Appointment of ‘Mundu’ Shareef as Youth Minister unconstitutional, says Jumhooree Party

Jumhooree Party (JP) spokesperson Ahmed Sameer has suggested that the appointment of Mohamed ‘Mundu’ Shareef as the temporary Minister of Youth and Sports is unconstitutional.

Sameer said that Shareef – who also serves as one of two ministers at the President’s Office – cannot be  appointed to the position as he “cannot be held accountable to the parliament”.

“According the parliament’s rule of procedure, only the president, vice president, and ministers approved by the parliament can be brought into the parliamentary chamber for questioning, while all other individuals have to be questioned by parliamentary committees,” said Sameer.

Shareef confirmed to Minivan News today that he has been appointed to the post while Mohamed Maleeh Jamal is on vacation.

He denied Sameer’s allegations, saying that he is a sitting member in the cabinet as well as pointing out that he has previously been appointed temporary head of various other ministries including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After receiving three cabinet posts following its election alliance with the Progressive Party of Maldives, the JP’s split with its coalition partner soon saw the dismissal of transport minister Ameen Ibrahim before Thoriq Ibrahim and Mohamed Saeed left the JP for its former ally.

The JP spokesperson today claimed that Shareef could not be brought to the parliament for questioning as he is not a minister of a government body approved by the parliament, but rather a ministerial level staff member at the President’s Office.

“Even admin staff at the President’s Office are allowed at the cabinet meetings,” said Sameer. “Photographers are allowed into the meetings. It does not mean they are members of the cabinet.”

According to Article 129 of the Constitution, other than the vice president, all members in the cabinet must be approved by the parliament. The People’s Majlis Secretariat confirmed that no parliamentary vote was held regarding Shareef’s appointment.

The Constitution contains no provisions for the temporary appointment of cabinet members.

Yesterday (January 6) saw tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb temporarily appointed as the minister of defense during Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim’s absence. Additionally, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem has this week been appointed as temporary health minister – a post which has been empty since August.

Spokesperson at the President’s Office Ibrahim Muaz denied yesterday rumors of rifts within the cabinet, telling local media that the temporary appointments were merely arrangements to fill empty posts during ministers’ leave.

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Tour operators cancelling bookings after protest coverage

The impact of four nights of violent protests in Male’ has been felt by Maldivian tourism representatives attending the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, the region’s largest such expo.

“Travel operators in Taiwan have said they are postponing and cancelling group bookins because of negative perceptions [of safety] in the Maldives,” a tourism source attending the expo told Minivan News.

“We just had another two confirmed bookings cancelled today because of reports of riots and instability. We worked hard to get these bookings and the potential domino effect is really worrying – people panic.”

The source noted that the average spend of couple holidaying to the Maldives was US$7000.

Reports in major newswires Associated Press (AP) and AFP on the Maldives’ protests were widely syndicated in world media, drawing largely from comments made by spokesperson Gayoom’s spokesperson Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef.

“Police are chasing protesters. Some of those injured have been rushed to hospital,” Shareef told AFP by telephone after last night’s protests, adding that scores of people had been arrested, “including parliamentarians Ali Arif and Ahmed Mahloof.”

“Arif and Mahloof were later released, but we have no news of Naseer’s whereabouts. Our legal team is trying to trace him,” Mundhu said.

Police said that Naseer was released at 1:30am, an hour after he was arrested. Minivan News spoke to Naseer today.

The previous evening, Shareef informed AP that 5000 people were demonstrating in the capital and dozens had been “crushed brutally”, including women.

“The opposition also blames Nasheed for failing to manage the economy – worth over a billion dollars – by recently devaluing the currency, while food prices have risen by as much as 30 percent,” AFP reported.

“Shareef said the protests aimed to emulate those across the Middle East and North Africa, pushing for political reforms in dictatorial regimes.”

Hong Kong yesterday became the first country to put out a travel warning on the Maldives, raising the country’s threat level to ‘amber’ alongside Israel, Iran, Indonesia, Russia and Pakistan.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported a government spokesperson as saying that “Those who plan to visit the Maldives or are already there should monitor the situation and exercise caution.”

Chinese visitors to the Maldives now constitute the greatest number of tourism arrivals, and are a major emerging market. A sharp increase in recent years offset a decline in European arrivals caused by the global recession in 2008.

The Maldives Association of Travel Industry (MATI) has meanwhile issued a statement claiming that reports on the situation were “exaggerated and ill-informed.”

“The series of demonstrations and public unrest by political groups opposed to the government of the Maldives have, over the last few days, led to some reports in the international press of civil unrest in the country.

“The Maldives is safe for visitors and remains peaceful and stable. The police and other authorities have the political situation well under control,” MATI stated.

Further protests – which the opposition maintains are ‘youth-led’ despite the active organisation of opposition MPs – are planned for the weekend, with reports of islanders travelling to Male’ to participate.