President ratifies amendment to constitution

President Abdulla Yameen has ratified today a constitutional amendment setting new age limits of 30-65 years for presidency.

The parliament yesterday passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming trip artisan support.

A total of 78 MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives-Maldives Development Alliance (PPM-MDA) coalition and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) voted in favour of the proposed change.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace vice-president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who is 33 and ineligible for the post.

The constitution previously stated that presidential and vice presidential candidates must be 35 years of age.

Pro-government MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence, but opposition politicians and some media outlets have claimed that President Abdulla Yameen is seeking a loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery.

Several PPM MPs have said that Adeeb will become the next vice president, but Jameel can only be replaced if he either resigns or is impeached with a two-third majority of parliament.

The revision to article 109(c) marks the first time the constitution has been changed since its adoption in August 2008.

The MDP and JP parliamentary groups issued three-line whips Tuesday night for its MPs to back the amendment, prompting speculation of a deal with the government, after former President Mohamed Nasheed’s house arrest was extended to eight weeks.

MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has said that the main opposition party stood to gain more from backing the amendments than opposing it.

The amendment was submitted earlier this month by MDA MP Mohamed Ismail, who said during the preliminary debate that he proposed the 65-year cap as the president should be “young, intelligent, daring, active, and energetic.”


PPM condemns suggestions that tourism minister plotted festival arrests

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has condemned former President Mohamed Nasheed’s criticism of the government and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb regarding the Anbaraa music festival arrests, calling on the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to act more responsibly.

Speaking at a radio show on opposition aligned  97 Minivan Radio yesterday, Nasheed said that the police arrest of 79 people from the two-day music festival on Anbaraa Island was a pre-planned and politically motivated act to suppress the youth.

Nasheed went onto suggest that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb was behind it.

Denying the allegations, the PPM condemned Nasheed’s comments, describing them as an “uncivilised” attempt to sabotage the implementation of PPM’s youth manifesto as well as the other youth development efforts of the government.

“The young tourism minister is a person who works very hard at national and international levels to bring development to country, without giving any regard to political ideologies,” read the statement.

“This party does not believe Ahmed Adeeb who is also the vice president of the party would do any favors to anyone for his political or personal advantage, or do anything that could harm anyone.”

In the press release, the PPM called on Nasheed to put an end to “the politically motivated defamatory remarks” against the current Maldivian government, PPM and the VP of the party Adeeb.

Nasheed alleged that Adeeb had purposefully put a large number of people into the same place in order to arrest them.

“President Yameen, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and their partners are once again working to oppress and suppress the youth, and to rule for a life time as they want by keeping them [the youth] from speaking out. This is a political plot,” Nasheed told 97 Minivan.

Recalling an incident from 1979 when then-President Gayoom arrested a large group of youth before allegedly torturing them, Nasheed suggested that the youth did not open their mouths to talk about it until Gayoom’s 30 year administration was over.

He subsequently called upon people to come out in defense of the youth, and warned that failure to do so would result in more hardships in the future.


PPM would pursue oil exploration, foreign investment: Abdulla Yameen

The potential for developing a domestic oil industry was launched as a campaign issue during a speech on Monday (January 14) by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential prospect, MP Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen proclaimed “when the PPM comes to power” it will conduct oil exploration, attract foreign investment and create 26,000 tourism jobs.

However, the Maldives’ environmental image and commitments are no obstacles to oil industry development, according to Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb – currently standing for nomination as the PPM’s vice president.

Adheeb told Minivan News the Maldives was “a big nation, and places not in marine protected zones or tourism areas could be explored for oil, like in the less developed north.”

“Oil exploration is a term and [we] cannot conclude something with out the details. Regulations and more planning need to be done,” he said.

The ‘Draft Maldives Fourth Tourism Master Plan’ released January 9 by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture emphasises the need for climate change mitigation, adaptation, and renewable energy as part of its five-year strategic plan.

“The tourism sector is expected to contribute to the carbon neutral goal by introducing measures over the next eight years for energy efficiency and replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy,” the report states.

The plan contains various strategic actions aimed at “developing and enforcing” management plans for [marine protected areas] and sensitive environments. This includes “implementing a low carbon program for the tourism industry”.

“A long-term focus on adopting reliable and affordable energy from renewable resources (like sun, wind, sea and biomass) provides an opportunity to enhance our tourism development model, already well known for its sustainable practices. A low carbon path for development has been identified as key development strategy in Maldives as a whole,” the report notes.

“[Economic] diversification is in line with the tourism master plan,” Adheeb told Minivan News.

“[The] first priority should be tourism [however] the economy needs to be diversified and protected,” he said.

Yameen pledges oil exploration

During the launch of the PPM ‘Team Yageen’ campaign, Yameen declared his platform would focus on foreign investment and the creation of job opportunities, local media reported.

“Given the current economic situation, local businessmen alone cannot create enough job opportunities. We must welcome foreign investors for the benefit of our nation,” Yameen said, according to Haveeru.

Yameen’s proposals include searching for oil, prioritising the tourism industry, and creating a cargo transit port.

Previous oil exploration attempts in 1980 found the cost of retrieving the oil was too high compared to the US$20 (MVR 308) price per barrel at the time. However the present price of US$125 (MVR 1925) per barrel made further exploration feasible.

“It is very possible oil might be found in the Maldives,” Yameen said.

“[The PPM] have a very close relationship with tourist resort owners. The [economic] benefits of the tourism industry are creating job opportunities through the [tourism goods and services] tax,” he added.

Team Umar’s stance

‘Team Yageen’s opposition for the PPM leadership, ‘Team Umar’, played down the proposal.

PPM Interim Vice President Umar Naseer said it was not acceptable for people in responsible portfolios of the government to talk about things that they could not do while they were in power.

Yameen’s proposal to search for oil in the Maldives was not new, Naseer claimed, noting that Yameen had plenty of time during the Gayoom administration to pursue such an agenda.

”Fifteen years is enough time for someone searching for oil to find it. ‘Team Umar’ will not make empty talk; if we are to search for oil, then we will find it and sell it,” said Naseer.

”These words are not new to us. If they had been new words they would have impressed ‘Team Umar’ as well,” he added.

Government biosphere and renewable energy commitments

The development of an oil industry in the Maldives would be an apparent reversal of President Mohamed Waheed’s declaration during the Rio 20+ UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 that the Maldives would “become the first country to be a marine reserve”.

During the conference, Waheed highlighted the 2012 establishment of the first UNESCO Biosphere reserve in Baa Atoll, as well as the Maldives’ commitment to carbon neutrality and sustainable development.

“Our tourism sector is a sustainable one, relying on the preservation of our magnificent coral reefs, beautiful beaches and our rich and diverse marine life,” Waheed stated.

The Maldives is meanwhile participating in the 3rd General Assembly of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which started this week (13 January 2013).

Minister of Environment and Energy Dr Mariyam Shakeela has also highlighted the ongoing renewable energy activities undertaken by the Maldivian government and the necessity of renewable energy for mitigating climate change.

Shakeela recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Diesel Replacement Project of the Clinton Climate Initiative’s Clean Energy Initiative, a program of the William J Clinton Foundation.

The focus of this program is to enact “projects and policies that directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions” including renewable energy projects to reduce dependency on diesel fuel.