was wilfully disregarded by the commission, as well as documents of a corruption case against the apex court judge being destroyed in a coffee spill.

The JSC had strayed from the standards established for investigating ethical misconduct, stalled the investigation for over a year, and “sacrificed the independence of the judiciary and the constitution” for the sake of protecting Justice Hameed, the statement continued.

The Maldivian judiciary should learn that disgraced judges accused of corruption and blackmail should be suspended pending the outcome of a swift investigation, the party stated.

The presence of a disgraced judge on the Supreme Court – who most citizens believe has lost his integrity – threatens the independence of the apex court, adversely affects decisions of lower courts, and robs Maldivian citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed right to a free and fair trial, concluded the party.


MDP takes action against the party’s Villimalé Deputy Leader for campaigning against party

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Disciplinary Committee has taken action against the party’s VilliMale’ Consituency Deputy President Fathimath Yumna on charges of campaigning for their political opponent Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

In a letter of the Disciplinary Committee sent to the party’s Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, and shared with media, the committee claims that the verdict is in response to a complaint submitted to the committee alleging that instead of supporting the parliamentary candidate selected through MDP’s primaries, Yumna has been observed to be campaigning against the MDP and in favour of the ruling PPM affiliated candidate.

The Disciplinary Committee has hence decided to take three actions against Yumna. Firstly, she will need to apologise to all existing party members before rejoining the MDP.

Next, she is to submit forms of 50 new members if she wishes to sign up to be a member of the party again.

She is also suspended from contesting for any elected posts within the party, or in any party primaries, for a period of five years.


MDP councillors refute allegations of corruption in Malé city clean-up project

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) councillors have released a counter-statement disputing allegations of corruption in the granting of the ‘Clean Green Malé’ project to Business Image Group (BIG).

The release came in response to a statement released yesterday by three Malé City councillors affiliated with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The project was granted to BIG with the support of all councillors – including the three from PPM.

Signed by Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab and six MDP affiliated councillors, the statement said the agreement to contract BIG to implement the ‘Clean Green Malé’ project was unanimously voted for at a council meeting attended by the three councillors who had released yesterday’s statement.

It explained that the agreement made with BIG by the previous government was revised and an amended agreement was signed on February 1 this year.

“An agreement was signed between Malé City Council and Business Image Group to conduct the ‘Nala Fehi’ Malé [Clean Green Male’] initiative on October 3, 2011. As this previous agreement did not include the cleaning and sweeping of the streets of Malé, the Malé City Council and Business Image Group held further discussions on the matter and signed a revised agreement inclusive of this on February 1, 2014,” the statement read.

“As one of the main concerns voiced to the newly elected council members by the public regards the levels of cleanliness in the city, we held numerous discussions on the matter,” it stated, adding that the council unanimously decided to expedite implementation of the project contracted to BIG.

Claim and counter-claim

While the PPM councillors’ statement claimed “accommodation for labourers brought in to do the cleaning work needs to be provided by Malé City Council”, today’s response rejected the claims, stating that BIG will be employing 100 Maldivians to do the cleaning work, meaning there is no need to provide accommodation for any of the employees.

The statement released by PPM councillors Ibrahim Mamnoon, Zaidhul Ameen, and Mohamed Sajid claimed that the mayor and deputy mayor were exerting undue pressure to “maintain the agreement with BIG”, and that the Anti Corruption Commission is currently investigating the matter.

Their statement was issued to inform the public of the reasons behind the three PPM councillors’ absence from the project’s inauguration event, adding “we assure you that we will cooperate with any and all efforts made for the good of the people”.

Meanwhile, the council has claimed that the permit to hold the event was withdrawn by the government at short notice.

“While we had spent large funds on the preparation of the Iskandhar School hall for the event, at the last minute the school was asked to cancel the reservation by the government, stating that it is instead needed by the Ministry of Education.”

“When after multiple attempts, we were unable to find another location for the event at such notice, we held the event outside the gates of Iskandhar School, albeit facing many challenges.”

“While STELCO initially agreed to provide us with temporary electricity for the event, and one of their staff members were actively working on doing so, we would like to inform the public that the government exerted influence on this company as well and stopped them from providing electricity for our event,” the statement read.

The council revealed that the event had been held with the assistance of nearby residents, who provided electricity to hold the event.

Local media further reported that no government officials had been present at the event.

BIG rejects allegations

Meanwhile, BIG Sales and Marketing Director Hassan Ismail has also dismissed the claims of the PPM councillors, suggesting they were fabrications targeted to confuse the public.

“I don’t know from where they have gotten the idea that the council has agreed to give us land,” said Hassan.

“We have done a lot of work under the clean up Malé programme even to date. We have even planted over 800 trees. On the contrary, we have only put up about 38 billboards. The billboards are being put up as a means to getting returns, through the funds we get from them, we are paying part of the salaries of the labourers, and other such expenses,” he continued.

Hassan acknowledged that the council had initially been asked to provide accommodation for labourers before the decision to employ Maldivians was made.

“As for the nursery, the council is not ‘giving’ it to us. Instead, the truth behind the matter is, they keep the plants we import to be planted in Malé there. It is their property in the end, and we are assisting them.”