A hundred Maldivians awaiting evacuation in Nepal

Nearly a hundred Maldivian students and their families are awaiting evacuation from Nepal after Saturday’s earthquake which has killed over 3000 people and left thousands more injured and homeless.

All Maldivians are safe, the foreign ministry has confirmed.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon says flights are on standby for clearance from India to use the country’s airspace, according to Haveeru. 

Majority of the Maldivians in Nepal are at the capital Kathmandu’s police academy grounds, and will be brought back within 48 hours, a senior official at the foreign ministry told Minivan News.

The Maldivian honorary consul in Nepal is providing food, water and blankets, the foreign ministry has said.

Some 14 Maldivians in south eastern Biratnagar have crossed over to India. The foreign ministry said it has faced some challenges in tracking down all Maldivians in Nepal, and said the consul is transporting Maldivians in other areas of the country to Kathmandu.

The Islamic ministry is also allocating funds from its Zakat fund for evacuation, the foreign ministry said.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz tweeted last night that the evacuation flight is sponsored by the tourism industry.

Nepal was struck with a 7.8 magnitude on April 25. Recent reports from the BBC suggest that the official death toll will climb as rescue efforts continue. Thousands of people are believed to be trapped under rubble. The earthquake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest and damaging its base camp. The quake has destroyed thousands of buildings and historic monuments.

The Maldivian red crescent and the Maldivian medical association have set up a Nepal relief fund to collect money for relief efforts. Many Maldivian medical students in Kathmandu are reported to be helping out at hospitals. 

Telecoms providers Ooredoo and Dhiraagu have announced they will not levy charges for calls to Nepal for the next three days to enable customers to get in touch with family members in Nepal.

President Abdulla Yameen on Saturday sent a message of sympathy to the Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, stating: “At this hour of deep distress, the people of the Maldives stand together with our Nepalese friends, while wishing the recovery efforts every success.”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said that the party was “profoundly saddened by the loss of lives, and great damages” caused by the earthquake.


Chinese Embassy marks the Chinese New Year in Malé

The Chinese Embassy in Malé held a reception to mark the Chinese New Year in Dharubaaruge last night.

Speaking at the reception, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon stated that relations between the Maldives and China have strengthened and “accelerated to unprecedented levels in the last year”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Maldives in September of last year prompted talks that led to the the Maldives officially agreeing to participate in the Silk Road trade route and to engage upon free trade in the future.

Dunya noted that the relationship between the two countries was based on “sovereignty and territorial integrity; it is about non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; it is about peaceful co-existence; and most importantly, it is about cooperation for mutual benefit.”

Chinese Ambassador Wang Fukang stated while “high level exchanges have been frequent and fruitful” between the Maldives and China, “economic cooperation has been enhanced and expanded”, along with “people to people exchanges”.

Fukang pledged that the Chinese government will facilitate Maldivian fish products to be exported to China, will encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the Maldives, will provide more training and scholarship opportunities for Maldivians, will improve cooperation “in areas like technology, culture and wealth”, and will “enhance cooperation particularly on issues like climate change”.

Last night’s speeches were followed by cultural performances from both Maldivian and Chinese youth, including a song sung in Mandarin by a Maldivian performer.


New additional secretary appointed to the foreign ministry

Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hassan Shifau has been appointed to the post of additional secretary at the level of deputy minister, reports CNM.

Shifau, who has served as the permanent secretary at the foreign ministry from February, 2012, had previously held the post of foreign ministry’s deputy director general, heading the regional cooperation department.

Aishath Liusha Zahir and Dr Shehenaz Adam also currently serve as additional secretaries at the foreign ministry.

Meanwhile, the Civil Services Commission last Tuesday (February 3) called for interested parties to submit their applications for the vacant permanent secretary post before 2pm on February 26.

Source: CNM


MDP welcomes China’s denial of military plans for Laamu Atoll

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has welcomed the statement by the Embassy of China in Maldives refuting claims by former President Mohamed Nasheed that a military facility was being planned in Laamu Atoll.

Denying suggestions that the Maldivian government planned to hand over large parts of the atoll under the Special Economic Zones Act, the embassy stated yesterday (25 January) that China “pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature” and that it “does not maintain any military in any foreign country”.

In a statement released yesterday evening, the MDP noted that China had a record of protecting its interest in primary markets with military facilities.

The statement went on to offer the example of the Chinese defence ministry announcing in December 2011 that its naval fleet “may seek supplies or recuperate” in harbours of the Seychelles during escort missions.

International reports at the time stated that the potential cooperation with the island nation, off the east coast of Africa, had come after a request made by the Seychelles government, with some Chinese media outlets reporting that a military base had been offered.

While speaking to the press after returning from a trip to Abu Dhabi last week (January 22), Nasheed alleged that the Maldives was to hand over large parts of the southern atoll to China for a military base on a 99-year lease, in exchange for US$2 billion.

Yesterday, the MDP party president described China’s as having “reconsidering their strategic plans in the Indian Ocean”.

China yesterday assured that it will uphold the principles of peaceful coexistence while aiding Maldives in maintaining and promoting peace and development, upon which it said the Maldives-China relationship is based.

Development projects

China and the Maldives signed a military aid agreement under the government of Dr Mohamed Waheed in December 2012, to develop military ties and provide free Chinese aid to the Maldives National Defence Force.

The country’s rising economic presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that it is creating a ‘string of pearls’ to encircle India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Suggestions by foreign minister Dunya Maumoon last November that China had officially discussed its Maritime Silk Route with India were quickly rebutted by Indian officials.

After the MDP condemned Dunya for “intentionally” providing false information about the Chinese project, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives suggested that the opposition party was attempting to provoke tension with international allies.

Last month, the Maldives officially agreed to participate in the Silk Road trade route, becoming the third country to do so, while also revealing that the two countries have agreed to engage upon free trade in the future.

Chinese state media has connected the Maritime Silk Road Project, which which will link China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean, to the proposed ‘iHavan’ transshipment port – one of five mega-projects designed to take advantage of the US$18 trillion worth of goods transported across the seven degree channel annually.

President Yameen has made clear his intention to further pursue already rapidly expanding ties with China, announcing a policy shift to the east while criticising the interference of western powers.

China also accounts for one third of all tourists visiting the Maldives.

(PHOTO: By Cpl. Scott M. Biscuiti; US Marines training with MNDF, Laamu Kadhoo, 2007)

Related to this story

Nasheed urges President Yameen to convene all-party talk

Maldives backs new Chinese investment bank, pursues free trade deal

Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for Maldives involvement in 21st century maritime silk road

President Yameen slams “Western colonial powers,” declares foreign policy shift to East

Defence Minister signs military aid agreement with China


Chinese documents show silk route was discussed with India: Foreign ministry

The Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims there is evidence that the Maritime Silk Road was discussed during Chinese President Xi Jinpeng’s visit to India in September.

“Publicly available documents clearly indicate that the maritime silk route was one of the points of discussion during the Chinese Presidential visit to India,” read today’s press release.

Controversy over the issue began last weekend after India rebutted suggestions made in the Majlis by foreign minister Dunya Maumoon that it had discussed participating in the proposed trade route.

The ministry today referred to a press release from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dated September 18, which detailed the talks between the heads of state before including what appear to be unattributed quotes from President Xi himself.

“Both sides should accelerate the construction of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, conduct cooperation within the frameworks such as the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to promote the process of regional economic integration and connectivity,” read the Chinese foreign ministry press release.

However, comments from the Indian minister of external affairs released by the Indian High Commission in Malé on November 7 stated the issue “was neither raised nor discussed” during President Xi’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A 28 point official joint statement released at the conclusion of the September visit also failed to mention the silk road initiative. The statement has not been published by the Chinese foreign ministry.

Shortly after India’s rebuttal, the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by noting Dunya’s “concern if her choice of words had led to any confusion”.

Today’s statement from the ministry followed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) announcement that it would bring a no-confidence motion against the foreign minister in the Majlis, as well as calling on the speaker to prosecute her under the Privileges Act.

“The people of Maldives is gravely concerned with MDP and MDP sympathetic media pushing forward the interest of a foreign country while ignoring the Maldivian interests,” added today’s foreign ministry statement.

Minister at the President’s Office Ibrahim Shareef, yesterday explained that the “false” allegations spread by the opposition were being shared with both the Indian and Chinese governments.

“Everything they write, be it written in Dhivehi, have been translated and shared with the relevant authorities.I think it is about time they start preparing responses to the international community, which is going to demand answers soon,” explained Shareef.

Fellow cabinet member Dr Mohamed Shainee had told the media on Sunday November 9 that the Indian response to the comments were not necessarily indicative of the government’s view.

“We saw the news recently where the minister of a neighbouring country said something and it was said that it wasn’t the government’s view but the view of an individual minister,” said Shainee during a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) press conference.

Minivan News was unable to obtain comment from the Indian High Commission today, with official procedures requiring approval from New Delhi before the issuance of public statements.

The PPM had accused the opposition of twisting the story in order to harness attention from the international community and to divert attention from the one year anniversary of President Abdulla Yameen’s term.

Yameen has responded favourably to urgings from the Chinese government to join the Silk Road scheme, which seeks to create both land and maritime trade routes linking China to the east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.

Today’s foreign ministry statement concluded by reiterating that Yameen’s decision to participate was taken with the aim of protecting Maldivian sovereignty while ensuring that national and regional security would be considered.

“[A]s Maldivian national security is closely linked to the Indian Ocean’s security, the government will engage in discussion with all relevant nations before making decisions which might endanger the security of the region.”


Government bars arrivals from countries worst affected by Ebola

The Government of Maldives will no longer issue on-arrival visas to travellers arriving from countries heavily affected by the Ebola outbreak.

Arrivals from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea will not be issued visas, third country nationals who have visited these countries will not be granted entry until 21 days have elapsed.

“The Government of Maldives has taken these decisions based on the need to protect the Maldives from the disease, and to assure both nationals and tourists of the seriousness with which the matter is being taken by the authorities,” explained the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The current outbreak of the virus was first reported in March this year and has gone on to kill more than 4000 people in West Africa, making it more deadly than all previous ebola epidemics combined.

Minister of Defence and acting health minister Mohamed Nazim last night announced the measures during a ceremony at the health ministry, expressing his hope that the disease not spread to a country as vulnerable as the Maldives.

Thirty day visas are currently provided on arrival to over one million tourists visiting the Maldives each year. The generous visa rules have also made the country a popular transit point for refugees.

man from Nigeria was place in quarantine in Hulhumalé late last month after appearing to be unwell, though he was later found to have no symptoms of the virus.

During a health ministry press conference held following this incident, officials explained that all arrivals from the affected region were being screened at immigration and monitored upon their release.

HPA Epidemiologist Dr Aishath Aroona Abdulla noted at the time that 109 individuals from the affected areas had visited the Maldives since screening began, but that none had come from the three worst affected countries.

A press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday reiterated the “quite insignificant” levels of travel between the countries in question and the luxury tourist destination.

Visitors from Africa made up just 0.7 percent of all tourist arrivals to the Maldives in 2013, with 0.4 percent of these coming from South Africa.

In late August the government advised Maldivian nationals against travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was announced yesterday that any Maldivians returning from the three heavily affected countries will now be isolated for the duration of the 21 day incubation period.

The first symptoms of the disease – currently known to be transmitted only through direct contact and bodily fluids – include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat. This is followed by diarrhoea and vomitting.

The disease can impair the functioning of organs such as the kidneys and liver and can result in internal and external bleeding. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Ebola and past outbreaks have had fatality rates of up to 90 percent.


Youth leaders critical as government assures youth issues are being addressed

With additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed

Youth wing leaders from across the political spectrum have criticised the government’s youth policy as cabinet members argue that the government has “hit the ground running” in its attempts to tackle youth issues.

Youth wing leaders from both government-aligned and opposition party have suggested policy has been formulated without youth participation.

“The government’s youth policy is not very clear, in fact it comes across as being rather shady,” said Jumhooree Party Youth Wing leader Moosa Anwar.

The comments come in response to the Youth Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal’s assurances that the government – elected on a platform of youth and economic policies – would soon fulfill all its prior pledges.

“With an influx of five times of the budget of previous years, the government of his excellency President [Abdulla] Yameen came with a promise to address the youth-related concerns that have been sadly been neglected in the recent past,” said the minister.

Speaking at this week’s ‘Regional Consultative Meeting to Finalise the SAARC Youth Charter and Action Plan’, Maleeh said that the government had already drafted a youth bill to ensure that rights of young Maldivians are protected.

The charter aims to promote the potential of young people with “their full participation” explains the charter, with the aim of influencing regional youth policies in the areas of environment, gender equality, education, employment, and health.

The SAARC nations are expected to sign the charter during the eighteenth SAARC summit scheduled to be held in November 2014 at Nepal.

A national health strategy for the youth has been drafted with assistance of UNFPA, he explained, assuring the strategy to address issues such as prevalent drug abuse would be endorsed very soon.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon said the youth’s meaningful participation in the development process should be ensured.

“We must eradicate violence and abuse of young people, especially girls and other marginalised groups. We must not let youth be deprived from an education or access to decent work. We must invest in the health and well-being of the youth,” said Dunya.

Youth response

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s recently elected Youth Wing President Mohamed Azmeel responded by saying that the government has neglected to include opposition-aligned youth in developing policies.

“We have not been consulted over this youth charter or even on national youth related policies or programmes,” Azmeel said, noting that with over 26,000 registered members the MDP Youth Wing is the biggest youth organisation the country.

A recent democracy survey by Transparency Maldives revealed the MDP to have the largest number of under-35 year-olds of any political party. The most recent census (2006) data revealed under-25s to represent over 50 percent of the country’s population, with a new survey to be taken later this year.

Azmeel also expressed a lack of faith over the government’s capability to fulfill it’s pledges to youth.

“So far they have failed in providing any positive sign of fulfilling those pledges. For instance we still don’t know how they are planning to create the promised 94,000 new jobs. So from what we are seeing now, I don’t have any hope they would do any of that,” said Azmeel.

Pro-government Adhaalath Party’s Youth Wing leader Ali Rasheed also said his party had been left out of the government’s youth-related programmes, while Jumhooree Party Youth Wing leader Moosa Anwar argued that the government’s policy has been created without youth participation.

“The government does not appear to be doing much to increase actual youth participation,” he continued.

Anwar revealed that he was currently attending a youth-related conference in Sri Lanka, to which the government had sent Youth Ministry employees as ‘youth delegates’.

He suggested that said, instead of being empowered, the youth were being used as a “street force” by all political parties.

“They keep the youth quiet by naming us ‘leaders of tomorrow’ and holding obscure workshops in the guise of empowering us. However, there has so far been no practical application of youth empowerment.”

“It will not do just to talk about a youth city and to promote that idea on social media. If the government is sincere about working to empower youth, they must allow us to have a say at the decision making or policy levels,” he said, suggesting a youth parliament as a possible way of achieving this.

President Yameen’s own Progressive Party of Maldives have no youth leadership after its last Youth Wing President Ibrahim Nazim resigned during the 2013 presidential elections saying he was unable to reach Yameen to discuss youth involvement in the presidential campaign.

The youth minister was not responding to calls at the time of publication.


Government reveals foreign policy for next five years

President Abdulla Yameen has revealed his government’s foreign policy today, stating that the most important objective was to increase economic self-sufficiency, describing this as a requirement of independent foreign policy.

“The foreign policy of my government will be based, just as those firm policies of President Maumoon, on the principle of mutual respect between countries, respect for the sovereignty of countries,” Yameen said.

He said that a well-thought foreign policy is necessary “for a small Maldives to travel safely amidst the turbulent political currents”.

“The foreign policy of Maldives will protect and sustain Maldives’ selfhood and Islam. [It is] a policy that will sustain the independence, security and sovereignty of the the Maldives. A policy that will open opportunities abroad for Maldivians to benefit from,” Yameen said.

The foreign policy revealed today has six main targets: protecting national independence and increasing national security, protecting the Islamic unity of the country and promoting Islamic characteristics internationally, increasing economic self-sufficiency, increasing South Asian regional cooperation, providing quality services for Maldivians living abroad, and the strengthening and development of foreign services.

In terms of protecting national independence and increasing national security, the government plans to increase cooperation with Indian ocean states in combating terrorism, piracy, and other non-traditional security threats, and get more involved in keeping world peace.

In addition to this, the government aims to improve relations with international civil society organisations and think tanks, and to improve the reporting for conventions to which the Maldives is a party.

Speaking at the ceremony held to reveal the policy, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon said the Maldives’ role in achieving regional and international stability will increase in the coming five years and that Maldives will especially speak out on challenges faced by small states and on climate change.

Economic self-sufficiency

On increasing economic self-sufficiency, Dunya said the ministry will work towards finding more markets for Maldivian products and increase the number of tourists and investors that visit the country. She particularly highlighted finding new markets for fish exports within the year.

Such new markets was something the government announced last year when the European Union declined to extend the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives for non-compliance with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

“We should think about who gives [foreign] aid and what their intentions are. We should accept that [they] will not give without expecting something in return” Dunya said.

The foreign policy published today states “finding funding for development projects” and to “invest more in renewable energy” as strategies for increasing economic self-reliance.

Speaking at the ceremony Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef also highlighted the importance given to commercial diplomacy in the government’s foreign policy, and the need for creating a name internationally as a safe destination for investors and businesses.

Foreign service restructured

The government revealed that many steps have already been taken to strengthen the foreign service, including the establishment of Foreign Service Institute of Maldives (FOSIM) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week.

This institution is mandated with providing training for foreign service employees and youth who wish to pursue a career in the foreign service. It is also to conduct academic research required for the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.

A Foreign Relations Advisory Council (FRAC) – composed of experienced persons who have previously served in the foreign service – was also created to advise the institute and a policy department.

In addition to this, President Yameen announced that a Foreign Service Bill will be sent to the People’s Majlis within the first hundred days of his government.

In the Foreign Minister’s speech she noted that foreign policy is much more than “getting as much aid from as many countries” and highlighted some achievements of Maldives foreign service.

“In 1965 many countries were against the UN recognizing Maldives as an independent sovereign state, however today those countries have accepted Maldives as a country that can work alongside at the same level,” Dunya said.

Lauding this as a great achievement, she said the Maldives was currently an active partner and a leader in many global issues such challenges faced by small states, protection of human rights, democratisation and climate change.


Maldivian arrested in Trivandrum, India

The Foreign Ministry has confirmed on Tuesday that a Maldivian citizen has been arrested in Trivandrum, India.

The Ministry stated that the Maldivian Consulate in Trivandrum had been notified of the arrest on December 17 by the Medical College Police Station, and that the arrest was made on charges of breaching the Passport Law and Foreigners Registration Amendment Law of India.

On the day of arrest, the Maldivian’s case was heard at the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court. According to the Ministry, the family of the detainee is now seeking possibilities of having the person released on bail.

The ministry stated that it is closely observing the matter through the Maldivian Consulate in Trivandrum, and that it will provide all possible cooperation and assistance within the boundaries of law.

The Ministry declined from providing details of the detainee’s identity.