World’s largest floating book fair docks in Malé

Additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

The Logos Hope – dubbed the “world’s largest floating book fair” – operated by the German Christian charitable organization GBA Ships is currently visiting the Maldives as part of the vessel’s tour around the world.

According to the Logos Hope website, the original Logos had visited the country forty years ago – in 1973.

“Many in the Maldives still remember stepping on board Logos as children in 1973 or the visit of Doulos in 1998,” read a statement released on the group’s website.

“It is very special that we can return after many years with a bigger ship,” Logos Hope Director Lloyd Nicholas was quoted as saying.

“It’s a newer ship but still with the same purpose, same good books and with a desire to serve in the countries Logos Hope visits.” He added.

Beginning life as a car ferry in 1973, the vessel spent its first 30 operating ferry services around northern Europe and Scandinvia, before being bought and refurbished by GBA Ships in 2003 .

After the completion of renovations in 2009, the Logos Hope has travelled the globe – taking in the Caribbean, the Middle East and South East Asia – promoting GBA’s goal of spreading education and quality literature.

GBA – Gute Bücher für Alle or ‘Good Books for All’ – claims to have welcomed over 42 million people in 150 countries aboard its numerous vessels since 1970, making 1400 ports of call, and offering training to around 10,000 young people.

An official reception was held yesterday to open the book fair which was attended by Minister of Youth & Sports, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, as well as other senior government officials

A large number of Maldivians were seen boarding the ship and buying books as well as enjoying the cheap coffee available at the ship’s International Cafe’ – staffed by the Logos Hope’s all-volunteer crew.

Minivan News observed that all purchases made from the ship were checked by customs official present, before being taken out of the ship. According to an official on the Vessel, all purchases above MVR6,000 (US$389.10) were subject to custom duties.

Some book shelves on board had been sealed off, making their content unavailable to Maldivian visitors. GBA normally makes Christian literature available to shoppers, however, materials deemed “offensive to Islam” are prohibited in the Maldives.

According to the organisation’s website, Logos Hopes book fair will be open to the public until the evening of Friday, December 20. The ship is docked in Malé’s commercial harbour area.


Malé City begins storm drain cleanup

The Malé City Council in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Energy has started a week-long programme – “Open Streets, Clean Malé – to cleanup the city’s storm drains.

The majority of curbside drains are blocked in Malé and the city faces severe flooding during stormy weather.

Work has already commenced on Ameenee Magu and Buruzu Magu in south Malé.

Malé City Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik said maintaining Malé city’s sewer system has been difficult due to budgetary constraints and because the storm drains are old and damaged.

Speaking to the press, Minister of Environment and Energy Thoriq Ibrahim said the clean up programme is not a sustainable solution and highlighted the need for a longer-term solution.


Supreme Court election guidelines will constrain local council polls: EC

The Supreme Court’s guidelines dictating the electoral process will present “many challenges” in the local council elections scheduled for January 18, Elections Commission Vice President Ahmed Fayaz has said.

The Supreme Court annulling the first round of presidential elections held on September 7 delineated 16 guidelines including obtaining candidate’s signatures on the voter registry, fingerprinted re-registration forms for voters who wish to vote in a location other than their home islands, and police support in transporting ballot boxes and papers.

The EC has previously criticized the guidelines for limiting the powers of the independent state institutions and said the clause stipulating candidate’s signatures on voter lists effectively gives veto power over elections to candidates.

The EC was forced to call off elections scheduled for October 19 when the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhoree Party (JP) refused to sign the voter registry and the police withdrew support in dispatching of ballot boxes and papers to polling stations and obstructed any EC staff from leaving the commission’s offices with any documents.

Fayaz said over 4000 candidates would contest in the local council elections and obtaining their signatures on the voter registry would be the biggest challenge.

However, the EC will continue to adhere to the guidelines as in the past, Fayaz said.

The EC has called for candidates to submit applications between November 25 and December 8.

Candidates must only hold Maldivian citizenship, and be of the Sunni Muslim faith. Full time students or any individual convicted of child abuse or rape or decreed debt cannot stand for local councils.

Local government in the Maldives is a two-tier system, comprising island councils and city councils, which are all accountable to an atoll council.

Every inhabited island in the Maldives – except islands where city councils are established – is governed by an elected island council. City councils are established on islands that have a population over 25,000 people

Island with a population less than 3000 elect five members, those with populations from 3000- 10000 elect seven members and those with populations over 10,000 elect nine members for the councils.

Elections will be held for two city councils in Malé and Addu cities, 20 atoll councils and 66 island councils. There are 17 city council seats for Malé and Addu, 132 atoll council seats and 942 island council seats.

Each island council also has a women’s development committee to advise the island on key women’s issues.

The 2014 polls will be the country’s second attempt at local council elections. The first polls were held in February 2011 and saw a turnout of 70 percent.

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) won a majority of the atoll and island councils while the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) took the majority of seats for every major population center.

The councils have the power to charge fees or rents for the services they provide and are allocated funds from the state reserves for office administration, provision or services and development projects.

City and island councils’ responsibilities include providing roads, waste disposal, pest control, water, electricity and sewage systems, primary health care, pre school education, and educational and vocational programs for adults.


We will win Male’ City majority, claims PPM MP

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has expressed confidence it will secure a majority of the popular vote in Male’ during the presidential election scheduled for tomorrow (September 7).

In a press conference held Thursday (September 5), Party Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahloof said that both the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and PPM dominated popular support among voters in the capital.

However, he claimed that the MDP would not be able to compete with the PPM in terms of voter support in the capital.

The opposition MDP, led by the former President Mohamed Nasheed, has meanwhile predicted that the party will receive 25,000 votes from Male’ during tomorrow’s vote.  The MDP has said it’s predictions were based on Elections Commission (EC) statistics that confirmed it to be the largest political party in the country – both in terms of party membership and parliamentary representation.

Speaking during a campaign rally last week, former President Nasheed said that although the party had received 11,000 votes in the first round of 2008 presidential election and 16,000 in the subsequent run-off election weeks later, he “very much expects to get 25,000 votes from Male this time.”

The former president had contended that the figures were based on the party’s door-to-door campaigns, during which the party representatives had visited almost all the households in Male City.

However, Mahloof dismissed Nasheed’s prediction.

“[MDP] won’t get the result they expect from the elections. However, they will be our closest competitor. MDP will have a close contest with our party. Even from my constituency I can see that. MDP is our strongest competitor. Gasim Ibrahim will also get slight portion of the vote and even President Mohamed Waheed Hassan will get two or three votes,” he said.

Mahloof predicted said that PPM will win the presidential election from a run-off election, but was positioned to obtain at least a minimum of 44 percent of the popular vote while the MDP garnered the second largest number of votes.

Should no candidate be able to obtain the required ’50 percent plus one vote’ to secure a first round election victory, a run-off election is expected to be held within 20 days from the first round.


More than 150 searched in police special operation

Police stopped and searched 153 people during a 24-hour special operation launched on Saturday (December 15) to curb crime rates in the capital Male’.

Police said officers on patrol “questioned people out on the street late at night without a purpose” and monitored groups of people in various locations.

Article 47(a) of the constitution however states, “No person shall be subject to search or seizure unless there is reasonable cause.”

Police meanwhile said the operation is set to continue in the future to “make Male’ secure.”

At a press briefing in October, Assistant Commissioner of Police revealed that officers on patrol after midnight questioned 2,930 individuals in a few weeks and prepared their profiles.

The Head of Central Operations Command explained that police have been “questioning people awake and out on the street without a purpose after midnight” as part of the ongoing operation to curb crime in the capital.

Saudhi also claimed that the government’s decision to revoke licenses of businesses to operate 24-hours has led to a decrease in the crime rate.

In October, police requested the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) press criminal charges against a pair of 18 year-olds for refusing to submit to a search by officers on patrol.