President’s office minister Abdulla Ameen resigns

President’s office minister Abdulla Ameen has resigned from the government.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said Ameen submitted his letter of resignation yesterday.

The former minister “did not state a particular reason for the resignation in the letter,” Muaz said in a tweet today.

Ameen is a close ally of Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who is facing impeachment by the parliament.

Ameen is also facing corruption charges after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) forwarded a case against the minister to the prosecutor general’s office. Ameen is accused of writing off a fine to a company over delays in the Thimarafushi regional airport project.

The company had failed to complete the airport within the agreed upon period.

Corruption charges have not been filed at court yet.

Vice president Jameel’s cousin, former youth minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, was also sacked from the cabinet last month.

A 14-day notice for Jameel to answer charges expires today. The impeachment process is expected to begin next week and the vice president has said he intends to respond to parliament in writing.

MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have secured 61 signatures for the impeachment motion. A two-thirds majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house is required to remove the president or the vice president

Jameel had previously labelled his imminent impeachment as a “constitutional coup” and urged the international community to intervene.

PPM MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence and are seeking to replace Jameel with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Adeeb has accused Jameel of planning a coup d’etat with the opposition.

“A lot of people are accusing him of leaving with a lot of money and a lot of things. He is even now accused of dereliction of duty and fleeing the country. He has left the country because the coup he had planned has failed,” he said.

The parliament last month passed an amendment with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set the new age limits of 30-65 years for presidency and vice-presidency.

Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously stated that candidates must be 35 years of age.

The opposition’s backing for the amendment was widely perceived to be a deal made in exchange for jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest.

The government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are currently engaged in talks to resolve a six-month long political crisis.


Finance Minister sends 2015 estimated budget to parliament for approval

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad has sent the 2015 projected  annual state budget to the People’s Majlis for approval.

While speaking to local media outlet Sun Online, Jihad said that the budget was sent to the parliament last Thursday and that it would be higher than the budget for the year 2013.

The estimated budget for the current year was set at a record MVR 19.95 billion (US$ 1.16 billion). At the time the budget deficit stood at MVR 1.3 billion (US$ 84.3 million).

Jihad revealed in August that the government’s spiralling deficit could leave it unable to pay the salaries of civil servants.

The World Bank warned the government in late 2013 that it was spending well beyond its means noting that some of the biggest expenses were high civil service wages bill, healthcare, and electricity subsidies and transfers to state owned enterprises.

A report released by the World Bank stated that the budget deficit at the time at 81 percent of the GDP was unsustainable and predicted that the deficit could rise to about 96 percent by the year 2015.


Comment: This is not a dictatorship

This article was first published on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Since the 7 February 2012 coup that was not a coup, a disconcerting dissonance between what people witness with their own eyes and what they are officially told they see has become a regular part of life.

Last week, thousands of voting Maldivians watched the X-Rated video of Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed having sex with three prostitutes at a high-end hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was not just his clothes that Hameed shed in front of the people but also his dignity along with the ethical and legal right to sit on the bench. Ethical, because he so carelessly flouted the values of his profession, and legal because the Maldives defines unmarried sex between consenting adults as the crime of fornication.

Yet the official reaction has been like a ticker-tape running across the entire length of Hameed’s sexual marathon saying, ‘This is not sex. This is not zinah. This is not Hameed.’

Gasim Ibrahim, the presidential candidate for Jumhoree Party, has been one of the most vocal defenders of the judge. He asks us to ponder the infinite possibilities of why it was not Hameed in the video: “Anyone can dye their hair red.”

No one can argue with that – not in these days of L’Oréal.

Adhaalath, the self-appointed ‘religious leaders ’ – and the last Maldivian political institution one would expect to favour an informed decision over an ignorant one – has announced it cannot say “Hameed is fornicating” or “Hameed is not fornicating” unless the Judicial Service Commission says “This is Hameed” or “This is not Hameed”.

Until then Adhaalath — or any other government entity — will not see what it sees, nor must we believe our own eyes.

In November last year, 38 MPs in the Majlis agreed that President of the Civil Service Commission, Mohamed Fahmy, was more likely than not to have sexually harassed a female servant as she alleged. They voted to have him removed from the CSC.

Fahmy, though, is still there in the CSC, accompanied by a subliminal government-issue caption designed to appear under every image of Fahmy we come across: “This is not a sexual harasser” or “Sexual harassment is not a crime.”

Back in April this year, pictures emerged of Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb hob-nobbing with the Artur Brothers – Armenian gangsters who were chased out of Kenya in 2006 for heroin trafficking and involvement in the country’s troubled political scene.

Initially the official line was to say it was neither Nazim nor Adeeb hanging with the gangsters. Then came a very Gasim-esque defence: “It is possible that the Ministers and the Brothers were in the same place at the same time. That doesn’t mean they were together as in together together.”

Soon after, pictures emerged of the Brothers at the gala event organised by Nazim and Adheeb to re-open Olympus theatre. This was followed by evidence that one of them was staying in Farukolhufushi, a resort under direct control of Adheeb at the time. Still, the official line was: “This is not happening.”

It was the same with the leaked draft Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States. Nazim and others denied they saw the leaked version on ‘social media’, but were able to confirm “this is not the SOFA”.

So it was not.

A similar story with the PISCES system gifted by the United States: “This is a border control system” said both governments, and so it is; even though controlling borders is the least of PISCES’ concerns.

Then there were reports of the forged ‘extension’ of the agreement to extend the lease of Farukolhufushi resort, a copy of which was shown on Raajje TV. The authorities have stuck the “This did not happen” label on the incident, so it hasn’t.

Latest in these series of events occurred yesterday, the day marked on the calendar as ‘The Independence Day’. Two events were held to confirm this: one at the museum and one at the Republic Square.

The event at the museum was a reception hosted by Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and his wife Ilham Hussein for local and foreign dignitaries. It was held in the hall usually reserved for the most precious of national heritage artifacts. Their storage requires specific conditions, their care and handling needs highly trained hands. This is the expert opinion.

The official line, however, is different. In direct contradiction of results of years of study, the President’s Office put out a statement saying: having the party at the museum, or having untrained labourers move the priceless artifacts would not damage them. So it won’t.

Male’ watched as Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was given the highest national award of respect. For 30 years, Gayoom ruled the Maldives without respect for either human freedoms, dignity or the rule of law. It was a dictatorship that stalled economic, social, cultural and intellectual development for an entire generation.

But, the national honour, the shining thing around his neck, screams “This is not a dictator”. So he must not be.

This is a democracy.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in international relations

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


President Waheed appoints ministers of foreign affairs, finance

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has appointed Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Abdulla Jihad as Minister of Finance and Treasury.

Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla was Gayoom’s Envoy to Bangladesh and is a member of Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), and was observed by Minivan News inside the parliament chamber on March 1 during the obstruction of President Waheed’s presidential address by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs.

Abdulla Jihad was previously a member of the Civil Service Commission. He resigned from the post today.

Jihad was Gayoom’s last finance minister prior to the election of Mohamed Nasheed in 2008, and was appointed to the CSC in 2010. In their transfer of executive functions to the Majlis, the DRP-PA amended the Civil Service Commission Act to remove the President’s prerogative of nominating members.

Jihad replaced Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim as Finance Minister on July 15, 2008, after Gasim quit to launch his presidential campaign and stating that he did not want to be blamed for economic collapse. Jihad was MMA governor prior to his appointment as finance minister.

The appointment ceremony was held on Monday afternoon at the President’s Office, where the two ministers took their oath of Office before the Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Areef.


President Waheed appoints Abdulla Jabir as Special Trade Representative

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has appointed businessman and Chairman of Yacht Tours Abdulla Jabir as the Special Trade Representative of the President’s Office, at ministerial level.

Jabir, now the deputy leader of fellow businessman Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP), has also been a member of both the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

Jabir’s wife, Dhiyana Saeed, was the former Secretary General of SAARC prior to her resignation in protest over the detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

The Tourism Ministry under Nasheed’s government sent a letter to the Finance Ministry in August 2011 requesting that “measures be taken” against Alidhoo and Kudarah Resorts, run by Jabir’s Yacht Tours company, for non-payment of outstanding rent and fines.

Then Tourism Minister Mariyam Zulfa also requested action against Giraavaru Island Resort (owned by Abdul Rauf, M. Sunrose), Kihaadhupparu Island Resort (Athamaa Marine International) and Zitali, Filitheyo and Medhufushi (owned by the family of MDP MP Hamza and Economic Advisor to former President Nasheed, Ali Shiyam).

Alidhoo was also the scene of a strike in July 2011 after staff alleged that allowances had not been paid for the previous three months, including service charge and overtime.

The management first told staff that the payments were delayed because the chairman of the company [Jabir] was not in the Maldives, “and when he came back, they said the banks were not giving money to the resorts – how can we believe them now?” a staff member alleged at the time.

The resort’s management dismissed 12 employees following the strike.

Yacht Tours also won a high profile civil court case in January 2010 against the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTDC), after a long-running dispute over Herathera Island Resort.

MTDC had claimed that Yacht Tours had been running Herathera Island Resort without paying rent and took the company to court. In May 2009 Yacht Tours was ordered to pay US$8 million in outstanding rent to MTDC.

However in 2010 MTDC agreed to pay Yacht Tours US$3.5 million to end the dispute, as at one stage 600 staff had been employed to look after 28 guests.


Supreme Court to hold first hearing on cabinet controversy

The first hearing of the case filed in the Supreme Court against the government regarding the cabinet endorsement controversy is scheduled to be held tomorrow at 10:30 pm.

The case was filed in the court by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Waheed and by Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), according to the Supreme Court.

The parties filed a case seeking a court order to declare that ministers who did not receive parliamentary consent should be removed from  their posts.

Former Attorney General and DRP Council Member Azima Shukoor will argue the opposition’s case in court. The present Attorney General’s office will act as the defendant in the case.

Following weeks of political stalemate, parliament voted last week to approve five out of 12 cabinet ministers reappointed by President Mohamed Nasheed in July.

After MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) boycotted the sitting before voting began, the remaining MPs voted against the nominees Finance Minister Ali Hashim, Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi, Home Minister Mohamed Shihab, Defence Minister Ameen Faisal and Attorney General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad.

The government however insists that as none of the ministerial appointees received 39 votes against – the majority required to pass a no-confidence motion – all cabinet members shall remain in their posts.

Recently MDP Parliamentary Group leader and MP Moosa Manik has said that the Supreme Court have no authority to remove ministers from their position and said ”I can assure that the court will not even issue such an order.”


Supreme Court has “no authority to dismiss ministers”, claims Reeko Moosa

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has claimed that the Supreme Court has no authority to dismiss ministers from their positions.

“MPs have the power to dismiss Supreme Court judges, and the Supreme Court will understand that the panel consists of judges we appointed,” Moosa said. ”Parliament does not know how to remove ministers from their position,” he claimed.

The matter saw parliament proceedings derailed for three weeks on points of order. Eventually the MDP boycotted the endorsement process during the vote last Monday, and seven ministers were ‘disapproved’.

The government meanwhile contends that the only way to remove a minister from their position is through a no-confidence motion.

However, the opposition believes that the procedure of cabinet appointments remains incomplete without the consent of parliament, and that ministers should not remain in office after the parliament disapproves them.

After disputes last week, the opposition filed the case in the Supreme Court.

Referring to the opposition’s refusal on Finance minister presenting the budget, Moosa said that if the opposition MPs obstructed Finance Minister Ali Hashim from entering the parliament ”he will enter the parliament with the citizens of the nation.”

Moosa also alleged that DRP MPs planned “to attack” Hashim if he entered the parliament to present the budget.

”If DRP committed any such actions, no ministers will remain silent. I – Moosa Manik – and MDP activists will go to their houses.”

However, DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom said that Hashim was a ‘former’ minister and former ministers cannot present the state’s budget in parliament.

”A person becomes a minister only after the person successfully passes the three procedures: presidential appointment, parliamentary consent and taking the oath,” Mausoom said. ”[Moosa] Hecannot say that the courts have no authority – courts have full authority to make the best decision to resolve every issue.”

Mausoom said Moosa’s remarks reveals how much the government disregards the constitution and laws.

”This issue should have long been resolved if some people did not have these issues of stubbornness,” he said.

He also said that parliament speaks the citizen’s words and ”participation of citizens is required in sincere good governance.”


Opposition parties seek Supreme Court order to remove ministers

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA) coalition has filed a case in the Supreme Court seeking a court order to declare that ministers who did not receive parliamentary consent should be removed their posts.

The case was filed at the Supreme Court by DRP Deputy Leader MP Ali Waheed and PA Deputy Leader Moosa Zameer.

Former Attorney General and DRP Council Member Azima Shukoor will argue the opposition’s case in court.

PA Secretary General Ahmed Shareef told Minivan News today that the constitution was very clear on the matter: ”Parliament’s consent is required for cabinet ministers to remain in their position. It is the spirit of the constitution.”

He added that the minutes of the Special Majlis debates on the issue adds weight to the opposition’s position.

”It is unlawful for those in the cabinet who did not get consent of parliament to remain in their positions,” he added.

Following weeks of political stalemate, parliament voted this week voted to approve five out of 12 cabinet ministers reappointed by President Mohamed Nasheed in July.

After MPs of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) boycotted the sitting before voting began, the remaining MPs voted against the nominees Finance Minister Ali Hashim, Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi, Home Minister Mohamed Shihab, Defence Minister Ameen Faisal and Attorney General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad.

The government however insists that as none of the ministerial appointees received 39 votes against – the majority required to pass a no-confidence motion – all cabinet members shall remain in their posts.

Meanwhile, Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed, Legal Reform Minister under the former government, told Minivan News yesterday that the dispute over cabinet endorsement highlighted “defects” in the process.


Speaker and Deputy Speaker will be unable to enter parliament if Hashim cannot, claims Reeko

Parliamentary Leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, has threatened to bar the speaker of the Majlis and his deputy from entering parliament if Finance Minister Ali Hashim is prevented from performing his duties.

Manik has warned that if Finance Minister Ali Hashim is disallowed to enter the parliament chamber to present the annual budget for next year, Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim would be prevented entry by the MDP.

Ali Hashim was one of the five ministers parliament yesterday voted to dismiss from the cabinet.

After three weeks of stalemate, parliament voted to approve five out of a dozen cabinet ministers reappointed by President Mohamed Nasheed in July, while MPs of the ruling MDP boycotted the sitting before voting began.

Seven ministers – Finance Minister Ali Hashim, Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi and Attorney General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad – did not receive a majority of votes from the 42 MPs in attendance.

Moosa said that it was not for the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party [DRP] to decide whether Hashim can or cannot enter the parliament in cases related to finance ministry.

”There is not even a slight difficulty for Hashim to enter the parliament as long as he remains as an appointed minister by the executive power,” said Moosa. ”The vote parliament took yesterday was also illegitimate.”

Moosa said yesterday that MDP MPs left the parliament chamber to loosen the deadlock in parliament over cabinet endorsement, so that the parliament could proceed with other necessary works such as a Witnesses Bill and approving next year’s budget.

Moosa’s remarks suggested it was a response to what DRP leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and People’s Alliance party [PA] deputy leader and deputy speaker of the parliament MP Ahmed Nazim said following the parliament’s decision.

Thasmeen told the media that if the dismissed ministers remain in office to proceed with their work, ”it would be a really serious issue and the matter would be taken to the Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, Nazim have told the media that ”there is no way Hashim could present the budget as he did not get the consent of the parliament to be in the position.”

Nazim also argued that any minister that did not get the consent of the parliament should not remain in the position.