MDA Leader ‘Sun’ Shiyam denies alcohol smuggling charges in court

Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam has denied the charges of alcohol possession before the Criminal Court.

The prominent businessman and MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo constituency was allegedly with the illegal bottle of liquor by customs official on his arrival airport on his arrival in Malé in March 2012.

Lawyers from the Prosecutor General’s Office told the court that when customs officers searched his luggage, officers discovered the bottle inside before running tests on its contents. The PG’s Office announced it was pressing charges against Shiyam for possession of alcohol and smuggling alcohol into the country.

Shiyam denied the charges and his lawyer requested that the court give him more time to research the case before the next hearing on April 10.

Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported that Shiyam was brought to court by police in compliance with an arrest warrant issued after the MP had failed to comply with the court summons.

According to Haveeru, Shiyam was kept in the guest area of the court – unlike other suspects brought to court – and unlike other MPs under the same circumstances.

Online newspaper Sun Online – run by a company owned by Shiyam – today quoted Shiyam’s legal team saying that it was a set-up to destroy the MP’s reputation.

His legal team told Sun that Shiyam was the owner of many resorts and there was no reason Shiyam should try to bring in an alcohol bottle from abroad. Shiyam was not hiding from the courts and will fully obey all laws, Sun was informed.

The Criminal Court last week ordered the police to arrest and summon both Shiyam and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) former Special Envoy to President Mohamed Nasheed, Ibrahim Hussein Zaki.

Zaki is facing trial after he was arrested from the island of Hondaidhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll while he was allegedly in possession of cannabis and alcohol in November 2012.

The speedy prosecution of MDP members in relation to the Hondaidhoo incident – in comparison to delays in the Shiyam case – was highlighted by Nasheed last October as his party filed a no-confidence motion against then Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz.

On October 31, 2013, the Criminal Court sentenced MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor to six months for contempt of court after he refused to comply with court summons – though the charge was later overturned in the High Court.

On February 20, MDP MP Abdulla Jabir was sentenced by the Criminal Court to one year for refusing to provide a urine sample to police to run a drug test.

Both Hamed and Jabir’s prosecution were in relation to the November 2012 Hondaidhoo raid.

Police have informed the court today that they were unable to arrest Zaki as he was abroad.

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

Shiyam’s MDA formed an alliance with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in August, 2013, to back the eventual winner of the presidential election, Abdulla Yameen.


Political Parties prepare to contest in Local Council Election

In preparation for the Local Council Election scheduled for January 18, 2014, political parties have begun preparations for contesting the elections that will decide island, atoll and city councillors for the next three years.

Progressive Party of Maldives

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has announced the party will be contesting for a total of 627 seats. This includes 533 seats in island councils, 84 seats in atoll councils and 10 seats in city councils.

Local media has reported that the PPM will be taking applications from members wishing to contest in the elections till today (December 1). Unlike the rest of the contesting parties, the ruling party requires that each contestant pays an application fee of MVR 100 (USD 6.5). Contestants must also be members who have been on the party register from before September 30, 2013.

The party further states that it plans to hold primaries where necessary on December 4, adding that primaries will only be held if more contestants than the number decided upon by the PPM leadership submit applications.

In the instance that primaries are held, the results will be announced by December 5.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan and Spokesperson and MP Ahmed Mahloof were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Jumhooree Party

Jumhooree Party (JP)’s Local Council Election Steering Committee Manager “KD” Ibrahim Didi stated that the party will be contesting for over 340 council seats.

“The leadership of the ‘Gulhifaivaa Ihthihaadh’ [United Coalition – the current ruling coalition consisting of PPM, MDA, JP and AP] has held deliberations on which coalition partner will be contesting in specific constituencies. We have almost reached a consensus now. However, there are still some seats where parties are deliberating with each other to swap or bring other minor changes,” Didi explained.

Didi stated that the deadline for applications of contestants end at 6pm on December 2, saying “it’s going quite speedily today. I think we’ll have enough applicants by the end of the day.”

Asked if the party plans to hold primaries, Didi responded, “It looks like we may have to hold primaries after all. Similar to, I believe, the othercontesting parties, JP also wants to bring out the most qualified, capable people we can possibly find to contest in this election.”

“We tried very hard to avoid having to hold primaries, by settling this through discussions and by trying to avoid any reasons for discord.”

“Despite these attempts, there are still about ten areas in which we will have to hold primaries as there are more than one candidate. But then, that is the nature of what happens in a democracy, I suppose,” he continued.

On November 26, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim stated in a party rally that they had sent a letter to the PPM’s leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom asking for clarification of which constituencies the party can contest in for the local council election.

Gasim had further said then that the government had thus far failed to allocate the promised state positions to the party, adding that he believed this could be due to the government being “hectically engaged in other governance matters”. He said that in addition to parliament and local council seats, the party had asked the PPM leader about what other state positions would be granted to them.

“Our President Abdulla Yameen is an experienced man. Maumoon, too, is a person who has far more political experience than seen otherwise in the history of the Maldives. They will certainly not act in a way which will deprive us of benefits,” Gasim is quoted as saying in local media.

“What we have to say to party members and supporters is that we will present to you whatever we get”.

Maldivian Development Alliance

“All candidates that contest from our side will be brought out as representatives of the unity coalition. As a whole, we will contest in every island of every atoll,” Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) Deputy Leader Ali Mauroof stated.

“The coalition is currently holding deliberations on the matter. However, MDA will be contesting especially for seats in the island of Hoarafushi in Haa Alif Atoll, Madaveli in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll, as well as the majority of islands in Noonu and Dhaalu atolls,” he said.

“We will have to hold primaries if there are more contestants than our number of seats. However, we are of the mindset that we will try to solve this through discussion and deliberation.”

Mauroof said that the party will work in alignment with its coalition partners and other parties that supported them in the presidential elections.

“The relationship between the coalition partners remain strong and we will go forward united to win this election,” he stated.

Adhaalath Party

In contradiction to the other members of the unity coalition who have agreed to run jointly in the election, Adhaalath Party(AP) has announced that it will contest separately.

AP is quoted in local media as saying that the party will be bringing out a “very high” number of contestants for the local council elections.

According to these reports, AP leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla stated that by the end of November, 104 members have applied to contest in the local council election.

Imran further said then that although the AP is running separately, it will extend cooperation to coalition candidates where needed.

AP leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Maldivian Democratic Party

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s coordinator for the local council elections Ibrahim Waheed said that the party is contesting for approximately 95% of the seats in the January election.

“We are holding primaries in the areas where more than one candidate have applied. This amounts to about 70 to 80% of the constituencies. While some parties are saying otherwise, we believe it is important that the final candidate be decided upon through holding primaries. If, like some others, a candidate is chosen through discussion and not votes in a primary, then it will not at all reflect the will of the people,” Ibrahim said.

“We are now working on sending statements to those who won in last Saturday’s primaries, as well as those in areas where there was no other candidates contesting, so that they can run in the party’s name. We believe all the primaries will be done, and the administrative work around it will be completed by December 8,” he explained.

Ibrahim further pointed out that candidates from the party have been facing a number of challenges.

“The small time frame that the courts have given to clear people’s records of offences have proven to be a huge inconvenience,” he said.

“The procedure is such that for the final application to the EC, the form contains sections that need to be filled by the courts, the penitentiary department and other offices located in Male’, and then again by the council offices in the island where a candidate is contesting for. The geographical situation makes this very complicated,” he continued.

“The other thing is that, all offices including the High Court and Supreme Court accept the application forms of the Elections Commission. However, the Criminal Court and Ablo Ghazi [Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed] seem to be above the apex court even.”

“They insist that candidates submit a separate form issued by them, which further slows down the process and increases complexity of the matter. The EC informed us that the Criminal Court has in official terms agreed to accept the commission’s forms, however that is not what is happening in reality,” he said.

Elections Commission Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar’s phone was switched off at the time of press.


PPM fought whole world to win the election: ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam

Resort owner and government-aligned politician Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam has said that the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) won the presidential election by fighting the entire international community.

“We had to fight with the whole world to win the presidential election. The EU, made up of 30 countries, the Commonwealth, our neighbouring countries, and several organisations were against us,” Shiyam was quoted as saying by Sun Online – party of the MP’s Sun Media Group.

Shiyam’s Maldivian Development Alliance formed an alliance with the PPM going into the repeatedly-delayed presidential polls, supporting the eventual winner Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

“Even the UN was working 24 hours to make sure that we lose the election,” Shiyam was quoted as telling a rally in Male’ yesterday evening.

The annulment of the first round of the presidential election – held on September 7 – was followed by further delays to the rescheduled poll, bringing strong criticism from international actors, whose observer missions had found no problems with the initial vote.

After conducting its own review of the a secret police intelligence report purported to demonstrate voting irregularities, the UN argued that there was no disenfranchisement and that the voter register had met with international standards.

Newly elected President Yameen, meanwhile, struck a more conciliatory tone yesterday, assuring the Indian Prime Minister of his administration’s desire for enhanced bilateral ties.

Writing to Manmohan Singh, the President’s Office website reported Yameen as emphasising that “diverse Indo-Maldives people-to-people contact offers avenues for further cooperation”.

Yameen also urged Singh to pay an official visit to the Maldives as soon as it was mutually convenient to do so.

The Maldives’ traditionally close ties with India came under increasing strain under the previous government – of which the PPM was a prominent partner. The cancellation of a deal to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport  in December 2012 was a particularly  contentious issue.

During a visit to India in June, former President and PPM leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told the Indian PM of his disappointment that the Maldives’ relationship with India had been impacted upon by the then-government’s decision to evict GMR from the country with seven days notice.

“This was a mistake. Had he consulted all political parties, the public would not have formed the impression that corruption had taken place,” Gayoom was reported as saying in the Hindu.

The cancellation of the project is currently being investigated in a Singapore court of arbitration, with the Indian infrastructure company seeking US$1.4 billion in compensation – more than the Maldives’ annual budget.

The government’s sudden eviction of the Indian investor was quickly followed by a list of 11 grievances handed to all senior Maldivian reporters by the Indian High Commission in January this year.

The list included concerns such as discrimination against Indian expatriates and the confiscation of passports by Maldivian employers.


JP and PPM coalitions unite in condemnation of the Elections Commission

“The Supreme Court’s verdict very clearly says the elections commission planned and systematically attempted to commit electoral fraud,” said Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed last night.

Rasheed spoke during a joint press conference held by the three government-aligned parties still contesting in the presidential election.

Representatives of the Jumhooree Party (JP), the Adhaalath Party (AP), the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), and the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) also took turns to denounce the Elections Commission (EC).

“If the lawful punishment for these people is a jail sentence, then we will not hesitate to do that. There is no other way but resignation for them,” said JP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed.

“I call on the police, the attorney general and the prosecutor general to investigate [EC Chair] Fuwad Thowfeek and his allies and file the case at court through the prosecutor general,” he continued.

The press conference came shortly before the EC revealed the schedule to be adopted for what will be the third attempt at completing the presidential election.

September’s poll – won by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed- was later annulled by the Supreme Court which ruled that the preparations of the EC had “broadly facilitated fraud, undue influence and corruption”.

The second attempt to hold the election on October 19 failed after police withdrew their logistical support, informing EC staff that they would be prevented from moving any election-related documents out of the commission’s premises.

The decision to delay the election brought consternation from the international community as well as renewed messages of support for the EC, which has received praise from over 1000 local and international observers for its conduct in the first round.

After consulting with the government and political parties, the EC yesterday announced the decision to hold the first round on November 9, and the run-off – if needed – on November 16.

“We, the two coalitions, remain steadfast”

The police’s decision to obstruct polls – decried by both the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives – came after the PPM/MDA and JP/AP/DQP candidates had refused to sign the voter registry as mandated in the court’s ruling.

The allied parties yesterday called for the EC to abide by the Supreme Court’s guidelines when holding the re-vote.

“There is only one choice. If some of the points in the guidelines are difficult for them, then there is no other way but to seek to change those points,” Ilham said.

Adhaalath President Sheikh Imran Abdulla called for the EC to resign if it could not act according to the court’s guidelines.

“We, the two coalitions, remain steadfast. God willing, there will be no election in the Maldives at this time unless it is an election that follows the SC guidelines.”

During its own press conference last night, the EC announced it would continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but would seek to change them in the future.

“I hope the government considers these restrictions in the future and finds a solution. Otherwise, holding elections will become impossible and that affects the most fundamental [right] in a democracy,” said EC Chair Thowfeek.

Both MDA Deputy Leader Ahmed Amir and PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof expressed doubt that a free and fair election can be held as long as the EC members stay in place.

“Maldivian citizens know there is nothing we will not do for this nation. That we are not divided. This press conference shows we are together. God willing, we will remain like this,” Riyaz said yesterday.

Yesterday’s show of unity comes after relations between the parties and their candidates had appeared at a low ebb.

Following the October 8 decision to re-hold the first round of polling, initial suggestions that the parties might back a single candidate failed to result in consensus.

The PPM subsequently accused Gasim of being overly-influenced by MDP sympathisers within his party, whilst Gasim himself suggested that Yameen’s record during the autocratic rule of his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom meant that he would never win the popular support of the people.


MP Siyam’s alcohol case sent back to police

A case involving the discovery of alcohol in the luggage of prominent businessman and MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Siyam has been sent back to police from the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The case was said to have included incomplete information regarding the discovery of the bottle during luggage screening at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in March, reported Haveeru

Siyam is also head of the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), the country’s newest political party. The MDA has formed a coalition with the Progressive Party of Maldives for this Saturday’s presidential poll.


MDA slams former governments over sanitation

The Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) yesterday (February 9) slammed successive governments over what it claimed was a failure to address sanitation issues across the country, while also calling for greater respect of police and military officers by the public.

MDA Interim Leader MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam was reported by his Sun Online media organisation as claiming that a need for increased health spending in recent years was a direct result of a failure to address sanitation issues across the country.

The comments were made during a rally to try and boost party members on Noonu Atoll Kedhikolhudhoo.

Government corruption under successive regimes was highlighted by Shiyam as a key reason for a failure to address healthcare concerns in the country’s outer atolls, as well as the provision of clean water supplies for residents.

He contended that money raised through taxation reforms over the last two years was not therefore being adequately invested to nationally address water pollution and other preventative healthcare measures.

Sun Online also reported MDA Interim Deputy Leader Aishath Rafiyya as claiming during the party’s campaigning on Kedhikolhudhoo that the public should show their appreciation and loyalty to the country’s police and military officers.

With senior defence figures rejecting allegations of police brutality at the time of the controversial transfer of power last year, Aishath stressed that security forces had been well trained and operated in the country with “honesty and loyalty”.  She added that their work required the appreciation of the public.