Besieged HRCM renews calls for Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has renewed calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the Maldives, after coming under attack for failing to address the custodial abuse of political dissidents prior to 2002.

During the launch of the ‘Torture Victims Association’ NGO on Saturday night, MDP MP and founder ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik threatened to call for the dismissal of HCRM’s president Ahmed Saleem in the parliament.

“We’ve come out for justice for the torture we went through before 2002. If you can’t do it, why don’t you resign and go home,” he demanded.

At a press conference today, Saleem said that “since we are an institution working for human rights, we will give support to anyone working for human rights – our law compels us to protect and promote human rights, so [the TVA] will get our support and cooperation. But it should not be political.”

Yesterday the DRP accused the MDP of forming the TVA in an attempt to motivate its activists by uniting them against former president Abdul Maumoon Gayoom. Today Saleem emphasised that such an NGO cold only be justified “as long as there is no politics involved, as long as there’s some sincerity in what they’re doing. Already there’s a network of NGOs that we support, so it’s like any other… we will support it if it is genuinely working for human rights.”

However he added that “it’s is not our mandate to look into the type of allegations they’re making – we don’t talk about things that happened before a certain date. The main reason this is happening is, in truth, if there is no democratic system in a country for too long, [human rights abuses] will happen.”

Furthermore, he claimed, “we have to consider national unity, the state of the nation and if it’s the right thing to do. I would say this is a very dangerous time for the country’s future – as a small, homogeneous Islamic nation the Maldives cannot afford such bitter divisions.”

Although HRCM’s mandate did not extend past 2000, he said, the commission could technically investigate human rights abuses before that. But, he said, HRCM had to “consider the consequences of such an investigation.”

Instead, he reiterated his earlier call for a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), “with powers to conduct investigations, take witness statements and issue pardons in exchange for testimony.

“The Human Rights Commission does not have these kind of powers – the two things that are needed most for it are the powers to issue judgements and pardons. We don’t have either of these powers and neither does any human rights commission anywhere in the world.”

A TRC would demand the cooperation and participation “of all political parties, to move beyond the past.”

He added that the commission was concerned about the current unstable political atmosphere and the polarisation of Maldivian society, and stressed that a truth and reconcilation process should not be politicised.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed today said he supported the concept of a TRC, but noted that a “blanket amnesty is illegal under international law.”

“The UN said it would not associate with the Sierra Leone amnesty in 1999. But yes, the notion that we need to address past grievances, find the truth, and through process of finding the truth find redress, is important. I think as the year progresses the idea will develop,” he said.

Three assessments on the human rights situation in the Maldives, produced by the government, HRCM and a coalition of NGOs, will be presented to a UN council in November this year. Shaheed said he hoped the government’s draft would be ready for public review by early February.


Torture Victims Association to seek justice over human rights abuses

Frustrated with the performance of government institutions, a new NGO founded by MDP members, the ‘Torture Victims Association’ (TVA) has vowed to gather cases and take them to international courts in the pursuit of justice, if necessary.

On Saturday night at the first of a series of rallies calling for justice for human rights abuses committed under the former government, TVA founding member and parliamentary group leader of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said those who suffered grievously had waited “long enough”.

“But today I’m announcing, everyone stand up for your rights,” he said.

The rallies were attended by senior officials of the government as well as senior MDP members who spoke of their experiences in jail.

The first gathering on Saturday followed remarks by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on a live radio show where he denied ordering the torture of political opponents.

“No Maldivian citizen was unjustly punished that I was aware of or on my orders,” he said.

At a press conference yesterday, Moosa said the objective of the new NGO was to seek redress for injustices.

“Our main purpose is to bring an end to the torture that has gone on in this country for most of its history,” he said.

Former governments established “a culture of torture” in order to remain in power and suppress dissent, he said.

Moosa said the society was distinct from MDP as it was “100 per cent” comprised of victims and appealed to the media not to “twist” the association to portray it as a political endeavor.

The association plans to contact and enlist the help of international human rights organizations and the UN Human Rights agencies.

A team comprising of “Maizan” Ali Manik, Ahmed Naseem, state minister for foreign affairs, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad, tourism minister and Dr Ahmed Shaheed, foreign minister, were working towards this end, he said.

At the press conference, Naseem said the impetus for forming MDP came from the unjust practices of Gayoom’s government.

Naseem characterised the work of the society as a “national task”because victims of torture have been incapable of speaking about their

Torture was “institutionalised” by the former government, he said,and families were destroyed when dissidents were targeted.

“If you walk down the road and meet 100 people, 40 of them would have been tortured at some point,” he said.

Naseem said if Maldivian courts fail to provide redress for injustices, the association would take the cases to international courts.

“Maizan” Ali Manik said the association would gather information and records and find a way to make the history of torture in the Maldives available to the public.

Not political

Naseem also emphasised that the new NGO was not political.

“The idea is to make sure these things do not happen again in the Maldives,” he said. “It’s nothing to do with what the government is doing. Today, young people have no idea what stocks are. At the turn of the century it was commonplace to use these things in the Maldives – they don’t know about medieval torture devices that were banned in 14th century Europe being used very recently in the Maldives.”

Government institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) had proven unsatisfactory and had made a lot of excuses, he said.

“I don’t know if it is a lack of passion, a lack of efficiency or a lack of will,” Naseem said. “Few such government institutions work very well in any country. A government offical will often just work for a salary; they may not have the same passion for their job as a private non government organisation.”

The NGO was “just one way” of addressing the situation, he said, noting that there were “various ways” including court settlements and the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“But there are criminals here who need to be brought to justice,” he said. “People can’t move ahead without justice.”

It was “amazing”, he said, “how people who were tortured by the regime still support it. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome – it’s very difficult for many people to talk about how they were abused. Some are very ashamed. I myself find it hard to speak about what happened to me. Women were raped and will not talk about it public. But many people have said they will speak in recordings, or without their face revealed. Many want [the process] to remain confidential.”

Naseem insisted the investigations “will not turn into a witch hunt. We are just trying to gather information.”

The NGO would seek international assistance and funding, he said, as “we don’t know how to go about these things in the Maldives.”

Opposition reaction

Gayoom’s spokesman Mohamed Hussein ‘Mundhu’ Shareef denounced the TVA as “another voodoo NGO in the Maldives.”

“We’ve seen this before: Moosa gets on a platform to do what he does best – level accusations at Gayoom. His sell by date is up.”

Mundhu accused the MDP of orchestrating the new NGO.

“The MDP needs to boost motivation among hardcore supporters to bring them out of the yellow haruge, and the thing that unites the MDP is Gayoom,” he said. “If you go to the root you’ll find it’s at the second floor of the president’s office.”

If the government wanted to investigate corruption, Mundhu said, “there is a constitutionally empowered body. If the police are overstepping their boundaries, what is the point of funding a body like the police integrity commission if it’s not going to be used? And how can they appoint a state minister like Mohamed Aswan to investigate police reform and expect him to be impartial?”

The DRP “has never had a problem with the police”, Mundhu added. “We’re not the ones complaining and sending letters. When one of our activists was recently arrested for defacing municipality property, when he came out he told me that while the food was not very good, the police treated him very well.”

Mundhu appeared less opposed to the prospect of a TRC, “but I do not believe any mistreatment happened with the direct knowledge of the previous executive.”


Organisers of the TVA rally accused the DRP of attempting to disrupt the association’s event on Saturday night, an action Naseem condemned as “disgusting”.

Mundhu rejected the claim.

“We’re not MDP, we don’t attack and disrupt [rallies],” he said. “At the same time, why is the MDP holding its gathering right outside the DRP office every night – is it designed to stop us holding our own rallies?”

The DRP was also concerned about state broadcaster TVM’s coverage of the event, he added.

“When we saw the live TVM coverage we rang to ask why the giving away airtime, and they said it was a new formula and they would be happy to sell us an hour of airtime for Rf22,000. We don’t have the money for that, but it was nice to know.”


Protests outside parliament as parties face off

Supporters of both the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) protested outside parliament today while MPs remained deadlocked over the decentralisation bill.

Protesters from the two rival parties gathered behind police lines on opposite ends of the road with megaphones and loudspeakers, responding to each other’s taunts.

Like the four previous sittings, today’s sitting was also called off, making it the third consecutive day of cancellation following heated rows between MPs.

Competing protests

The DRP side of the road
The DRP side of the road

“Abdullah Shahid – resign! The corrupt deputy speaker – resign,” chanted the large group of MDP activists behind police barricades.

They called on MPs to pass the legislation with the government’s proposed model of dividing the country into seven provinces.

The opposition dominated committee selected to review the bill voted to scrap provinces, prompting MDP to propose over 700 amendments to reverse the changes.

A DRP protest led by a small group of supporters outside the president’s office was disrupted by police.

But the DRP activists gathered outside parliament to continue the protest.

“Ganjabo [pothead] – resign! Beer drinker – resign! Kenereege [President Mohamed] Nasheed who has hijacked the People’s Majlis – resign!” they hollered.

MDP side of the road
MDP side of the road

Meanwhile, on the other side, MDP supporters accused the former government of ignoring the atolls in favour of concentrating development in Male’.

“Give us 40 per cent of the resources in our area and we won’t come here to beg for healthcare, for a harbour, for housing,” yelled the activist with the megaphone.

Ahmed Shareef, 36, a senior DRP activist, told Minivan News opposition supporters were protesting because the government’s division of the country into seven provinces was unconstitutional and intended to weaken the people.

“The MDP members in Majlis have been working to rob the people of their rights,” he said. “I condemn it strongly. The people’s representatives should not be acting that way.”

MPs watch on
MPs watch on

During the parliamentary debate, opposition MPs argued grouping three or four atoll into a province was unconstitutional as 21 administrative areas were clearly defined in the appendix.

While the constitution required atoll councils to be elected from within the atoll, they said, the government’s bill would elect a province council with unequal representation.

But, MDP MPs argued the constitution left the model of decentralisation up to legislation to be passed by parliament, while economies of scale would not be possible if decision-making powers were devolved to single atolls.


Shareef said the police employed force and used pepper spray to disrupt the DRP protest outside the president’s office.

All three activists who were taken into custody have since been released.

MDP parliamentary group leader
MDP parliamentary group leader

“They took us by force without any warning, used pepper spray on us and put us in handcuffs,” he said, showing bruises on his body.

He added the current government was “dictatorial” and needed to be changed.

Shareef said the protest will continue tonight when parliament is scheduled to restart at 8.30pm.

‘Malini’ Ibrahim Ahmed, 41, an MDP activist, said he was disappointed with the way police handled the protest.

“They used force, they used pepper spray and cuffed people’s hands behind them,” he said.

But, he added, all MDP activists taken into custody were shortly released.

Police Sergeant Ahmed Shiyam said a number of people who refused to comply with orders were taken into custody, but no one was arrested.

In the early stages of the protest, when MDP supporters sat down in front of parliament, police forcibly moved them back, picking off a number of activists in the process.

Resisting arrest
Resisting arrest

One man was taken into custody after he accused an officer of using pepper spray without provocation. “You watch out, I’ll beat you up,” he said.

The riot police immediately jumped on the man, citing regulations which empower police to arrest anyone who threatens an officer of the law.


Starting off today’s sitting, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim said MPs could either vote on the amendments or the government could withdraw the legislation.

While MDP had requested negotiations and submitted proposals, he continued, the DRP has refused to engage in discussions.

Negotiations were ongoing between the MDP and the Speaker, he said.

Some MPs have recommended calling a public referendum to decide the issue of provinces.

After numerous points of order, Nazim called out the names of five MDP MPs who refused to sit down, invoking the power of the chair to remove them from the chamber.

But, all MDP MPs were on their feet and protesting loudly, leading Nazim to cancel the sitting.

Mid-Fuahmulah MP Shifaq Mufeed, Baarah MP Mohamed Shifaz, Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed, Machangoalhi South MP Mohamed Rasheed and Ihavandhoo MP Ahmed Abdullah were ordered to leave the chamber.


Comment: Why some people like DRP and hate the MDP

My first assignment at university, back in 1997, asked me to look into why people voted the way they do.

I remember feeling quite ill-prepared to answer this question because I had never experienced voting in its true democratic form. After all I grew up in the Maldives.

However, I came to realise that it boils down to a combination of personal characteristics, particular circumstances and the choice of leaders, as well as the image of these leaders put across to the public.

In 2008, faced with a choice between the DRP and the MDP, it is not difficult to see who someone such as I would pick.

I am (relatively) young, and as such I am prone to taking risks. I feel comfortable with a changing world. I have a tertiary education from a western institution. I am starting off in life, have no family who relies on me to provide for them, have no business that I have poured my heart and soul into, and feel confident that I have the skills to make it in life. My philosophy to change is summed up by the other iconic saying of our time: “Yes we can!”.

You don’t have to be Don Draper to realize which product I’m buying.

But what continues to fascinate me is the support that the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party still holds among the people. It also fascinates me just how much hatred some people have for the MDP.

I refuse to believe that these people are all crazy. After all, some of these people are intelligent, educated and perfectly reasonable people.

So let me try and outline some categories of people who may find it ‘logical’ to support DRP and what you may feel if you belonged to any of these categories:

  • Direct beneficiary of DRP in power:

You are someone (or are a family member of someone) who was a direct recipient of benefits under the DRP.

This does not mean that these benefits were through corruption – but just run-of-the-mill influence or power that came to you because you believed in the vision and message of the party and supported it since its inception. And let’s face it, this is the same reason why a generation of people who are in places of influence because of the MDP now may support MDP in the future.

  • Democracy ain’t so hot after all:

You simply prefer the harmony that existed when democracy was not around. You are not necessarily taken in by all this talk of democracy and human rights because it has meant the disintegration of the social harmony and fabric that existed under Gayyoom. Now, every other day, there are demonstrations, strikes, and some kind of nuisance on the street.

These days people are just so angry at each other. Families, friendships, sports-clubs, marriages, relationships have all been affected quite adversely by the rise of democracy in the country.

I mean things were just so much better when people didn’t talk politics and talked about the movies or joked about their families or something equally harmless. Life was hard enough without all these politics on the street.

Worse of all, democracy has not delivered the instant benefits that it promised. You just want things back the way they were, and to go on with your life leaving the government to do what it did, even if it was doing it badly.

However, now that democracy (in all its messiness) is around, who do you blame for this? Why, the people who started doing these demonstration on the streets after all – the MDP.

After all, if it wasn’t for the MDP we wouldn’t have protests on the street. We would have a serene parliament that never debates. In fact we wouldn’t have parliament at all, especially on our TV screens. We would have songs and movies and entertainment, interrupted occasionally by a ‘riddle’ we can answer by SMS.

  • MDP are incompetent:

You do not believe the capabilities of the existing government are sufficient for leadership. You question the leadership ability of President Nasheed and his team. You regard them as those, who even with good intentions, simply do not have the intellectual firepower to pull all this off.

Your worst have suspicions come true because the MDP have rewarded positions of power to cronies and activists. For every qualified person in the administration, you see two hacks who had more talent at throwing stones than conducting policy. You secretly feel that the leader of our country and the majority of his cabinet should at least have a PhD, but may not quite say this out loud for the sake of being accused of elitism.

  • MDP are liars selling false hope for the sake of power:

You think that the MDP are peddlers of populist dreams who have promised things that they (or anyone without divine help) cannot actually deliver, simply for the sake of coming to power.

Inter-island transport network? This has never been done in the Maldives so why should it work now?

A modern real-estate market in the outer islands of the Maldives? These seem like wishful thinking to many people – even to reasonable people.

A carbon-neutral Maldives when 100% of our existing power-plants are diesel?

US$1 billion in aid in 2010? That’s seem like a little too much – especially if you fall into the category above.

  • The MDP leadership is dictatorial and undemocratic themselves:

Deep down you are a democrat at heart and feel strongly about the ideals of representative government. You feel that President Nasheed is pushing things in the wrong direction and acting in direct conflict with the constitution of the country.

This is a completely reasonable opinion to have, but you cannot also hold this and support DRP. That would be a tad bit hypocritical and downright silly. This however is completely justifiable if you are an ‘independent’ follower of democracy in its true forms espoused by the great political philosophers of time.

  • The MDP philosophy is wrong:

You oppose the center-right philosophy of the government. Rather than a free-market state that makes you responsible for your own well-being, you feel (deep-down) that the government should take care of its people – it should provide jobs in a protected public sector so that everyone has a decent guaranteed salary. You don’t care, nor do you want to care, about how the state gets its money. It should just provide us with healthcare, schooling, housing, jobs, TVs… the whole shebang if possible.

If probed a little deeper, you would say that the economic vision of the country should be that the tourism sector of the economy – just like the oil and gas sector is in Saudi Arabia – and the state should play the role in distributing the benefits of that tourism sector to the public.

Our tourism market has functioned well enough even with a few people getting very rich – and the ‘benefits’ this country has seen in the last 30 years are because of this economic model. Sure you would like change, but that change should be gradual and planned – like on a roadmap. Evolution, not revolution, is what you would have preferred.

In a sense, it is the strangely soothing tale of the state playing a truly paternalistic role in its most literal sense – acting like a benevolent father.

He/it rewards those who accept his/its wisdom and vision, while punishing those who misbehave and question its/his authority.

While this is old-fashioned, we must admit that like all fathers, there is a genuine appeal in having someone to look over us. This I believe is the reason why (in some mass pseudo-oedipal complex) the support of DRP is stronger among women of a certain generation.

My point in conducting this analysis is primarily to take the level of discussion in our political sphere to a more intelligent and hopefully beneficial level.

Firstly, I hope it gives those on the yellow-side (MDP) of the political divide something to think about on how to successfully challenge those who oppose them. No doubt, those in the first category cannot really be converted because they are the unwinnable masses, but the concerns of those in the other categories can and should be addressed.

The MDP must show these people that they are capable, that their ideology of self-help center-right compassionate economic conservatism (borrowed from their friends at the ‘New’ UK Conservative party) is a winning philosophy. They must turn their dreams into a reality.

However, for those on the blue-side (opposition and DRP side) of the divide, I hope it gives you a moment of reflection to see quite why it is that you hate the MDP so. If you fall into the first category – perhaps its time you looked into ways in which you fashion your life around having a beneficial outcome irrespective of whoever is in power.

However, for those of you who fall into the other categories – I hope it sheds light on quite why you hate the MDP so, and ask yourself how you can help your party (the DRP) to outline a better vision for our country.

The MDP claim they are center-right – so what is the philosophy of the DRP? Surely it cannot be that of a paternalistic state, which is outdated and unsustainable.

I say this because before you know it, we will once again be asked to choose our leaders. And when you do, I hope you will at least take a minute to ask yourself why it is that you are inclined to vote in a certain way. You will do this country a world of good by that small act.

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


Parliament cancelled after MPs clash on decentralisation bill

Parliament was cancelled barely an hour into today’s sitting after MPs clashed over the committee report on the decentralisation bill proposed by the government, leading to pandemonium and disorder in the chamber.

MPs of the ruling Maldiivan Democratic Party (MDP) accused the opposition-dominated committee of coming under external influences and violating Majlis rules of procedure in completing its review, calling on the speaker to send the bill back to committee.

The opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) majority on the committee passed an amendment to scrap provinces in the legislation.

DRP MPs accused the MDP of failing to respect democracy and the will of the majority and attempting to block local council elections, which could only take place when the legislation was passed.

“I would like to first inform the honourable members that the Majlis secretariat received 765 amendments for this agenda item at 2.30pm yesterday,” said Speaker Abdullah Shahid, beginning the third and final reading of the bill.

Shahid urged MPs to merge similar amendments to save time and have unofficial discussions among political parties to speed up the process.

Point of order

In a series of points of order that followed, Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed reminded MPs that the constitutional deadline for local elections had elapsed while the legislation was still pending.

Hulhu-Henveiru MP “Reeko” Moosa Manik, parliamentary group leader of the MDP, claimed the committee report “came from outside”.

“Proposing amendments to the decentralisation bill in the thousands shows they do not accept democracy,” responded Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed. “We have no problem spending the whole day here – we’ll be here.”

Dhidhoo MP Ahmed Sameer of the MDP argued the committee did not follow the rules of procedure as all of the amendments were made by the DRP.

Presenting the report, Hanimaadhoo MP Mohamed Mujthaz of the DRP, chairman of the committee, said the committee faced many obstacles in reviewing the legislation due to serious disagreements between MDP and DRP MPs.

The bill was submitted by the government in June.

“Among the views expressed by members at the Majlis, the most disputed issue was provinces or dividing administrative areas into provinces,” he said.

A vote at the committee to scrap provinces in the legislation was passed with 6 to 5 in favour, Mujthaz said.

Raising further points of order, MDP MPs attacked the committee for changing the “safari vessel” presented by the government into “a bokkura (dinghy)”.

Hulhumeedhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb said the report should be sent back as the chairman had admitted the amendments were made by DRP instead of reflecting the views of MPs as required by the rules.

Meanwhile, Sameer further argued the amendments were in violations of the rules as changes could not be made to negate the purpose of the legislation.

DRP MPs defended the report, attacking the MDP for “failing to digest” whenever things did not go their way.

Ali Waheed accused the MDP of blocking the legislation to prolong the tenure of its “unelected” councillors.


After 30 minutes of points of order, Shahid said he would not allow any more in the interest of speeding up the proceedings.

But, the first MP to present amendments, Maavashu MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakuru, was shouted down by MDP MPs insisting on points of order.

“I condemn these efforts against democracy at a time when we’re trying to consolidate it,” Abdul Azeez said over the din.

When Shahid relented and allowed points of order, Mid-Fuahmulah MP Shifaq Mufeed objected to the committee not including reservations of MDP MPs.

The sitting became heated when Mujthaz defended the committee report; MPs sprang out of their seats and acrimonious arguments broke out.

After his repeated appeals for MPs to take their seats went unheeded, the speaker canceled the sitting.

The sitting has been pushed back to 8.30pm tonight, when MPs will begin proposing the 765 amendments.

The 11-member ad hoc committee comprised of Moosa Manik, Bilendhoo MP Ahmed Hamza, Henveiru South MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor and Hithadhoo North MP Mohamed Aslam of the MDP;  Mohamed Mujthaz, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim, Fonadhoo MP Ali Saleem, Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed and Thulusdhoo MP Rozaina Adam from the DRP; and independents Eydhafushi MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem and Kudahuvadhoo MP Ahmed Amir.


Circus in parliament as MPs reject bill banning sale of alcohol

Parliament has narrowly rejected a bill outlawing the sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, airports and other places frequented by Maldivians.

Of the 57 MPs in attendance, 28 voted against proceeding with the legislation, while 23 voted in favour and six abstained.

Several MPs from the two main parties vociferously raised points of order when independent MP Muttalib, who proposed the legislation, in his closing statement after the debate, told DRP MP Ali Azim to repent for his remarks and called on the authorities to take action against him.

Azim had argued against the legislation, claiming it was not a “sensible” or “necessary” law.

However Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim did not allow any points of order, leading to pandemonium in the chamber. The sitting was temporarily called off after almost every MP walked out in protest and quorum was lost.

Muttalib also accused MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi of opposing the bill because of her “close association” with the Holiday Inn in Male’, and accused MDP MP Mohamed Mustafa of defrauding pilgrims to “steal their money”.

After the sitting resumed at 11am, Muttalib said MPs would have to “bear responsibility” when the government authorised sale of alcohol in hotels in Male’.

A number of Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance coalition (DRP-PA) MPs joined several independents and all the MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in either abstaining or voting against the bill.

Among the MPs who opposed the legislation were Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed, Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahlouf, Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim, Villigili MP Mohamed Ramiz, Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy of the DRP and Maavashu MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abukaburu and Isdhoo MP Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim from the People’s Alliance.

Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim
Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim


During the debate, several MPs argued the bill was unconstitutional as it would indirectly authorise the sale of alcohol.

Article 10(b) of the constitution states no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be made or enacted in the Maldives.

Machangaoalhi North MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, chairperson of MDP, argued tourist resorts should also be considered inhabited islands.

“The constitution states all Maldivians have equal protection under the law. Therefore, if we are to give protection to people in inhabited islands, we must provide it to people in resorts,” she said, adding resort workers spend most of the year living in the resorts.

Ungoofaru MP Dr Afrashim Ali of the DRP, a religious scholar, said MPs were mistaken when they argued a law was not needed to ban a practice forbidden in Islam, as it was necessary to devise regulations to protect Maldivian society from social ills such as alcohol.

He added flaws and imperfections in the bill could be remedied at committee stage.

His DRP colleague, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim said MPs should consider whether such a law was needed and whether it would protect Islam in the country.

“My thinking on this is very different. We have to consider who we are trying to forbid alcohol to. We are trying to make it illegal for expatriates and foreigners who visit the Maldives. I don’t think this is a reason we should make it illegal,” he said.

With the economy reliant on the tourism industry, he continued, it did not make sense to outlaw the sale of alcohol only in parts of the country as this would not prevent Maldivians gaining access to it.

Azim said the bill was backed by “the Jews” as part of a long-term plan to weaken the country and introduce other religions.

Meanwhile People’s Alliance MP Abdul Azeez spoke in favour of the bill and urged MPs to send it to committee, but voted against it.


Speaking to Minivan News today, Mauroof Zakir, spokesperson for the coalition of NGOs and associations campaigning against the sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, said the reasons given by MPs for rejecting the bill were “unacceptable”.

“We agree that there are problems with the bill, but throwing it out doesn’t solve anything,” he said. “While [parliament] has the power to send it to committee and cut and trim it, the things they said were intended to mislead the public.”

The coalition was considering proposing another bill, he said, and planned to stage protests and employ civil disobedience if the government enforced the revised regulations on the sale of alcohol.

Last month, the government revised the regulations on the import and use of alcohol to revoke over 800 liquor permits issued to expatriates in favour of authorising hotels to serve foreigners under strict supervision.

The Economic Development Ministry argued lax monitoring of the liquor permits had resulted in a black market for alcohol in the capital Male’.

But, the Ministry’s revised regulations were withdrawn following public pressure before it could be enforced and were sent to a parliamentary committee for consultation.

Under the regulations, tourist hotels in inhabited islands with more than 100 beds would be authorised to sell alcohol to foreigners, but the hotel bar should not be visible from outside or employ Maldivians.

Further, an inventory of the alcohol in storage and daily sales has to be maintained and made available to police on request, while the storage room has to be monitored by CCTV cameras.

Alcohol could not be kept at mini-bars in the hotel rooms and expatriate employees at the bar would be subject to police clearance.

Zakir said the coalition would begin work “immediately” on filing a case at the Supreme Court to abolish regulations made 50 years ago that gave authority to the Economic Development Ministry to allow the import and use of alcohol.

Following today’s vote, he said, the coalition expected the revised regulations to be enforced.


Councilor says dismissal was for failing to obey MDP

Councilor of Maavah Laamu atoll Waleed Zakariya has claimed he was dismissed from the post earlier this month because he failed to give into demands by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists on the island.

Speaking to Minivan News, Waleed said he has learned that he was fired on the request of an MDP member on the island who was unhappy with him.

“The MDP people who worked to get me fired asked me to do illegal things and made complaints to try and make me do those things,” he said, adding the actions they wanted him to take could not be taken “even by a dictator”.

Among the demands were repossessing parts of enlarged plots owned by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) supporters and refusing to issue licenses and ID cards to them.

Waleed said some people demanded that he give out part of his salary to them and publicly refuse to provide any service to DRP supporters.

“I begged and pleaded with them and told them I can’t do those things, but they refused to accept,” he said, adding they believed the island office should pass criminal judgment on opposition members.

He added the government’s decision to dismiss him was very “irresponsible” as it was based on the complaints of “just three people”.

The three MDP activists in question had ties to high-ranking officials in the president’s office, he said.

Minivan News could not reach the president’s office press secretary for a comment at time of press.

While the MDP supporters claimed Waleed was ordered by the government to marginalize DRP supporters, Waleed said he did not receive any such orders. He had been councilor for 11 months prior to his dismissal.

A DRP supporter on the island told Minivan News that MDP “activists” did not like the councilor consulting opposition party supporters.

“They don’t even want to see him talking to anyone other than an MDP supporter,” he said.

Waleed said the DRP supporters on the island were happy with the job he had done. “I think the reason is that under my watch, I have rented out a lot of empty plots on the land to increase revenue for the people. When I took over the office, the total finances were Rf900,000. But, in these past 11 months, I have raised it to Rf2.2 million.”

MDP supporters are outnumbered by the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) on Maavah, which is represented by opposition People’s Alliance MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakuru.

After the MDP supporters alleged in public that Waleed stole money from public coffers, the letter of dismissal was posted outside a popular café on the island.

Waleed said he had been approached by many islanders to express condolences and urging him to contest for the upcoming local council elections.

He said he was “100 per cent certain” that an MDP candidate would not win a seat.

Waleed said he still did not have any clear information about why he was fired when he was told about it on 3 December.

“It came as a shock to me. I said I’m at the office working right now and I haven’t heard anything either from the atoll office or the province office. And I have not been asked by anyone to clear up any information about my work. I said I found it hard to believe that I have suddenly been fired.”

He added neither the home affairs ministry nor the atoll office was informed of his dismissal even three days after the letter was sent out.


MDP numbers boom while DRP declines: EC

A sustained recruitment campaign in the atolls has led to a surge in the number of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members.

The party welcomed 5,000 members in the last few months, taking its total membership to 28,995 as of 10 December 2009. At such a pace the party will soon overtake the 30,215 tally of its rival, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), which recorded a slight decline according to President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq.

The grassroots MDP campaign involved establishing network coordinators for every atoll and enlisting existing members to recruit others, explained MDP registrar general Ahmed Shahid.

“We’re not going to stop until we’re on top,” Shahid said. “We have a further 600-800 applications currently processing, and there are many more coming in from the atolls. However the weather has been bad over the last few months and we’ve had some trouble collecting the applications.”

Despite the overall gain the party had also lost some members, he admitted.

Dr. Mohamed Mausoom, Secretary-General of DRP, questioned the recruitment tactics of the MDP.

“They have appointed island councillors to recruit members, paid for by the state. But despite this they’ve only gained 5000 members,” he said.

Mausoom suggested that the number of new “sincere” MDP recruits was no more “than about 2,000.”

“The rest of them – although they are yellow on the outside, their heart is blue,” he speculated, suggesting that in some cases people were being pressured to join the party in order to keep their jobs.

“There’s no direct instruction, but [in the case of some government workers] it can be ‘sign up [to the MDP], or quit,'” he alleged. “This is the type of environment people are working in. I really can’t say what the MDP is up to anymore, but we have noticed many of their members signing up with us.”

The MDP’s gain was irrelevant, Mausoom said, because “as a proportion of the voting population, political membership numbers are not significant in the country.”

If the MDP overtakes the DRP, “it will be a joke”, he added. “The Maldivian population are among the most politically educated in the world; if you walk around Male and you’ll find hardly anyone who voted for MDP.”

In the May parliamentary elections, MDP won a total of 48,000 votes or 31 per cent of the vote, while the DRP and its coalition partner People’s Alliance won a combined total of 47,400 votes.

DRP won a total of 39,000 votes or 25 per cent.